World War II vs. Today: Comparing the Soldier’s Load in Two Eras

With the soldier’s load growing beyond the bounds of reason, and the Army set to replace the M4 Carbine in some units with the new Interim Combat Service Rifle, questions have arisen about how the soldier’s burden has changed over time. In the comments section of several of my articles relating to these subjects, readers asked if I could compare the current soldier’s load with the soldier’s load from World War II, to see how they compare. As always, I am happy to oblige.

What we’ll be doing is comparing the Approach March Load (AML) of the Rifleman from 2017 versus the Rifleman of 1944-45, as well as the AML of the Automatic Rifleman (SAW gunner) of 2017 versus his counterpart of 1944-45.

First, we’ll refer back to The Modern Warrior’s Combat Load (2003) for detailed figures. That document gives a value of 95.7 pounds (43.4 kilograms) for the Rifleman’s AML. We also know from the recent GAO report on body armor that the soldier of 2017 is carrying a similar 96 pound load, although this load can increase significantly. Of that, 13.5 pounds (6.1 kilograms) is the ammunition (7 30 round magazines, and 200 linked rounds for the SAW), and 8.7 pounds (3.9 kilograms) is the fully equipped weapon (unloaded; with magazine inserted it is 9.7 pounds/4.4 kilograms).

According to the Modern Warrior’s Combat Load, the Automatic Rifleman of 2003 carried a load of 110.8 pounds (50.2 kilograms). However, that load has increased in the intervening years to 128 pounds (58 kilograms), as per the GAO report. Of these 128 pounds, a whopping 24.7 pounds (11.2 kilograms) is ammunition (800 linked rounds), and 18.9 pounds (8.6 kilograms) is the unloaded, fully equipped weapon (loaded it is 23.1 pounds, 10.5 kilograms).

For the soldier’s load during WWII, we will use the Soldier’s Load page over at This provides a detailed breakdown of equipment carried at the time for both the Rifleman and the Automatic Rifleman (BAR gunner). According to the data on the website, the rifleman’s load during World War II was just 68.2 pounds (30.9 kilograms)! Of this, approximately 11.6 pounds (5.3 kilograms) was ammunition, and about 10.7 pounds (4.9 kilograms) was the M1 Garand with sling and cleaning kit (loaded, the rifle weighed 11.3 pounds/5.1 kilograms).

The Automatic Rifleman carried the notoriously heavy and cumbersome M1918A2 BAR, but even he comes out ahead of his modern counterpart by about 30 pounds. His total combat load was 84.3 pounds (38.2 kilograms), over eleven pounds lighter than the modern Rifleman’s combat load. Of this, 19.1 pounds (8.7 kilograms) was his ammunition, and 21.9 pounds (9.9 kilograms) was his BAR sans magazine and ammunition (with loaded magazine 23.4 pounds/10.6 kilograms).

The comparison makes it very clear: The Rifleman’s load today is nearly 30 pounds heavier than his counterpart’s load of 70 years ago, while the Automatic Rifleman’s load is over 40 pounds heavier than his WWII counterpart. Further, not only has the soldier’s total load increased thanks to the addition of body armor, night vision, new first aid equipment, and other innovations, but he is carrying more weight in weapons and ammunition, as well. Despite 70 years of innovation in lightweight weapons and ammunition, the soldier is still carrying more in weaponry than he did in 1945.

This drives home the old saw that soldiers are given “100 pounds of lightweight gear” – for the modern soldier this is quite literally true. Despite ammunition that per round is half the weight, and rifles that (when bare) weigh a fraction of their predecessors, the soldier today is burdened with so many additions, and such a substantial ammunition load that his predecessor from the European Theater seems to be taking it easy by comparison.

Thanks to bobk90 for referring me to for figures on the WWII soldier’s fighting load.

Post-publication note: Before this article was run, I noticed an error in the math… and then summarily forgot it. The error concerned which loads were being compared, as soldiers carry different loads at different times. In the US Army today, these are broken up into the Fighting Load (FL), Approach March Load (AML), and Emergency Approach March Load (EAML). The reader can think of these as “Light”, “Medium”, and “Heavy”, respectively. In the original iteration, I was effectively comparing the WWII EAML to the modern AML, which is obviously flawed. This is because the soldier’s load described on the 45th Division website is a winter load, which obviously includes heavier clothing, shelter, etc, which would not be carried in, say, summer in Afghanistan. The error has now been fixed.


Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at


  • wetcorps

    Are the soldiers typically using all the ammo they carry? And were they using it all in WW2?
    Did the firefights back then consume less ammo because most people were still using bolt actions with 5 rounds mags?
    Is there stuff the soldiers carry today they never use?
    I suppose the logistics are quite different too, are the soldiers today more easily resupplied?

    It’s an interesting reflexion but I think it needs more context if you want it to get somewhere 🙂

    • “Are the soldiers typically using all the ammo they carry? And were they using it all in WW2?”

      Anecdotally, it seems so. Although this would be a nice thing to have hard data on (as far as I know, we don’t).

      “Did the firefights back then consume less ammo because most people were still using bolt actions with 5 rounds mags?”

      I imagine they consumed less ammo due to the lower rate of fire of the weapons, and also the absence of belt feds in the squads.

      “Is there stuff the soldiers carry today they never use?”

      I’m not sure, but if you check out the 2003 document it doesn’t really seem like it.

      “I suppose the logistics are quite different too, are the soldiers today more easily resupplied?”

      I sure hope so.

      “It’s an interesting reflexion but I think it needs more context if you want it to get somewhere :)”

      I wasn’t originally going to do the article until readers asked me to. 🙂


      Burning through an entire combat load of ammunition in one engagement was almost unheard of in Iraq. Friends of mine have been down to their last mag or belt in Afg but once again, very atypical. I would imagine that during WW2 after a significant amount of fire was exchanged and neither side wished to withdraw support weapons decided and cover determined the outcome of a fight.
      Logistics were never a problem for my unit. If the need arose we could call in ready loaded mags (forget what we called them at the time) and water via helicopter. I remember my grandfather speaking of attacks they had to withdraw from as their ammunition ran low.

      • Interesting anecdote. Thank you.

        I wish there were studies on the subject.

        • Engagement

          Heard enough other storys where they got ambushed really close in iraq and burned trough 210rounds each in 7minutes + had to use pistols as last resort supression fire. Just think how this would went with stupid heavy 7.62×51 in heavy low capacity rifles with 3times the recoil.

      • milesfortis

        I believe the term is ‘speed balls’. At least that’s what my active duty guys called them.

    • gunsandrockets

      Ammo use? Well reportedly in Korea…

      “… half the [riflemen] were carrying 3 to 4 bandoleers. Interviews showed that this increased load of ammunition was used… half the men could cite an occasion lasting less than 12 hours when they fired 5 or more bandoleers (240 rounds).”

      • Raven

        Korea was a bit of a different situation, human wave attacks and defensive engagements chew through ammo supplies.

    • USMC03Vet

      Engagements are much longer today due to all sorts of command influence and risk avoidance. The ratio of trigger pullers to support is absolutely ridiculous now which should equate to far better logistics than what it actually is.

      • Brett baker

        The ratio has always been ridiculous.

        • USMC03Vet

          It’s at historic highs right now though, yet for whatever reason we can’t defeat low tech cavemen….

    • Mikial

      US soldiers in WWII were all using the Garand by the second half of the war, a fully semi-automatic rifle with an 8 round clip. Being a gun guy, I’m sure you’ve probably shot a Garand somewhere along the line, so you know that you can pump out those 8 rounds just as quick as you can pull the trigger.

      • Button Gwinnett

        Fully semi-automatic ghost guns with 8 round clipazines.

    • SuperFunkmachine

      No but every one fears running out and being left impotent and defenceless.
      So there no return to the 50-100 rounds of ww1.
      It’s the same with every one carrying handgrenades.

      • Sunshine_Shooter

        I know of at least one guy who, on his last deployment, ended up going out with 1 spare mag in his back pocket and a single grenade. He’d been on dozens of missions on multiple deployments where he didn’t use everything and decided that it was worth the risk to not carry a ton of stuff.

  • Gordon Pasha

    Interesting article. And it seems the soldiers load will keep increasing in the foreseeable future. A concerning trend IMO. Hope they get their active exoskeletons working rather soon, or this will probably end not very well for quite a few soldiers. Especially concerning long time health issues.

  • MattCFII

    Couple of thoughts, modern soldiers/Marines are probably stronger than most WW2 counterparts. The greatest generation had grown up with the malnutrition of the depression. Also as others have mentioned, volume of fire has gone up since then requiring more ammo to be carried today. I wonder if the WW2 soldiers would have taken the option weight and reduction mobility of modern armor if it had been available to them.

    • Average height for men of birth years circa 1920 was 5’7″. Average height for men of birth years circa 1980 was 5’9″. Not much of a difference. This accounts for maybe a 10% difference in mass, and we should also note it’s not controlled by ethnic group. The weight difference is more, but that’s due to obesity.

      • TechnoTriticale

        re: The weight difference is more, but that’s due to obesity.

        And obesity is due to diet, which has changed radically since 1940 (in both advice and ingredients). How much of that change adversely affects adiposity, joints, cartilage, endurance, mental function, circadian function and chronic ailments?
        Most of it.
        Weight is just the most obvious manifestation.

        Actually trying to follow USDA dietary advice is a negative force multiplier that amplifies the problem of combat load (and the eventual burden on VA healthcare). Natick probably knows what needs to be done in the mess hall, but dares not go radical.

        • cwolf

          The military has body studies going back to the Civil War. Both fat and muscle have increased.

          USARIEM is probably the best research agency in the Army.

          The reality is food nutrient levels have decreased (USDA) and significant nutritional deficiencies exist in the population (CDC NHANES).

          USARIEM developed the food bars to supplement today’s BCT.

          Because (Westphal 1995) studies show Soldier’s nutrient status decreased in BCT.

          • cwolf
          • n0truscotsman

            geez yeah.

            And they wonder why obesity, heart disease, and the diabeetus are killing us off in droves

          • cwolf


            There are a wide variety of trends (which are moving faster than the data systems) which affect “health.”

            Most families are now dual income or single parent (usually working).

            Everybody (including kids) have significant commutes.

            Most schools do not offer PE (or Home Ec).

            Schools now basically re-heat frozen meals. Some schools serve frozen pizza for breakfast & lunch.

            For some kids. those school “meals” are more than half their daily food.

            Most families eat roughly 50% of their “meals” away from home. Which is why gas stations are now “food” marts.

            The military is defining “health” by injury/disease rates. CDC NHANES defines “health” by nutrient status.

            The Westphal study of recruit nutrient levels pre-post BCT showed deficiencies increasing.

            These D charts illustrate one nutrient.

            All of which affects everybody reading this. 100% of us will get osteoporosis. There are counter-measures.

            At the risk of beating a dead horse,……..more task-specific PT might help a little. Objective measured nutrition might help (normalizing nutrient levels) reduce injuries. But, mass is mass….. it affects heart rate, muscle fatigue, metabolic heat production, sweat losses, agility, speed, etc.

            There is no magic. Off-loading is a promising solution. We should be developing emergency re-supply capabilities anyway. Maybe exoskeletons will pan out.

            But my opinion is we have to accept risk in Soldier armor/load design, just like we do in tank design.

            True, easy for me to say while I’m safe here in the US. But, let Soldiers decide.

          • LGonDISQUS

            I’m sorta lazy, can you de-abbreviate BCT for me? 😅

          • cwolf

            Basic Combat Training.

            BCT is the first course before most go to Advanced Individual Training (AIT) for their specific job training. Some have courses beyond that.

            OSUT (One Station Unit Training) is a combined/integrated BCT+AIT. Infantry is an OSUT.


          • miniguyvegas

            Could be Brigade Combat Team too. The DoD is acronym hell. Although I’m 88.5% sure that your right on at least what one thread was about.

          • LGonDISQUS

            Makes complete sense now.


    • Brett baker

      They were able to eat better in the military.(THE TASTE OF WAR:WW2 AND THE BATTLE FOR FOOD; chap.17). While officers may have been blade about casualties, the grunts weren’t. SLA Marshall ANALYSIS OF INFANTRY WEAPONS IN KOREA quotes an officer complaining that a single sniper could hold up a company for hours, while a willingness to take casualties would save time.

