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"Real firepower of WW2 riflemen in company level rules" Topic

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07 Apr 2013 12:25 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

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by Editor in Chief Bill

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Umpapa07 Apr 2013 12:11 p.m. PST

I am reworking my old WW2 rules for company level 1:1 singlebased, and want to streamline them a bit.

In some rules there are underlined differences on riflemen (not MG/SAW, also excluding Stg44) accuracy firepower. I wonder if they were really so important.

Lets compare Mauser (Kar98) armed Germans to British and US Army. Let's put aside differences in experience (as all sides units experience varied vastly).

British rifles were reloading faster than Germans, also British training put much effort on shooting. However, Germans were trained "shoot to kill", totalitarian propaganda also counts.

Similarly with US Army. Even if we disagree with famous albeit controversial Marshall thesis, he was at least partially right, since all armies are now trained "shoot to kill". Garands put more suppressive firepower than Kar98, but did this firepower was more accurate? I do not think so.

The same with Russian and 39' Poles: maybe they were not trained to kill, but they really really wanted to kill those Germans. Because of communistic ideology, patriotism or revenge.

So to sum it up: can safely I assume that accuracy firepower (fire to kill) of single rifleman (grunt armed with standard Kar98, SMLE, Mosin or Garand, excluding Stug44) was more or less similar?

Then I would not have to diversify different nation grunts, which would make my life much easier. :) Of course I will give suppressive bonus to USArmy and maybe a small one to British.

What do You think?

P.S.: I did not mention semiautomatic Gewehr 43 or SVT40, since they were distributed by one per squad, and I have special rules for them. As well as for Stg44.

Korvessa07 Apr 2013 12:18 p.m. PST

I am not sure it matters all that much.
Most shooting is just to get the other side to duck and stop firing.

Umpapa07 Apr 2013 12:20 p.m. PST

I agree, however I have to give grunt a chance to shot someone, even if a really small chance.

I hope that equal chance will be OK for my granularity level.

Sundance07 Apr 2013 12:21 p.m. PST

The Garand was the standard rifle of the US military. It was not necessarily more accurate, but it could put out half a dozen shots to the British soldiers one well aimed shot followed by a bolt-pull. It doesn't take long to aim if you're well practiced and being able to put out the additional rounds makes it a much more substantial force to recon with than the traditional bolt action rifles. Just that extra time to pull the bolt could mean life or death for Germans and Japanese facing a Garand.

14Bore07 Apr 2013 12:25 p.m. PST

My often adage is it takes a mans weight in ammunition to kill him. Most ammunition is wasted in covering fire un aimed. Next might be long range.

Umpapa07 Apr 2013 12:25 p.m. PST

I know that, but as Marshall was explaining only minority of US soldiers (free citizens, full of human rights) really were shooting to Germans in contrary to Germans who were trained to shot to kill, also totalitarian propaganda dehumanized opponents.
I agree that US rifleman would be better at suppressing, but at killing?

Dark Knights And Bloody Dawns07 Apr 2013 12:32 p.m. PST

I think morale is more important than firepower.

Ark3nubis07 Apr 2013 12:42 p.m. PST

I wrote my own WWII game and this is how I resolved the differences, although only for a Normandy setting;
Germans = 1 dice per man for shooting a Kar98K
UK. = As above, but for every hit scored may roll an extra dice (thus may sound OP but in practice with to hit modifiers it only gives a marginal bump in firepower)
US can either shoot as above, or the Garands allow model to shoot twice but only get suppresive hits only.(MGs can double rate of fire to get suppressing hits only instead if shouting to kill)

Technically all models could/would up their rate of fire for a suppressive effect but suppressive fire is allowed in my my rules for MGs and semis only.

Other points to note; British rifles had 10 rounds vs the Germans 5 rounds, so having to reload less frequently and British rifle drill did mean an approx +30-50% increase in firepower over the Germans.
German squad tactics revolved around the MG, so rifle firing was second in priority.

I understand US training was to encourage the rifleman to treat the section of the line in front of them as an area target to be peppered unless targets of opportunity came into view, so US troops would shoot more, but that's because they were trained to do so with a weapon that would let them do so. Semi auto armed troops have a slight bump in combat too due to having a rapid firing weapon in assault.

As for other nations I probably wouldn't have any other special/specific rules apart from Japanese snipers that apparently were notoriously bad at aimed shots, but were much better at reactive fleeting shots.

Hope that helps,


Personal logo Herkybird Supporting Member of TMP07 Apr 2013 12:50 p.m. PST

This is an interesting article on the subject:

Hope its helpful?

leobarron2000 Supporting Member of TMP07 Apr 2013 2:14 p.m. PST

I know this might be topic creep but there's a lot out there that refutes Marshall's and Grossman's 25% claim. In fact, the number of US soldiers who fired back was probably much higher.


Umpapa07 Apr 2013 2:22 p.m. PST

So my friends please help me by answering my question:

can I assume that accuracy firepower (fire to kill) of single rifleman was more or less similar?


