Give Us Back Our Bullets

Presented without comment from the UK Independent, except, uh, dammit, war is hell--hella expensive and wasteful, that is. But at least our men are being well trained:

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

............

"The Department of Defense's increased requirements for small- and medium-calibre ammunitions have largely been driven by increased weapons training requirements, dictated by the army's transformation to a more self-sustaining and lethal force - which was accelerated after the attacks of 11 September, 2001 - and by the deployment of forces to conduct recent US military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq," said [a new] report by the General Accounting Office (GAO).

......estimates from military officials suggest that at least 20,000 insurgents have been killed in President George Bush's "war on terror".

John Pike, director of the Washington military research group GlobalSecurity.org, said that, based on the GAO's figures, US forces had expended around six billion bullets between 2002 and 2005. "How many evil-doers have we sent to their maker using bullets rather than bombs? I don't know," he said.

"If they don't do body counts, how can I? But using these figures it works out at around 300,000 bullets per insurgent. Let's round that down to 250,000 so that we are underestimating."

[UPDATE: I didn't notice this when first posting--the article was only brought to my attention yesterday--but this is a nearly two year old story. So, I imagine the bullet to insurgent ratio has gotten even larger. Here's the 2005 GAO study it references.]

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  • Egon||

    If 250,000 rounds save just one GI's life...

    Let's see, at current discount rates ($0.56/round), that's $142,500 per insurgent, just for the ammo.

    Hey, as long as I'm getting my tax money's worth.

  • ||

    Well, I shoot a hell of a lot of rounds at paper and lead targets, and I haven't killed a single insurgent. OK, the gov't isn't funding my target practice, but, oh yeah, you're right. I don't have much of an argument here.

  • ||

    Now see, if only we had more sweat shop labor this wouldn't be a problem. Or maybe use arrows, since you can often get those back.

  • ||

    You know how many ninjas the usa could get for $142,500!

  • ||

    I think it's time the US Army started reloading...

  • ||

    Finally, something about the war on terror that really pisses me off... Have you seen how expensive ammunition has gotten for citizens? How am I supposed to fulfill my second amendment obligations?

    **Free Vang Pao**

  • ||

    Yeah, Brandybuck has a point "... time the US Army started reloading..." however if they do, SuperMike touches on another glitch for the citizen shooter who reloads - the rising price of components. Even with the army NOT (yet?) reloading everything is going up anyway - the manufacturers use the same components.

    I just bought primers a couple of days ago and the same case of 1000 I got last year for $18 cost $26!!! Same with powder, up about $6 bucks per pound from last year.

    I figure I can shoot centerfire at .15 per reloaded round, and rimfire (22LR bulk) which I shoot (with my kids) a lot more, ends up being about .12 per round.

    If I remember correctly the same kind of thing happened during Gulf War 1 - ammo and components became scarce and prices went up... Its that damn free market thing!

  • Underzog||

    This is another reason why Libertarians should not be in charge of any government (assuming we get Libertarians who even want a government). War is not free market business. War is extremely wasteful. The purpose of war is to protect our country and defeat the enemy -- not turn a profit.

    With your support in turning us into a bunch of drugged out zombies, your sympathy for the Islamic terrorists, and your support for all manner of sexual perversions, our country wouldn't last a year with you right wing hippies in power.

    "There's no need to fear; Underzog is here!"

  • ||

    "I figure I can shoot centerfire at .15 per reloaded round, and rimfire (22LR bulk) which I shoot (with my kids) a lot more, ends up being about .12 per round."

    So, you are paying $66 (.12 X 550) per box of .22LR plinkng ammo? The last time I bought .22LR ammo I paid about $8 per box. Did it really go up by more than 8 times?

  • ||

    Underzog,

    Getting your country beaten in a war is bad for business; hence there is a profit motive in "wasting" in order to not be conquered or destroyed.

    Of course, one may note that there is also a profit motive in collaborating with the enemy...

    However, market worship is a caricature of most mature Libertarianism anyway.

  • ||

    At the end of WW II we had vast amounts of tanks,plane,ships and supplies sitting in storage.Our over production was the one thing Germany and Japan couldn't match.

  • ||

    6 billion bullets?!

