A Challenge of Logistics: Ammo in Guerrilla Groups

Almost as predictable as the rising of the sun is the issues of keeping a guerrilla group supplied. In every historical account I’ve read and personal encounters training and patrolling with the Kurdish Peshmerga and even the Afghan Border Police (which is little more than a government sanctioned militia) the number one issue boils down to logistics. In all cases, its not even having a combat load of ammunition for a patrol- they barely have ammo to even train, much less sustain a firefight for long. Such is life. Today many are finding themselves in a similar situation. Ammo, for the most part, is short and expensive where you can find it. The guns don’t seem to be the problem- 5.56 and 9mm are the new 22 Long from the era of Obama. Taking that into account, how many here in the States actually have a realistic picture of how much equipment it’ll take to remain supplied for any amount of time?

I’ve always had a fascination with Cold War era conflicts- partly because I’ve known many who were involved in them and still look to the ones alive for advice, but also because there’s so many lessons that inherently go overlooked in terms of the realities and challenges a guerrilla force will face. Reality, always, is far different from one’s expectations and a far cry from the fantasies many espouse.

The Cuban Revolution is a great example. Early on, the primary challenge that the various factions faced was not finding motivated people but establishing a standard for arms and ammunition, followed very closely by a coherent training plan to evolve the motivated would-be guerrillas from randomly successful fighters against a far superior military force to a force to be feared using the Escambray mountain range as a natural base of operations.

Such is the interesting story of Frank Sturgis in Cuba. It was Sturgis, a WWII Marine Raider, who was largely responsible for first recognizing these needs then starting his own airlift to supply them with surplus WWII arms and ammunition. The M1 Carbine became a very popular arm for the tight jungle terrain and became the weapon of choice among many. It was light and fast, had decent stopping power within the relatively close distances jungle fighting entails (an opinion shared by Philippine Guerrillas a decade earlier) Sturgis used his lessons learned fighting in the Pacific in WWII to make the guerrilla band a force to be reckoned with, later being instrumental in the training of Assault Brigade 2506 that landed at the Bay of Pigs and then continuing to train the survivors until just before he died in the 1990s. And somewhere in that timeline he found himself breaking into Watergate. But the larger point to be made is that without outside support, the Cuban Revolution would have been crushed- a reality that forced them to work with outside sources that were often cagey at best.

Taking that lesson into account, there’s a few lessons that bear noting, and have repeated themselves over time. The first is having a standard weapon that is both easily supplied, repaired, and simple to teach others to use. Many times, several of us have probably heard the questions “why do you have more than one of those? You can only shoot one…” and while that last bit might be true, it neglects the reality of the need to arm others. We don’t exist in free space, and the notion of ‘I’m just going to bug out to my retreat and they’ll leave me alone!’ is a pipe dream. Further, the ability to arm others infers control and inherent authority. I armed you, you work for me. If there is no authority, there is no cohesion.

You need one standard of ammunition and magazines. Having a multitude of random specialty calibers or proprietary magazines for those weapons means that you’ve added a layer of complications to your logistics plan that will at best cause that weapon to be an expensive club later on down the road. Further, a guerrilla’s personal choice of weapon is more often dictated by what ammo he can source rather than what he would like. Last, and this is one that my personal experience mirrors, is that the so-called ‘battlefield pickup’ is not a reliable plan to resupply your group. That doesn’t mean it won’t be viable in some instances, but the reality of combat is that in fluid and volatile conditions, you don’t always have time to pick up weapons and supplies off your adversaries alone. Despite the popular internet tropes in survival circles, there won’t just be guns laying around everywhere. I’ve operated in two different warzones, and aside from a few inert shells here and there, I didn’t see any weapons laying around and not in the hands of people ready to use them.

Finding yourself as the potential leader of a guerrilla band, one of your principle challenges then becomes keeping a healthy stockpile of munitions to both accomplish your needs in combat while recognizing your training goals. It would be remiss to point out that ammo is currently experiencing a major shortage in the US from the very real looming threat of domestic instability. The two most common calibers in the US, 9mm and 5.56, are nearly non-existent and expensive where found. On the other hand, 7.62×39 can still be found with minimal price gouging. And while AK prices are higher than in years past, the weapon is still not extremely expensive to get into. The learning curve on the AK, at least from my own perspective, is far shorter to build a competent shooter, especially within its intended range and role.

