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"Squad firepower comparison" Topic

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Comments or corrections?

uglyfatbloke08 Mar 2020 10:38 a.m. PST

I seem to recall there was a long TMP thread/discussion ages ago comparing the abilities of infantry squads (sections) in later. Can anyone point me in the right direction?

Personal logo Herkybird Supporting Member of TMP08 Mar 2020 12:11 p.m. PST

Found this on another forum link

This was on TMP TMP link

Hope this is helpful?

uglyfatbloke08 Mar 2020 12:44 p.m. PST

Looks like just the sort of thing I'm looking for Herkybird. Many thanks – and not for the first time if memory serves!

Personal logo Herkybird Supporting Member of TMP09 Mar 2020 10:49 a.m. PST

Always glad to help where I can!

uglyfatbloke09 Mar 2020 11:13 a.m. PST

Actually it helped a great deal, so I am obliged to you.

donlowry10 Mar 2020 4:42 p.m. PST

I'm surprised that I missed the previous TMP thread Herkeybird linked above. I don't have time now to read it all, nor much of the other thread.

In my own home-baked rules, I started with the number of rounds a weapon could fire without being reloaded. So a German Kar98 is worth 5, a US Garand 8. It's hard to know how to rate the British rifles, as they initially held 10 rounds but had to be loaded in increments of 5 (if I understand correctly), and while I believe it was superior to the German Kar, I cant bring myself to rate it better than a Garand.

By my metric, a BAR would rate 20 and a Bren 30. A belt-fed MG-42 or MG-34 would be hard to rate, but I believe the Germans often used a kind-of magazine with an internal belt holding 50 rounds, so I rate them both at 50.

So, take a 12-man section (squad), which I believe was standard for both Germans and US, and not counting the NCO's SMG/MP (too short-ranged and the NCOs being busy commanding anyway), we have the following:

1 NCO (MP) – 0
2-man MG team – 50
9 riflemen – 5x9=45
TOTAL – 95

1 NCO (SMG) – 0
1 BAR – 20
10 riflemen – 8x10=80
TOTAL – 100

So pretty darned even.

Of course, there are numerous assumptions here, such as assuming that everyone is firing their weapon (more critical for the Americans, assuming that at least the MG is firing on the German side). It also ignores that the GI with a Garand can probably fire off his 8 rounds faster than the German can fire his 5 rounds.

As for the British, assuming an 8-man squad:
1 NCO (SMG) – 0
2-man Bren team – 30
5 riflemen – 5x5=25
TOTAL – 55

1 NCO (SMG) – 0
2-man Bren team – 30
5 riflemen -5x10=50
TOTAL – 80

For close-range firefights you can throw in the SMGs/MPs, but they will cancel each other out at about 30 rounds each.

Mobius10 Mar 2020 5:11 p.m. PST

Why are SMGs rated as 0?

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP11 Mar 2020 1:31 a.m. PST

I am always a bit bemused at the idea of totting up the fire output of a squad. If you ask yourself how many bullets flying overhead does it take to make a squad hit the dirt instanter, the answer is surely "one".

There would be little difference between the suppressive effect of a squad armed with one Nambu, versus one with a Bren, or a Chauchat, or that Italian effort. They're all box-fed with slow rates of fire. A belt-fed weapon would be better because continuous-fire capability. So while an experienced squad might be prepared to risk moving around when a Bren or something was around, I'd think they would be a lot less inclined to do so with an MG34 nearby. I'm not sure an MG42 would be appreciably better than an MG34. Two of either per squad would be the ideal, I guess; one firing, one reloading.

In donlowry's example above, I would ignore every weapon except the LMG. I'd rate the Bren maybe marginally above the BAR because bigger box magazine, but the MG34/42 way above either.

Skarper11 Mar 2020 2:12 a.m. PST

This is a very thorny issue.

In my own rules I decided on a firepower rating based on the rate of fire of each weapon.