Robert66607 Apr 2013 3:09 p.m. PST

Answer no. It depends on so many factors. However if you want to generalise, which seem the only logical answer to your question, then yes. The same as can everyone do the same high jump, no, it depends on so many factors. However averaged out as a rule of thumb then yes.

Theron07 Apr 2013 6:31 p.m. PST

"My often adage is it takes a mans weight in ammunition to kill him. Most ammunition is wasted in covering fire un aimed. Next might be long range."

I think what 14Bore alludes to must be an important factor: ammunition supply. It doesn't matter how fast your gun fires if you carry no more ammo than your enemy. For this reason I would not rate semi-auto rifles any higher than bolt action. Rather rely on the LMG to put out firepower.

thehawk07 Apr 2013 10:36 p.m. PST

I read somewhere that late war Germans were at a disadvantage due to slow shooting speed

jdginaz08 Apr 2013 1:02 a.m. PST

The 98k may have to twice as often as the SMLE but it takes twice as long to long the SMLE, two 5 round stripper clips, so over time the reloading time is a wash. I have fired both the 98k and SMLE on several occasions and really found little practical difference between the two.

Rapier Miniatures08 Apr 2013 1:58 a.m. PST

You are heading into a too granular position for company or even platoon level rules.

Any firepower benefit of the Garand as an individual weapon, was lost in fireteam by the lack of an efficient LMG. So the Garand armed troops expended more ammunition in generic suppression fire than riflemen in other nations who had a 2/3 man support weapon doing the job.

main difference over sustaing firing of the Kar98 and SMLE is a slightly less sore shoulder from the Kar as it had a smoother kick. One of the reasons snipers liked the Vickers P14/17 as it had similar firing characteristics.

With Company level rules going further in than fireteams means it is not a company level game.

David Brown08 Apr 2013 2:23 a.m. PST

As already mentioned it all about ammunition supply and nothing to do with rates of fire.

Most rifle men would hold about 80 rounds if lucky. (You could have more but that's usually not readily to hand.)

In a firefight you start becoming very, very conscious of how much ammo you have left.

All this wargamers talk of "suppressive" fire one hears is just nonsense when you've only three or four mags (or clips for WW2) left.

Thus the difference between a Garand and a bolt action are not that great however this goes "out of the window" in very close range or close assault situations when I'd go for a Garand anyday over a bolt action rifle!


Patrick R08 Apr 2013 4:16 a.m. PST

The two infantry weapons that do the killing at range are the mortar and the machinegun. This is followed by the grenade in the assault and the small arm is about last in the pecking order.

The importance of small arms had already waned at the turn of the century when soldiers started to use terrain and cover. WWII infantry tactics were sufficiently advanced to minimize the effect of enemy rifle fire. The cardinal rule being not to get caught in the open or in enfilade by a machinegun or a mortar. Because soldiers would use every molehill and blade of grass to hide behind most shooting was in short violent bursts whenever the opportunity arose. After that the shooting devolved into mostly speculative, suppressive firing or until mortars joined in or somebody got close enough for an assault.

Generally speaking the individual rifleman and his weapon will not make that much of a difference. It's only when they all add up to a squad or more the difference are more pronounced.

There should be an advantage for a Garand-armed squad over the average bolt-action squad. (Better suppression, a small modifier to hit or casualties etc) I personally think it should be a minor advantage, not a huge one.

Ark3nubis08 Apr 2013 5:24 a.m. PST

Sorry to not answer your question directly. Yes, I'd say that all rifles the same for aimed fire. SLR armed infantry probably should get a bit if a bump in volume of fire(whether aimed or suppressive depending on how you wish your rules to work) some way as, relatively, they can pump the shots out quicker.

Mr Brown above does have a point in that units won't blast away all day and try to suppress this, and suppress that. However unless you have rules for supply amd low ammunition I think it's best to assume that all your guys are stocked enough to fire as you want, so the only variable to consider is the one you originally posted.

For clarity, you said a company sized game, are you referring to a 28mm 1:1 Bolt Action/Nuts! sized game, or more FoW scale? FOW to me is a company size but your description sounds more like a platoon (bolt action) sized game.


Who asked this joker08 Apr 2013 7:25 a.m. PST

In your example, at greater ranges, say 100-300M tehre is probably not much difference. the rifleman is firing a controlled shot and possibly aimed shot at that range. When you get closer than 100M, firepower kicks in. The man with the Garand is not so interested in conserving ammunition but is concerned with driving off the enemy. So the garand at close ranges should have some noticeable advantage compared to other rifles of the time.

Similarly, the Axis feared the M-2 .50 Caliber as allied troops feared the MG-42. In the case of the .50, 1 hit would cause a horrendous wound, sometimes tearing off limbs. The same can be said for larger caliber auto cannons…20mm cannon for instance.

