Some questions answered (1): Ammo & Rates of Fire

In via email:

You have written that a fighter can often expect to go through 4 AR magazines in a Break Contact drill (or the real thing) – correct me if my number of mags is incorrect.  I am reading guys who carry 6-12 rifle mags on their gear loads – chest rigs, belts, etc.  (I suspect they carry more in their rucks?). 

From a simple logistical perspective, for a guy like me who has never been .mil, what is the play when a patrol gets caught by OpFor at the far-reaches of a patrol route, breaks contact and burns through ½ or more of the ammo they are carrying on their bodies?  They could easily run dry of ammo very quickly if OpFor pursues with any intensity.  For the CUTT with little or no support, that could get ugly.

To which I responded:


You may expend that much breaking contact, and on follow ups by the enemy you may expend more, such as putting in a hasty ambush. You have what you carry unless you have means of resupply or QRF. You should have extra in your patrol pack. If you truly cannot break contact, then you are in trouble.
The flip side is this: you may well expend a lot of ammo breaking contact, because you need to put the fire down, even if it is cover shooting. It is not, however a mag dump Beirut unload! After that, if you utilize fire discipline, you can make your shots count more. One round into a pursuing enemy scout/ tracker will slow down the pursuit. Fire discipline is often sadly lacking!
For example sake, if you plan on 4 mags breaking contact (ballpark, it will be what it will be), and you are carrying 8 or 9 ready mags on your gear, then another 4 mags in your patrol pack replenishes that back to full load. Add a couple more, up to maybe 6, and you are good to go. 
The above is of course a generalization but I hope I make the point?
A comment on the ‘Citizen Unconventional Tactical Team (CUTT): Order of Battle‘ Post:

My comment is about the info you post regarding ammo consumption during training vs real combat. Although I can’t argue on it’s credibility (I’m pretty sure you are correct) my understanding is that this has very much to do with the dominance of support/heavy weapons during actual combat.

What I mean is, maybe the rifleman has less opportunities to fire in actual combat because of the fact that his own heavy weapons are doing most of the job anyway or the enemy’s heavy weapons are not letting him a chance to fire (he has to keep cover).

You argue on the less ammo carried by 7,62 riflemen with the fact that this doesn’t really matter because, unlike in training, they’ll not have to shoot so much in combat. But you whole article is based on the fact that they’ll not have support/heavy weapons at hand.

Please, can you explain this part more thoroughly?

Absolutes and how long is a piece of string? It is true that in combat you can fire an extremely high amount of rounds. If you learn your tactics from tacticool YouTube videos, or helmet cam of troops hosing down a hillside in Afghanistan, then you will do that. If you have easy resupply, vehicles, or you just don’t want to hand back in any live rounds at the end of your range day due to quartermaster accounting madness, then that is fine. Or you are Navy Seasl doing a demonstration break contact video for YouTube…..

What is missing are basic rifleman skills, professionalism, and fire discipline. If you want to hose down the hillside while you wait for the aircraft to arrive to fulfill your call for fire, then fine. If your fire is not accurate it will not be effective. If it is not striking at, or close to, an enemy fighter, it will not suppress him. You need to locate the enemy (hardest part) and apply accurate disciplined fire to positively identified enemy/enemy positions. If you do that, you are firing less than if you are firing at static targets on the range. Making accurate shots at a ducking and diving enemy.

Tie that in with the top part, and you have the reality of how much ammunition you are carrying. Ammunition = time when in enemy contact, to allow you to fire and maneuver. So you need to make it count. There are times when ammunition expenditure will be higher, such as in the initial stages of a break contact drill, and at times when you cannot actually see the enemy – but you still need to put fire down in order to move. You may be cover shooting. You may be using rapid fire to initially win the firefight before maneuvering on the enemy. But once the enemy is suppressed, fire control and discipline will reduce the amount of ammunition, striking accurately into the cover, that will keep the enemy suppressed.

You need team leaders to control fire. And team members who will listen. It’s about professionalism.

That is why I tell you that you will fire less in combat than you may on the range. Unless you decide not to, and blow through all your ammunition to little effect.

If you look at the live fire scenario in the video below that I made yesterday, I could easily have lit up the woods with some pew-pew. But I didn’t. It was a mixture of reflexive fire as a reaction to contact, and accurate follow up shots, not to mention follow ups to ensure the enemy was dead. Don’t pass over live enemy.


Regarding the heavy support weapons part, or the lack of, my point is to train rifleman in basic rifle discipline so that their fire is accurate, perhaps supplemented by a mobility support group (MSG)/support gunner, as described in the CUTT article. The idea is to use accurate fire as a replacement for volume of fire by automatic support weapons. In fact, much fire by automatic weapons is ineffective due to accuracy issues. Support weapons are best fired in short disciplined bursts, unless using them for area suppression in a defensive role. A properly outfitted support gunner with a semi-automatic .308 rifle can chew up an enemy position in the same way a 240 gunner firing 7.62 in short bursts can. They both have to be accurate, or it is wasted noise.

If you hear accounts of ‘going cyclic’, however high speed the unit is, then you know they lost discipline. Much of that cyclic fire would have been wasted, and simply expended ammunition.

Although to paraphrase Rommel: ‘There is no substitute for simply plastering the enemy with fire!’ So long as it is accurate! If it is over the top of the enemy, or on the next hillside, then so what?

You can be as tacticool pew-pew as you want, but a disciplined rifleman will take cover, locate the enemy, and put a round or two into him. Job done.

Shoot to kill.