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Riflemen?

On the History Channel, I once heard that a statistical measure used by the armed forces during conflict is the amount of rounds spent per kill. In WW2, that was about 20,000 rounds per confirmed kill. In Korea, it was about 50,000. In Vietnam, that number apparently went way up to 200,000. (ed note: these numbers are all from memory and I am TLTG). Now, in Iraq, it’s apparently worse:

US forces have fired so many bullets in Iraq and Afghanistan – an estimated 250,000 for every insurgent killed – that American ammunition-makers cannot keep up with demand. As a result the US is having to import supplies from Israel.

Zoiks! That is consistent with what the Wal-Mart sporting goods guys tell me.

17 Responses to “Riflemen?”

  1. countertop Says:

    All those numbers seem awfully high, but I wonder what they would be if you measured them against injury and not death. Hmm, that might work against the impression that press has that a single bullet from a .22lr will wreck mass havoc causing rivers of blood to run down the streets.

    Actually though, it seems to verify the complaints of troops (and gun nuts in general) that the .223 doesn’t work as well. In WWII we used BARs, Garands, .30 Cal. Carbines, some Springfields, and plenty of Tommy Guns and 1911s firing .45s. Big powerful rounds that wreck havoc on people. In Korea, we were fighting in the jungle, but using essentialy the same armaments. Hence, similar ratios with the exception that its slightly higher due to terrain. Vietnam was the birth of the M16 and .223 combination – we all know about the rounds wasted by soldiers without training in controlling the full auto M16, but how much were also the result of puny poodleshooter rounds not being effective? It seems Iraq – with perhaps the best trained and most disciplined US military units yet answers that question.

    Oh yeah, and their sidearm ain’t a manly .45 any more either, but the even more anemic than a .223 9mm.

  2. SayUncle Says:

    But in Korea and part of Vietnam, they used the M1A.

  3. countertop Says:

    The Pentagon reportedly bought 313 million rounds of 5.56mm, 7.62mm and 50-calibre ammunition last year and paid $10m (about 5.5m) more than it would have cost for it to produce the ammunition at its own facilities.

    You would think that when ordering in bulk – and 313 million rounds is certainly bulk in my book, you could do slightly better than 31 bucks a round. Heck, Eric certainly can. Even on the .50 BMG.

    Seems to me that either something else is going on, or the Independent screwed up their math pretty bad (or I did somehow)

  4. countertop Says:

    Uncle, thats true that the M1A was used (though I thought it was an M14 at the time) – which might also account for the slightly higher numbers in Korea – but I think their use in Vietnam was pretty limited to the earlier years. Later on it was mostly M16s and grease guns (with some M14s/M1A’s thrown in)

  5. SayUncle Says:

    Think you did your math backwards. $10M/300M = $0.03 per round. Still, a $10M increase is quite high.

  6. countertop Says:

    Opps, your right. I guess I messed up somehow. Hey, I’m not a mathmetician.

  7. markm Says:

    Anyhow, it’s an increase in price – it doesn’t say what the actual price is.

    I don’t have this sort of problem with my Moisin-Nagants…

  8. Nate Says:

    I wonder how much of the increases in ammo per kill is a change in tactics. When you’ve got a Spectre or other arty/air cover ready to bring in some fire support, a massive volume of fire that keeps them fixed while the arty shoots is probably more effective than killing them with rifle fire.

    Also, the other examples are prolonged conflicts. In Iraq, the fighting occurs on raids/other short missions. When you’re planning on going back to base or being relieved shortly, there’s less need to conserve ammo than if your next supply drop might be in a week.

    So the logistics and the tactics are changed to favor shooting a ton. Marksmanship might be down, but I wouldn’t be suprised if, when needed, aimed fire is better than it has been in decades, but the tactics require supression fire more than killing fire from rifles, and the logistic situation doesn’t require ammo conservation the way past conflicts have.

    My uninformed $.02

  9. Ravenwood Says:

    Markm is right, you guys are doing all that math over just the increase in price. In other words, we paid a 3-cent per round premium on ammo by buying it instead of making it.

  10. Steve Ramsey Says:

    Perhaps the troops are doing more live fire training?

    When I went into the army as an infantryman in 1983, ammo was scarce, we seldom did live fire, and often went to the field for weekd with five or ten blank rounds for each M-16. The army was still lagging from the Carter era defense cuts.

    By the time 1986 rolled around we were so awash in ammo that we had trouble firing it all up. Live fire training and massive live fire exercises were the norm.

    This rounds per kill business is bullshit. Ask the guy on the ground if you really want to know.

  11. ben Says:

    yeah, how many rounds fired IN COMBAT per “insurgent” killed is what I’d like to know.

  12. Drake Says:

    Hell, one minigun can spit out enough 7.62 to skew statistics in strange ways.

  13. SayUncle Says:

    Yeah, probably is the result of new tactics and technology (i.e., guns that fire thousands of rounds per pull of the trigger).

  14. BOB Says:

    I don’t believe those numbers. I can’t find my source, but I recall reading that in WWII the number of rounds fired per kill was in the order of a few hundred and in Vietnam it was 10 or 20 thousand.

    I think people are mixing up rounds fired per aircraft kill with soldiers killed. Here is some stats on that:

    8th Air Force:
    fired 76.9 million rounds of .50 caliber
    fired .7 million rounds of .30 caliber
    downed 6090 enemy aircraft
    had an average of 1 enemy plane shot down for each 12,700 rounds fired (1/12,700)

    15th Air Force:
    fired 30 million rounds of .50 caliber
    downed 2110 enemy aircraft
    had an average of 1/14,200

    The Germans’ average was 1/12,000

    http://www.angelfire.com/ct/ww2europe/stats.html

  15. Paul Says:

    I read somewhere that the Marine Sniper corps expends an average of 1.3 rounds in combat for each enemy casualty. While this does not include practice rounds (I doubt Carlos Hathcock fired only ~120 rounds for his 93 confirmed kills) I would also venture that most enemy casualties from sniper shots are fatalities.

  16. robert Says:

    Sheesh, and I was bummed because I was shooting about 25% on english sparrows out the back window with a beeman 177.

  17. Publicola Says:

    A minor point – the M14 was NOT used in Korea. Production didn’t start til 1957. It ended in 1964 when we still had limited but growing involvement in Viet Nam. So for the majority of Viet Nam the poodle shooter was the issue arm & for Korea it was all Garand, M1 Carbine, Bar, Thompson, Grease Gun, etc…

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