Bolt actions rifles are rated 0.33FP
Gerands are rated as 0.66FP
SMGs and magazine fed auto-rifles like the BAR, FG-42 1FP.

Bren guns and similar get 2FP

lMG34 3FP
lMG42 4FP

Vickers MMG and similar 6FP

M1919A3 4FP
M1917 6FP

sMG34 6FP
sMG42 8FP

I should also point out that more FP is not more effective in a linear manner. There is a law of diminishing returns. I also have a maximum FP from small arms/MGs that is set at 16FP.

I also factor in the morale, experience, training etc in another step – but I think you have to be objective about assigning FP by defining what 1 FP is and being consistent.

Ergo – while this discussion is difficult it is also necessary.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP11 Mar 2020 3:10 a.m. PST

From all of my reading it seems that most people felt the LMGs in the German squads gave them significantly greater firepower than an American squad.

One reason was that you only get the benefit of the semi-automatic Garands, if everyone is actually shooting. Studies indicated that quite a lot of the riflemen were not shooting. A squad leader could not check to make sure all his riflemen were firing, but he'd certainly notice if the LMG was not.

Another measure of the relative firepowers was that a German company, with half the total number of men of an American company, had a standard ammunition load twice the size of the Americans. They were clearly firing a lot more bullets.

uglyfatbloke11 Mar 2020 3:14 a.m. PST

It certainly is difficult and necessary. We are looking to end up with a rule set where the squad/section is the basic element as a team, so no messing about with different ranges for weapons within the squad; it's overall effect that counts and that has to include training, morale, commitment, etc…and of course whether the platoon commander is breathing down the back of your neck. Weapon comparison is a thorny area at the best of times. As you say, increasing high ROF does n't guarantee increasing lethality, though it may make for a more scary noise and that's not unimportant. Then there's application – I've listened to/read veterans who felt that an SMG could/would be more effective at very close ranges and in a close attack – especially the case for belt-fed weapons.

Skarper11 Mar 2020 3:35 a.m. PST

There are at least 3 factors to consider.

1 – how likely are the troops using the weapons to use them to their full effect?

2 – how effective are the weapons – 'objectively'?

3 – how vulnerable are target troops to the attack?

You might have well armed troops who won't shoot [though I gather SLA Marshall cheated his conclusions resonated with those who were in the best position to know].

You might have highly effective troops with relatively ineffective weaponry.

You might have troops who seem 'brave' and shrug off attacks that would pin down others. And vice-versa. There was allegedly a tendency for veteran British units to be easier to pin down than trained but green troops.

In my rules I resolve fire attacks in 3 steps.

1 – the unit you want to shoot has to pass a test to do so. In this test variables such as morale, experience, leadership, proximity to the enemy, target concealment are taken into account.

2 – I resolve the FP modified mainly by the cover the target is in.

3 – The target rolls to determine the effect of the attack on them.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP11 Mar 2020 4:27 a.m. PST

There is also quite a lot of evidence that rifle fire was contructively ineffective. Mortars, artillery and MGs did the damage, in (I think) that order.

Here is a quote from a German soldier in Brains & Bullets: How psychology wins wars (Leo Murray) about the relative usefulness of "Shouty", the squad's MG42:

One of them can do more pinning and more killing than all the company's rifles and machine pistols combined. The panzerfaust and such can come in handy but for much of the fighting they get in the way. Whether we have to move or stay put, the machine guns are our backbone and they give extra backbone to the men that work them. We work and fight around them but they and the mortars do all but the smallest fraction of the killing.

Murray observes that their MG42 "could lay down ten times more fire than all the riflemen in Bohr's squad put together." He goes on to observe that

When a sister battalion or allied army has a coveted, new or sexy weapon but you have something inferior, it gives an excuse for not fighting quite as hard…The most telling aspect of relativity lies in mixing weapon quality within a platoon or section. Giving some men better weapons probably makes those men fight more but it also makes their less well-armed comrades fight less.


