How much live ammo did US troops go through in training throughout history?

I’ve heard that US Civil War soldiers fired only a handful of rounds during training. Is this accurate?

How much did those who took part in WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Gulf War 1 or Gulf War 2 go through? Note here that I mean training from bootcamp to MOS school; From initial reception to being officially considered deployable green troops.

How much did rounds cost during the Civil War? What percentage of the average yearly income did that represent?

I’m mainly talking about infantry and rifle rounds here but feel free to contribute any info on artillery, tanks, bombs or other munitions.

What struck me is that US Civil War soldiers seem to have gone through about as many rounds of musket ammo as soldiers in Vietnam or Gulf War 1 went through rocket ammo; Just enough to be familiar with it and not be taken aback when you fire it in a fight. This now seems to be the case for guided ammo; You fire a handful of live rounds because they’re so expensive.

How much rocket/recoilless rifle rounds do infantry soldiers go through? How about 40mm grenade launcher ammo?

In the absence of an existing study, any factual answer to this question would involve considerable research into military procurement budgets which may not be publically available. You might be able to get a rough estimate by extrapolating from training recollections, but given the massive differences over time and between specialities even this would be very labour intensive.

well in the lead up to ww2 they didn’t …… the army training was in horrible shape due to 20 years of cut backs and isolationist policy ………ive seen pictures via life magaziene where the tanks they were shooting rubber/wooden bullets or bbs at were cardboard cutouts glued to the side of jeeps with the word “tank” written on them or mini footballs painted green for grenades ….

that’s why everyone was surprised once we did get involved at the speed we became well equipped ……

Also keep in mind that only firing one round doesn’t mean a person is only “familiar” with the missile rather than proficient. We have simulators and other training methods to make a person accurate and proficient without even firing a million dollar missile.
lisiate is right that your question will involve considerable research. I can get you started, though. Infantry training in the US Army was just overhauled. They added several more weeks, so it’s possible that the amount of live rounds fired has increased. I doubt it, though. I’d expect there to be more blank rounds and UTM rounds fired, but you’re restricted your study to just live rounds. Live rounds fired for each soldier would be:
2x Hand Grenades (fully live and explosive)
12-24x 40mm Grenades through M320 (live, nonexplosive)
40x 40mm MK19
100x .50 Cal, M2
100x 7.62 M240
200x 5.56 M249
~400-500 5.56 M4, assuming they group, zero, and qualify with no issues. If the soldier is struggling, he/she could potentially fire 1500 or more rounds. They will be sent back to the firing line continually until they meet the standard. But, after ten sessions of Basic Marksmanship, and three periods of Advanced Marksmanship, with individual, buddy and team maneuver liver fire events, they will fire about 500 rounds, I’d say, on average. That’s theoretical, though. On qualification day, we’d easily go through 20,000 rounds of 5.56 for 220 people. So, while there are many qualifying on their first attempt, (expending only 40 rounds that day), there are others who might go to the line 4-5 times, firing 40 live rounds each time. The Army trains them until they meet the standard, not until they fire a certain number of rounds.

On top of that, they will fire hundreds of rounds in the computer simulator (Engagement Skills Trainer 2000), hundreds of UTM rounds, and thousands upon thousands of blank rounds. This won’t compare well with Civil War era training.

Totally irrelevant but (I think) interesting ‘fact’:

In Richard Marcinko’s autobiography Rogue Warrior, he describes being given command of, and forming what would become Seal Team 6.

According Marcinko:

"“My ammo budget for (training) 90 men was more that the entire U.S. Marine Corps got for training ammo.”

Sounds a tad exaggerated but, according to a source on this page, “(some) DEVGRU operators are firing 500 to 1000 rounds a week from pistols”, which, again if true, might make Marcinko’s boast plausible.

Not U.S. military, but 25 years ago, by the last month of half of my basic training, we were doing three live-fire exercises a day. That means that every one of us would fire around 1,000-2,000 5.56 mm rounds a week; machine gunners, of course , would fire much more.

This was before simulators, naturally. And we didn’t get to play with blanks.

Also consider that back in the 1800’s, a large part of the military grew up with guns. While they might have only fired a few rounds in training, many (most? I don’t know where you would find hard numbers) had fired hundreds of rounds in their lives.