Whatever the future holds, the reality is that no matter how much ammunition you have today, you really don’t have enough for a potential future. The world is changing rapidly and with it, the United States. Look at where we are today compared to just six months ago…let alone four years…and gasp- two decades. Let it be a sober reminder of the urgency of the times.

15 thoughts on “A Challenge of Logistics: Ammo in Guerrilla Groups

  1. Pingback: Brushbeater: A Challenge of Logistics – Ammo in Guerrilla Groups – Lower Valley Assembly

      1. Daniel K Day

        Your point is well taken. I need to be more explicit. What of people who have hardly ever, or never, fired a gun, and need to learn the basics of handling guns safely and marksmanship? Just my opinion, but I think it would be a waste of live ammunition, even of .22LR, for those starting out from that stage. Considering the current stocks of available live ammunition and primers for reloading, and powder availability just barely better, those who do not have five figures of ammo tucked away might be well advised to consider air guns as an alternative for training.

      2. I disagree. That may be fine for small children, all it does among those of physical maturity is create training scars.

        You can’t learn to get over recoil flinching without recoil.

      3. goat

        So, did all those country boys that grew up shooting everything from a bb gun to a bolt action and shotgun, have training scars when they were called up or were they some of the best troops the service had? Alvin York comes to mind. Yes the luxury of training with live ammo would be nice, but even though I’m stocked fairly high, as well pretty set when it comes to reloading also, the last thing I want to do is squander any of it. As far as training scars, that would also apply just as much going from one weapon system to another, and we certainly have no guarantee that our preferred platform we trained extensively (or even fleetingly) on is going to even be able to be fed and we would will have to switch to something else. Training on a pellet rifle or some other type of platform that doesn’t use gunpowder certainly weeds out those who can and those who dangerously can’t without the risk of the hurting / killing somebody that might actually be of some use in a fight. It certainly is also a bit late to even start training, and those who do so are going to be way behind the curve, and as such the “better” weapons should likely be more assigned to those who have better aptitude and training to use them, and things like the bolt actions (not talking highly tuned rifles here) or what have you in the inventory, assigned to those with lesser aptitude as support roles. Hell, even the pellet gun may be forced into use. We (the son in law mainly) regularly uses a piston rifle to dispatch smaller critters (racoons, and such making a mess of the chickens), and I have seen people even kill hogs with them, not that that would be my first choice to kill anything.
        Now recall that your article said that there may not be ammo for training even, but also there may not be ammo even for duty. So training with something other than a gunpowder platform or not training at all?

      4. That is literally not what’s being said or argued. What is being said is that defaulting to training with a BB gun creates training scars and should be avoided. And yes, they do quite often have some serious habits to break.

        Further, I’m quite certain Alvin York has a substantial amount of time behind an 03 before heading to Europe.

        I get it- you’re hand wringing. I train people for a living and have done it for real.

      5. goat

        Nope, not hand wringing. Just being a realist. Once again, your own article accepts the fact that there may not even be ammo to train with. Should you just not train then when other tools are at hand? Should people less prepared (and like I said, I’m fairly well stacked up and I’d rather conserve it at the very least for the more promising folk) expend what ammo they have to train up people, not train at all, or use other tools that are available or not so costly in resources? Answer the questions, you avoided it the first time. Because bottom line those are the 3 choices.

      6. Your “question” was neither avoided nor not answered, you’re just here being a boomer attempting to troll. Not your first time doing it, either.

        I literally said have a training ammo budget factored into your ammo supply.

      7. And just so you know, I train quite a few people who are new to the party, and damn proud of it- they’re way more dangerous now than before since they quit bullshitting online.

      8. Further, you saw this coming and SHOULD have had a deep stack of ammo. I wrote this piece well over a year ago on American Partisan. No one can say they were not warned.

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