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How much ammo does a soldier carry?

Discussion in 'WWII General' started by PzJgr, Mar 8, 2019.

  1. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    I have been thinking (I know dangerous). I purchased a GSG MP40. I have a carrying bag for it that allows 5 magazines. So that got me thinking in that how much ammo did a squad leader carry? The magazines are large and bulky. I can't see a tanker bailing out with his MP40 with 6 (the most I have seen on a soldat) magazines. How long would they last?

    So that got me thinking further. Regardless of nationality, how many magazines, clips, etc did a soldier take with him into battle and how long would it last? Not like the hollywood unlimited magazine clips...LOL. I know heavy machine gun crews had helpers to carry the ammo. So that one I kinda figured. But what does a lone soldier do when he runs out of ammo?
     
  2. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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  3. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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  4. GaryJKennedy

    GaryJKennedy New Member

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    Ammunition loads and allowances are something I've been trying to get to grips with of late, though information isn't terribly easy to come by. I think it's fair to say that armies had an official approach, which was of course subject to amendment by units in the field. Still I think the 'book allowances' have merit, even acknowledging that they were subject to revision. Some examples for the later war years;

    British Section/Platoon 1943-45 (detailed in Inf Trng Part VIII)
    Rifle 50 rounds (+50 for Bren, see below)
    Sten 160 rounds (5 mags)
    Bren 1000 rounds (25 mags, total 700 + 300 with riflemen)

    US Army Squad/Platoon 1943 (detailed in Ref Data, Inf Regt, Chapter 2, Nov 1943)
    M1 rifle 48 (on man) + 96 (on Regtl Amn Train)
    BAR 380 (100 with AR man, 140 with Asst AR man, 140 with Amn bearer) + 360 (on Train)
    Carbine 60 (on man)

    German Rifle Squad (various sources and dates)
    MP40 192 (6 mags, on man) + 320 on transport
    Rifle 75 (sometimes shown as 60 on man + 15 on transport, sometimes as 45 on man + 30 on transport)
    LMG 2500 (commonly shown as 2100 ball + 300 AP + 100 AP tracer)

    USMC Rifle Squad (Marine Rifle Squad in Combat, MCS 1945)
    Carbine 75 rounds (5 mags)
    M1 rifle 80 rounds
    AR man 180 rounds (9 mags)
    Asst AR man 240 rounds (12 mags)

    Some armies had a lesser amount to be carried by certain personnel such as those on crew served weapons. German Army was typically 20 rounds for anyone with a rifle but not in a Rifle Company or equivalent. One noted amendment to the above was for riflemen in the Assault Regts in Normandy, with the US Assault Training Center having 96 rounds for the M1 and increasing the Carbine to 75 rounds. The same March 1944 document indicates 13 mags for the AR man and 32 for the asst.

    I have got some Red Army figures after a post on another forum, I must admit looking back at the document it'll take me a while to recall how it translates! I probably made some note somewhere so will have a look.

    Gary
     
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  5. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    I talked with Mr. Sanford when we were writing the book about this.

    Purely anecdotal- He carried 15 rounds (1 full magazine) in his carbine and 3 magazines on his person. He also had two locally acquired handguns with a limited supply of cartridges. He fired these weapon only a few times each to get familiar with them because ammo was in short supply and they were carried only for emergencies, although he did stick the barrel of one under the nose of a male German civilian who climbed uninvited up onto the halftrack and did not understand verbal warnings to get down. The Browning pistol spoke an international language that the man understood. He did not discharge the weapon.

    In the halftrack, they had a wooden box "full of hand grenades" located on the floor between the seats, within easy reach of the crew. How large was the box and how many they had, I do not know. I'm not sure if there was an authorized number for his vehicle or crew, since the idea was that they would be in little to no actual combat, which was not the case.

    I didn't ask about the crew-served weapons mounted on the vehicle but he did mention one time in referring to the .30 cal MG he manned that they "carried as much as we could get our hands on", but I don't know how much that was. I suspect the same held true for the .50cal mounted forward on the vehicle.
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2019
  6. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Using Gary's list, I have some observations. I have an M1 Garand and have picked up various odds and ends for it; for instance, two types of ammo carriers. One is a bandolier of rather thin material and has six pouches that carry one clip each-that's the 48 rounds that his list says the U.S. Army GI carried. I also have an ammo belt (same material as web gear) that has 10 pouches for a total of 80 rounds. (Marine issue?)