    That's a bullet for every man, child and woman on earth. I don't really have a point, it's just kind of mind-boggling.

    Also, I wonder if the bullets we're buying from the Israelis are soaked in pig fat.

  • Larry Anderson||

    The figure can be a bit misleading.. It isn't that our guys can't shoot. Look up the concept of "suppressive fire" and you will quickly see where a lot of those rounds went. As far as I am aware, the practice of "fixing" the enemy in place with suppressive fire, and having another element manouver, close with and destroy the enemy is still a tenent of small unit tactics in the U.S. military.

  • ||

    so does that mean when the war is over, iraq will be able to corner the lead market?

  • ||

    The war was over when we took Bagdad.We wenrt smart enough to leave.

  • ||

    Not just suppressive fire, but also recon by fire and anti-materiel fire . . . modern automatic weapons doctrine is explicitly designed so that the vast majority of fire isn't aimed at people, but areas. (The M-16 itself is an expression of modern doctrine-5.56mm rounds are lousy at killing compared to the old 7.62 NATO, but you can carry a lot more.)

  • ||

    I thought this was gonna be about OSHA's attempted end around the 2nd Amendment by making it impossible for gun stores to store ammo and guns in the same place.

  • ||

    The purpose of war is to protect our country and defeat the enemy -- not turn a profit.

    Hmm, has Dan T. been rummaging around his sock drawer again?

  • ||

    Does this amount include what is used in training? If so, wouldn't a more accurate measure of what was used to kill be to subtract what is used during a similar period prior to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq?

  • ||

    Just like the old sniper's creed, "Two Hundred Fifty Thousand Shots, One Kill"

  • ||

    You need to subtract the bullets used for training...ie ammunition we would have used anyway in peacetime.

  • LarryA||

    Another untold angle on this story is that, if the U.S. did not have a right to keep and bear arms and thus a thriving civilian ammo market, the private munitions factories that switched production to fill almost all the military's extra ammo requirements would not exist. The soldiers in Iraq would have run out of small arms ammo a couple of years ago.

    I suppose whether that's a good or bad thing depends on your orientation.

  • ||

    Of course if you read the article (published September 25, 2005?), you find that the total ammunition usage applies to the entire US Army's needs. It is not restricted to combat but would also include training ammunition and the Iraq invasion itself.

    I would be surprised if more than 1 in 4 insurgents were killed by bullets as opposed to shrapnel. I am not sure if that potential fact would make the author any less snooty. Perhaps he could recommend what the bullet to insurgent count should be?

  • ||

    What scares me is that there is a shortfall at all. I thought the military was oriented to fight a large scale 2 front war at the same time for a number of years. i.e. the Russians and Korea. You'd think they'd stockpile decades of ammo.

  • SIV||

    The war was over when we took Bagdad.We wenrt smart enough to leave

    Well we shouldn't have left until we pulled Saddam out of that hole although he should have been treated like his sons.

    I agree with the leaving although we should have exited through Syria and Iran.

  • Captain Awesome||

    "The purpose of war is to protect our country and defeat the enemy -- not turn a profit."

    Blackwater might disagree.

  • ||

    American soldiers enjoy a huge advantage in marksmanship over the insurgents, which is primarily due to the very large number of bullets expended in training.

  • ||

    If one could make comparisons with other Western forces in Iraq, such as UK soldiers, we would probably find a much more judicious use of bullets. One reason why the Brits were at least initially much more highly regarded by the Iraqi people than the Americans was that their soldiers tend to think more before they shoot.

  • ||

    douglas gray:

    It also probably helps that the British were dealing with the initially friendly Shi'ites in the south, while we're dealing with the mostly Sunni central region who were sorry to see Saddam go.

  • ||

    If one could make comparisons with other Western forces in Iraq, such as UK soldiers, we would probably find a much more judicious use of bullets. One reason why the Brits were at least initially much more highly regarded by the Iraqi people than the Americans was that their soldiers tend to think more before they shoot.



    Or, if the reports on the Enfield SA80 are to be believed, the British tend not to shoot as much because they're busily clearing jams.

  • thoreau||

    What would the shots per kill ratio look like if we included civilian casualties?

  • ||

    If we want to get a better ratio, we have two options: shoot fewer bullets, or kill more Iraqis. Guess which one this administration prefers implementing.