'…fire from an MG42 ‘would rip the air with the most terrible screech. Even those outside the beaten zone would go to ground whenever they heard it. We estimated one MG42 to be worth nine Brens or three Vickers.' Allied companies were usually stuck with the 500 rounds per minute of their BARs and Brens that were fed through magazines holding twenty or thirty rounds. Compared to the short, steady burp of these Allied weapons, the ripping sound of Hitler's buzz-saw was distinctive and intimidating…Even approaching the direct fire zone, the sound of an MG42 firing at someone else could force men to the ground…Most machine guns have an effect approaching that of the MG42, but the biggest and noisiest ones have the greatest weapon-push…Unless bullets are passing very close to them, many Afghan insurgents ‘ignore 5.56, are wary of 7.62 but pack up and leave once a point five joins the fight'. Pure suppression is playing its part in this, but the distant sound or rumour of a status weapon like a .50-calibre machine gun can push men away from fighting on its own.

I don't recall a ruleset that looks past rate of fire to make a 0.50" the equal of an MG42 in suppressive effect but there would seem to be good grounds to do so.

Skarper11 Mar 2020 5:15 a.m. PST

Mine does rate a .50 cal identically to a sMG42 – except the ammo is heavier so the .50 is less mobile and sustained fire less practical.

ASL has .50 cals as 8-16 and sMG42 as 7-16 [Fire Power-Range].

donlowry11 Mar 2020 8:00 a.m. PST

Why are SMGs rated as 0?

As I said:

and not counting the NCO's SMG/MP (too short-ranged and the NCOs being busy commanding anyway)


For close-range firefights you can throw in the SMGs/MPs, but they will cancel each other out at about 30 rounds each.

My ratings are for the weapons only. You would have to add (multiply?) modifiers for morale, training, etc. Which might well be more important than the weapons. You would also have to modify according to range.

And yes, HMGs, MMGs, mortars, etc. would play even bigger roles. Arbitrarily I would rate MMGs at around 100, I guess. HMG (i.e. water-cooled) even higher.

Wolfhag11 Mar 2020 9:09 a.m. PST

I've been using the US WWII Umpires Manual:
PDF link

PDF link


Blutarski11 Mar 2020 1:23 p.m. PST

The following is taken from "Automatic Arms – Their History, Development and Use", by Melvin Johnson and Charles Haven. My book is copyrighted 1941/194, but I don't believe that it was necessarily up to date with latest WW2 practice (no mention of German GPMGs with a very high rate of effective fire made possible by use of quick-change barrels, for example). Nevertheless, the following might be of use -

Chapter XIV – Automatics in the Squad.

Rates of Effective Fire
Heavy MG, belt/strip-fed – 150-300 rpm
Medium MG, belt/strip/drum-fed – 100-250 rpm
LMG, magazine-fed – 100-200 rpm (60 rpm semi-auto)
Machine Rifle, magazine-fed – 100-150 rpm (60 rpm semi-auto)
Semi-auto Rifle, clip-fed – 15-25 rpm
Bolt action rifle, clip-fed – 5-10 rpm
SMG, magazine/drum-fed – 100-200 rpm (50-60 rpm semi-auto)
Auto pistol, magazine-fed – 20 rpm
Revolver, cylinder loaded – 12 rpm

Automatic weapon rates of fire might be a ticklish issue, given that no mention is made of quick-change barrels.
> Is it air-cooled or water-cooled?
> If air-cooled, does the weapon have a quick-change barrel?

My thinking is that these rpm values should probably be treated as relative figures of merit when calculating squad effective firepower.



BTW – a big +1 to the people who raised the 50cal topic! True words, IMO.

Warspite111 Mar 2020 2:00 p.m. PST

While I do not use U.S. troops in Bolt Action, if I did I would be inclined to allow troops armed with the Garand one extra die per five or six men at CLOSE range only, this is to allow for the weapon's higher rate-of-fire.

It is worth mentioning that late-war some British sections had two Brens per section instead of one. This was not official but carried out at local level. I have also heard of two British sections combining their two Brens into one 'base of fire' group or section and having the rifles grouped in the other.