Training in Civil War times would have concentrated on drill and maneuver, because that’s what the recruits didn’t know.

Note when they got to war:

A tangent, but the economist Michael Hudson calculated that each GI in Vietnam required a ton of copper a year.

They trained quite a bit with muskets, though it was mostly dry firing to save on powder and lead.

The changes in muskets between Napoleonic / Revolutionary times and the Civil War are a bit subtle. The flintlock was replaced with the more reliable caplock, and the barrel was rifled, and instead of firing round balls they fired Minie balls (which are actually bullet shaped and not ball shaped), and that’s it. Externally, the muskets didn’t look all that different. To load the musket, instead of priming the pan, you shove a cap on the nipple (some folks like to call it a “cone” today to avoid the word “nipple”, but that’s what it was called back then). Otherwise, it’s the same.

Weapon and ammo shortages plagued both sides during the Civil War, but were worse in the Confederacy, since most of the weapons manufacturing had been in the North prior to the start of the war. Smooth bore flintlocks were dragged out of storage and junk piles and were used for training, and in many cases were even used in battle until better weapons became available.

They would train with whatever weapons they had, and would run through all of the steps required to load and fire the weapon over and over, dry firing it since they didn’t have enough powder and lead to use live ammo much during training.

The emphasis during the smooth bore musket days had been on rate of fire, and the emphasis on fast reloading and firing was carried through to the training for Civil War muskets as well. So the soldiers trained, dry firing their weapons over and over, until they could go through all of the steps quickly. Once they were fairly proficient at the basic steps, they would get a few opportunities to use real powder and real Minie Balls, and then off to war they went.

Soldiers in the Civil War were expected to be able to fire three to four rounds per minute. That doesn’t seem like much when compared to a modern rifle, but you really have to move quickly to get that high of a rate of fire out of a Civil War era musket.

Muskets look a fair bit like modern rifles, but they weren’t used like modern rifles. Back in the days of smooth bore muskets, they basically replaced large formations of men who had guys with pikes on the outside protecting guys with bows on the inside. The muskets could do the jobs of both men, so instead of having all of your pike men doing nothing while the archers fired at a distance, followed by the archers doing nothing when the armies closed and the guys with pikes stabbed each other, the musketeers did both jobs, firing at a distance then closing and stabbing their enemies with the pointy bit at the end.

In Napoleonic and Revolutionary War times, the bayonet was a significant weapon, accounting for roughly a third of all battlefield casualties. In fact, George Washington got his ass kicked up and down the battlefield until he went into Valley Forge and had his men properly trained in military discipline and bayonet fighting.

They expected the same thing in the Civil War, so bayonets were still long, pointy, and spear-like, and soldiers trained a lot in bayonet fighting. The longer range of the rifle-musket and changes in battlefield tactics turned the bayonet from a major force on the battlefield into the rarely-used last-ditch weapon that it is today. Bayonets in the Civil War accounted for less than 1 percent of battlefield casualties, a pretty significant drop compared to older muskets. But the soldiers still went into battle prepared for bayonet fighting.

After the Civil War, bayonet training was given a lot less emphasis, and bayonets changed from spear-like things to knife-style bayonets that could serve double-duty as a handy camping knife.

Is bayonet training still undertaken in the US armed forces? Was it not under review (or even dropped) a few years ago? Maybe just the Army but not the Marines?

Many of the non-traitor troops in the Civil War were city dwelling immigrants. I don’t think they came to Basic (or whatever it was called then) with a great deal of firearms training. And as the posts above suggest, there wasn’t initially much call for marksmanship–fire a massed volley or two and then charge with cold steel.


Personal experience:

I enlisted in 1999. I was in Military Intelligence, and went through Basic with Support and Service Support personnel; Combat Arms personnel probably got more weapons training in Basic, and definitely got more in Advanced Individual Training. I was also a Reservist in a rear echelon unit; I went through the same Basic and AIT as (and with) Active Duty Soldiers, but my weapons training after that was much less than Active Duty Soldiers, or Reserve Component Soldiers in Combat Arms or Combat Support units would have gotten.

