What Kind of Ammunition to Use When Training?

The task at hand is simple: plan the best training possible, and make it effective. To do this, it is important to have some specific attributes:

  1. Challenge the soldiers to make a decision
  2. Make the situation realistic
  3. Provide stress
  4. Be in a position to critique and offer lessons to improve future training

In all of these attributes, the training environment makes for the largest dynamic and provides the most impact on the experience. It is difficult to get good training out of running in and out of a single room in the middle of a busy building. It is much easier to take away the distractions and focus the soldier’s attention in a small MOUT site instead.

Add to this the dynamics of ammunition. There are a multitude of options with ammunition that soldiers can train on. The spectrum goes from no ammunition to live ammunition. In between are blanks and Ultimate Training Munitions (UTM) rounds, which are basically small paint ball projectiles that do not utilize a traditional C02 cartridge. There are a variety of reasons that leaders may have for determining the proper type of munitions for training.

Training AmmoEmploying no ammunition forces soldiers to focus on the basics without the distractions. It allows them to cut out all of the distractors such as sounds and be assessed for their movements, weapon orientation, speed and audacity. On the other hand, it provides no real sign as to whether or not someone has accurately engaged their targets; instead, they simply made the sound of the bullets firing.

Blanks are wonderful because they make a deliberate sound, are generally quite safe in close quarters, and force soldiers to go through magazine changes and remedial actions drills (fixing weapon malfunctions). On the other hand, blanks cause an inordinate amount of weapon malfunctions and people tend to act like Rambo, running in the open because nothing can actually hit them. It is also nearly impossible to tell if someone is shooting at you specifically, therefore people do not seek cover.

UTM rounds are fired just like normal rounds. They can have a variety of colored paint tips and, depending on the version, can travel quite a decent distance. The paint tips impact and, depending on the temperatures outside, can leave a small paint mark or a slight bruise. Although not preferred in extreme cold due to the bruising, these rounds are painful enough to convince people to seek cover, act as if they might get hit, and also do not cause malfunctions nearly as much. The only downside is that they are not very loud when fired, so it may not be as readily heard as real bullets or blanks.

Finally, live ammunition. Generally, this is the least preferred for conducting force on force training as it is obviously possible to actually shoot friendly forces. Live ammunition is best employed during one-sided maneuver ranges where the enemy is a series of popups. Preferably, the popups will respond to bullet impacts and drop down, providing you with a clear sign that indicates the accuracy of the shooter.

Each ammunition type has its purposes; it is the responsibility of the planners to determine the intent of the training, and then to select the proper ammunition to meet it.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Kyle Soler

Kyle Soler is an active duty Infantry Officer serving in the US Army. He has served in the military for more than 10 years, working his way from an Infantry Squad Leader to a Company Commander with multiple combat deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan in between. Kyle earned his bachelor’s degree in History from Willamette University, and three Master degrees from Jones International University in Information Security Management, Health Care Management, and International Business. He also holds certifications in Six Sigma Lean and Six Sigma Lean Black Belt. His primary focus is realigning organizational priorities to get the most out of the time available in terms of training and development. Prior to entering military service, he worked as a fire fighter and an EMT. His areas of knowledge include military, training, leadership, disaster and continuity planning.
Kyle Soler

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