Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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US Looks to Lighten Warload of its Soldiers Starting with Ammo Cans


(Photo : USMC) U.S. military ammunition can.

The U.S. Marines are looking to cut the weight of the bullets they fire and the weight of the metal ammunition cans that store these bullets as part of a program to lighten the combat load of the average grunt. They're also exploring ways to improve the lethality of the five different calibers of ammunition they normally use.

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A key warfighting concept among Marines is to travel light and hit heavy. What that means on the battlefield is reducing the weight of the weapons a Marine lugs around while not sacrificing lethality.

A mundane step in this direction is replacing the iconic metal ammunition can that's been in use for more than a century. These rectangular cans have been with the Marines since World War I and weigh anywhere from three and seven pounds empty.

More intriguingly, the weight of these sturdy metal cans when loaded with ammunition can amount to a quarter of the weight Marines are carrying, said Scott Rideout, program manager for ammunition at Marine Corps Systems Command.

"If we can get that weight out of the system, that's more ammunition that can be resupplied to Marines to allow them to do their jobs," he said.

"So we need lighter-weight packaging. Ammo is what ammo is, but there are a couple areas out there where we can reduce weight to enable Marines to do their jobs better, especially against a near-peer type competitor or distributed ops."

An ammo can, also called "The Can," can weigh over 30 lbs. depending on the ammo inside. The USMC ammunition boxes (technically M2A1 50 Cal Ammo Can) can weigh this much.

The weight of the 7.62 mm rounds fired by Marine machine guns such as the M-240G comes to 17 lbs. for 320 rounds, and that's not counting the 30 Cal ammo can that weighs four pounds. That weight increases to 35 lbs. for 640 rounds in a 50 Cal ammo can.

Currently, Marine ammunition managers said they're looking for ideas to improve five different calibers of ammo and their ammo cans: 9 mm, 5.56 mm, 7.62 mm, .50 caliber and .300 Winchester Magnum

At the Marines' first Equipping the Infantry Challenge last Sept. 27, program managers said they're looking for a lighter, more practical alternative to the metal ammunition can.

Rideout noted that ammo used today "comes in the same metal can that it's come in for 100 years."

"That metal can is one of those things that when the ammunition is brought to Marines, they take the ammunition out, distribute it however they're going to distribute it, then throw (the can) away. The ammo can itself provides no value added to the Marine, except to help get the ammunition there."

 "Ounces equal pounds, and pounds equal pain," said Rideout.

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