For the M16A2: I trained on a simulator, but not much. I don’t recall the details, but I doubt I fired more than 80 “rounds”. I had a couple of sessions of live fire training, then zeroing and qualifying. Again, I don’t remember the details, but all told I probably fired a few hundred live rounds. I didn’t fire a weapon at all in AIT. I also went to the Defense Language School - we handled some dummy weapons, and had a couple of very brief field exercises where we had rifles, but not even any blanks. After that, as a Reservist, I went to the range once a year to qualify. Before both of my deployments, as part of the pre-deployment process, I had to re-qualify. For one deployment, we did some live fire training before qualification; the other time, we just went directly to the qualification range. When I went to PLDC (training school for becoming a Sergeant), we did a few days of training and field exercises with blanks. Some Reserve units I know of also did live fire training outside of the annual qualification, but mine didn’t.

For the M60: I fired around 50 rounds, I think, in Basic. Basically just familiarization.

For the M240: We handled, disassembled, and loaded one with dummy rounds in Basic. Never fired it.

For the AT4 rocket launcher and the Claymore mine: I trained with some dummies in Basic. One Soldier from each Platoon got to actually use a live one, under very close supervision by the trainer. Never handled or even saw any after that.

Hand Grenades: Handled and threw a bunch of dummy grenades and fragmentation simulators. Threw live two fragmentation grenades, under close supervision by a trainer. (Aside - one Soldier in my Platoon made a horrible throw - I think it slipped out of her hand. It landed only a few yards from her. The trainer slammed her to the ground and covered her with his body. She got it past the sandbags, and they were both wearing body armor and helmets - both were perfectly fine, but it was a scary moment to watch, and that’s why we were all under very close supervision while handling explosives). I never used or even saw a live grenade after that.

Bayonets: We had basically one day in Basic learning how to handle them, as well as how to use the M16A2 as a club, and went through a bayonet course. On my first deployment, we were issued bayonets. Other than that, I don’t think I ever saw a bayonet, much less used or trained with one.

M9 Pistol: My Reserve unit had a few of these. On one of our annual trips to the range, the unit leadership offered to let anyone interested try to qualify, and I was interested. I got a brief lesson on proper handling, fired a dozen rounds or so for familiarization, and then went to the qualification course. During one deployment, I was assigned for part of the time as a Colonel’s driver, and was issued an M9. I didn’t get any live fire training with it, but I did re-qualify on it.

M2 Browning Heavy Machinegun: During training for my second deployment, I handled and partially disassembled and reassembled one, and loaded and unloaded dummy rounds. Never actually fired it.

After 8 years in the Army Reserves and two deployments, I probably fired somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 rounds with an M16A2, less than 100 with an M9, 50 or so with an M60, and threw two live grenades.

Again, though, I was Reservist, in a in a rear echelon unit. I probably had the least weapons training it would be possible to have had in the U.S. Army during that period.

Some of it depends on your service and your specialty within that service, as gdave illustrated. Your average ground-pounder in the Army and Marines is going to fire a lot more rounds in training than, say, an aircraft mechanic in the AF. I’m not even sure if generic AF personnel ever train with weapons (not including pilots, of course).

When I went through boot camp in the late 60s, we did familiarization fire with the M-1. As a Seabee, prior to leaving for Vietnam, I had fam-fire training with an M-14, M-1 carbine, .45 pistol, 30 cal MG, and M-79 grenade launcher, most of which I never touched again since once I got to 'Nam, they gave me an M-16.

Throughout my career in the Navy, I fired tens of thousands of M-16 rounds at the range, and a lot of .45 ammo (though not nearly enough), both of which I unfailingly qualified expert with. Seabee battalions train members in defensive combat and have a full complement of weapons. At the time that I served, these went up to the 81mm mortar and the 105mm recoilless rifle.

One thing I’ve had difficulty wrapping my mind around is how it would have been cheaper to increase firepower through adding more personnel than by switching to lever guns or other breech loaders. 1 person with a level gun could shoot as much as about 5 people armed with a rifled musket. Deploy that smaller number and get the others working in war factories.

How many of those rounds did you fire?

Thanks for the data points.

Are the people using grenade launchers expected to meet any accuracy standard beyond not killing anyone that day?

I note that this doesn’t include any large caliber shoulder-launched weapon like the AT4 or Carl Gustaf. How many rounds would an infantry soldier typically have fired by the time they get deployed in your experience?

Zero. Those were crew-served weapons, and I was always in a rifle company/platoon, although there was a platoon within my company that had an M-60 MG squad.