In the case of the MG-42, it was the amount of lead that could potentially hit you. They fired in short quick bursts. If the burst hit a target, likely several bullets would hit, which would translate into a higher probability of permanent injury or death. Compared to a slower firing .30 caliber such as a Vickers or M1919. They were employed in more of a sweep. The chances of scoring a hit are still improved over a simple rifle but the chance to be hit with just 1 round would be greater.

jgawne08 Apr 2013 10:07 a.m. PST

SLAM (SLA Marshall) has been REALLY discredited. It's no longer a debate. His work has been to not match up with the base material. His claims of all kinds of things he did, or interviewed ir whatever have been proven to be either factually incorrect, or greatly distorted. His notebooks which claim ot have much of his data was oddly never donated with the rest of his papers, nor did his family ever have them. He is NOT a valid source. Even his work on d-day has been poked with many holes.

keep in mind that every army had a basis of marksmanship. They also haqd a doctrine, such aqs the Germans used riflemen to protect the MG, while the MG did most of the damage. Different in the US where the squad could put out roughly the same amount of firepower, but spread between a number of men.

Now I have fired most of these weapons. As long as you are under 200 yards (and how often did you really fire at a guy over that) they are reasonably the same- the bolt actions are the same. (if you want to give a bonus to the British, also add in a negative for all the times the rims jam). Some Mosins are OK, some are pretty crap. The semi auto rifles allows you to stay on target much better than a bolt action. One exception is the carbine which is NOT a rifle, and not that accurate or powerful.

Umpapa08 Apr 2013 1:00 p.m. PST

Wow, thanks for whole lot of opinions and infos. Thank You very much! I did not expect such great response.

I will link mentioned paragraph of my rules to this thread to get some authority behind my decision. :D

For clarity, you said a company sized game, are you referring to a 28mm 1:1 Bolt Action/Nuts! sized game, or more FoW scale? FOW to me is a company size but your description sounds more like a platoon (bolt action) sized game.

It is level of Stargrunt II, Band of Brothers or IASBM. Maybe just a bit above.

With Company level rules going further in than fireteams means it is not a company level game.

I suppose You are right, however my group want "every single soldier count" (even with very little effect or small chance to change anything).

Ark3nubis08 Apr 2013 2:36 p.m. PST

That sounds like a pretty detailed sort if game, and a lot of work for you! Great if you can do it but will likely mean much revising, tweaking and you 'holding your own' against your friends and their opinions on how the rules could/should be.

Anyways, I would suggest that Garands, Gwr41-43 and M1 Carbines have the same rules (carbines have shorter range than the other two) as they are all semiautomatic and will cut down on the variety of rules. I'd expect your rules to have weapons grouped kinda like;
1. Bolt action rifles
2. SLR/semis
3. BAR and SVT40
4. LMGs Including DVT
5. Stg44
6. SMG and pistols/revolvers

Obviously other weapons (Panzerfausts, sniper rifles etc) but the above are more revolving around this discussion I think. It sounds like if you are going to do detailed rules you would be better to up the scale s but, or if you don't mind the I creased complexity be prepared for longer games ( more rules = more things to balance amd get right. Let us know hod you get on!


Personal logo brass1 Supporting Member of TMP08 Apr 2013 7:37 p.m. PST

Just a rivet-counting question: shouldn't the SVT40 be in there with the SLR/semis? Semi-auto with 10-round magazine doesn't look much like a BAR to me.


Toshach Sponsoring Member of TMP08 Apr 2013 8:15 p.m. PST

If the Garand was not more effective than the 1903 Springfield, then why by the end of 1942 was the 1903 pretty much replaced by the M-1 as the standard infantry weapon? Why would you completely retool your rifle manufaturing during a war unless the new weapon was markedly more effective? Even the Germans and Russians were delivering semi-auto rifles to their infantry by the end of the war.

The fact is that the average rifleman with a Garand can get off two aimed shots in the time it takes the average rifleman to do the same with a bolt action rifle. Further, as described in a previous post, if the mission calls for fire superiority, a rifleman with a Garand is going to throw a lot more lead than with a bolt action rifle.

IMHO, failing to draw a distinction between the effectiveness of a semi-automatic rifle and a bolt action rifle in a skirmish rule-set is a pretty gross simplification and/or a game balancing measure.

Now, if we are looking at a squad of green GIs having a shootout with a squad (sans MG) of seasoned SS troopers armed with Kars, then I would say that the weapons would play a decidedly secondary role to troop quality. But all other things being equal, the semi-automatic rile is going to outperform a bolt action rifle every time. Keep in mind that most infantry firefights occur within about 60 yards adding to the advantage of a rapid firing rifle.

I would also argue that SMGs tend to be overrated in skirmish rules. They are truly a suppression weapon, since only the first shot in a burst was reasonably accurate at any range beyond pointblank. The rest are all over the place.

My guess is that in a firefight at 60 yards with both sides in cover, a bullet from a rifle might have a 2-3% chance of hitting its target. Two bullets might have a 4-6% chance of hitting their target. But if a suppression rule is implemented, a single bullet might have a 25% chance of suppressing an enemy while a handull of bullets might have a 50-75% chance of causing the enemy to bury their head thus further reducing the volume of fire from the other side.