    • Oronzi

      I would think WW2 counterparts were more physically fit, less gym but more farm work, construction, more walking and less couch time playing videogames..

      • iksnilol

        I think the starvation during the depression would’a negatively affected their physique.

        • Oronzi

          Not really, because those who did not meet the criteria would have been discarded at medical test. Thus those who passed, should have been in general better fit.

          • cwolf

            Generally the military had to invent nutrition science for several reasons.

            1. The draftees coming out of the hills were often malnourished.

            2. The leading causes of casualties from the 17th to early 19th century were nutritional deficiencies (scurvy, beri beri, pellagra).

            The only nutrient test in today’s physical is iron (and that test is wildly inaccurate). In the recent AF study, they tested all recruits for iron anemia. 25% of women and 9% of men were iron anemic. Iron affects aerobic performance, thinking, learning, mood, and tissue/bone repair. Treating that anemia reduced injuries/attrition by 50%.

            In the 1995 Westphal study, recruits were in worse nutritional shape by BCT grad than at entry. The later McClung research measured declining D levels.


            So, you have a two factor issue (exercise and nutrition). You need BOTH to be healthy (NASA).

          • Brett baker

            Peacetime draft,25-40% rejected for nutrition-related problems, generally underweight.(1940-41) Wartime draft(42 onwards) 3-4% rejected nutritional problems, vitamin and mineral deficiency related. That’s why Truman made the school lunch program permenate, military readiness.

        • Beju

          I posted it elsewhere, but FWIW, I couldn’t button up my grandfather’s Army shirts. I was a fit 5’7″ and no more than 145 lbs with probably a 38″ chest when I tried them on. He was a city boy born to Iraqi Assyrian immigrants in January 1926 who presumably got drafted in 1944.

    • n0truscotsman

      I have strong doubts that current servicemembers are ‘stronger’. I believe it to be the other way around. The Army PT test during WW2 was far more difficult IMO than the current one.

      The ‘greatest generation’ sort of speak, grew up in an age where a sedentary childhood was the exception to the rule, not a norm. Walking to school was commonplace, as was manual labor on farms, etc.

      That generation was harder than woodpecker lips.

  • Hal P.

    I think we also have to take in account the average weight of the infanteyman from WWII and today

    Back in WWII the average size and weight of the men back then were smaller and lighter than today

    Break it down and our grandparents, parents great grandparents were badasses

    • Average weight of a US Marine* in 1950 was 169 pounds, according to SLA Marshall. Average weight of a US Marine today is 174 pounds according to multiple sources. That’s a difference in weight of under 3%. However, the load today is nearly 40% greater.

      *using Marines because I can find easier figures for them.

      • MeaCulpa

        Measuring fat fee weight the average marine might even be lighter today than during WWII

    • Brett baker

      Some were badasses. In Armageddon Max Hastings points out there was a difference between, say Airborne and regular infantry troops. During his research he kept reading reports of units not coming up to support assaults, retreating under minimal fire,”too often to not be isolated incidents.” Even in Band Of Brothers you read of other Airborne units not doing their job.

      • cwolf

        Remember many WWII soldiers often had no BCT let alone infantry training. They were issued uniforms and shipped out.

        Certainly even the trained folks had no individual & collective tasks, MILES, CTCs, LL, etc.

        It was DePuy’s WWII experience that convinced him Army training needed major improvements.

  • jae34

    Had to take into account the average human, especially Westerners are a lot larger and stronger than their early 20th century counterparts.

    • Big Daddy

      Larger yes, stronger maybe not. Some of those guys were farm boys and they all grew up in the depression. My dad said some of the guys in his training unit had shoes for the first time.

      • Major Tom

        Not just farm boys, the vast majority of industries required some form of manual labor as part or all of your job back then. There were very few cushy office jobs then. (In terms of percentage.)

        • Big Daddy

          That’s what I meant by farm boys, it’s an expression to also meant for people who are used to hard work.

          I did not answer to others on another article because of their ignorance.

          2 facts of reality about today’s infantrymen.

          1- They carry too much weight. The weight of the weapon and ammo is not to be reduced if the effectiveness of the system is reduced. As the army realized by going back to 7.62 NATO battle rifles. Of course that approach is 2 steps ahead and 3 steps backward. A soldier has to carry what is only necessary for that mission, the mission parameters have to be better understood and carried out. Resupply has to be improved as well as the average infantryman being able to use what is available to them as far as food and enemy weapons, this has been done since warfare was invented. The Military has tried to sanitize the process of warfare and it creates other problems like supply. A major push forward has to be made to lighten and improve all aspects as to what the soldier has to carry. It’s 2017 not 1917, no reason to carry primitive equipment. Modern methods and material must be employed and that equipment must GET to the troops ASAP. Without the long drawn out process the DOD is known for. Smaller unit can be equipped faster and more effectively with the latest equipment.

          2- Training, there is way too much emphasis put on a mentality of looking good as opposed to being good. The military has always been like that and it is one reason at the beginning of every war we get our butts kicked unless we put combat tested generals in position. The garrison mentality must be disposed of and our armed forces must remain at a high ready and alert. Already I see it going back to garrison mentality here at Ft. Hood. No reason to have combat troops act as base security, that’s what MPs are for.

          They should be always in training like athletes. Physical fitness and combat skills should be priority one, it is NOT. They are required to be janitors more than they should. I did so much mopping and cleaning and zero training in my unit and we were there to fight against soviet aggression in Germany during the cold war, it was a joke. I’m sure it’s better now but not where it should be. Fitness training and proper nutrition should be #1 so that the training can be hard and effective.

          The whole big army mentality has to be stopped. The bigger something becomes the less effective it is like our government. Smaller more mobile units and combined arms unit. The more centralized the decision making is the less effective the decision are for all.

          The military is depending on SOF way too much and for a reason.

      • Cymond

        My grandfather grew up on a castle farm, but never tasted beef until he enlisted.

      • n0truscotsman

        Grandpa and his brothers got their first real pair of shoes when they were drafted. They went to school barefoot. I was blown away by their childhood stories.

    • Average Marine today is 5lbs heavier than his 1950 counterpart, so I don’t think so…

    • Joshua

      I’m over six foot tall, heavily built, and strong as they come. My father can still kick my ass, his father at the same ages could kick his ass. In 1818 one of my forefathers thought nothing of taking a sack of grain on his shoulder and marching for fifty miles to get to the mill, and then march home again with the flour.

      We are getting bigger yes, stronger? I highly doubt it. the specialists, the weightlifters maybe, but in a practical, usable sense, no. I a six foot country boy, and I am not nearly as strong as my forefathers, and I bloody well know it.

      • Ευστάθιος Παλαιολόγος

        I think the word you are looking for the ancestors is “tougher”

        • Joshua

          there is no comparing their toughness to mine, I make most people look like wimps, and then my grandfather had teeth extracted without freezing. I am also not as strong.

          • Ευστάθιος Παλαιολόγος

            By tougher I mean especially the mental aspect, the spirit

          • Joshua

            This is true, they were also physically as strong, and more accustomed to physical labor where we are not, if you put me in an arm wrestle with My forefather who fought in 1812, the only thing in my favor would be that he’d been shot in the shoulder.

          • Brett baker

            As Dennis Lehane had a character say,”Ain’t none of us the men are daddies were.”

      • Brian Carlson

        Isn’t this a Seinfeld episode?

      • Tyler

        Your’re one example, and a single story– which also sounds like an old wives tale.

        • Joshua

          then maybe you should read Nathanial’s comments because he’s been throwing out numbers. And the numbers say that if anything we are only marginally bigger and stronger than WWII GIs. I would posit that the miner difference in height and weight has nothing to do with muscle.

          • Joshua

            By the way if you want more details on the walking to the mill story, the route was from Goulburn Ont to Burritt’s Rapids Ont. According to Google maps today it is a 27 mile trip each way, 54 miles in total by the currently shortest route. At the time he made the trip the swamp between them had not been drained, and all the routes that currently connect them hadn’t been built yet. He left the farm at first light, probably 5am and didn’t get home till a few hours before dawn the next day, probably 2 or 3am, giving a total trip time of 21-22 hours. British Military regulations stipulated a 30 inch pace, route march would be done at 112 beats per minute. Giving you a walking rate of 3.18 miles per hour. If he did it in 27 miles each leg, he marched for 16 hours out of 20. The 20 hours assumes at least one hour spent at the mill, but no more than two. In 20 hours with no break nor stop he could have marched as far as 63.6 miles. The story has always been told that he started the trip carrying a 50 lbs bag of grain on his back, which would make for a 38.5 lbs bag or flour on his back on the way home. According to my wife 40lbs of flour for a year is only about half of what would be necessary. So either he was carrying more than the story tells, or he made the trip twice.
            The average North American today is not going to do that. Even modern military will only do that as a training exercise maybe a few times in their lives. William Vaughn thought nothing of doing it.

  • Pete Sheppard

    Where does the 30lb or so of body armor figure in?

    • Not sure what you’re asking. Clarify?

      • Pete Sheppard

        Sorry…Does the load figure you mentioned for the 2017 soldiers include the weight of body armor, or should armor be added to the listed total?

        • It includes body armor. Which is circa 27 pounds for a medium IOTV.

          • Pete Sheppard

            Thank you. This comparison really does show the value of modern, lighter equipment. A WWII soldier, with his load AND modern armor would be totally immobile.
            It also illustrates why troops would like to be able to not have to wear the armor sometimes.

          • But he would still weigh less than a modern infantryman!

  • Jack Matthews

    19.1 pounds (8.7 pounds) – KG’S?
    Interesting Article IMHO.

  • I actually screwed something up on this, realized it, and forgot to fix it. Gimme a minute.

    • The error has now been fixed. Those who read the original article should probably re-read it for the correct figures.

      EDIT: Nevermind, WordPress hasn’t seen fit to update the live version yet. It will, soon.

  • NMhunter1371

    Ok… so how many rounds is the “modern” soldier carrying, compared to the WWII soldier?

    What about flak and sappies?

    I’d also be curious about a height/weight comparison of an average soldier then to now.

    I’d bet a dollar the portional increase in the average soldiers load is lighter that the proportional increase in bodyweight.

    • Joshua

      Off hand from my memory, the modern infantryman carries up to 240 rounds, WWII US GI I’m not sure, but the German combat load was 60 rounds, Commonwealth was 60-90. Nathanial posted the math on the proportional increase above, but for ease of conversation he calculated the increase in soldiers mass at 3% and the increase in load at 40%

      • Modern Rifleman’s “normal” combat ammo load is 210 rounds in magazines, 200 rounds linked for the SAW. Often more magazines are carried, up to 10 (300 rounds). So 410-500 rounds. WWII Rifleman’s combat ammo load varied, but they usually carried 10 en blocs in their cartridge belt, 1 en bloc in the gun, and 1-2 bandoliers of en blocs. So that’s 136-184 rounds.

        • Joshua

          shows some of the limitations of my memory. 184 to 210 means that the modern infantryman carries 114% of his WWII counterpart. 136 would be 154%

          • Note that’s 210 in mags PLUS 200 for the SAW. The SAW chews up ammo fast, that’s one good reason I’m a bit skeptical about the concept.

        • Ευστάθιος Παλαιολόγος

          The bandoliers however where not “normal” combat ammo. It was much as today’s soldiers carry more magazines in combat than their standard load

          • Well, 88 rounds was the normal combat load, but +1 bandolier was carried often enough that it’s accounted for in the official supply tables.

        • Luke

          Yet the prescribed basic load for the Garand (i.e. what’s in the manual) was 80 rounds. What I find truly interesting is that the weight of the rifleman’s personal weapon, prescribed basic load and basic optic has remained essentially unchanged since the Civil War at right around 16 pounds. What is also interesting is that the rifleman has also chosen to basically carry double his basic load when possible, even at the expense of more weight.

  • Paveway

    I think the carried loads should compared with the average size (height/weight) of soldiers/marines. Today’s troops are larger than their WW2 counter parts – enough to off set – well that would be an interesting comparison.

    • FT_Ward

      The average weight in your platoon is irrelevant if the smallest rifleman has to carry 80% of his body weight and slows the entire group down.

    • We’re talking something like a 3% bodyweight and height difference, so no, not enough.

  • Ευστάθιος Παλαιολόγος

    The loads for the 1945 seems a bit more…. “wintery” ?

    • Yes, I have fixed that error, try refreshing the article. Excellent catch, by the way.