Also worth mentioning is that while the German MGs had a higher rate-of-fire it was at the expense of immense amounts of ammunition. Next time you see a late-war German section on the move, note how many of them are carrying belts or boxes of MG42 ammo.


Andy ONeill11 Mar 2020 2:21 p.m. PST

Rpm is a weapon pull/push factor as is the sheer destructive power of 20mm auto cannon or 50 cal.
Morale factors outweigh casualty causation by roughly 10:1.

The vast majority of riflemen have negligible contribution.

Skarper11 Mar 2020 2:30 p.m. PST

True about ammo consumption. If an lMG34/42 is to be used at full effect then it's going to need a lot of ammo on hand. This is going to slow down the squad on the attack and even then it's going to run low.

In my rules I model this, but most players hate ammunition supply rules so either ignore it or add a fudge to somehow reduce the power of the German weapons.

I think Garands were significantly more effective than the MLE or Mausers at any normal combat range – say 400m or less.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP11 Mar 2020 4:06 p.m. PST

In the book from which I quoted passages above, the MG42 has a crew of at least five. This would presumably be something like one carrying the gun, another carrying the tripod and spare barrels and the other three toting ammunition, I would think.

uglyfatbloke11 Mar 2020 4:19 p.m. PST

A big part of effectiveness is -naturally enough – visibility. It's remarkable how little you can see when you're lying down and how easily the other guy disappears when he lies down…..and anybody more than 100 yards away (at most) would be pretty safe from me shooting. No clear reason fr it….great eyesight, strong hands (not so much these days), plenty of training/practice and not in the slightest bit weapon shy….I just can't shoot to save myself and I expect plenty of other people are much the same.

Skarper12 Mar 2020 12:14 a.m. PST

sMG34/42 crew is at least 5. 7 sometimes.

lMG34/42 has crew of 2-3 BUT the rest of Gruppe would be ammo carriers. If there were 2 lMG34/42 then it gets even worse.

It worked well on the defence but I suspect it would have been a hindrance on the attack.

US Paratroop infantry squads all included an M1919A4 MG but many discarded it to have more riflemen in the hedgerow fighting. Later they adapted to M1919A6 [on the bipod] supplemented by BARs.

Concerning visibility – yes. Weapons were sighted to 1000m but you can't see an individual target beyond 100-200m unless they are not trying to hide. Just lying prone in open ground at 100m makes you virtually invisible to another man lying prone or dug in. [as Uglyfatbloke says]

You can still fire at what you can't see and thereby cause suppression. But it is a factor often ignored in our games.

uglyfatbloke12 Mar 2020 2:08 a.m. PST

I should have started this by asking about comparative combat effectiveness rather that ability. Wargamers and military buffs more generally maybe focus too much on range and RoF rather than what actually happens. You would not believe some of the conversations I have had with my erstwhile academic colleagues. They've all written about conflict, but have never read a war theory textbook or a training manual.
Should I start another thread entitled 'comparingcombat effectiveness'?

Skarper12 Mar 2020 2:33 a.m. PST

FP/ROF and Range are on one axis and the human element is on another axis. They are independent variables though having or lacking confidence in your weapons will impact human factors.

uglyfatbloke12 Mar 2020 2:47 a.m. PST

Exactly so. Our rules generally favour morale/training/situation over technology.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP12 Mar 2020 3:24 a.m. PST

I'd recommend the Leo Murray book to those interested in this. The gist of it is that most troops are ineffective most of the time. That's a very gross truncation of what he says, but essentially, most soldiers in action do nothing of value most of the time. This is either because they don't want to fight, or they don't see anyone to fight, or their weapon is not useful (eg it's a rifle).

The presence nearby of the enemy's status weapon heightens this effect, and the absence from your squad of your own side's status weapon also heightens it. Most squads in their right mind are suppressed by a small amount of incoming or even nearby fire, and only a tiny handful of men are exceptions. These do all the fighting and so the challenge is to identify this type and have as many as possible in your unit, so that it is the enemy's troops who sensibly run away rather than yours.