SLAM (SLA Marshall) has been REALLY discredited. It's no longer a debate. His work has been to not match up with the base material. His claims of all kinds of things he did, or interviewed ir whatever have been proven to be either factually incorrect, or greatly distorted. His notebooks which claim ot have much of his data was oddly never donated with the rest of his papers, nor did his family ever have them. He is NOT a valid source. Even his work on d-day has been poked with many holes.

I actually researched some of the criticisms leveled at Marshall. I found none of them to be based on substantive fact. His detractors were quick to trash his work and conclusions, but none that I could find produced a data set of their own to support their accusations and refute his assertions.

Wolfhag08 Apr 2013 9:21 p.m. PST

I know as war gamers we are enamored with the different weapons types and their performance as compared to others. I know I am. Personally I find the tactics that the weapons enable you to use is more interesting and realistic than causalities they can cause in a game. Basically fire and maneuver in a game as opposed to attrition/kills. In the military I was trained to hit a man sized target at 500 yards 9-10 times with an M-14 and M-16 but I would NEVER try to simulate that happening in a wargame. There was a military study done on suppression that came to the conclusion that a rifle round impacting or coming within 3 feet of you would make you flinch/duck/take cover/suppress for 3-5 seconds. Keeping a target under that type of fire can be done with 10-12 rounds/minute. The study said the effects of automatic fire did not make the suppression more effective and overall was a waste of ammo (I'm sure there are exceptions to that). In an initial engagement your goal is to as quickly as possible gain firepower superiority by putting out as large a volume of fire as possible (hopefully more than the enemy) at the source of the enemy fire. You will most likely not be able to select a specific target. When the other side sees and hears you are firing more than them they'll keep their heads down enabling you to gain the initiative and fire and maneuver or withdraw. This was the big US advantage with the Garand and BAR combination. Call it suppressive fire or whatever you like. The goal is to get the enemy to think if they stick their head up it will get blown off. Losing firepower superiority is also a morale killer even if no one is hit.

In a fire fight you normally only know what is happening with the guys on both sides of you. If they are shooting, you are likely to shoot. If they are hunkering down most likely you will too. This is where small unit leadership comes in. Fire Team and Squad Leaders main job in a fire fight was to make sure their guys were shooting in their correct sector, not too fast and not too slow. As a young PFC and former NRA target competitor it was hard for me to wrap my head around the concept of shooting into an area without seeing a target – but I soon caught on. One or two squads laid down a base of fire (main job to suppress) while another squad maneuvered to out flank the enemy who could do nothing to respond for fear of getting shot once we obtained firepower superiority. As a Rifleman I was "forbidden" to use automatic fire because it was wasteful. If the enemies firepower picked up we increased ours until theirs slackened again.

I've played rules using this concept and people complained that not enough troops were getting killed. Go with whatever your group wants and have fun. You will run into a few that want to really get educated but don't try to force "realism" on them as they'll quit showing up. That's my experience and comments.


UshCha08 Apr 2013 10:35 p.m. PST

In talking to serving soldiers and reading and thinking We decided that rate of fire is not an issue for long term fire. You cannot come close to full rate of fire in suppression/exchange of fire or you run out of ammo in VERY short order. However in the final few yards and in gun/ grenade range firepower is king as it only lasts seconds. Here is where we postulate SMG's and gernades come into theit own. For wargames purposes we make this an "assult" for we can limmit this to a single round so that by definition it limits use. Particularly as once completed the unit(s)involved have a penalty applied to represent re-organisation which makes its use as an excuse to "bend the rules" unattractive as it would be in the real world.

All the books talk about winning the fire fight and then assulting. None talk about simply killing enemy by shooting alone. A well integrated model needs to rcognise the basics. Our own opinion is that dor wargames there is little to be gained from too much differentiation. I if the combined firepower was woefull unballenced against the opposition there would have been very rapid changes in forces. There was not that much cahane post war. Thefore as a company commander accepting a squad is a squad is proably enough.

Comanding a company, sighting Anti tank weapons, fighting positions, tracking where the mortars are to fire and generally keeping a grip on the situation as it develops is as much as one player can handel without excessive detail which by all accounts is not that significant.

Russell12012009 Apr 2013 1:55 a.m. PST

David Brown is dead on. Even the bolt action rifle is going to run out of ammo pretty quickly (5 minutes) if you just go blazing away at everything.

The semi-auto, and autos advantage was at short/desperate range. It is harder to hit a moving target than many realize, and seconds count at that range.

Martin Rapier09 Apr 2013 4:19 a.m. PST

Personally I would put semi-automatic rifles (Garand, SVT-40, G43 etc) in a different category to bolt actions. Roughly 50% advantage in terms of weight of fire (iirc that was the firepower differential Dupuy gave them, 14 vs 9 ??).

'weight of fire' is of course much more about winning the firefight than actually hitting people with bullets, notoriously hard to do when they are lying down and shooting back.