    (please don't quibble over the difference between "insurgents" and "Iraqis"; I suspect the operational definition of an insurgent is an Iraqi who we have to shoot).

  • ||

    LarryA writes:

    ..if the U.S. did not have a right to keep and bear arms and thus a thriving civilian ammo market, the private munitions factories that switched production to fill almost all the military's extra ammo requirements would not exist. The soldiers in Iraq would have run out of small arms ammo a couple of years ago.
    I suppose whether that's a good or bad thing depends on your orientation.

    It's neither good nor bad - it just is. If there were no private munitions factories, the military would've had to start buying from Israel earlier. That neither advances nor detracts the argument for the 2nd Amendment.

  • Larry Anderson||

    crimethink:

    YES I think we can quibble between insurgents and civilians. Please see the extrordinary rules a unit, say a sniper, MUST go through before a shot can be taken. This applies to Thoreau as well. No one is arguing that bad things do not happen in war, but if you do not recognize that the U.S. military goes to amazing lengths to avoid or minimize civilian casualties, than you both are far dimmer than I previously thought

  • John Tabin||

    I imagine the bullet to insurgent ratio has gotten even larger

    Why? (Honest question. I don't see how you can assume one way or another what has happened to either the rate of bullets fired or the rate of insurgents killed, but maybe I'm missing something.)

  • ||

    JT--My imagining is based on some presumptions that might be wrong, to be sure, but given (see this link: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/316612_secondsurge22.html)
    the increased number of active troops, who I presume are still going thru per-troop training that still uses a similar amount of bullets to the training the troops were using prior to this study, and no authoritative sign that the insurgents-killed numbers have increased commensurate with the number of new troops (no one pretends to know that number precisely, but scouting around I find current estimates as low as 4,000, or 10,000, and as large as the Lancet hundreds of thousands, which does not seem to, unless I missed something, separate out insurgents from any civilian, so hard to use that data for this purpose---but if that number is true, and the survey data indicating 56 percent of the deaths are from bullets, then I'm probably mistaken--but then again, so were the original estimate since I don't think those Lancet numbers were overwhelmingly from only the past two years....
    So, yes, I could well be wrong. I couldn't find any time series data on number of insurgents killed per month that anyone has any faith in. (If someone has some, pass it on.) But the basic guess was based on a larger number of troops going thru training (unless of course there is no continuous training, and it is ONLY the new troops using lots of bullets in training, since the number of NEW troops in the past two years is smaller than the number of troops being NEWLY trained for Iraq/Afghan action from 2003-05....
    So, yeah, I could totally be wrong. But that's what I was thinking.

  • db||

    I'm a competitive shooter, firing tens of thousands of rounds a year in practice and for fun. The prices, not only for loaded ammunition in commonly used military cartridges, but for components (especially powder and bullet heads) have skyrocketed in the last year or so. Primers which used to go for $15 per 1000 are now ~$20 per 1000. Lead and copper are through the roof so bullet heads for .40 cal have gone up about $30 per 1000.

    It's very difficult to find 5.56mm (.223) heads any more. Bottom line, the sooner we get out of Iraq, the sooner the "civilian" market should benefit from increased capacity and low demand!

  • ||

    "The M-16 itself is an expression of modern doctrine-5.56mm rounds are lousy at killing compared to the old 7.62 NATO..."

    There's a reason for that. The objective of warfare isn't to kill the enemy--it never really was.

    The objective of warfare is to destroy the enemy's ability and/or will to fight.

    Which of the following is more effective at achieving this objective?

    1. A 7.62mm round that results in 1 dead enemy soldier, or

    2. A 5.56mm round that results in 1 seriously injured but still alive enemy soldier who requires the attention of at least 1 enemy medic for treatment, and 2 more enemy soldiers for evacuation, while the 1 seriously injured soldier's screams of pain succeed in demoralizing his entire unit?

  • thoreau||

    Bottom line, the sooner we get out of Iraq, the sooner the "civilian" market should benefit from increased capacity and low demand!

    I think you just persuaded 6 of the 10 remaining war supporters to change their stances.