      • Ευστάθιος Παλαιολόγος

        As the majority of my country’s military still uses 1950 equipment and weapons (G3 and HK11A1) I can assure you that the combat load for the HK11A1 which is similar to the BAR is extremely difficult to carry. 13 magazines need 6 ammunition pouches which take too much space and weigh a lot. It’s a difficult load to distribute.
        Plus, the HK11A1 doesn’t really offer anything to the squad as all the G3s are full auto capable and the ready to fire ammunition load for the HK11A1 doesn’t really justify the extra weight of the weapon.

        • That’s very silly. Why not just use G3s?

          • Ευστάθιος Παλαιολόγος

            Mainly because people who make up the rules aren’t the people who carry the loads….

          • Well, your army and ours sure have that in common.

        • SP mclaughlin

          Isn’t the point the quick-change barrel for long periods of automatic fire?

          • Ευστάθιος Παλαιολόγος

            The ammunition load isn’t enough for long periods of automatic fire, plus long periods of AF is not that wise in a close bolt system…. plus no spare barrel is issued

  • Michael Mabey

    Load barring gear has improved as well. Less on the hips and more spred out over the whole body 120lbs on your back and hips for 5 day patrol hurts. If you can put it in a tac vest and ruck and belt it feels alot lighter.

    • CommonSense23

      What are you talking about? You want to have the weight on your hips. That’s the best place for a load. Its why all the current high end weight hearing systems take weight off the shoulders and push it to the hips.

      • .45

        Out of curiosity, where exactly does the belt on a modern harness go? I spent a few days at a ComicCon dressed as a Marine from Stargate and found the old web belt to be unpleasant riding on my hipbones. My solution was to simply crank it up a bit so it was in fact not on my hips. (I had stuffed the ammo pouches with things, was carrying canteens full of water, wearing a real helmet, etc, and had about twenty pounds of gear on me. Easy peasy and hardly noticeable except for rubbing my skinny hips and the helmet trying to imprint a ring in the top of my head with that old school style of suspension. My sister went as Poison Ivy and had to struggle with hiding her cellphone and wallet, whereas I’m like “Yeah, all the gear, throw in some first aid supplies too, just in case.”)

        • CommonSense23

          The belt on a modern harness really isn’t what you would call a belt. But Google the crye load bearing kit. It will give you a good idea.

  • Ευστάθιος Παλαιολόγος

    I had the chance to work a bit with the Israeli Army (IDF) and they used a nice system where on marches the loads where distributed as follows, Scouts no more than 20% of body weight, security, no more than 30% and load-bearers, up to and over 50%.
    That had exceptions and obviously when assaulting all dropped down the racks but I found it interesting that the load was not a personal issue but a unit issue to be distributed

    • NanoSuitUser059 .

      That seems way more efficient and would certainly alleviate the problem our troops have.

    • Mikial

      I’ve worked with some former IDF types, and it is an organization that treats warfare as a science and does everything innovative they possibly can to ensure their troops are the ones alive at the end of the fight.

    • CarlosEn

      don’t care for that system at all

      because I know what I would end up doing 😛

    • Joe Schmoe

      As having served in the IDF, that’s not entirely accurate. For OPSEC I’m not going to go into all the numbers, but I’ll say this: In full load I ended up carrying for days in the mountains 60+kg on my back alone and basic vest (not armor, etc); and that’s back when I weighed under 80kg.

      Needless to say, I have serious back problems today….

      • Ευστάθιος Παλαιολόγος

        I guess the thing I was trying to point out was that the heavy carrying soldiers where not part of the security at the march because they just couldn’t. Their role was to put the head down and walk, much like a… “human mule”. But other people in the patrol remain lighter so as to be more allert and able to provide security/early warning

        • Joe Schmoe

          That is true… One of the nice things was that you alternate roles in the IDF quite often, so I was also a scout for a while (and my back and knees said thanks) and did enjoy the lower weight.

          Downside was, I found every hole in the dark the hard way….

    • Paul Joly

      “I found it interesting that the load was not a personal issue but a unit issue to be distributed”
      Every army I know a bit do that. “Extra” ammo are spread among the team. But some items cannot be split like the AT4, even with a SAW…

      • Sunshine_Shooter

        Then you take something from the AT4 guy (extra water, an MRE or 2) and give it to a guy carrying an M4. All the stuff gets there, everyone carries an even load.

    • Bill

      Yeah, but in Israel they don’t study, they just do. Can you imagine the ruffled feathers if we tried that approach?

    • Zebra Dun

      75% of a fighting force is 3/B humpers.

      • cwolf

        More like 20-30%. The reality is the logistics & maintenance tail is large. Pure light Infantry is slow and has poor station time. They need constant re-suplly of food, water, ammo, parts, people, etc.

  • FT_Ward

    Some posters have mentioned soldiers “average” strength having increased etc but the average really doesn’t matter. How fast and long can the slowest platoon members go is the question. How fast can the machine gunners move may be the limiting factor. It’s the groups ability to move that matters.

    Which brings us to fitness standards. If you insist on loading the troops up with ~ 100 lbs of gear and you desire them to be more mobile on foot ( they will never be able to match a jihadi in Air Jordans, an AK and four mags) you have to train them for it.

    That brings up three problems. One is dealing with training injuries. The next is the ability to recruit and retain people who want to spend much of their work day running hills etc. The third is that any attempt at increasing fitness standards will be attacked as an effort to fight gender diversity.

    • Paul Rain

      You’re right. So, let’s stop pretending that women should be in combat, and we can stop worrying about the guys who get loaded down with considerably more than what they should be carrying, because they’re carrying the loads of the barracks mattresses.

      • cwolf

        In the GWOT, everybody is in combat, whether they are in Infantry or not.

        Should women be 11B? Not many applying.

    • cwolf

      Agree, mostly. The heavy loads affect fatigue, speed, agility, endurance, and heat risk. Physiologically you can’t ignore the costs of heavy weights.

      The issue with any PT program is validity (its relationship to the real-world tasks).

      So, the current 3 event PT program is easy to administer and cheap to support but has little validity.

      Some places are moving to Certified Athletic Trainers forward (initiated by the USMC) to improve injury treatment with good results. IMO injury treatment and prevention needs to move away from 1914.

      Nobody objects to valid PT standards. The real problem is that you end up with 6 PT programs by MOS cluster (ARI) which Commanders do not want to do. Plus its expensive. The upcoming new PT program was validated against Warrior tasks.

      The Canadian Army spent millions validating their PT program. Care to guess the aerobic component? Rucksack marching.

      My bias is the military is not focusing on health, but rather injury rates as an indicator of health. Huge difference.

      My last point is that performance on military tasks is a function of teamwork; something some folks are poor at. In the MaxWACS studies females outperformed males because they planned, communicated, and used teamwork.

      Oh the horror. 🙂

      • Brett baker

        So, Herbert McBride had better training in 1915 than we do now? Rucking and shooting, iir A RIFLEMAN WENT TO WAR correctly.

        • cwolf

          My opinion is the DePuy training revolution was essential/important, but simply failed to understand the costs of training 130,000+/year better.

          Worse, the internal politics ended up dividing individual & collective tasks into school-unit.

          For example, you go to a range and shoot targets. The “fighting position” is not correct. No aiming stakes. No range card. No defiladed target. No grenade sump.

          So, the graduate gets to the combat zone and has no idea of how to setup a defensive perimeter at their level.

          A few years ago, a genius said “Hmmm, we shoot in IBA in combat, why not shoot in IBA in qualification?” Qual rates dropped like a rock. Realizing they were using M16A2.

          IMO the new upcoming PT test is far better (and tougher), but it is still by definition a general purpose overall fitness program. Ideally, you’d provide integrated training guidance for units to do both the fitness events and the task specific events.

          Otherwise, some Commanders start reading woo woo stories of 1,000 mile marches with 500 pounds and try to do that. So, the SGM stands around the corner before the finish line to screen out the stragglers/limping folks so the Commander only sees a good news parade.

          The answer is that prior to WWII the Army had little doctrine, no way to validate doctrine, no Lessons Learned, etc., so overall training quality was poor and we took huge casualty rates.

          Folks with zero training were handed rifles and pushed into the front lines. WWII movies aren’t real.

          I am of course, biased. I think we can do better.


          • Brett baker

            Thanks, it nice to hear from people who seem to know what they’re doing, unlike most who post. ( including me)😁

      • FT_Ward

        “The Canadian Army spent millions validating their PT program. Care to guess the aerobic component? Rucksack marching.”

        My understanding is that the ruck march ( 8 miles on a road as a group in 2:28 carrying 55 lbs total) is gone. The sole remaining test (tri-service) is based on dragging sandbags around a gym.

        Canada is the best example of dumbing down physical standards to try to meet gender goals. Actually not even “standards” as such as the low levels required we often ignored altogether.Q. If your 42 year old female company clerk or driver can’t make the march what do you do? A. Ignore it.

        • cwolf

          Weighted marching vs running has several advantages:

          1. It is task specific so it exercises all the muscles you need to perform the mission

          2. It is as aerobic as running

          3. It has significantly lower injury rates

          Trying to design a fitness program gets complicated. There are 150 different jobs in the Army. Each MOS/job has different tasks.

          The Canadian Army’s original goal was valid PT job standards. The problem is that job/mission specificity gets complicated & expensive to execute. Plus every new Commander has a different solution.

          Obviously some folks want an all-male Army. You can’t recruit/field a ten division Army with 100% men.

          Meanwhile we have huge injury rates because we don’t have the right metrics to understand why. I’m not sure why some folks get so fascinated with starving and sleep-depriving Soldiers. It’s not really something you can practice and get better at. At one point we were starving folks to death in one famous course. It’s very hard to train dead people.

          So, any PT program is a compromise. They take time and money.

          Meanwhile, in my opinion, the training system needs significant improvements. PT is just one part of the larger whole.

          The proposed new PT program is at least task based.


          • FT_Ward

            The Canadians did go to a “job standards” type of test…for about a week. When the “load ammo on a truck” was found to be too difficult for the vast majority females to pass it was canned. The “dig a trench” too cumbersome to administer and they were left with the group march (carrying 56% less weight than was normal for a rifleman) and 100 yard fireman’s carry of someone ~ your weight while not carrying any gear. They were hardly tests representative of the job and even then cheating was common. The Canadians even banned running in boots some decades ago based on a hunch. Injuries stayed the same but the “run back from the range” stopped and that was really the aim. The aim has been to adopt a test girls can pass. Fitness, readiness, combat effectiveness etc have never been the real issue,.

            I doubt very much if weighted marching done at a pace that matches running aerobically has lower injury rates per person per session. I’d be interested in reading any study on this.

            BTW the closest thing to an answer in reducing injuries is to avoid running or marching on asphalt or concrete.

          • cwolf

            During the time I was coordinating with the Canadians, things seemed to be going well. Then they changed leadership. Dunno what happened after that.

            Given the huge turnover in the military, change is the only constant.

            Bar-Khama et al in The Israeli Fitness Strategy state timed walking yielded equal aerobic fitness with fewer injuries. There may be research papers. Clearly, impact forces are quite different.

            True, marching has its own injury issues (marching tall-to-small; Pope)(marching controls; Rice).

            Yes, surfaces affect running injuries.

  • LAMan

    Makes me want to dig out my copy of “The Soldier’s Load and the Mobility of a Nation,” by SLA Marshall. Think I have that title right–going deep into memory banks for that one!

  • codfilet

    This goes back a lot farther than WW2. There’s a well-known book written by a Civil War veteran called “Si Klegg”, following the experiences of this fictional soldier in the “200th Indiana”. One set of illustrations shows Si as he first entered the service, called “How Si went in”. The second illustration shows “How Si came out”. In the first, he is burdened with a huge pack loaded with unneeded gear. In the second, he is in fighting trim, with just a blanket roll over his shoulder. (the illustrations can easily be googled-I don’t know how to post them here). Back then, when they marched many miles a day, some men would go so far as to cut their blanket in half to reduce weight.

    • gunsandrockets

      I recall something similar said by S.L.A. Marshall about the Korean War, where supposedly U.S. Army infantry took to carrying a simple ‘Hudson Bay’ type bedroll instead of the normal pack.