It doesn't explain why human wave attacks were feasible in WW1 that I recall, but probably that's my memory and I need to re-read.

@ Skarper

Yes. The crew of the MG42 cited called themselves "The Three Musketeers" even though there were at least five of them. Given the gun's rate of fire, seven would not have been too many.

uglyfatbloke12 Mar 2020 4:12 a.m. PST

Just ordered the Murray book…..this may of course lead to a radical reconstruction of our rules!

donlowry12 Mar 2020 7:48 a.m. PST

> Is it air-cooled or water-cooled?

Pretty sure that is the difference between light MG and HMG in U.S. parlance at the time. "Light" meant air-cooled, "Heavy" meant water-cooled. The term "Medium MG" was not used. It had nothing to do with caliber. And both lights and heavies were tripod-mounted (usually) for ground use. In other words, it had to do with the weight of weapon, not the weight of the round.

By the way:
I used the number of rounds a weapon could fire without being reloaded on the theory that once you stop to reload you may well stop firing (if the other side is still firing). At the very least, it causes a pause or break in your firing.

It was (I hear) the amount of lead you could throw in the first encounter that determined which side got the upper hand (suppressed the other side), aside from things like surprise, comparative morale, leadership, etc.

Mark 112 Mar 2020 12:31 p.m. PST

Pretty sure that is the difference between light MG and HMG in U.S. parlance at the time. "Light" meant air-cooled, "Heavy" meant water-cooled.

I'm pretty sure that "light" meant light, as in it didn't weigh a lot, and "heavy" meant heavy, as in it weighed a lot.

The .30cal M1917 was an HMG. It is true that it was water cooled. But it was an HMG not because it used water, but because water (and as a result the gun) were heavy. The .50cal M2 was also an HMG. It did not have any water. What they had in common was that they were both heavy, as in they weighed a lot.

If you look at the pre-war TOEs you will find that units which were assigned HMGs were also typically (not always, but you know how these things work in armies) also assigned some form of conveyances for those HMGs. Could have been pack animals, could have been hand carts, could have been trucks.

Units assigned LMGs were generally expected to march with the guns. They were man-portable. Not because of air or water or caliber or tactical use doctrines, but because they were light, as in they were not too heavy for a man to carry.

(aka: Mk 1)

Skarper12 Mar 2020 1:40 p.m. PST

The Vickers MG was a 'medium' MG because the calibre was less than the .50 cal [used as an AA and on tanks in the pre-war/early war years.

A fossilized error in ASL [Advanced Squad Leader] is having light medium and heavy MGs for all armies in the game [the US don't have light MGs and get their M1919A4s called Mediums].

ASL is riddled with errors many going back to basic SL. Yet it has a large following.

uglyfatbloke12 Mar 2020 3:04 p.m. PST

Ammo consumption….we've experimented with having ammo bearers for MMGs. If they get popped that reduces the effectiveness of the fire – also MMGs inflict more pinning than rifle squads/sections and ignore range modifiers. We've found it works reasonably well, but in a general way the number of figures in the section (for our game) is more an indication of effectiveness than actual numbers. The section may only have 4 figures left, but the rest of the guys may still be there, just not actually doing anything constructive.

Blutarski12 Mar 2020 4:14 p.m. PST

Believe it or not, there were still some MG-08/15 water-cooled "LMGs" in use by German home guard and militia units. The exception that proves the rule, I suppose.

In that vein, sustained automatic weapon firepower is absolutely reliant upon the weapon's resistance to over-heating. Hence the importance of water-cooling for SFMGs and quick-change barrels for LMGs and GPMGs.

Worth keeping in mind, IMHO.


donlowry13 Mar 2020 4:40 p.m. PST

Mark, as I said:

In other words, it had to do with the weight of weapon, not the weight of the round.

But water is considerably heavier than air :)

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