With a high-rate of fire, machine guns are not easy to feed. Have you ever wondered how much ammo does a machine gunner carry into battle?
In an infantry squad, a machine gunner is one of the most important positions. And yet, there is a reason why a machine gun is called a squad weapon: you need more than one man to properly operate it and carry all the ammunition. The number of rounds carried into battle depends on the squad tactics and weapon used. It varies from 500 to a few thousand rounds.
How is the machine gun ammunition is carried in combat?
The 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, the usual combat load is 600 rounds of 7.62 mm at 9.6 lbs per 100 rounds. Some gunners would split the load across their assistant gunner and if they had one, an ammo bearer that made up the typical gun team. The assistant gunner and ammo bearer both had M4 assault rifles with the standard 210 rounds, plus spare barrel and tripod. The gunner is also equipped with an M9 pistol with a couple of mags of 9 mm.
Many armies have developed their ammo bags/bandoleer that could carry the full 600 rounds. An M240 gunner typically carries the full combat load and had the assistant gunner carry extra. The ammo bag has a big quick release on the band the allows the assistant gunner to pull the bag off while the M240 gunner is prone behind the gun, running off his starter belt, and he could link the main belt in.
Most of the experienced M240 gunners carry a big bottle of 90w gear oil to drip on the rounds being fed in, and graphite or a wax-based dry lube for sandy conditions, and moly grease with a barber brush for the barrel, to keep it all lubed and running smooth. It is not an official setup, but mostly improvisation and a personal preference.
FN Minimi (M249) Combat Load
For a machine gunner operating either the 7.62 GPMG or FN Minimi saw machine gun, it would be around 800 rounds for a standard patrol (take into account that each ammo belt holds around 100-200 rounds) and that unless in a fire support mode, fire in 5 round bursts (20 round bursts for fire support/suppressive fire).
FN MAG Combat Load
An FN MAG gunner in the South African Defence Force (SADF) back in 84/85 had a combat load of 200 round belt with a further 5 belts (1,000 rounds) divided up in the section. The FN MAG weighed almost 11 kgs and 200 round belt another 6.5 kg.
The FN MAG is a Belgian 7.62 mm general-purpose machine gun, designed in the early 1950s at Fabrique Nationale (FN). It has been used by more than 80 countries and it has been made under license in several countries.
The regular riflemen who also might be appointed as an assistant gunner in the squad carried 5 x 35 round magazines each loaded with 30 rounds plus 2 extra boxes of 30 rounds each.
IMI Negev Combat Load
IMI Negev is a squad automatic weapon issued in Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). It is a light machine gun, fed with 5.56 mm bullets on a belt. The standard combat load in IDF in the last decade was 4 drums of 150 bullets each, plus two loose belts of 80, and a tracer belt of 30. Plus the spare barrel.
Every IMI Negev gunner also had his sidearm with a few magazines plus water, grenades, food, helmet, etc. Combined with all those equipment and combat vests, it is a considerable weight. Every other man in squad could also carry a drum or two.