  • BobDole_is_my_waifu

    People are mentioning soldiers being stronger today than they were 70 years ago. I think it is wholly irrelevant. The problem isn’t our soldiers simply lack strength to carry their gear. The problem is the weight is grinding our soldiers joints and backs into dust. This is problem a that happens to everyone no matter their strength. There is not a realistic way to meaningfully increase joint strength.

    I think combat loads have reached their anatomical limit and we have to simply accept the costs that come with such a heavy load or get real pragmatic on what gear needs to be carried.

    • Ευστάθιος Παλαιολόγος

      Also the fact that soldier today stay in the Army and/or operations for longer time.
      Most in WWII were young conscripts that after the war left the Army. Today many soldiers tend to serve more time

    • CommonSense23

      There is a realistic way to increase joint strength. It’s the gym. Increasing muscle mass and strength. Reduces strain on joints. It better supports said joints.

      • Mikial

        Exactly. And what I was saying about troops today having more muscle mass to body weight than they did in 1944.

      • Ranger Rick

        A 20 year infantry career will destroy a body.

        • Paul Rain

          Always did.

        • CommonSense23

          Not necessarily true. The last decade has seen a tremendous increase knowledge of how to keep guys healthy and operational well into their 40s. The key is smart physical training which is rarely seen outside of the Socom community currently.

          • cwolf

            Have you seen their injury rates?

          • CommonSense23

            Yeah. And the injury rates of groups that have dedicated support for physical training and therapy and allow personnel to train on their own and smartly are far different than groups that think doing a 12 mile ruck march every week is quality training.

          • cwolf


            I admire leaders with a good grasp on reality with a deep sense of humor. It is all too easy to stand in front of a big map and make plans. A great recipe for disaster is having a leader with no pack setting the pace for a unit with packs.

            There has been a significant move to put Certified Athletic Trainers (CAT) in units ….. the results have been good.

            Even better are leaders who challenge the status quo. I watched 6 guys trying to carry a coffin down steep stairs who were visibly shaking. Why not 8 pallbearers? Oh no…. it has to be 6. So, the entire unit spends one day a week at the hospital.

            Muscles & bones need nutrients and rest to be strong. Some folks define “health” as being uninjured. What we really need is a comprehensive testing program like the CDC NHANES.

            Kleges et al highlighted athletes losing 1 gram of calcium in sweat/day who had weak bones (as one example). Giving them extra calcium improved bone strength.

            So, why are the med command folks saying Soldiers don’t need electrolyte drinks? Oh they get it in their food. Hmmm I have an hour for lunch and the DFAC is across post and I have no car. And where do the night shift folks eat?

            Some days I think too many folks watch too many movies.

      • iksnilol

        More muscle mass mass means more weight, which further wears down joints.

        Even muscular people can be overweight.

        • CommonSense23

          That’s not how that works. First muscles help stabilize muscles. Which is one of the reasons among skeletal angles that men have less injuries than women. But muscle mass helps control impact and wear on joints.

          • iksnilol

            Yeah it is, because the muscles can only stabilize the bones and joints so much until their weight does more harm than good. Bones can only carry so much weight.

            You seem to lack your username.

          • Ace

            You forget bone strength can also be increased. The more “soft impacts” a bone has, the more the body builds marrow inside those bones, making them stronger. This is the reason martial artists have an array of impact tools and do exercises on bony parts of the body i.e. knuckle pushups…

        • cwolf

          Multiple related variables are in play. You cannot assume a muscled fast Soldier is healthy. Nor can you assume SOF are healthy.

          “Substantial research has assessed the risk factors for injury in the military [1, 3, 4, 6, 10, 12, 14]; however, results are often contradictory and focus on individual factors, when in reality, a large number are inextricably linked.” Musculoskeletal Lower Limb Injury Risk in Army Populations, Andersen et al, Sports Med Open. 2016 Dec; 2: 22.

          1. The food system has changed. Nutrient levels in food have declined (USDA). There are significant uneven pockets of nutrient deficiencies (CDC). Roughly half of “meals” are eaten away from home (CDC).

          2. A significant percent of recruits arrive with weak bones (Lappe). “Weak bones” are related to multiple inter-related factors: poor diet Hx, poor exercise Hx, nutrient deficiencies, muscle imbalances, amenorrhea, smoking, etc. A significant % arrive with significant nutrient deficiencies (AF). This group is vulnerable for injuries and attrition.

          As an aside, how you measure bones is important; bone geometry is the gold standard (Evans, USARIEM).

          3. Defining “health” can be complex. Some define it as the “absence of disease and/or injury.” The methodological problem is ‘what you measure is what you find.’ Defining “health” as actually being healthy is expensive (see also CDC NHANES).

          4. Injuries may be under-reported (Rice).

          5. Nutrient levels decline in BCT (Westphal, McClung)(prior to introducing food bars and multi-vitamins). Diet quality affects resilience (Young). Klesges et al documented college BB players losing 1 gram of calcium in sweat/day which resulted in weak bones.

          6. Bones injuries are generally treated as an “overuse” injury (vice a bone health-nutrition injury). Even mild traumatic injuries might be suspect as not really trauma. Which might help explain the high re-inury rates.

          7. Bones are a protein matrix filled with minerals with a core of fat filled with stem cells (they make blood components). Sufficient dietary protein is essential for positive bone remodeling (Heaney). Bones need BOTH weight-bearing/impact exercise AND nutrients (20) to grow bigger and stronger (NASA).

          Add to that the open question if the boots are designed to support ankles that are supporting those loads.

          And, you cannot ignore the effects of large weights on performance (slower march speeds, less agility, greater fatigue) AND heat load (more work = more heat; more stuff blocks cooling).

        • Secundius

          Agreed!/? U.S. Army’s “Mass Effect” Physical Food Enhancer of Choice is “Saltpeter”. I went into the US Army in 1972 weighing ~145-pounds and arrived in ‘Nam weighing ~200-pounds…

      • cwolf


    • Mikial

      I think that most US troops these days are in better physical condition as far as strength goes, than their WWII counterpart. I spent 2 1/2 years in Iraq (2004-2007) and most US combat troops were hyper fit. I’m sure their WWII counterparts were their equal in terms of stamina and endurance, but I don’t think they were in terms of pure body strength. Just an anecdotal opinion, I know.

      • Beju

        My family anecdote is that my fit 5’7″, 145 lb self couldn’t button up the Army shirts that my then-18 year old, 5’9″ grandfather had from his time in the Army (he got drafted in 1944 when he was 18).

      • Billy Jack

        Volunteer modern force vs draft WW2 troops. That may play a part in abilities. There are studies showing modern males of certain age groups are significantly lower in hand strength and forearms. But would that hold true for males joining their respective service? WW2 era nutrition? Not many buff guys on any WW2 film reels you’re gonna see. You probably wouldn’t want to see who fades first with diminished rations against someone who lived through the Great Depression. Lots of variables to consider.

        • Sunshine_Shooter

          Hand strength vs body strength is a great example of the difference between people who have very physical jobs (mechanics, farmers, welders), and people who work out.

          • Billy Jack

            Could be dishonest journalism but I never got the impression there was just a difference in strengths. Probably modern people who aren’t in physically demanding jobs are going to be pretty sedentary and weaker. Not sure if they accounted for that and still came up with Gen Y being weak.

      • M40

        Yours is not an anecdotal opinion. Just look at what people considered to be “in shape” back in the 50’s and 60’s. For laughs check out the Superman TV show from the 50’s, or the Batman TV show from the 60’s… and remember that those guys were thought to be ‘muscle men’ in their time.

        Exercise, strength training and nutrition were poorly understood. The average “gym” had a few weights, a punching bag, some medicine balls, and various silly gadgets that most people today would have no idea how to use.

        Another direct comparison that makes your assertion quite valid, can be seen looking at sports statistics or Olympic records over the years. Almost every sport in the world measuring speed, strength or endurance saw drastic changes in athleticism, mostly through the 70’s and 80’s as physical fitness became mainstream.

        All through history, running a 4 minute mile was thought to be an utterly impossible feat… until the mid-50’s. Today a 4 minute time is fairly standard for a lot of middle distance runners.

    • cwolf
    • cwolf


    • DaveGinOly

      I have to wonder if today’s load is the result of an initial (say, before Desert Storm) presumption the infantryman would be riding in an armored personnel carrier. The soldier is packing everything he might be expected to need during operations, but may not have been expected to actually carry to an objective. Then we ended up fighting different kinds of wars (non-European, not battles of maneuver) than what the load-designers had expected. But planners continued to add gear to a load that had been intended for motorized troops.

  • Martin M

    WWII era soldiers and armies fought in completely different circumstances. Once upon a time there was a defined front line with layers of support, units in reserve, and a quicker rotation. There was a quality to the quantity of troops operating on the battlefield.

    • jono102

      To add to that, the context modern Infantry are often employed in is more mobile or dispersed and in smaller elements than back then. The distance’s and timelines they would drop and Airborne Brigade a head of the Forward line of troops back then, is commonly being done by smaller elements be it Bn, Company or lower. Difference being, there is no Div sweeping forwards to link up and your generally operating in isolation to a degree. So some redundancy needs to be built into all levels, be it individual, team or Platoon in regards to bullets and beans.

      I have noticed a lot of the larger military’s do seem to have minimal movement in regards to PPE, weapons and equipment carried dependent on the situation and environment.

    • flight27

      “WWII … defined front lines … layers of support …units in reserve …” tell that to the Marines at Guadalcanal or the 101st at Bastogne or veterans in a host of other WWII battles.

  • Ark

    Well, critical distinction, in WW2 if you took a rifle slug to the chest, you wheezed a couple of times and died in the dirt. Today, you shrug it off. Some of the stuff they carry is, well, important.

    • ostiariusalpha

      Looking at complaints be G.I.s about the lack of stopping power of the .30-06 against German and Japanese soldiers, it is apparent that bullet design matters more than caliber. An M855A1 is more immediately disabling and lethal than the old M2.

      • .45

        Ark is right. Today you start yelling about being hit, then realize it didn’t penetrate your armor and get back to shooting at the enemy. I think the reference to some of the stuff they carry being important was to imply armor.

        • ostiariusalpha

          I getcha’. 😉

    • LOL, no .30 M2’s incapacitation capability leaves much to be desired.

      Also, you want a through-and-through wound like 5.56mm M855 is notorious for? M2 AP (the issue round) will give it to you every time.

      The nice thing though is that there’s little the other guy can hide behind if you’re throwing 165gr AP slugs, but then that’s not really a problem anymore with M855A1, either.

      • Ark

        That was a comment on the value of body armor as part of a soldier’s load, not a comment on any caliber’s lethality.

        My point being that when you start going down the list and picking out stuff to leave behind, you start seeing some good reasons to carry more stuff. Some of that gear has dramatically reduced a given infantryman’s odds of dying.

        • Ah, sorry for the misinterpretation. My fault.

          At some point, you have to make a decision, though. The infantry really is defined by their limitations. How many men can communicate with one another, how many men does it take to support this system or that system. Body armor is great, but it’s also heavy because the soldier carries a very comprehensive armor package. It’s worth looking into ways to reduce that weight, and to reduce the weight of the other systems the infantryman is using.

          • Ark

            If there’s a tech solution in the form of lighter armor itself, it’s definitely worth pursuing. In my keyboard warrior opinion, barring anti-gravity disks attached to the bottom of the rucksack, Big Army needs to impose a much lower weight ceiling and eat the resulting loss in time that units can run around in the field without support and things they can do. I don’t think we can buy our way out of the problem. Doctrine and expectations must change.

            Maybe that looks like an increased reliance on vehicles, or sticking closer to supply chains, or designating a member of the squad to be a mule wrangler. There are smarter people out there who can come up with solutions, but we gotta put a ceiling on the load.

  • Seamus Bradley


    The biggest glaring flaw in your reasoning (although very well done) is your failure to compare the types of warfare. In WWII we fought a symmetrical fight (mostly), with clear front lines and steady resupply. Of course soldiers carried less weight if they can be readily resupplied. Now with an asymmetric fight soldiers are forced to carry more ammunition because resupply is not a guarantee. Failure to include manner of warfare (Symmetric vs Asymmetric) to your calculus makes this more of an apples or oranges comparison. Perhaps a Vietnam vs Today is more appropriate. Similar weapons, similar ammo, similar equipment (to some degree at least), thus a more accurate comparison.

    There is of course a separate question, how much more lethal is the modern soldier vs that of previous eras (radios, IR lasers, optics, etc) and of course how much more survivable is the modern soldier (substantially more/better medical equipment [IFAK], independent sustainment, NBC equipment, etc.), that must also be applied to this calculus.

