Amount of ammo carried by soldiers


Again, looking at WWI photos and thinking…How much ammo did soldiers carry in the battlefield? The front leather pouches probably contained around 30-40 rounds. Did they carry more in their rucksacks (backpacks)? I am questioning due to my ignorance. I have no military past, and paintball battlefield experience teaches me that even 200 rounds is not enough. By the way, how much do they carry now? I realize that there are no Marnes, Loos and Verduns now. Below are French at Marne.


When I was in the IDF, I carried 13 M16 mags as a rifleman, and 1150 belted rounds of 7.62 as a Maagist.


Our basic issue was 80 rounds, carried in the ten-pocket web belt for the M1 Garand, or 150 rounds, carried four magazine (30-shot) in a single belt pouch and one in the weapon for the M1/M2 Carbine. The BAR guys had, I think, 12 20-shot magazines in belt pouches and one with the weapon. Other members of the squad would have carried BAR Mags for him, also, in a combat situation, but I don’t recall ever seeing that in the peace-time Army I was in. For the Browning LMG, we were issued a pistol as a personal weapon (gunner and assistant gunner). We had two ammo bearers for each of two guns in a light weapons squad (some squads had 2 mortars, some one mortar and one LMG, and others 2 LMGs. Ours was the latter) Each of the ammo bearers carried two, 250-round cans in addition to their personal-weapons ammunition. More ammunition would have been available in a combat situation depending on the mission (offensive or defense) and the circumstances.

One can see from photos of WWII and Korea that two 15-round mags were often carried on the buttstock of the carbine, and guys with the Garand carried bandoleers of 48 rounds - as many as they wanted to hump. We were never issue extra carbine mags (or any 15-shot ones), nor did our Garand riflemen ever see a bandoleer, except on the range, where the ammo was often in cans holding bandoleers - again, it was Cold War time. Of course, every company, service or combat branch, had access to more ammunition even then, but rules of issue were STRICT!

I think the WWII German basic issue for rifles was 60-rounds in two, three-pocket pounches on the belt, but bandoleers also existed, and were heavily used by the airborne troops. Basic issue for the MP-40 seems to have been either three or six spare magazines (32-shot) depending on the person’s combat role (some carried pistols and only one MP-40 pouch judging from WWII pictures) and of course, a fourth or seventh mag in the weapon.

I don’t recall what the Japanese pouches held, even though I have had a couple of them go through my hands. I never did know what the Brits carried. They seemed to have several difference styles of ammo carriers for their belts, and I know the two big pouches were designed to carry loose 5-round clips for the Enfileds, or Bren/Sten gun magazines, but I have no idea how many.

On the Browning LMG cans, don’t believe the moveis where the actors have cans under each arm and one in each hand - they are empty! I tried that once playing “John Wayne” at the range carry ammo up to the line, and dropped one from under the arm and just missed my foot.
Trying to carry 1000 belted rounds of .30 M2 Ball/tracer was a loser unless you were the “Hulk.”

Basic Garrison-issue for the M14 was five, 20-shot magainzes. I don’t recall for the M16 - I never saw one until I bought my own 4-digit number Colt AR-15. My military service had ended before the M-16 reached much issue.


“Trying to carry 1000 belted rounds of .30 M2 Ball/tracer was a loser unless you were the “Hulk.””

John, you know me, I ain’t no Hulk, but it can be done. When I carried a Mag58, I had 4x125 round belts in 4 ammo pouches, a 150 round belt in a pouch on the gun, and 2x250 round cans on a back carrier, for a total of 1150. My partner had another two cans and a spare barrel. My math is correct, but now I’m thinking the cans might have held 230 rounds, can’t recall. If 230, revise my count to 1110. Fortunately, I didn’t have to take the back carrier often.


I had heard from a documentary about the Falklands war that some UK soldiers were saying that there was no such thing as too much ammo to be carried, and they wished they had more. I think half of that is probably due to their bulky 20rd .308 mags at the time. That would have been one case where .223 would have been appreciated.


When my brother was in the 44 Pathfinders in South Africa (80-81), he carried 200 rounds of ammo for his FN-FAL. He also told me that he rarely used ‘full auto’ on his FN.


Most “real” military training stresses use of semi-auto almost exclusively. Full-auto applications are actually very few, contrary to movie lore. I used the Mag for longer bursts fairly often, but the only times I recall actually using my M16 or Galil on full-auto was when I took one home for the weekend.


In Iraq I carried 7 mags( 6 on the vest and 1 in the weapon) for the M4 and 5 mags for the M9 pistol. We had alot more in the vehicle.


When I was in the Marines, ca.1987-1993, the basic ammunition load for an infantryman was 7 x 30 rd. magazines for the M-16-A2 rifle. Two belt pouches of 3 magazines each plus one in the rifle. When I went to war during “Desert Shield/Desert Storm”, I personally carried 13 magazines. Extra ammunition in bandoleers was stored inside trucks, Hummvees and Amtracks. One of my mentors, a Vietnam War Marine, carried 20x20 rd. magazines for his M-14 rifle on long range patrols (1-2 weeks). Time and again, history has shown that in battle you can never have enough ammo or water… From all of the historical reading I have done and all of the WWII and later combat veterans I know, the “basic issue” carrying capacity of the equipment on hand is inadequate. Most likely decided upon by bean-counters and rear echelon types. Look up the “unit of fire” ammunition issue standard for WWII Marines. The number of “authorized” rounds per day in combat by caliber is unbelieveably low!



Go back in time to the Custer era and troops were only issued with typically twenty rounds!


To add to the excelloent round up by JM on Ammo Issue, the Italian Infantry carried either 4x18rnd packets ( 3 clips per packet) if they were wearing Two sets of Pouches (one pair each side); some Soldiers only had one centrally placed Pouch ( double).