John D Salt09 Apr 2013 9:23 a.m. PST

Toshach wrote:

I actually researched some of the criticisms leveled at Marshall. I found none of them to be based on substantive fact. His detractors were quick to trash his work and conclusions, but none that I could find produced a data set of their own to support their accusations and refute his assertions.

Indeed so. Marshall does seem to have drawn conclusions fuller and more numerically accurate than his data would bear, so he does indeed deserve to be criticised. This is a different thing from saying that his conclusions are worthless.

The links on Shrier's page posted by leobarron2000 can be dealt with briefly as follows:

1. This is a dishonest misrepresentation of Roger Spiller's original article, ignoring Spiller's words "Marshall is still right". I have a copy of the original RUSI Journal article, and it does not say what this author says it does. And, if he's going to criticise other people's scholarship, he could as a minimum give RUSI its proper title, instead of hanging "For Defence Studies" on the end of it.

2. This again depends largely on Spiller's criticism in the RUSI Journal article.

3. is a dead link, but I'd guess this does to William Whiteclay Chambers' page, another warmed-over second-hand account of Spiller's original criticism.

4. is a breath of fresh air, because at least Engen has read the books he is criticising, and has done some valuable original research of his own. However, having seen his MSc thesis, there are many occasions on which the inferences he draws simply cannot be supported by the numerical data available, and he is lucky that his MSc was in history rather than a numerate subject.

5. is Spiller's RUSI piece, well worth reading if you don't already have a copy.

This may not be the sum total of criticism of Marshall -- Hackworth's "About Face" has a few nasty things to say about SLAM's personality, for example -- but if there is any other substantive criticism out there I haven't met it.

Spiller and Engen have interesting things to say, but Spiller does not claim that Marshall's conclusions are wrong (he only criticises his method) and Engen, while producing worthwhile evidential grist to the historical mill, commits some fairly gross errors of numerical inference that mean his claim to have refuted Marshall simply does not stand up.

The other "refutations" are just regurgitations of Spiller, sometimes not even honest ones.

Anyone who had read "Men Against Fire" would have known that SLAM was following on from an earlier observation from Ardant du Picq, who stated from his own personal observation (without the pretence of a large database) in "Tirs a la carabine" in his "Etudes sur le combat" that only about 25% of shooters would be even basically competent at pointing their weapon in the general direction of the enemy and discharging it. I doubt that many of Marshall's critics have read Du Picq, but at any rate they do not for some reason seem to say that he is wrong.

I am sure most people who read this group must have heard at least a passing mention of Lionel Wigram, principal mover in the British battle school movement and "The Forgotten Father of Battle Drill". Wigram's first-hand observations of British infantry in action on Sicily concluded that a platoon typically went into action well under strength, something like two dozen men, and the principal actors in combat were half a dozen or fewer "gutful men". Wigram was dead before "Men Against Fire" was published, so his Marshall-like classification of men into fighter-types and non-fighters, and his observation that about a quarter of the platoon fell into the category, seems to me to be strong independent corroboration.

Finally, one might consider the proportion of experimental subjects in Milgram's famous mock-electrocution experiments who continued to ramp up the voltage to the highest level -- again, about 25%. Whether these are the same psychological type as the "fighters" or "gutful men" I don't know, but it seems an odd coincidence at least.

Nor is Marshall's work considered discredited by defence professionals; Dave Rowlands has used the idea of differeent levels of combat motivation in his widely-regarded historical analysis work, Dave Grossman's work carries much more weight than one would believe from the Marhsall-basher's dismissals of him, and the International Symposiumon Military OR has discussed the question of participation rates before now.

Getting back in a somewhat roundabout way to the original topic of the thread, the participation rate of individual riflemen, about which some people seem to get badly wrapped around the axle, is laregly irrelevant to the question of company-level firepower, because riflemen contribute so little of it. Patrick R is right to say that it is the MGs and the mortars that count. Even at the section/squad level, the section automatic contributes more than its fair share of fire, for psychological reasons accurately identified by Marshall.

Martin Rapier is, as usual, quite right when he points out how hard it is to kill enemy in cover with frontal bullet fire. And David Brown is quite right when he says that riflemen are only carrying enough bullets for about five minutes of rooty-toot (although he is howlingly wrong to say that there is no such thing as suppressive fire -- suppression is the main effect of bullet fire, HE is needed to kill people in any numbers, and, as Jim Storr argued in a recent RUSI piece, for shock effect).

Now, whether you like or believe Du Picq and Marshall and Wigram and Grossman and Rowland or not, it is a plain fact that infantry combats typically go on for much longer than it would take soldiers with a 100% participation rate to empty their weapons many times over. Soldiers in combat spend a lot of their time not shooting; and if you look at typical advance rates in the tactical battle, it can't be moving. I can't think what else they would be doing but keeping their heads down.