    How many soldiers are alive today due to body armor, IFAKs, CLS bags carried throughout the squad, radios and GPS for evacuation of casualties; likewise how many enemy soldiers are dead because of that extra ammo, or because we own the night with NVG,s and IR lasers or can call for close air support with radios and GPS?

    There is no doubt that the modern soldier is overloaded but we must also recognize, while there is a cost to this weight, there is so too a benefit.

    • Of course both types of warfare are different, but I think it’s a mistake to say that because we fight asymmetric warfare today, resupply is not a guarantee. Maybe in a technical sense that is true, but remember also that the units of today are integrally mechanized as SBCTs, so they also have an 8×8 vehicle (at least in theory) to carry their non mission-critical equipment.

      I think it’s telling that if you strip off the 27lbs of body armor, the weights of soldiers both today and during WWII become much more comparable. That’s where the vast majority of the increase comes from.

      • James Kachman

        “but remember also that the units of today are integrally mechanized as SBCTs, so they also have an 8×8 vehicle (at least in theory) to carry their non mission-critical equipment.”

        To be persnickity, that’s only for SBCTs, of which there are 7 of an active force of 31 BCTs. An equal number are IBCTs then 8 are Airborne and Air Assault, who will presumably be walking a lot more. I would very much like to see a breakdown between SBCT, IBCT and Airborne/Air Assault BCTs in terms of weight carried, but afaik those numbers don’t exist.

        • Airborne/AA aside (as they are different and will be carrying a LOT more), unless I’m grossly mistaken SBCTs are supposed to be the standard for infantry unit organization in the Army. So when I am talking about “the Rifleman”, we’re talking about a guy attached to an 8×8 Stryker.

          Airborne is a totally different story – they have it far worse.

          • James Kachman

            They’re not, the 3 standard BCTs are Armored, Stryker, and Infantry. The BCT is the fundamental building block of the Army now, and I’ve seen nothing to suggest that the Infantry BCT is being replaced by the Stryker BCT. Even if that were to happen, it definitely hasn’t happened yet.

          • I recall looking into that – don’t the IBCTs also use Strykers? Or at least in theory they were supposed to, I think most of them may still use HMMWVs.

          • James Kachman

            No, if they did they’d be a SBCT. 🙂 Seriously, the SBCT is a radically new Brigade type for the Army. Well, was. I don’t think it was ever intended to replace all infantry formations, nor could it really.

          • Can you tell I am not a TO&E guy, James? XD

          • James Kachman

            Eh, it may’ve been as simple as assuming the Stryker would replace all trucks and truck-type-things used by the infantry, like it did in the Soviet Army.

          • cwolf


          • Going back to the original subject, I’d still be surprised if resupply during WWII was more consistent than it is today. I dunno, maybe.

          • James Kachman

            “Hah!” He says, before quietly realizing how much of his life has been devoted to strange and mythical FM gods…..

            It could be. I’m also really curious – like, *really* curious, if gear doesn’t get downloaded to the vehicle so guys aren’t rucking with it. I’d assume so, but assumptions make donkeys out of you and me.

            A tangent – it’s worth noting that the Stryker organization added something which doesn’t exist in the other Brigades, a company level sniper team. It also has a Javelin in each rifle squad, fortunately being left inside the Stryker when not needed. Stryker Brigades are fascinating microcosms, and their field manual is relatively translucent to us civilians.

          • BCTs in general are interesting, too. I’ve heard it said that Future Combat Systems was originally developed to address the same problems that the BCTs eventually did. Which, if true, just goes to show you that the Army never saw a problem it didn’t try to address with a massive new technology program first, hahaha.

          • jono102

            Javelin or do you mean MRAAW/CG 84? If not that’s a crap load of very expensive AT weapons at Squad level that are normally only tasked as low as Company by the CO/Battalion like the Snipers.

          • James Kachman

            Yup, they’re Javelins. The Brigade type was created before the MRAAW got widespread service, and according to FM 3-21-11, the manual for the Stryker Infantry Company,

            “Although normally functioning as a rifleman within one of the fire teams in a rifle squad, the squad antiarmor specialist is also capable of defeating heavy armor in any tactical environment. He is equipped with the Javelin missile system […] The command launch unit (CLU) for the Javelin missile is transported in the squad’s ICV.”

            It’s also worth noting that the weapons squad in an IBCT rifle platoon also has a Javelin team.

  • gunsandrockets

    Looking over some of the specifics from the 2003 report, I’m flabbergasted at the amount and type of equipment. Not only are they overburdened, the distribution of types of ammunition sometimes makes little sense.

    For example, why is the SAW gunner carrying a frag grenade? That is a ridiculous and superfluous gear to add to an already overburdened man.

    Why is the 40mm grenadier carrying the same 5.56mm ammo load as a rifleman? Shouldn’t his primary job be as a grenadier? Isn’t his rifle primarily for self-defense? Wasn’t the whole point of the underbarrel grenade launcher to allow a grenadier to carry a more effective self-defense weapon than a handgun?

    Why are so many people carrying extra ammunition for the SAW, yet no one is carrying extra ammunition for the 40mm GL?

    There doesn’t seem to be any thought about prioritization or focus when it comes to equipment. Just a mindless, if there is a slot for something then the man carries it, and oh for good measure we throw in extra gear on top of that too!

    • jono102

      It largely depends on your doctrine. Our Grenadier’s are first and foremost riflemen in pair/team. They need to be able to engage in close combat etc but also be able to provide integral HE support to the section. Much the same our section marksman are expected and trained to be able to use their DMW’s in the same way, able to provide accurate fire out past 600m but also engage in close combat.

      As far back as Vietnam our grenadiers all carried M16’s as well as their M79’s, because an M-79 and pistol were seen as a waste of time. Some of our Fire Team and Section Commanders choose to carry the M-203 anyway, rather than having to direct its employment. Unsure about anyone else but our grenadiers will carry their first line of ammo and the rest is distributed across the section. Commonsense dictates, you wouldn’t give the claymore in each pair to the grenadier or Gun n.o.1.

      If you are operating in larger Sections or squads, your doctrine may allow or direct the grenadier is to be a separate entity to the assault/rifle pairs. The risk then is having a one trick pony who provides little to the team apart from that. Risk being a large fire support group and not enough guys for assaulting etc.

      • gunsandrockets

        In my reading about weapons in combat, there seems to be four distinct and different levels of how weapons are used:

        1) doctrine for using that weapon

        2) actual training on that weapon

        3) actual issuing of that weapon

        4) how the weapon is actually used in combat

        • jono102

          In practice all four steps feed into one another and aren’t dealt with in isolation.

          Doctrine always give a start point. It gives you the generic what, where, why, who and how’s for a weapon system or bit of kit. Its also how the likes of how much ammo is justified and required for initial and continuation training. This is based on how many need to be trained with it and to what level.
          From their it gets broken down or developed into Unit or Role specific SOP’s/TTP’s. Unit may already have these in place or will develop based on the current operation or AAR’s.

          If AAR’s say things have developed left or right from what doctrine states, it is amended and then becomes the new doctrine.

      • Luke

        Also, from what I’ve heard, since the M320 has been the main GL, it really isn’t used as an under-barrel launcher. Instead it is used as a stand-alone piece, and carried in a holster when not in use.

  • gunsandrockets

    Despite the increased burden of the current infantry, one thing that popped out to me is the radical difference in the number of hand grenades carried compared to the Korean War.

    The 2003 standard seems to be every man gets one fragmentation hand grenade (whether he needs it or not!). While in the Korean War each riflemen typically carried 3-4 fragmentation hand grenades.

    Of course the Korean War infantry made almost no use at all of rifle grenade launchers and even discarded them as unnecessary weight, while the 2003 fire-team grenadier has two dozen 40mm grenades.

    I’ve also read that in the Korean War the hand grenade was considered the most important individual weapon for defensive combat at night. Apparently favored because the enemy was almost never seen, and firing a rifle would reveal the location of the shooter to the enemy.

    • mosinman

      odd that they didn’t like rifle grenades

      • gunsandrockets

        I can’t really blame them. Consider how fussy normal muzzle spigot rifle grenade operation is, then ladle the idiosyncrasies of the M1 rifle on top of that. I suspect there was inadequate training with the grenade launcher too, which may have aided the motivation to discard it.

        But I agree that in the kind of fighting that took place in Korea, I think the rifle grenade launcher could have been very useful (S.L.A. Marshall thought so too).

        What’s interesting about the Korean War reports is how the soldiers attitude mixed hardheaded practical experience with rumor. Things that were deemed of little use or as too dangerous were discarded whether that was true or not.

      • Tassiebush

        I think one factor might be that the grenade launcher for garands disabled the gas system.

        • gunsandrockets

          Kinda sorta? By the time of the Korean War they had the recoil operated gas venting plug, that supposedly allowed normal function of the M1 with the launcher attached.

          I think. I’ll have to check my books.

    • Brett baker

      According to Marshall, a lot of guys only took 2 grenades, they thought supply should have the rest brought up when they needed them.

      • gunsandrockets

        I’ve read the Marshall report. Very interesting stuff. And that grenade bit isn’t the only contradiction Marshall reported compared to the 1952 study I referred to.

        But keep in mind three things, there is a great deal of overlap in the reports which confirm each other, the 1952 study seems much more systematic and focused than the Marshall report, and the star of SLA Marshall has significantly declined over the decades.

        • Brett baker

          True about Marshall. The griping about supply sounds accurate, though. Like I’ve posted before, what happens if we cut the logistics tail the way some are proposing? We won WW2 in large part because we could keep our guys supplied.

  • Joshua

    Tfb why you lie? I’ve been told time and time by old codgers that us “millennials” are weak sacks of **** that don’t have to carry half of the crap old guys did.

    And I put millennials in quotes, because to old people anyone under 40 is a millennial.

  • Brad

    The current “Beau Geste” (fixed base) way of fighting has distorted many things.
    Speaking to US Army Light Infantry, you carried EVERYTHING you might need. When you move, it moves. Standard resupply for food and water was every other day. You might get a hot meal on resupply days but you carried all you food and water you would need for 2 days. Most of the time you would fill canteens from streams or rivers along the way, treating with iodine tablets. Yes, there were somethings carried that maybe weren’t needed (underwear) but you did because it was on the packing list. It all averaged around 125lbs, without ammo, in the days before body armor. Now, you are hardly ever out more tan 3 days, resupply is near immediate, and even a “remote” combat post isn’t that remote (most of the time) supply wise.

    As to the “toughness” of 1940 vs 2017. The soldiers of WWII were children on the Depression. They knew “doing without” and hard work just to survive. I never heard my grandfathers (one a Croatian Partisan, the other a Red Ball Express escort driver) complain, even on their deathbeds. I don’t know how many times I heard whining in Iraq because chow was late (we didn’t have KBR), the water in the shower was cold, the airconditioner didn’t work, etc… Also in WWII, soldiers were there until the end. Today, people start a “short timer” calendar the day they hit the sandbox.

    • Don Ward

      Because troops in World War 2 never griped about the chow and not being able to shower and they never counted down the days till they got back to the states…

  • gunsandrockets

    According to the May 1952 study, Use of Infantry Weapons and Equipment in Korea

    “The soldier leaving Camp Drake for Korea in the winter of 1950-51 was issued a total of 75.45 lb of clothing and equipment, exclusive of his weapons and ammunition. A rifle, cartridge belt, and two bandoleers would increase this load to a total of 98 lb.”

    “The first thing the combat infantryman did was to get rid of every single item of clothing and equipment not considered absolutely necessary for survival. Men at Camp Drake awaiting return to Korea after hospitalization in Japan were aware of this, and did not attempt to take some of the items issued them much farther than the Camp barracks. Other items, particularly extra clothing, were taken back for distribution to the men in Korea, because the desperate need for replacement of many of these items in the winter of 1950-51 was well known.”

    “Thus by discarding 34.63 lb of clothing and equipment, the infantryman was able to reduce his load from 75.45 to 40.82 lb, almost a 50 percent reduction. But this reduction was effected primarily so that he could increase the load of ammunition he was carrying.”

    The report goes on to say that the load of weapons and ammunition that rifleman reported they carried was: the M1 rifle, bayonet, at least 144 rounds of ammunition (often more), and 3-4 fragmentation hand grenades.