    What Gary posted above is probably what's called the "basic load". If my experience in the Army is any sort of guide, most troopies perhaps carry as much as twice that. No soldier wants to run out of ammo in the middle of a battle! The upper limit would depend on ammo availability and the weight a rifleman could carry and still do his job effectively. Weight of ammo is an important thing and is one of the main reasons most nations went to an intermediate size round.
     
  7. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    Some interesting information. I still find it difficult to imagine how a soldier could sustain a firefight with the loads he carried. Especially paratroops. Bridge too far comes to mind
     
  8. GaryJKennedy

    GaryJKennedy New Member

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    You have to bear in mind that ammunition wasn't held by just the fighting units. There was what was carried on men and vehicles, then Regimental Trains (or equivalents) and Divisional. A foot soldier could only carry so much and it was important to establish ammunition supply points, which received ammn from higher up the food chain and got it into the hands of the troops. The same held for units delivered by air or sea though their initial load was likely higher.

    As Harolds mentioned the US had the 'basic load', which is what was outlined in the Reference Data for the Inf Regt. The 'Staff Officers' Field Manual' FM 101-10 outlined the expected figures for various weapons. Unfortunately the only downloadable one is from June 1941, and excludes the later weapons such as 57-mm gun and Bazooka. FM 101-10 was reissued two or three times during the war but I've never found a later copy.

    For the US Army the 1941 load for an M1 rifle in a Rifle Platoon was given as 40 (on man) + 192 (on combat train) + 96 (on train of higher unit) = 328 rounds. The footnotes state that the 192 rounds on combat train was to be held in 48-round bandoleers, two being issued before going into combat (96 rounds) and two being held as reserve.

    A British example was 50 rounds per rifle, with a further 100 rounds held in unit reserve. The German figure of 75 rounds in the unit was augmented by 24 more in various Divisional Trains for a total of 99.

    Gary
     
  9. harolds

    harolds Member

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    The reserve ammo better be damn close the front! When facing a banzai or Chicom human wave attack one can go through 12 clips of M! ammo in a shockingly short time! I can't prove this but Id bet most units had an unreported reserve of ammo and fuel that higher commands didn't (officially) know about. This was achieved by over-reporting the ammo and fuel consumed.
     
  10. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    There are two correct answers to this:

    In non-combat situations, they carry too much.

    In combat situations, they don't carry enough.
     
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  11. GaryJKennedy

    GaryJKennedy New Member

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    If you search for the PDF of US Army FM 7-10 (Rifle Company, Infantry Regiment), the March 1944 issue explains in detail the ammunition supply process (para 214) from the US point of view. The British Army had a similar approach, often with the RSM of the Battalion keeping track of ammunition held and the Company CSM doing likewise.

    And to round things off these are the Red Army's figures for rounds per gun, particular to Rifle Squad weapons (as of 13 Dec 1943);

    Rifle 100 (includes 10 AP), with 70 on man (seems to include 5 rounds ball and 5 AP as emergency reserve) and 30 on unit transport
    SMG 300, with 210 on man (30 as reserve) and 90 on unit transport
    LMG 800 (includes 120 AP), with 98 on man and total 702 on unit transport (I know, that one doesn't quite sound right, but it does track back through some earlier figures)

    Gary
     
  12. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    When I first read this I thought "this can't be right" it's counter-intuitive. Why issue cartridge belts that hold eighty rounds (10 pockets x 8rd clips) when the basic load is 40 rds? Well, fortunately you provided your source, you interpreted it incorrectly. First, a tactical manual would probably give you a better idea of what a soldier actually carried in combat, a Staff manual is more directed towards logistical and planning considerations. Second, the table you used is specifically table 91. Infantry-Ammunition Allowances for Mobilization. This does not equate to combat load. If you'll look further at the footnotes, specifically #6 you'll see that they state "96 to be issued prior to combat in 48-round bandoleers. 96 retained in combat train as reserve." So the rifleman's combat load was at least 96 rounds. Now remember, the manual in question is more for planning and logistical purposes than for determining the actual combat load. A tactical manual would probably give you more and better information as to the actual load carried.
    The cartridge belt held 80 rounds, the bandoleers came packed in ammo crates (384rds per crate), which contained two metal ammo boxes (192 rds. ea.) that each contained 4 pre-packaged bandoleers. It is logistically easier to just grab two straps from the can and hand to each rifleman as the pass by, as to the reason for issuing 96 as opposed to 80 (cartridge belt capacity). However, if you look over at table 92. b. You'll see the daily allowance in an infantry regiment for the Rifle, cal. 30 you'll note that the allocated regimental load per weapon is 328, but it also gives the unit of fire as 150 rounds. A unit of fire is basically how much ammunition a combat unit (broken down per each individual weapon) will expend during a day of average combat. For the official description see: Army Field Manual 9-6, "Ammunition Supply", 15 June 1944
    You'll find an online version here: http://www.6thcorpscombatengineers....( Ordnance Department Ammunition Supply ).pdf