To take a vague stab at a straight answer to the original question, I would say that the biggest division between individual weapons is between single-shot and burst-firing ones. For a single-shot weapon, expect people to carry 50 to 100 rounds, for a burst-firing one, twice that. Though like all Brits I have a strong emotional attachment to the SMLE, I think that there is no good reason to distinguish between different kinds of bolt-action rifle, nor between different kinds of SMG. SLRs are clearly faster-firing than bolt-action rifles, and I could probably make a good case for anywhere between 25% and 100% faster, so Martin Rapier's 50% seems wholly believable.

Drawing this all together, I will remind people of somethign else we've discussed before, Rowland and Speight's three-stage model of the typical rural infantry attack. Beyond 300 metres or so, there will be casualties from preliminary bombardment and from MG and HE defensive fires (DFs), but small-arms will probably contribute nothing. If they are not stopped by the DFs, at 300m or so, the attacking infantry unmask, and the defenders can start aimed fire at individuals. This will be largely ineffective in both directions, but some casualties will be taken as the attacker advances; the defender will suffer minimally from direct fire in this phase. Assuming that the attackers are not driven off in this phase, then close-quarter battle commences at about 30 metres, and the attackers will begin to inflict real casualties on the defenders. Although Rowland and Speight do notmention it, I suspect that if the battle gets to this point the attackers will usually win. Ardant du Picq pointed out that every army in Europe made the claim "Nobody can resist our steel!" , meaning that once they gotin among the enemy with foxed bayonets, the enemy fled. And every army in Europe was pretty much right to make that claim.

All the best,


Ark3nubis09 Apr 2013 2:00 p.m. PST

That's some post John… I've been enjoying reading them, keep them coming chaps…

Skarper10 Apr 2013 9:08 a.m. PST

It's a subtle point to make that SLAM didn't have the data to make his claims but his claims still may be quite close to the reality.

It seems to make sense that people in combat would not all be pulling their weight. In every walk of human life we can identify shirkers. It just HAS TO be the same in combat.

However I would identify 3 different situations

1] CLOSE COMBAT – man to man, eye to eye and do or die. Everybody is quite likely to at least try to kill their enemy. This kind of combat is quite rare and usually over fast. Many soldiers would never get a clear sight of the [live] enemy within 30m.

2] ADVANCE TO CONTACT COMBAT is the most elective. You can shoot or not – try to hit or not. You can push forward to get it over with or hang back and wait for someone else to take the risks…

3] DEFENSIVE FIRE COMBAT is also quite elective. If you pop up and shoot chances are you will only draw fire and become a casualty – keep your head down and don't attract attention and hope someone else will save your hide by risking theirs.

SLAMs 'study' won't lie down and die because it just seems lke it's right and many other accounts agree in an anecdotal way.

I'd say in close combat abot 90% of people will fire.

In an advance to contact I'd guess only 10-20% are ever going to participate usefully [except as a target.]

In defensive fire I'd say 15-30% will shoot back depending on the cover/threat and how close the enemy is getting.

A lot of those shooting might still not hit anything because they are too scared or are hoping to just scare the enemy away.

Finally – If SLAM were wrong and 50% or more of troops fired to kill the enemy then casualty rates would be far far higher than they actually are.

I lean more and more towards 'soft kills' in my own rules. And I build in something akin to SLAMs ideas even though I know he faked his research – people who 'know thay are right' often do just that.

Andy ONeill10 Apr 2013 11:12 a.m. PST

I don't think the differences between rifles mattered so much.
Seeing as almost nobody could hit the side of a barn beyond very short range then who cares if you can reload twice as fast and miss than the slow bloke who's also missing.

Machine guns are a different story. Proper ones with belts of ammo and loaders.

John D Salt12 Apr 2013 11:22 a.m. PST

Skarper wrote:

However I would identify 3 different situations
[situations snipped]

I find that an interesting idea, as it matches the model I saw I simply cannot remember where for the behaviour of sticklebacks. Menace a stickleback from afar, and it will swim away from you. Once you get within a critical distance, though, it will turn and attack.

Unfortunately, the idea smacks of common sense, and without supporting observations I'd suggest that common sense if often a very poor guide to battlefield behaviour.

The observation that close combat (under 30m) is rare is certainly right, which makes the data collection task no easier. One of the factors Rowland identified in his HA work was the possibility of the defenders being shocked by the rapid approach of the enemy within about 100 metres. I suspect this is the point at which most defenders decide to bug out or jack in, so when the attackers get to 30m it's all over bar the reorg. If this is true, it would also account for Marshall's (though not Engen's) belief in the relative rarity of grenade use. And, now I think of it, grenades might be another factor making it easier to fight close-in, if thowing a bomb at a possibly unseen enemy is less of a psychological challenge than getting a sight picture with a human in it. There seems to be something quite primal about grenade combat, old world apes reverting to their ancestral combat methods of flinging things at their opponents.

All the best,


Ross Mcpharter12 Apr 2013 2:26 p.m. PST

With regards to grenades, you don't have to to have a direct LOS to the enemy and expose yourself to enemy fire, in some ways they're a safer weapon to use than direct sight weapons especially in trenches, fieldworks,and buildings etc.