    • That is everything they are issued, which means it’s the EAML, not the AML. And 144 rounds of ammo is still 1.8 kg less ammo than riflemen carry today.

      • gunsandrockets

        “That”? that what?

        And according to the report, 144 rounds was the minimum typically carried. Half the men reported carrying much more that that.

        The whole report is amazing reading though, the load burden just one small part.

        • “”The soldier leaving Camp Drake for Korea in the winter of 1950-51 was issued a total of 75.45 lb of clothing and equipment, exclusive of his weapons and ammunition. A rifle, cartridge belt, and two bandoleers would increase this load to a total of 98 lb.””

          This is an EAML, not an AML. It’s literally everything they are issued, not what they actually carry on marches. If you get handed 100lbs of stuff and hop on a Globemaster, that is the definition of an EAML.

          • gunsandrockets

            How is the 75 pounds even an AML, let alone EAML, when it doesn’t include any weapons or any ammunition (and probably zero food and water too)?

            Also consider that 75 pounds number is for winter equipment.

          • I said the 98 pounds is an EAML. The 75 pounds is an EAML minus weapons and ammo.

        • And thanks for referencing the study, by the way. I might have already read it, but I’ll certainly give it another look.

    • Ranger Rick

      Do not forget the grenades or the belts of 30 caliber.

  • Don Ward

    Clearly the answer is to reequip our steely-eyed, square-jawed soldiers with 30-06 M1 Garands, that way they can engage our enemy at ranges of 300-800 yards, thus negating the need to wear so much body armor. Q.E.D.

    • XD

    • Ranger Rick

      Perhaps and I’ll say this again, perhaps we need to rethink the load and the armor plates, right there is a major weight savings. But with today’s “command environment” that will not happen.

      • cwolf

        Most of the increased weight AND heat load is in armor. Don’t forget the helmet (remember arteries run full bore to the head).

        The Army has a Risk Management approach. Aside from off-loading (see the Navy study and recent USMC innovations), designing armor by risk probability threat seems like the best near term solution.

        Exo-skeletons? Not sure. They add weight & complexity.

        • Rnasser Rnasser

          Exo-skeletons are nothing but a pipe dream today…
          Hard armor is a PITA due to heat, discomfort and weight, specially in some scenarios and climates. The “upper management” wants less losses, but overloading severely handicaps the soldier’s fighting ability (with can even lead to more casualties in some cases) and expose them to joints and back injuries.

        • M40

          We tend to look for the complicated (exoskeletons), even when the simple stares us in the face. Just take a glance around any airport today compared with airports 50 years ago. The main difference is… the wheel.
          Adding a pair of lightweight wheels to military packs is pretty simple. Removing the pack from your shoulders and having it roll behind you makes load hauling a lot easier in all except mountain terrain.

          • cwolf

            Possibly a good idea for the duffle bag.

            Military operations have an array of complex using environments ranging from roads, dirt, mud, snow, sand, swamps, etc. and jackstrawed bomb damaged cities.

            The Soldier on a patrol needs both hands free.

            So, it could be a solution. Just needs comprehensive testing.


          • M40

            Pack is worn on the back in rough terrain. On roadways, trails and otherwise semi passable terrain, the pack pops off, and attaches to the hip belt (leaving both hands free)… the pack just rolls behind the soldier. All you’d need is an ‘arm’ that extends out of the frame, similar to luggage handle but a little longer, which attaches to the hip belt.

          • cwolf

            Yes, those exist ….and ADEA tested one designed by Natick’s Dr. Harmon.

          • Been looked at a couple of times.

            “Grunt proof” packs end up being too heavy to be used as anything but dedicated carts, and too load limited to be very good carts.

            Wheeled rucks (even ones where you buddy team two together, so each grunt is carrying one wheel, and only one member of the buddy team will be hauling ANY ruck) that are light enough to hump when you HAVE to hump them on your back, break down too quickly (whether by grunt abuse, or just rough terrain).

          • M40

            I’d go with a single wheel setup attached to the frame. With the advances in lightweight cycling parts (carbon fiber, aluminum, etc), there’s no reason they can’t add a roll-behind capability with no more than a couple extra pounds added to the pack. There are 26″ off-road BMX wheels that take a pounding and come in at about 2.5 pounds (hub, rim, tire, and all). No reason they can’t go with a 12″ wheel/tire combo that mimics that, but at less weight.

            Roads, trails and pretty much any semi-flat areas become easy hauls. It’s only in muddy and mountainous terrain where you’d wear it like any other pack. I can’t imagine a soldier would mind humping a couple extra pounds in rough terrain when it means they get to take ALL the weight off their backs in MOST of the terrain.

            Note that I’m not advocating this for basic loadouts, patrol packs and other minor excursions. This is for those full-load situations where guys are hauling massive loads (weeks of supplies) into forward operating areas on foot.

          • M40

            PS – Here’s a (very basic) representation.

            Compartment in lower middle of the pack to house the wheel. Carbon fiber rim and armature. Wheel rotates down to deploy, up to stow.
            1 – Pop the pack free of the shoulder/belt harness.
            2 – Rotate the wheel down (clicks into place).
            3 – Click quick-connects at the top of the pack to harness.


      • Porty1119

        Honestly, I think you’re onto something. Hard armor should be looked at as mission-specific equipment. It has a place in MOUT or CQB work, or where the squad will be working in concert with a vehicle for mobility. Not so much in ‘traditional’ leg infantry tasks involving covering ground on foot.

  • Some Guy

    So guns and ammo looks like they’re roughly equal across time.

    After that:

    Water (we’re fighting in the desert, might wanna bring some)
    Armor (useless weight, until it isn’t)
    an MRE or 2

    I figure that’s 30lbs of stuff tops (bringing the total to ~60lbs)
    What am I missing here?

    • .45

      Armor is around 30 pounds on its own, and adding enough water for several days of patroling would be your next biggie, since, as you note, we tend to fight in some warm places these days. It adds up, the math isn’t wrong.

      • DangerRanger

        No matter where you fight you’ll be needing atleast 4 liters a day.

  • FT_Ward

    Is it even possible for an infantry unit to move on foot with full winter gear? Has anyone tried to move with winter gear + body armor + proper loads of real ammo? I suspect it’s not feasible.

    I also notice no one has mentioned NBC ops, Too horrible to even contemplate?

    • The_Champ

      Of course militaries train for winter warfare. Pretty routine affair during my time in the Canadian forces. For dismounted ops we snow shoed pulling sleds that were mostly just packed with the gear you need to survive, tents, stoves, etc.

      It isn’t pleasant, obviously, but hardly impossible. Everything slows way down of course.

      As with everything else, internal combustion engines on snow mobiles and other special tracked vehicles make things easier.

      • FT_Ward

        Yes you had camping gear but never 27 pounds of body armor each and probably never even a single basic load of ammo- real ammo not blanks and with 84 & 60 mm rounds. How about helmets? Or did you ditch those in winter? Any LBE or did you keep your mags in your pockets?

        My guess is that unless you were part of an experiment to see if it possible to move with everything in the winter you haven’t.

        • The_Champ

          Blanks yes, load bearing vest and helmet yes. Ballistic vest no, can’t recall using those on any winter warfare ex I did. The instant sweating under those vests with minimal physical effort, followed by quickly freezing when you stop moving would be pretty bad.

          And mortars and the heavy stuff no, but only because I was in a comms unit and we were lugging extra communications stuff. I have seen the same sleds repurposed to mount heavy amplified HF radio sets. Infantry could surely do the same, and have extra sleds for heavy weapons.
          Yes it all makes for one slow cumbersome dismounted unit, but lacking motorized transport, or in restrictive terrain, it’s better than nothing. Loadouts would certainly be modified.
          Major battles in large wars have been fought in cold snowy winters after all.

          • FT_Ward

            The short answer is that it’s not possible for a dismounted rifle platoon to carry all it’s winter camping gear + basic ammo + all it’s normal combat gear. More toboggans to haul ammo don’t deal with the extra weight (and you’re right…sweat) individuals would carry if they wore armor.

            No major battle has been fought in the arctic by a army burdened with the gear that’s the US infantry now sees as “normal”. I doubt there’s been a major exercise that’s tried to operate under those conditions.

          • The_Champ

            Well WWI, WWII, and Korea all saw major combat operations in cold, snowy environments did they not? Yes those soldiers weren’t as heavily burdened, but they still carried very heavy loads according to Nathaniel’s numbers in the article.

            I think I understand what you’re saying, that the cold weather multiplies the difficulties of war making. And historically it has certainly multiplied the misery of the poor soldiers fighting in those conditions.

            I think you need to define “major battle” and “major exercise”. Canadian Forces routinely do what I’d call Battalion level exercises in the arctic.

            Historically, in WWII and Korea, many divisional, corps, and army level battles were fought in horrendous winter conditions. So yes it happens, it’s not impossible. No doubt the grunts thrown into a modern battle in those conditions would be quick to strip away and modify gear as needed.

          • FT_Ward

            The Canadian Army doesn’t routinely do even battalion (that’s not a major ex by any means) exs in the arctic. It has a few company level affairs annually which are almost always held in the summer. It never loads up even a rifle company with basic loads of ammo for a long move on foot. One of the secondary reasons their airborne was disbanded in the 1990s was that if it parachuted into the arctic to chase after Soviets (it was the only reason they could come up with to have a parachute battalion) it couldn’t move once it hit the ground.

            It doesn’t really matter what happened in the past because soldiers weren’t issued the gear they do now. The question was can they move now.

  • gunsandrockets

    I was curious how much ammo is carried for the M249 5.56mm SAW, in comparison with some loadouts for WWII squads, according to their respective doctrines.

    IIRC, the British rifle squad carried 600 rounds for one .303 Bren LMG and the German rifle squad carried about 1,000 rounds for one 7.9mm Mg34 LMG.

    According to the 2003 report, the Army rifle squad carried 2,600 rounds and two 5.56mm M249 LMG! Even the poor Grenadiers carry extra 200 round belts for the SAW. WTH?

    • That belt fed sucks up ammo. One reason I don’t like it.

      • Brett baker

        Isn’t part of the problem guys set it for adverse, so it fires faster?

        • milesfortis

          The switchable -normal/adverse- gas regulators for the 249 went away years ago. The newer barrels, especially the short ‘para’ ones, have regulators that can’t be removed.
          But the cyclic rate is still around 850rpm

      • Ευστάθιος Παλαιολόγος

        Replying to this but also other post you made about the SAW and replacing it with AR, I think it might not be evident in these kind of conflicts as you are fighting now, but in the sense of a big war, with a regular army as an opponent, where Squads need to maneuver to get close to the enemy or need to hold the enemy from closing in to them the need for a high rate of fire, open bolt and belt fed LMG in the Squad will be apparent.

        The Minimi type of LMG might not be the best option but I think it does a great job for what it was designed for.

        • I’m not sure I agree with that. Certainly, the Russians don’t and haven’t for decades.

          • Ευστάθιος Παλαιολόγος

            The Russian have integrated GPMG in the form of the PKM (and lighter versions like the Pechneg) into their Squads in a sort of different doctrine than most western armies. The RPK does not meet the demands and they are developing a LMG in 5,45 similar in concept to the SAW, the Negev etc.

          • That’s for the MVD, not the Army.

          • Ευστάθιος Παλαιολόγος

            You are probably right, I’m not in a position to serch right now. But at least the airborne troops (VDV) are equipted with the PKP at squad level and don’t use (orn not so much) the RPK.

    • gunsandrockets

      The weight burden imposed by the current method of employment of the 5.56mm M249 SAW, shows just how badly the Army needs the 5.56mm LSAT.

      The LSAT is a technological advance which could actually significantly reduce the weight burden of the squad without any changes in organization or doctrine.

    • 700 – 750 rounds for the Bren gun (depending whether they loaded the mags to 28 or 30 rounds – loading to 28 was more common). That’s 25 steel magazines spread around a (nominally) ten man rifle section.

      • gunsandrockets

        Interesting. How were those mags distributed?

        My understanding is the Bren gunner had one magazine pouch and the assistant gunner had two magazine pouches. Including one magazine in the Bren, that equals 10 magazines for the team.

  • “The rifleman’s load during World War II was just 68.2 pounds.”

    But with a WW2 loadout and modern armor – which adds 30lbs – the load would be 98.2lbs.

