"We have four boxes with which to defend our freedom: the soap box, the ballot box, the jury box and the cartridge box." - Congressman Larry McDonald M.D.
(1 April, 1935 - 1 Sept., 1983)


God Save The Republic

31 August 2010

Firefight Mechanics

I'm not even going to try to understand where the bean counters come up with their figures, especially since there are too many variables to be considered. The bean, or should I say bullet, counters claim the ratio of ammunition expended to enemy troops killed, during the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, was more than fifty thousand to one (50,000:1). There are reports, that I have not been able to confirm yet, suggesting the bullet to kill ratio for Iraq and Afghanistan is running in the neighborhood of two hundred fifty thousand to one (250,000:1).

Now, I can understand certain elements involved in a firefight. For example, I understand the need for using aimed cover / suppressive fire, which puts enough lead down range intended to keep the enemy face down, rather than heads up and shooting back and thus allowing for an advance or retreat. And if you are laying down that suppressive fire in full auto mode, I suppose it's fairly easy to see where the bullet to kill ratio can get a tad lop-sided.

However, I've seen a lot of taped footage from Vietnam era firefights where U.S. troops cut loose with full auto fire un-aimed, with their heads deep behind cover, while their weapon muzzles danced skyward or into the ground. Commonly referred to as "spray and pray," this mode of fire has no practical application other than it being an act of desperation. Whether you're blessed with full auto capabilities or a nervous tick in the trigger finger, this is not a good thing if your ammo supply is forty thousand rounds short of taking out even one bad guy intent on doing you harm.

Damn few things can ignite the human "fight or flight" (usually flight or dive for cover) response like the sound of gunfire. The stark realization of being thrust into a gun battle is most likely to result in panic mode. And panic turns to mistakes leading to death or surrender. What better way for an enemy to accomplish this than through an ambush attack. Panic and fear demands you DO SOMETHING!!! and the likely response is to open up in spray and pray mode, effectively depleting your ammo supply while scoring no kills.

There should be some warm and fuzzy feelings gained in the knowledge that, aimed returned fire, close enough to enemy combatant positions to at least make them think they are being zeroed in on, will create some fear and panic on their side as well. So, it is vitally important, should you be caught up in a firefight; take the best cover available. Access yourself for injuries. Slow down and control your breathing. Survey the area for enemy positions OR spots you would consider primer cover if you were the bad guy(s) and returned aimed fire. But most of all, suppress the panic induced urge to spray bullets and pray for a miracle.



  1. Pardon the math geek stuff, but I wonder how they can accurately know the number of enemies KIA, especially in a jungle situation? There was a lot of talk during Viet Nam (I was a kid) that the reports of how many enemy troops were killed were over-reported. Now, the left is screaming we way under-report them. I tend to think they're full of BS, but it will affect the numbers. If you were over counting one and under counting the other, there's enough room in there to say no change at all in the number of rounds per kill in reality.

    The other side, counting ammo rounds consumed is easy.

  2. During Vietnam (I was in ROTC in early 70's) the figures used were 50,000 per in WWII and 250,000 per in Vietnam. This tells me they know not of which they speak. In other words, they're makin' this crap up.

  3. Yeah, I don't believe it. If they're including all practice ammo used in theater and during training state-side, maybe. But used while in pursuit of bad guys? No way.

    The "aimed fire" concept is a crucial one. I'm in the process of designing some of our defensive approaches to our new coin shop we're opening. Our shop has 35 linear feet of floor to ceiling windows. We're trying to design our defensive position in case of a robbery to direct the bulk of our fire away from the windows (then into the parking lot) and towards walls that will at least absorb some of the energy.

    Plus a couple of other surprises I can't discuss!