It’s often asked how much ammo soldiers carry into combat and the answer to that question varies a lot from source to source. Technically speaking, there is not a fixed number since the soldier role and associated equipment shall decide his/her basic ammunition load. Running dry in a firefight is definitely not good but mobility is an important factor to consider as well, especially on extended missions. Traveling with a heavy inventory through difficult terrains and unforgiving weathers could drain the soldier stamina fairly quick. That is why so it’s vital to have a balanced loadout. Would you like to know more? Then this article is for you.
Down below is an estimate ammunition load of a soldier base on class and purpose. However, on the field, individual preferences should determine the final number. A soldier can always store extra magazines or stripper clips in the backpack which considerably increases the number of rounds available. Again, beside ammo, a soldier got to carry a lot of stuff like gear, body armor, helmet, communication equipment, foods and drinks, etc. Therefore, while a soldier can bring as much ammo as he/she wanted, inventory planning is essential. In order to let the soldier function effectively in combat, the ammunition load must be logical and sustainable.
Rifleman (or Infantryman)
Pretty much the backbone of every army, the rifleman is one the primary components of a fighting force. The ammunition load of the average rifleman is roughly between 150 – 240 rounds (about 5 – 8 magazines). Many countries prefer to preserve the spring tension so their soldiers never load the magazine to its max capacity. For example, a soldier shall load a 30 round magazine with about 27 – 29 rounds instead of 30 rounds. It permits the magazine to be reused multiple times without wearing the spring too much. In the case that the logistics system is able to continuously provide fresh magazines, there is no need for a capacity restriction. Next to the rifle, a rifleman can also carry a pistol with 2 – 3 magazines (approximately 20 – 35 rounds) as a backup.
Due to the advance of technology, the weight of magazine and the round itself are increasingly reduced as time goes by. The introduction of excellent combat systems like Ratnik and FIST is expected to raise the ammunition load of a rifleman and soldier in general.
Capable of delivering suppressive fire to pin the enemies, a machine gunner could send plenty of rounds down range in a short time. If the machine gunner is at a fixed position or on a movable platform, he/she can rely on a generous ammunition reserve. But it’s entirely different on foot when a soldier got to haul everything on the back. The machine gunner is able to partially rely on the assistant gunner or ammo bearer and other teammates to carry his/her load though. There is a wide range of machine gun magazine available from box to drum.
Due to the high consumption rate, the ammunition load of a machine gunner is usually much higher compared to a rifleman. The usual estimate ranges from 500 to more than 1,000 rounds, depending on the proximity of the resupply point and mission duration. Medium machine gunners tend to require more ammo than their light counterparts. Thanks to the use of cloth pouch and composite material, the modern machine gunner can carry lots of ammo without a considerable decrease in mobility. Nonetheless, the formidable weight of the ammunition may still require the machine gunner to split it out among the squad.
Base on the rifle caliber and design style, the ammunition load of a sniper/marksman can approach the limit of a rifleman. The humble capacity of the rifle (revolve between 5 – 20 rounds) and the favor of accuracy mean a sniper/marksman never need to carry too much ammo. Semi-automatic rifles usually require more ammo than the bolt action ones though it still depends on the purpose of the mission. Should the soldier expect to get into a prolonged firefight in a target rich environment then more ammunition is obviously needed.
Armed with an independent or mounted grenade launcher, the job of a grenadier is to pound the enemy with high explosive rounds. A stand-alone grenade launcher often got more power and range compared to an intergraded one. However, grenadiers that utilize independent grenade launchers must carry sidearm or rifle to properly defend themselves against close range threats. On the other hand, under barrel grenade launcher allow the soldier to retain the ability to fight as a rifleman without having to bear additional weight.
The usual load of a grenadier is around 18 – 36 rounds for the grenade plus ammunition for his/her sidearm or rifle.
The baseplate, bipod, tube and rounds are distributed along the mortar squad members. These items are really heavy, their weights can easily reach over hundreds of kilograms in large caliber mortars. About 4 to 8 ready to fire rounds are carried with the squad to sustain immediate fires. Without specialized mortar carriers around, the mortal squad got to carry all of these on their own which put a great train on the stamina. For personal defense, a mortarman often possesses a rifle with about 3 – 5 magazines, depending on each country army organization and military doctrine.
Artillery mans are usually not threatened by direct fire so they don’t necessarily have to carry a rifle or sidearm in action. In fact, most of them never bother with a personal defense weapon anyway since they are well protected by other infantry units and fortifications. The primary danger to the artilleryman is shrapnel from counter-battery fire and alike.
And that is most of the thing you should know about the subject, not too hard to understand, right? “How much ammo does a soldier carry on average?” That is a very interesting question but the answer is not always the same between countries. With the information, now you should have a pretty good idea of a soldier basic ammunition load in combat.