Skarper12 Apr 2013 10:11 p.m. PST

Totally agree that common sense is and always should be suspect.

But I think all we can really have is common sense, anecdotal evidence and a smattering of data – some of it better than others.

SLAMs ideas persist precisely because they gel with common sense so neatly.

Another point about close combat is that very few of our 'subjects' will survive to be part of any data sample.

John D Salt14 Apr 2013 6:04 a.m. PST

Skarper wrote:

Another point about close combat is that very few of our 'subjects' will survive to be part of any data sample.

…and those that do don't want to talk about it, and those than want to can't remember much because of all the cortico-steroids in their bloodstream washing their memories away. And, as a WW2 veteran once said, "The trouble with being in a war is that nobody tells you what's going on "… in infantry close combat you are only ever going to get a very restricted view of your corner of the fight, so even accurate memories only give you parts of the puzzle. Making sense of the whole thing is really quite hard. Considering the tens of millions of men who participated in infantry close combat in the 20th century, it's alarning how little we really know about it.

All the best,


Thomas Thomas15 Apr 2013 8:21 a.m. PST

I think Marshal fell into the trap of by interviews and discussion having gotten a pretty good picture of what was happening and then massaged the data to prove it.

That his method was suspect does not necessary invalidate his points.


Thomas Thomas15 Apr 2013 8:21 a.m. PST

I think Marshal fell into the trap of by interviews and discussion having gotten a pretty good picture of what was happening and then massaged the data to prove it.

That his method was suspect does not necessary invalidate his points.


Skarper15 Apr 2013 9:58 p.m. PST

Indeed. SLAM may have been a bit of a jerk [Hackworth certainly thought so] but we can't reject his thesis on the basis of flawed evidence. It still might be true.

LTC Wigram had something similar to say about how many of a 20 man platoon could be relied on to fully participate.

QUOTE "Six gutful men who will go anywhere and do anything, 12 `sheep' who will follow a short distance behind if they are well led, 9-6 who will run away."

Steve Wilcox16 Apr 2013 11:51 a.m. PST

Canadian Army Journal article:
Courage Under Fire: Defining And Understanding The Act

PDF link

John D Salt16 Apr 2013 1:04 p.m. PST

Excellent summary article, and interesting to see Kreisler and Teilhard de Chardin mentioned.

All the best,


Umpapa20 Apr 2013 4:02 a.m. PST

Once more thank You for all comments, those were truly enlightning (seriously) and extremely helpful.

After reading and discussion, for now we settled that most important limiting factor was quantity of ammunition.

So we moved national differences of riflemen from rules of infantry to rules of Infantry Ammo Token, which makes it easier to remember.

(Excluding SMGs, MGs, and those lucky NCO armed with Gewehr 43 or SVT40, since they were distributed by one per squad, and all of those are represented in different way, no worry.)

Infantry Ammunition Token is individually based pile of boxes of ammunition and grenades, added to every rifle squad at the beginning of game and during Recovery/Reorganize Action/Phase if near HQ or Supply Source (Ammo Truck or bunker f.ex.). Best Assaulting units (like Pioneers, Paratroopers, Commandos) may start with two such Tokens, if scenario dictate it (f.ex. not in later days of Bastogne).

(There are separate rules for HMG Ammo Tokens used during HMGs suppressive fire)

Normally Infantry Ammo Token is necessary to initiate Assault and after Assault is removed it is essentially used during Assault. In this way we represent usage of grenades, ammunition esp. SMG clips, flamethrower's fuel as well as physical exhaustion during Assault.

Infantry squad without Infantry Ammo Token has lesser ability to defend against enemy Assault so good tactics of dealing with enemy Assault is to withdraw and hurry counterattack, just like in history. (Hopefully before Reorganization we have semirandom activation of units).

Recruits, untrained squads may lost their Ammo Box Token during firefights to represent NCO lost control of fire.

German (and Soviet Assault Company) Infantry Ammunition Token (which represents also Panzerfausts and ATG Grenades dispersed amongst Grenadiers) additionally can be spent to reroll unsuccessful Anti Tank Attack.

Due to this thread we introduced other national differences:

UK and US Ammunition Token now can additionally be used (spend and removed) BEFORE rolling to hit when Shooting (not Assaulting) so to gain one possibly reroll. Nice option during well supplied defence.

Spending US Ammunition Token (whether obligatory during Assault or optionally during Shooting, as above) now always, automatically cause Suppression of target.

Best thing is: we will make those Tokens so to remind us about all those national differences as Germans have pair of Panzerfausts lying on ammo boxes, so US pile of boxes will be visibly more impressive than UK pile of boxes, not mentioning mediocre Soviet Strelkov/Italian/French 40'/Polish 39 single box with a handful of grenades.

I like to visually underline power of good logistics chain, supply line, even on company level. If the chain of Supply Sources (own line of table or supply depot -> trucks -> HQs/jeeps) is safe, then units are more powerful. Supply line represents not only ammo supply, but also water (very important in Africa) and hot soup (very important during winter, esp. in Russia), so we add on token some bottles and canteen.