    So, if you're a rifleman in a US Army infantry company, you're in the combat zone and contact with enemy forces is possible, a good guess would be 96 rounds. If said infantryman is out patrolling and heavy contact is not expected, he's probably carrying the same. If he's in an assault element and combat is expected he'll likely have close to 150 rounds on his person (a unit of fire) his 80 round cartridge belt, eight in his rifle, an additional eight round clip somewhere on his person (remember he was issued 96rds. in two bandoleers) and probably an additional 48rd bandoleer (actual total count 144rds). If heavy combat is expected he might have an additional bandoleer. It is the job of each command element Co., Bn., Regt., and Division to push ammunition forward to it's subordinate elements as required, so the infantryman doesn't have to carry all the ammo he could potentially expend. I think the planning for the Mariana's landings called for 5 units of fire per assault element. There's no way the individual rifleman could hump that much and it would overwhelm the organic transport within a company for it to entirely be carried at that level.
     
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  13. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    These figures sound a little "light" - So how often did a soldier run out of ammo? Was it a regular thing? Australians in New Guinea would back up ammo with explosives and bayonets, but still always needed more ammo...
     
  14. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    This ought to be an aha moment

    It is quite possible to fire off all of thew ammunition carried by soldiers in a few short minutes. There are lots of accounts of units new to combat firing wildly and expending most of their ammunition during their first exposure to combat.

    In a defensive position if t was possible to stockpile ammunition. Hein Serverloh might have been able to fire 12,000 stockpiled rounds even if he could not have carried that amount.

    Units in the assault frequently ran out of ammunition, or rather ran short. Units might need a heavy weight of fire to "win the fire fight" to make an assault. Then they would need to repel any counter attack. There was a debate in 21st Army Group about whether the assaulting units should fire at all if following a barrage. The arguiment was that it was better to save the ammunition

    The daily ammunition scales for the NW Europe campaign were 229,000 rounds of .303 per infantry division for 11254 rifles, 1262 Bren guns and 40 Medium MGs. That is around 18 rounds per weapon per day. Even if the main soldiers expending small arms ammunition are the 6,000 infantrymen, that isnlt a lot per man.
     
  15. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    This is where the question popped in my mind as to how much did they carry. To have enough in a firefight, it would be to heavy and not enough space on an individual to carry. To carry what was assigned meant not enough and had to be selective when shooting. Unless you were entrenched on the defensive in which you could have a stockpile. I was in the Air Force so we did not have to worry about such things. But even pilots had to be selective given that they probably only had about like 12-15 seconds of ammo on board.
     
  16. GaryJKennedy

    GaryJKennedy New Member

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    I did include the details of the footnote from the table in FM 101-10 that detail the split of 40+96+96 across personnel and trains. I take your point about the Mobilization heading for the table, however it does match with the few figures given in FM7-5 of 1940 for the Oct40 Inf Regt organisation. Page 315 lists 180 rounds for the three 60-mm mortars and (60 each) and 6000 rounds for the two LMGs (3000 each) in the Rifle Co Wpns Pl, which matches with the Mobilization table.

    I've tried to attach as a JPEG the page from Reference Data, Inf Regt, Chapter 2, Nov 1943 that I picked up a while ago. You'll notice at the foot of the table it cautions these were based on the studies of various bodies and not yet official. The booklet was republished several times during the war, the other copy I have is from June 1945, which shows almost the same figures and gives the same footnote (the Amn Tn figure for the 60-mm mortar went from 48 to 36 and the 57-mm gun vanished in anticipation of the introduction of 57-mm and 75-mm recoilless rifles). To put them in perspective, these were the figures for ammunition carried on vehicles of the Inf Regt on the Jul43 T/O (I wasn't able to find a copy of the June 1944 edition) as detailed by The Infantry School at Fort Benning, GA, and were based on the Regt utilising its own authorised transport.