    Slightly heavier then the current weapon system loadout + armor of 95.7lbs.

    So really, the only weight difference here is that we now wear armor.

    • A medium IOTV weighs 27 pounds, meaning the current loadout is still fractionally lighter.

      Nor are you accounting for the AR’s load, which is much heavier now than then.

      Armor accounts for the majority of the difference in any case, but that’s not the point. The point is that soldiers are carrying much, much more now than they did in the past.

      • Right, they are carrying more because they are substantially better equipped and protected- if we had a time machine and showed the soldiers and Marine’s of the WW2 era modern body armor and properly maintained M249 – how many do you think would stick with Khaki shirts and BAR’s?

        Reducing the weight of armor will save weight, as will replacing the m249 with a Knights LMG or Ultimax 100.

        But their weight is never returning to the WW2 era.

        And focussing obsessively about the ammo weight frankly doesn’t make much sense. Even for the M249 gunner, ammunition makes up only 19% of his loadouts weight.

        Switching to LSAT 5.56 would only save 9.7lbs per 800rds for the SAW gunner – less weight then would be saved by simply switching from the M249 to the Ultimax, or by switching from IOTV to RMR plate carriers.

        • “It would only save almost ten pounds! Clearly not worth it.”

          Well I’m not putting you in charge of the weight reduction program, I guess.

          • Saving 10lbs for 25% of the soldiers is not worth it compared to other options that could be done with LSAT.

            Simply switching to new armor would save 12lbs, and switching from M249’s to the latest Knights X-LMG would save 10lbs. This would be substantially cheaper, faster, and easier then 5.56 LSAT.

          • You really need to work on your accounting skills. EVERY member of the Rifle Squad carries linked 5.56mm.

          • Yes, but they only carry 200rds. Even with 39% weight savings of linked 5.56 LSAT, thats saving a couple of pounds.

            Reduced weight armor and a lighter LMG is a much more efficient, near term goal with COTS solutions available now.

          • Here’s an idea for a lighter LMG: An M4A1.

          • I mean, if we’re sacrificing performance on your ultralight altar, why stop there?


          • Oh yeah, I’m sure the USMC is going to line right up to make your hyperbole reality any day now.

          • gunsandrockets

            sustained rate of fire of 12-15 rpm pretty danged low for a LMG

          • Doesn’t seem to bother the Marines any.

          • gunsandrockets

            M27 sustained rate of fire is 36 rpm

          • They are both magazine-fed, heavy barrel, select fire assault rifles. I reckon their sustained fire rate is about the same, regardless of what their spec sheets say.

          • gunsandrockets

            If your reckoning was accurate, the H&K entry would have failed the sustained fire requirements of the IAR competition.

            I followed the progress of the IAR competition from the early days and was surprised that the H&K entry eventually won, because I made the same mistaken assumption.

            Apparently the DI gas system of an ordinary AR adds significant heat to the action under sustained fire. Notably the Colt finalist to the IAR was not only open bolt operation but also had a big aluminum heat sink. Yet the H&K finalist didn’t need either of those features to qualify.

          • Max rate of fire for the IAR competition was 30 rounds a minute. That’s one mag a minute. Yes, an M4A1 will do that, no sweat.

            In fact, an M4A1 can fire at a rate of 150 rounds per minute (or more) for several minutes before it is destroyed. So the idea that it cannot meet the IAR sustained fire requirements which are a fifth as intensive is not really supported by the data at hand.

          • gunsandrockets

            Max rate? Looks more like minimum rate to me.

            And I don’t think “being destroyed” qualifies as sustained rate of fire!

            All the documentation I have seen says the M4/M16 have a sustained rate of fire of 12-15 rpm. Which certainly seems weirdly low, but I have no reason to disbelieve that absent evidence to the contrary.

          • I meant minimum, pardon.

            “All the documentation I have seen” – so multiple documented sources showing it’s capable of ten times that for several minutes before failure don’t count? LOL.

            “And I don’t think “being destroyed” qualifies as sustained rate of fire!”

            Which misses the point. The M4A1 is CLEARLY capable of a sustained rate of fire much, much higher than 15 rounds per minute. Where does the 15 rounds per minute number come from? 15 rounds per minute is an absolutely absurd figure for the M4A1. That is half what a skilled shooter can put out with a bolt-action rifle!

            We have a very good idea how the M4A1 compares against a dedicated IAR:

            “Testing showed the IAR would go through more than 1,000 rounds continuous without failure. The combination of the heavy barrel and heat sink increased the operational parameters significantly over the M4A1. The M4A1 with SOCOM heavy barrel continuously fires around 870 rounds to failure. These numbers are outstanding for a non belt fed machinegun without a replaceable barrel in the field.”

            So, with a gigantic heat sink and open bolt operation, the Colt IAR is getting… A 15% increase in sustained fire! Wow! Not.

            Keep clinging to that “15 rounds per minute” figure, though!

          • gunsandrockets

            I think I will stick with what Kevin O’Brien has said on the subject. He wasn’t the only one who has repeated the 12-15 rpm figure for sustained rate of fire.

          • Kevin O’Brien never said anything of the sort. What he did was cite a 1996 SOCOM safety message which included the “12-15 rounds per minute” stat. So where did SOCOM get it? Well, it comes from the M16A2 manual, TM9-1005-319-10. But it didn’t originate there. In fact, it dates aaaaalllll the way back to the 1966 XM16E1 manual, FM 23-9. Once I discovered this, I checked even earlier manuals, and found that the “15 rounds per minute” figure is present even in the M14’s manual, FM 23-8, from 1959. Interestingly, though, the M14’s manual gives even more detail regarding this figure, and tells us how it was probably derived in the first place:



            But there is yet more of note in the M14’s manual. Later in the manual there’s this section:



            There it is again! That same wording! “The rate at which a weapon can fire indefinitely without seriously overheating.” Same as in the SOCOM safety message from 1996! “Sustained rate of fire for the M16 series rifles and M4 series carbines is 12-15 rounds per minute. This is the actual rate of fire that a weapon can continue to be fired for an indefinite length of time without serious overheating.”

            I wanted to see whether this “12-15 rounds per minute” figure was even older, but it seems it may not be. The M1 manual from 1958 (FM-23-5) has no such line. However, it does shed more light on what exactly is meant by “sustained fire rate”:

            “The sustained rate must be used when the weapon is in operation for long periods, to keep the barrel from overheating. Both the riflemen and automatic riflemen should fire their first few rounds, particularly in the case of surprise fire, at the maximum effective rate in order to gain fire superiority. Thereafter, the rate should
            be decreased to the point that will maintain fire superiority. This reduction in the rate of fire is necessary to insure continued operation of the weapons and to conserve ammunition; it is accomplished either on command of the squad leader or by following squad SOP.”

            So we’ve learned a few things. What are they?

            1. The “12-15 rounds per minute” figure has nothing to do with the M4A1. It comes from the 1950s or 1960s, and was originally derived from tests conducted with the M14*, or (less likely) the M16.

            2. “Sustained rate of fire” refers to what fire rate can be sustained indefinitely – which means longer than 30 minutes.

            3. According to manuals at the time, “sustained fire rates” are used to conserve ammunition as well as keep the weapon cool.

            *This makes sense, as the M14 was put through a number of these tests due to the fact that it was intended to replace both the M1 Garand and the M1918A2 BAR. It’s particularly relevant that this figure (likely) comes from the M14, as it means that even if we accepted that these figures pertain to the M4A1, then the M4A1 does meet the standard for an automatic rifle (IAR) for the US Army – as the M14 was intended to be in 1959. It’s interesting to compare the tables in the M14’s manual on page 3 with the test procedures in the IAR trials, as well. The M14 was – according to the manual – capable of sustaining a rate of fire of 30 rounds per minute for 300 rounds. That’s more than double the amount expected of the candidate IARs!

          • gunsandrockets

            I’ve had that M14 manual for decades. No surprises there to me.

            It seems pretty clear that sustained rate of fire refers to a rate of fire which avoids permanent damage to the automatic weapon, and avoids malfunctions.

            “The M14 was – according to the manual – capable of sustaining a rate of fire of 30 rounds per minute for 300 rounds. That’s more than double the amount expected of the candidate IARs!”

            No. That rate of fire is EQUAL to, not double, the rate of fire expected from the IAR candidates. As you yourself pointed out in an earlier link to the IAR test protocols.

            “So we’ve learned a few things. What are they?

            1. The “12-15 rounds per minute” figure has nothing to do with the M4A1. It comes from the 1950s or 1960s, and was originally derived from tests conducted with the M14*, or (less likely) the M16.”

            And now you assert the official Army figure for the M16/M4 rate of fire doesn’t even come from the M16, but instead was bizarrely grafted from test results of the M14 rifle? Who are you trying to convince, me or yourself?

            I don’t know what bee is buzzing your bonnet, but you seem WAY too invested in trying to prove the the 12-15 rpm figure for the M4a1 is wrong, and that somehow the M4a1 has the same sustained rate of fire as the M27, but so far you haven’t. In fact if you look more calmly at the evidence you have dug up so far you might recognize that truth.

            But thanks for providing the links to the old M16 manuals, should provide some interesting reading.

          • “No. That rate of fire is EQUAL to, not double, the rate of fire expected from the IAR candidates. As you yourself pointed out in an earlier link to the IAR test protocols.”

            Double the number of rounds, although I could see where you got confused.

            “And now you assert the official Army figure for the M16/M4 rate of fire doesn’t even come from the M16, but instead was bizarrely grafted from test results of the M14 rifle?”

            Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m saying. That sort of thing happens all the time. Somebody’s gotta write the manual, you know, and they aren’t always the most diligent types.

            “Who are you trying to convince, me or yourself?”

            Arguing is a spectator sport.

            “I don’t know what bee is buzzing your bonnet, but you seem WAY too invested in trying to prove the the 12-15 rpm figure for the M4a1 is wrong,”

            This is the same thing as saying “you seem angry”. No, I don’t seem angry. You seem to have lost the discussion, and now you’re pouting.

            “and that somehow the M4a1 has the same sustained rate of fire as the M27,”

            Well, let’s see: According to the manual, the M14 can sustain a higher fire rate than the IAR competitors were required to. According to the manual, the M16A1 has an indefinite sustained fire rate of 12-15 rounds per minute. According to the manual, the M14 has an indefinite sustained fire rate of 8-12 rounds per minute. So does this mean the M16A1 could pass the IAR requirements? We have no idea, because the information contained in manuals is accurate in the same way that an ICBM is a guided missile.

            “In fact if you look more calmly at the evidence”

            “You’re mad!” says the guy who lost the argument last night. No, I am not at all mad. I feel very smug, actually. You got your rumpus stomped, my friend. But that’s what you get for hinging your entire argument on an out-of-context figure taken from an Army manual.

            “you might recognize that truth.”

            “Truth” here being code for “an assumption I made by comparing a figure that was derived 30+ years before the M4A1 was even invented with a completely different kind of figure from the IAR test protocols, washed down by a healthy dose of H&K posturing.”

            Yeah, OK.

          • And before you decide to argue that this isn’t “sustained” fire, here’s how you prove that a water cooled Maxim has a sustained fire rate of less than 1 round per minute. First, define “sustained fire rate” as the rate of fire a gun can sustain constantly for 1 week without negative effects.

            A week is about 10,080 minutes, and the barrel life on a Maxim or Vickers is about 10,000 rounds. So after 1 week, we should see a drop in accuracy and velocity consistent with the barrel being worn out. Ergo, it cannot pass the test, meaning it has a sustained fire rate according to the test of less than 1 round per minute.

            The point of this obtuse example is that sustained fire rate is relative. If a weapon like an M4A1 can keep up a sustained fire rate high enough for it to go through several combat loads worth of ammunition before melting down, then it is probably OK to say it has a sustained fire rate of about that much, or perhaps a bit less, even if you couldn’t literally use it to create interlocking fields of fire WWI-style.

        • gunsandrockets

          If your numbers are accurate, a one for one switch out of the M249 in favor of the 5.56mm LSAT would eliminate 50 pounds from the weight burden carried by the Army rifle squad. And that doesn’t even take into account the lighter LSAT spare barrels.

          • Clearly, that makes no difference. Give every soldier a wheelbarrow, instead. /sarc

          • Or, you could use the weight savings of LSAT to field a 6mm cartridge that weighs as much as brass cased 5.56, but with ballistics that approach 7.62 – allowing you to replace the M240’s and massive weight of 7.62 ammo at the platoon level.