What do You think?

John D Salt21 Apr 2013 1:19 a.m. PST

If you can stand the "record-keeping" aspect of having these ammunition tokens -- and you seem to have considered how to make them a fun part of the game -- then I think this should be a very positive step indeed. Now we can see why mechanized infantry, or even motorised infantry, scores over foot-sloggers, when there are thousands of rounds of extra ammo being carried on the truck or half-track. The British universal carrier finally has something to do on the tabletop -- it can't even carry a section, so is rubbish as an APC, but can deliver ammo resupply to forward locations under a modicum of armoured protection.

All the best,


Ark3nubis21 Apr 2013 2:08 a.m. PST

It sounds like the token/marker/chits would be easy enough, you would just allocate one per squad or whatever, then when the dice come up flip it over, then When the dice are right again take it away. Sounds really easy actually. And if the scenario is right you could make one side all have the tokens starting on their second side up or none at all. Actually quite a simple mechanic, and could lead to making done really nice looking markers for each army etc, great!

Andy ONeill21 Apr 2013 7:27 a.m. PST

You could alternatively use a roster to hold the ammo status.
For other purposes, I've used foamboard with a roster glued on and pins.
If you had a referee you could even hide the ammo status from players until they come to fire.
Maybe the player can check status if an officer is close to an unsuppressed unit. Or some variation.
In our double blind games down the club the referee has dice in a "rattle box" the player shakes the box but only the ref sees the result rolled. Sometimes this is then obvious to the player. Sometimes not so obvious.

Of course many players don't bother with logistics unless they're playing quite high level games. Are they doing it all wrong?

To play devils advocate for a moment.
The unit quality would presumably influence effectiveness of fire control as well as effectiveness of fire.
If you just had a unit quality factor then that might give a similarly "realistic" effect without book keeping.
Maybe just give the likes of mech infantry a plus on fire factor.
Some badly supplied unit a negative fire factor.

LORDGHEE23 Apr 2013 12:30 p.m. PST


Sir I have just starting reading this thread, so just some quick notes on first posting,

SlA Marshall has been discredited (almost at his publishing date) by the vets, he wrote about.

one you shoot to kill, even in the 1740 it was unstood that killing, wouding your enemy won the firefight,

you only shoot when you see the enemy. Not shooting is better as a fire support call allows you to be not seen or heard by the enemy.

with in minutes mortars are called in and then artillery

From accounts Americans won the firefights unless the Germans got thier Mg 42 up and going then "it was murderous".

Lord Ghee

LORDGHEE23 Apr 2013 12:52 p.m. PST

the real diffrence between the springfield (ie kar stand in) and the enfield and the M1

one of the best discussions of the rifle is here

on Mail call

27 min the bolt action show up and the 28 the springfield show up. wacht and under stand firepower.

YouTube link

What matters is the context.

Lord Ghee

LORDGHEE23 Apr 2013 12:59 p.m. PST

Lee vs spring win by 7 plates

m1 vs Lee win by 7 plates

Wonder what the ak or m16 would have done over M1

Lord Ghee

John D Salt24 Apr 2013 2:27 a.m. PST


Sir I have just starting reading this thread, so just some quick notes on first posting,

It might have been a better idea to read the thread first.

SlA Marshall has been discredited (almost at his publishing date) by the vets, he wrote about.

Nonsense. If you aren't familiar with the literature, read the thread.

one you shoot to kill, even in the 1740 it was unstood that killing, wouding your enemy won the firefight,

It is not absolutely necessary to kill or wound the enemy in order to win the firefight, only to get their heads down. See for example McBreen's splendid short piece from the Marine Corps Gazette, "Suppression is *the* Critical Infantry Task", PDF link

Back in 1740 I doubt that the attitude to aimed fire was quite the same as it now is at Bisley. I believe that it was Suvurov who trained Russian infantry to aim their weapons, before which they had been content merely to level them, and "God will know the guilty ones". I have read entertaining and convincing arguments that the same attitude persists in some societies today.

you only shoot when you see the enemy.

Not if you are properly trained, understand the importance of suppression, and can read the ground. One of Marshall's arguments is that US soldiers did not shoot because they had been trained in the same mistaken belief that you have, only to shoot when you see a clear target. On the modern empty battlefield, you can wait all day for one of those.

Not shooting is better as a fire support call allows you to be not seen or heard by the enemy.

Looks as if you are coming up with more reasons to be one of Marshall's non-firers. As Marshall pointed out in "Men Against Fire" (as you would know if you'd read the book) shooting also serves to let your friends know where you are, and has important psychological effects on group cohesion, especially if you are shooting with the BAR.

From accounts Americans won the firefights unless the Germans got thier Mg 42 up and going then "it was murderous".

Really? Please cite one of these accounts where German infantry miraculously forgot to bring along their MG (usually issued one per section).

All the best,


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