The Battlefield Burden: How Much Ammo Do Machine Gunners Carry?

Author: Eric Sof

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Machine guns are known for their high fire rate, making them difficult to feed with ammunition continuously. If you’ve ever wondered how much ammo a machine gunner carries into battle, it’s worth noting that a machine gunner is a crucial member of an infantry squad. These individuals are responsible for operating the machine gun and ensuring that there is a sufficient supply of rounds. The number of rounds carried into battle can vary depending on squad tactics and the weapon being used, but it can range from 500 to a few thousand rounds.

How much ammo does a machine gunner carry into battle?
How much ammo does a machine gunner carry into battle? (Photo: XY)

How is machine gun ammunition carried in combat?

Machine gun ammunition can be carried in different ways:

  • in belts,
  • in ammo boxes that can be attached to the gun,
  • in containers in your backpack,
  • in ammo pouches mounted on MOLLE systems,
  • or as loose rounds (in bandoliers or still packed).

M240 Combat Load

As an M240 gunner, you can expect to carry a combat load of 600 rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition, which weighs approximately 9.6 lbs per 100 rounds. It is common for gunners to divide this load between themselves and an assistant gunner or ammo bearer, typically equipped with M4 assault rifles and a standard 210 rounds. In addition, the gunner is usually equipped with an M9 pistol and a couple of magazines of 9 mm.

Many armies have developed specialized ammunition bags or bandoleers to carry 600 rounds. It is common for the M240 gunner to carry the full combat load, with the assistant gunner carrying extra. These bags often have a quick-release feature on the strap that allows the assistant gunner to quickly remove the bag while the gunner is operating the weapon.

M240 Combat Load: How much ammo does an M240 gunner carry into battle?
M240 Combat Load: How much ammo does an M240 gunner carry into battle? (Photo: Ed Darack)

Experienced M240 gunners often carry additional equipment to keep their weapons running smoothly in different conditions. This may include a bottle of 90w gear oil for use on the rounds being fed into the weapon, graphite or a wax-based dry lubricant for sandy conditions, and moly grease with a barber brush for the barrel. While this setup is not official, it is often the result of improvisation and personal preference.

FN Minimi (M249) Combat Load

As a machine gunner operating the 7.62 GPMG or FN Minimi, you can expect to carry around 800 rounds for a standard patrol. This is based on the fact that each ammo belt holds between 100-200 rounds and that unless in a fire support mode, you should fire in 5-round bursts (20-round bursts for fire support or suppressive fire).

FN Minimi (M249) Combat Load: Portuguese Army Special Operations Forces (PRT SOF) with FN SCARs and FN Minimi
FN Minimi (M249) Combat Load: Portuguese Army Special Operations Forces Land Task Unit with SCAR L and FN Minimi 556 (Photo: XY)

FN MAG Combat Load

As an FN MAG gunner in the South African Defence Force in the 1980s, you would have carried a combat load of 200 rounds in a belt, with an additional 1,000 rounds divided into five belts carried by the rest of the section. The FN MAG is a Belgian 7.62 mm general-purpose machine gun designed in the 1950s by Fabrique Nationale and used by more than 80 countries. It has also been produced under license in several other countries.

In addition to carrying the machine gun, regular riflemen and assistant gunners in the squad carried 5 x 35-round magazines, each loaded with 30 rounds and two extra boxes of 30 rounds each. The FN MAG weighed approximately 11 kg, while a 200-round belt weighed an additional 6.5 kg.

FN MAG Combat Load: How much ammo does an FN MAG gunner carry into battle?
FN MAG Combat Load: How much ammo does an FN MAG gunner carry into battle? (Photo: XY)

IMI Negev Combat Load

The IMI Negev is a squad automatic weapon used by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). A light machine gun fires 5.56 mm bullets from a belt feed. In the past decade, the standard combat load for an IMI Negev gunner in the IDF has included four drums of 150 bullets each, two loose belts of 80 bullets, and a tracer belt of 30 bullets, in addition to a spare barrel.

IMI Negev Combat Load: How much ammo does an IMI Negev gunner carry into battle?
IMI Negev Combat Load: IDF soldier firing from the IWI Negev light machine gun (Photo: Flickr)

In addition to the IMI Negev and its ammunition, gunners are also equipped with a sidearm and several magazines, water, grenades, food, a helmet, and other gear. All of this equipment, as well as the combat vest, can be quite heavy, and other members of the squad may also carry additional drums of bullets.

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