    I have looked for a US manual that might show the individual loads for men in a Rifle unit. Thanks to the CGSC library the majority of the Field Manuals issued during the war years are available as PDF, however they remain silent on the subject for the most part. FM7-10 of 1942 refers to an 'initial supply of ammunition carried on his person' and then directs the reader to the Tables of Basic Allowances for amounts to be carried on man and on vehicle. I've not seen any TBAs unfortunately to compare what they say with the Infantry School.

    A digital copy of Weapons of the Marine Infantry Battalion (1943) is available;

    Weapons : (Marine Infantry Battalion) : Marine Corps Schools (U.S.) : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive

    It lists the unit of fire of the M1 rifle as 160 rounds, with 40 rounds per man and extra ammunition to be issued prior to combat.

    Gary
     

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  17. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    One of the reasons M4's tended to catch fire after being penetrated, at least in the case of US operated ones, was that the crews had loweded more ammo than was intended. The problem exist on quite a few levels.
     
  18. GaryJKennedy

    GaryJKennedy New Member

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    There some figures from the German view I've seen recently. They give the usual rounds per weapon figure then assign a 'rounds per minute' to each weapon. Then they calculate the maximum length of time fire can be sustain at that rate, based on the full amount of allocated ammunition being available.

    Rifle, 75 rounds held, 10 rounds per minute practical rate of fire = 7.5 min at sustained rate
    MP40, 192 rounds on man, 90-100 rpm practical rof = 2 min at sustained rate
    MG34, 2500 rounds per gun, 225 rpm practical rof = 10 min at sustained rate

    There was then a further calculation of 'ammunition required to effectively supress or defeat a target' expressed in range and rounds.

    Rifle - at 200m 5 to 6 rounds
    MP40 - at 150m 30 to 40 rounds
    MG34 - at 600m 150 rounds

    Finally there was a calculation of how many targets a single man armed with each type of weapon could successfully engage with the number of rounds officially allocated to them.

    Rifle - 12 to 15 targets
    MP40 - 3 to 5 targets
    MG34 - 13 to 14 targets

    It does give an estimate of how long a Squad could be expected to sustain fire in the field in general circumstances. You have to some numbers to work to in order to plan how much ammunition you need, of what type and where it needs to be made available. Every Army had to do it. Units and subunits could and did make their own amendments but they were still having to operate within a framework drafted by staffs and QMs, and executed by the logistics available. There isn't one single answer but there are some interesting opinions, some of which changed over time.

    Gary

    The one thing I would
     

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  19. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    The US Army translated and published a German pamphlet called "The German Squad in Combat" as Military Intelligence special series No 9 dated January 25, 1943. Its a free download.
    The German Squad In Combat : United States. War Department. Military Intelligence Service : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive


    This lists the breakdown of the load carried by each soldier. It is German "Alles in Ordnung" - everything has a place and everything in its place.

    Squad leader MP40: Equipment Machine pistol with 6 magazines (each with 32 rounds)
    in magazine pouches, Magazine loader,Field glasses, Wire cutters, Pocket compass, Signal whistle, Sun glasses, Searchlight.

    Machine-gunner (No. 1). Machine gun 34 with belt, Magazine 34 (50 rounds),Tool pouch, Pistol,
    Short spade, Sun glasses, Searchlight.

    Assistant No 2 Barrel - protector with a spare barrel, 4 belt drums (each with 50 rounds), Ammunition belt
    34, Pistol, Ammunition box (300 rounds), Short spade, Sun glasses.

    Ammunition- carrier (No. 3). Barrel - protector with a spare barrel, 2 ammunition boxes (each with
    300 rounds), Ammunition belt 34, Pistol, Short spade.

    Riflemen Nos 4-9).
    Rifle (each), 2 ammunition pouches, Short spade. And when ordered: Hand grenades, Smoke grenades, Explosive charges, Ammunition, Machine-gun tripod. - each set of ammunition pouches contained 45 rounds -making 90 per rifleman. - But as noted there was no set amount of ammunition so No's 4-9 were pack mules.

    Every Army has loading lists like this. A lot of platoon and section battle preparation is having the right load for the task. Trench raiders/ patrols might only take a few rounds and belt order for speed.

    An assaulting unit might lead with lightly laden men in the first wave, but with follow up troops laden like pack mules with the stores to occupy and defend a position.

    Read infantry manuals and there is lots of nitty-gritty stuff about clever ways to carry kit.
     
  20. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    Is that the one reproduced in the "German Handbook"?
     

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