          • gunsandrockets

            The fact is the Army isn’t going to replace anything, let alone introduce some new 6mm caliber. I’d be amazed if the Army started buying the M27, let alone some fancy new caliber MG, LSAT or otherwise.

            The only practical way to reduce the weight burden on the rifle platoon is to equip them with less gear. The real issue is what gear stays and what goes.

            The USMC have the right idea, keeping the 7.62mm GPMG out of the Rifle Platoon and putting them into the Heavy Weapons Platoon.

            Or you could go the route of the 1966 JSDF, and put three belt-fed 7.62mm GPMG into every 11 man rifle squad!


          • If you replaced all 7.62mm weapons in the platoon with 5.56mm (or a round of equivalent weight), you’d be saving 4.5 kilograms per member of the Weapons Squad (less than a kilo per member of the platoon). That would be nice for them, but how is it better than dropping literally that same amount of weight from *every* member of the platoon?

          • LSAT doesn’t save 4.5kg/9.9lbs every member of the platoon – it would just save that weight from the automatic rifleman. The regular rifleman would see a weight savings of 4lbs ish – making this one of the least efficient weight savings methods possible.

          • I don’t think you have a very good grasp on how weight reduction programs are properly conducted.

          • A myopic focus on ammo weight reduction before any of the much easier and cheaper weight reductions have been implemented doesn’t seem like a properly conducted program. Even for the automatic rifleman, ammo makes up 19% of his loadout. A 39% weigh reduction of 19% should not be the top priority.

          • What are you talking about? Ammunition is like the second heaviest item the soldier carries.

    • Rnasser Rnasser

      Specially in some theaters of operation and climates, the extra weight and discomfort of body armor does more ill than good, turning soldiers into high tech sitting ducks…

  • EricBenndorf

    And they are letting women into infantry and Marine units????

    • jono102

      They should do what was done here, open it up unrestricted. Strangely enough, when you tell people they can’t do something, they all want to, let them do it and all of a sudden it looses its attraction. The very few who passed, pulled pin within 18 months. It doesn’t appeal to most teens/young adults once they get past the few “cool bits” let alone your average female.

      • Warren Ellis

        It’s already unrestricted. Most females just have no interest in joining anyways.

  • 22winmag

    Firearms not War College Studies 101

    • Too bad.

      • not sure

        Does a 20 inch barrel have a 20 inch bore, or minus case lenght?

        • iksnilol

          I think the chamber is a part of the barrel length. Because IIRC you measure the barrel length with the bolt closed (and I doubt the bolt fills the chamber).

    • CommonSense23

      There probably is a photo of the day coming soon you can look at.

  • LazyReader

    Well unless we invent some sort of super……..soldier…………….serum……….not much we can do

    • SuperFunkmachine

      No we can’t join those dirty cheaters and there Olympic victory’s after all winner don’t do drugs.

  • flight27

    What was the soldier’s load in the Civil War (beyond a rifle, 40 cartridges, and a wool blanket) or during World War I? Just wondering – do we know?

    • Phil Hsueh

      During the Civil War they would also have a canteen, a bayonet, possibly a mess kit, shaving/hygiene kit, and maybe a change of socks and a couple of other clothing related items.

      WW I I think that a soldier’s kit would be not that much different than in WW II except that they carried it all in not as efficient a manner. I think, but I’m not certain, the only thing that they had in WW II that they didn’t carry during WW I may be rations, I’m not sure that they had developed field rations yet.

    • Secundius

      Actually Quartermaster General of the Union Army, Brigadier General Montgomery Meigs. Set Daily Cartridge Rations of 60-rounds per Day as Union Army Standard. Even when US Grant was a Lieutenant General. It wasn’t until US Grant Made General of the Army, that that Restriction was Lifted. Meigs was BUSTED to Major by Executive Order of President Abraham Lincoln, and sent Meigs where he couldn’t do any harm to the Union Army…

  • Isaac Newton

    Once they cross the pack weight exceeding 100% of body weight mark, DARPA should start looking into tactical wheelbarrow technology /S

    • gunsandrockets

      Oh you kids and your newfangled ‘wheel’ technology. Don’t you know what an honor it is to function as a pack mule?

      On a more serious note, does the military today still use any variant of the WWII era aluminum M3a4 hand cart?

    • cwolf

      Actually USARIEM developed a hip belt mounted cart with a quick release. ADEA tested at Ft Lewis.

      They worked, but they didn’t hold up.


      • Isaac Newton

        “They worked, but they didn’t hold up.”

        Didn’t hold up durability wise?

        • cwolf


          It could be tried again.

          There are several issues.

          It has to have a quick release on the hip mount.

          Have to look at brakes. Hauling 120-140 pounds uphill or downhill in the mountains can get very very tricky without brakes. Some dollies have an axle mounted disc brake.

          Soldiers may not like it, even if it works. Looks goofy.

          Some units tried mules. Problem there is feeding them. And, unlike Soldiers, if you overload them, they refuse to move.

          There is some fairly serious data on long-range patrols in the mountains re adverse effects on their health. Or hire Sherpas. 🙂

          The best candidates are off-loading (Navy report), re-design based on risk management, and (maybe) exoskeletons. There is a lot of work on exoskeletons …… Lowes is going to use for warehouse workers. They are still R&D at this point.

          One of my weirder ideas was to encase food or ammo in a styrofoam ball and drop it. Obvious risks. Drones, steerable parachutes, etc. are other re-supply options.

          All solutions have costs and trade-offs. Maybe the best solution is to require Congress to wear IBA for one day. 🙂


          • Reading that report, it doesn’t seem like they tried it on rough terrain. Firm, flat ground only. Of course a cart will be faster.

          • cwolf




          • cwolf


          • See now that is an interesting innovation that hasn’t actually been tried before.

            I feel like all these people suggesting tactical wheelbarrows have never actually used wheelbarrows before. Wheelbarrows are good for what wheelbarrows are good for. Which isn’t hiking.

          • Porty1119

            I’m thinking about the holler I was searching with my team yesterday as part of a dismounted search-and-recovery operation. Wheelbarrows would not have worked, to put it mildly. 60-degree slopes with rocks and brush are not friendly to that kind of equipment.

          • Isaac Newton

            Tactical wheelbarrow was just a joke, the actual class of product I facetiously alluded to is is called a hiking trailer (original picture is a new concept called the monowalker fatmate) and it attaches with a harness.

          • n0truscotsman


          • I was actually involved in a think tank project to explore a system whereby two rucksacks could be hooked together and wheels added (one from each ruck), with a bandolier type chest strap (with quick release). Unit would go to 50% pulling (on two wheels, note – avoids the balance issues of wheelbarrows), and 50% in fighting order.

            Getting a frame system that could stand up to being used as a cart frame, especially AFTER being tossed around supply cages, training ranges, and military transport for ten or twenty years (not to mention jump qualifying the bloody things), without having a frame so heavy as to cancel out any advantages was a show stopper…

          • cwolf



            Understand. Luggage wheels don’t work in dirt. Adding effective wheels plus harness adds to weight. Then, given the wide variety of terrains (mountain, swamp, sand, etc.), you have more stuff to hump.

            The load can be decreased by “off loading” (Navy study; USMC initiative) and using armor vest as the foundation for add-ons plus designing protection by risk. But there are no other apparent options to dramatically reduce weight.

            Pure light Infantry is slow with limited station time. We really have to go to Mech Inf.

          • Secundius

            Like a Wheeled Travois, which can also Harnessed to a Waist Belt for Hans Free Operations and Quick Release when needed…

  • RUR5A

    How do women GIs fare when carrying the same amount of gear?

  • Kamen Rider Blade

    A Passive Exo-Skeleton Rig that holds the vast majority of the weight and the wearer pushes the system as they march.

    That’s the only near term solution I can see of that is cost effective on a massive scale.

  • FT_Ward

    Are there any studies on how many troops have been saved from serious injury by body armor since 9/11? If so expect it’s in the thousands. Would increased mobility have made armor not protecting them worth it? There’s a good argument that since neither Iraq or Afghanistan should have been invaded anything that decreased US casualties- armor, fewer troops, less patrolling etc would be worth it, If your aim isn’t victory and defeat has no real consequences for the country why not pile on armor?

    • DangerRanger

      Exactly, like I said earlier in the comments when fighting Jihadi Johns you can be a pack mule and wait 15 minutes still for CAS to blow JJ. But in a conventional war indirect fire is threat numero uno and for that frag vests and mobility are the keys to evade it and to suffer minimum casulties.

  • FT_Ward

    Since this photo is of British gear it brings up the question of how do the Gurkhas manage? They’re on average much smaller than US troops.

    • Raven

      Living in the mountains and sheer insanity, I suspect.

    • jono102

      Service as a Gurkha is highly sort after by teens there and it holds a lot of prestige. Being raised in the hills and living a hard life style and then having to fight it out for very few slots, leaves some pretty hardened guys to begin with.

  • GBWO

    It is the body armor the soldier is required to wear that adds those extra pounds. Slow in combat means more WIA or KIA.

  • Dude

    How much bigger is today’s soldier than 70 yrs ago? I’ll be willing to bet that, if you compare the increase in load to the increase in size of the soldier, the difference is negligible

    • cwolf

      More weight means slower speeds, less agility, more heat, and more sweat (losing more nutrients). Plus high weights affect the venous return system (remember your heart only pumps blood out).

  • cwolf


  • rychastings

    modern day marian mules

  • Warren Ellis

    Does the WW2 source include the rucksack when talking about loadouts, like the modern source does?

    Also, considering the ww2 loadout is for winter, whereas the mldern loadout compared is for a desert, wouldn’t it be better to compare desert warfare loadouts for both eras?

    Finally, isn’t one big reason for weight increases due to the larger amount of batteries and electronic gear that are required in modern conflicts? I’ve heard of stuff like modern soldiers carrying gear that can like knock out or pop enemy artillery fuses or something during peer conflicts for example.

    • Hi Warran,

      1. The modern source does not include the large rucksack for the AML.

      2. I adjusted the WW2 loadout for summer (removed winter clothing/items).

      3. The biggest contributor to weight increase is armor.

  • Ace

    When I was in, and even talking to friends that are still in, are equipment typicaly goes as follows… 65 lbs for ruck with all needed equipment, 25 lbs in body armor carrying more equipment, a few pounds for ACH (5?), 10 lb rifle, and 210 rounds of 5.56 which according to math would only way 5.5lbs plus mags so 10? as an over estimate… So 115 lbs as an over-estimation… No SAW rounds including for the rifleman… Not all riflemen carry ammo for the SAW…

  • Bill

    So after this information reaches the pencil pushers look for the AML to get even heavier. ICSR stands for Insane Command Spawned Requirements. The sad thing here is that after all this happens and Soldiers’ bodies just start giving out look for the VA’s own army of pencil pushers to fight them tooth and nail for disability ratings.

  • Zebra Dun

    I recall the old ALICE packs and gear, ammo and such plus ammo for the support weapons and then being tasked with carrying a five gallon Jerry can of water or a couple of cases of C-Rats, felt like a turtle crawling loaded like a mule.

  • Ben Luoma

    S. L. A. Marshall in his book “The Soldier’s Load and the Mobility of a Nation” was very critical of how (since at least WWI) the Army and Marine Corps have burdened combat soldiers with excessively heavy and/or unnecessary, (fighting-strength robbing) gear. He also makes a strong point about our great mobility (vehicle assets) can remove the burden off of the backs of men (to save their strength for combat) and to place it in trucks.

  • Jalen Byon

    This reads like a middle schooler’s morning-of research project. It shouldn’t take bar graphs to show that 95 is a larger number than 68.

  • anon_64

    I think the military could benefit from instead of asking what a soldier might need, asking what he can do without. Then simplify and add lightness.

  • Looks like they added up everything it is POSSIBLE that might be issued someone with a rifle. Rifle, mine detector, AND sidearm? Plus what looks like a radio pack with an aerial for a full size radio?

    • Awory

      Well, it wouldn’t much of a stretch to add in the mine detector. In Afghanistan they use the Wolfhound (ground penetrating radar), THOR and VALLON (block remote signals), and an infantry portable version of the MCLIC (mine clearing charge) in one patrol. You might also have a VSAT (small satellite com dish) and a few other pieces of gear.