They also carried other ammo in packets in their backpack/or “breadbag”, amounting to about 10 packets total ( 180 rounds) Issue.
Extra ammo was cartried on the Mules ( Alpini) or Light carts or Light vehicles.
Machine Gunners (Breda 30) carried a case with 20 strippers of 20 rounds each (6,5x52) per gun, whilst the Breda 37 had a case of 10 trays of 20 each (8x59RB).
Gun crews carried extra cases of ammo as required.

Doc AV
PS, the “Order of Battle of the German Army 1918” has all the WWI issue scales for ammo, by units and echelon levels.


Regarding the “Custer Era,” the standard McKeever box, which was a belt pouch holding twenty rounds of .45-70 ammunition, and from the second model pouch on, a small tool, was the intial issue item for individual carry of ammunition, but it did not last long on the Wester frontier as the main ammunition carrier in the field, due to its low capacity. I don’t know exactly when they they came in, but out West, various forms of the Mills Prairie Belt became standard, with most holding 45 rounds. Even though they continued the McKeever Pouch into the Krag era, for Garrison and Guard Duty, the standard issue was a Mills Belt holding 100 rounds. In fact, I had a cavalry belt for a time that held 100 .30-40 rounds and 12 .38 Revolver cartridges. The rifle cartridge were in a row of double loops, one on top of each other (50 in length with one with the second cartridge literally on top of the first, not above in, but rather two deep), and the revolvers were in two rows of six, as I recall, above each other. It also had a permanently attached saver hook on it. They found out quickly in the Indian Wars in the West that 20 rounds was totally inadequate. There were, by the way, other carriers besides the McKeever Box, including a slip on belt-slide with loops, and other forms of cartridge box, but the McKeever Box is the most commonly found today, and the one usually protrayed in Movies.

I am actually surprised that more cartridge collectors don’t collect the individual ammunition carriers. Gun collectors of martial arms often collect these belts and pouches in a big way. They are as much ammunition related as the box the cartridge came in from the factory. Admittedly, though, I don’t collection mag carriers for auto pistol, except for the Makarov where I collect everything related to it!


Did your brother fight for South Africa somehow as an American volunteer?


Yes. From 1979 to 1980, he was a Militia Commander with 50 African soldiers and 10 miles of border between Rhodesia and Mozambique to patrol. This was for the Provisional Government of Rhodesia. He was not part of the RLI or Selous Scouts. In 1980, he and his friends made a hasty retreat to South Africa to become part of the 44 Pathfinders. The 44 had members from quite a few countries: England, Canada and the U.S. predominantly. The RSA regulars ostracized the 44, but were happy to let them do the serious work for them in Angola. My brother has told me quite a few hair-raising stories about his year there. They were kept very busy with terrorists in Angola. They were affectionately known as ‘The Philistines’. There is an interesting book that was recently released about the 44. My brother flew to London for the official opening and had a a few days with the old gang!


The .223" round was getting a mixed reception even during the Falklands conflict. A few UK troops carried Armalite type rifles instead of the 7.62mm L1A1 (Self Loading Rifle). One reported that he shot an Argentine soldier several times with the Armalite without apparent effect. The man was then dropped with a 7.62mm bullet. The Argentine was heavily clothed against the cold weather and was wearing webbing harness equipment over these layers which was enough to stop or deflect the little bullets.



Thanks for the info. What is the title of the book?


"Pathfinder Company: 44 Parachute Brigade ‘The Philistines’ (Military History)"
Graham Gillmore; Paperback; $26.63

Looked interesting, so I ordered it last night. Over the past year I seem to have read a lot about Rhodesia, 32 Batt., and Executive Outcomes.


In Northern Ireland in the 1970’s for standard patrols we were given 10 rds. I, like a lot of other soldiers carried unofficial extra rds.

The standard load for those armed with the L1A1 as part of NATO forces in Germany (1980’s) was 5 x 20rd Mags.

The most important 3 items I always carried were Ammunition, Water & Soft Toilet Paper.


An acquaintance was an SME for the State Dept ATAP program; he stated he’s trained foreign mil groups who were given only 30-40rds per year–this included rounds expended during ‘training’ (ATAP usually ran 500-1000 per day, I’ve spoken with SAS gents who ran 2,000+ in a day). In my line of work, some folks run less than 20rds on their person total between all arms and I deem it unacceptable.

With regards to the 5.56x45mm being deflected or stopped by any wearable amount of clothing or web gear… the old standard M193 easily defeats 4 thicknesses of NIJ IIIA soft armor (ie, 4 full panels, 2 vests worth) with adequate wounding effect…so this sounds like battlefield Mythbusters gone wrong. Same for the Korean War stories of NK and Chinese troops soaking up 15-30rds of M1 Carbine with no apparent effect (heavy winter clothing blamed, again).

As to it’s acutal internal/terminal effect, yes the 7.62x51mm almost always outperforms 5.56x45mm.

  • When I served in the Romanian Army (1974-76) and I was on guard duty, each sentry had two full loaded 30-rds curved box magazines for the 7.62mm AKM (officially named “PM-63”). The Romanian made 7.62 X 39 rimless ammo had green lacquered steel cases headstamped “22” (factory code for “U.M. Sadu”) over the last two digits of the year of manufacture (mostly ammo made between 1967-69). Before 1966 the Romanians used brass to make the 7.62 X 39 shell cases but I fired some lot from 1971 having also brass shell cases. The blank 7.62 X 39 rounds I fired in army were made in 1972-73 and also had green lacquered steel cases; a lot made in 1969 still had brass cases. Liviu 06/28/11