  • Cactus||

    I shoot a what most people would consider an extraordinary amount of 7.62x39mm and a pretty good amount of 5.56x45mm and a lesser amount of 7.62x51mm. I shoot quite a bit of 9mm, .40 and .45 too but more rifle ammo. All of these are getting scarcer and they're all getting far more expensive.

    Some of this is due to the silly ass federal regulations on importation of steel core 7.62x39mm that is erroneously defined as armor piercing which it is not. There is tons of that stuff waiting to be sold on the US market but it can't thanks to the BATFU. Also China no longer is allowed to import ammunition to the US. They use to sell cases of ammo to the civilian market back in the day for a bargain price. You could buy a brand new AK, a dozen magazines and a couple of cases of ammo for less than your average video game console and a couple of games.

  • ||

    Nobody has mentioned inflation. All of the materials that go into bullets, well the metals anyway, have skyrocketd in price. There is (a lot) more than simply supply/demand going on.

  • ||

    Guns don't kill people... and apparently, nor do bullets.

  • ||

    Given the increased use of modern fixed and variable-power optics by our troops, I would think that the kill/ammunition expended ratio is better than ever. The Marine Corps has been so impressed they have ordered an ACOG for every Marine.

  • ||

    "The M-16 itself is an expression of modern doctrine-5.56mm rounds are lousy at killing compared to the old 7.62 NATO..."
    "There's a reason for that. The objective of warfare isn't to kill the enemy--it never really was."

    This is Gun Store Bullshit, just like the following:
    -"the commies designed their guns so they could shoot our ammo if they captured it but we couldn't shoot theirs"
    -"This/that round is extra deadly because it tumbles in flight"
    -"AK47/AR15s are easy to convert to full auto! Just file down the firing pin(or sear)!"

    The 5.56 is a product of modern doctrine, but not for the absurd reason that it is "designed to wound." A smaller round enables the soldier to carry more ammunition for same weight, and allows for smaller and lighter rifles. The Germans had this figured out by the end of WWII.
    The average range of engagement is within 200m, and does not require a battle-rifle catrige like the 7.62x51. Within this range the 5.56's high velocity causes it to yaw and fragment, doing a pretty good job of killing.*

    *Yes, depending on bullet weight, twist, barrel length, etc.

  • Dave W.||

    I think the US invaded Iraq mostly because of oil.

    My wife thinks it was mainly munitions makers whispering into George W. Bush's ear back in 2002.

    Maybe she is right.

  • ||

    Firing bullets indiscriminately is the inalienable right of all humans. My only reason to back this is up is that humans are of course human. Also, Jefferson and Locke said it, so I believe it.
    Now my mother has to dress me. Be back soon.

  • VM||

    That wouldn't be Harry Jefferson and Freddie Locke, would it?

    are you still going with me to the John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band concert at K-TEL park next week?

    (have Michael Stanley Band playing in background, and just wanted to type "Beaver Brown Band", but, alas, it wasn't as fulfilling as I had hoped.)

  • ||

    VM
    The name "Beaver Brown Band" disturbs me and makes me uncomfortable. As I have demonstrated repeatedly on this blog site I am more into cocks.

  • ||

    Russ R. -- The "5.56mm is designed to wound, not kill" doesn't hold up, because it wounds less effectively, too. More minor hits where the soldier can walk his own way back to the medic, and come back into the line after a shorter healing time.

    No, the advantage of 5.56mm is that it's so much lighter, and thus you can carry more, and thus you can shoot more without running out. This facilitates modern shooting doctrine, where you spray covering fire to force the enemy to keep his head down and unable to shoot you. We're a long way from the World War I "take a breath between shots and aim" rifle doctrine that was prevalent when roughly thirty-caliber rifle rounds were originally adopted by all the major powers.

  • ||

    Guns don't kill people... bullets do, lots and lots of bullets.

  • VM||

    SIV -

    LOL!

    And may I read your statement to include the fact that these folks, hier, aren't revolting after all...

  • ||

    I thought the M16 A2 solved that problem.

    Three round burst yeaaaaahhh.

  • ||

    What was the ratio in WW1 and WW2? Tens of thousands to one?

    And they had fewer automatic weapons. So is 250 000: 1 a terribly surprising ratio?

  • han||

    In his last single

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