Ammunition (informally ammo) is the material fired, scattered, dropped or detonated from any weapon. Ammunition is both expendable weapons (e.g., bombs, missiles, grenades, land mines) and the component parts of other weapons that create the effect on a target (e.g., bullets and warheads). Nearly all mechanical weapons require some form of ammunition to operate.
The term ammunition can be traced back to the mid-17th century. The word comes from the French la munition, for the material used for war. Ammunition and munitions are often used interchangeably, although munition now usually refers to the actual weapons system with the ammunition required to operate it. In some languages other than English ammunition is still referred to as munition, such as French ("munitions"), German ("Munition") or Italian ("munizione").
The purpose of ammunition is to project a force against a selected target to have an effect (usually, but not always, lethal). The most iconic example of ammunition is the firearm cartridge, which includes all components required to deliver the weapon effect in a single package.
Ammunition comes in a great range of sizes and types and is often designed to work only in specific weapons systems. However, there are internationally recognized standards for certain ammunition types (e.g., 5.56×45mm NATO) that enable their use across different weapons and by different users. There are also specific types of ammunition that are designed to have a specialized effect on a target, such as armor-piercing shells and tracer ammunition, used only in certain circumstances. Ammunition is commonly colored in a specific manner to assist in the identification and to prevent the wrong ammunition types from being used accidentally.
Ammunition design has evolved throughout history as different weapons have been developed and different effects required. Historically, ammunition was of relatively simple design and build (e.g., sling-shot, stones hurled by catapults), but as weapon designs developed (e.g., rifling) and became more refined, the requirement for more specialized ammunition increased. Modern ammunition can vary significantly in quality but is usually manufactured to very high standards.
For example, ammunition for hunting can be designed to expand inside the target, maximizing the damage inflicted by a single round. Anti-personnel shells are designed to fragment into many pieces and can affect a large area. Armor-piercing rounds are specially hardened to penetrate armor, while smoke ammunition covers an area with a fog that screens people from view. More generic ammunition (e.g., 5.56×45mm NATO) can often be altered slightly to give it a more specific effect (e.g., tracer, incendiary), whilst larger explosive rounds can be altered by using different fuzes.
The components of ammunition intended for rifles and munitions may be divided into these categories:
The term "fuze" refers to the detonator of an explosive round or shell. The spelling is different in British English and American English (fuse/fuze respectively) and they are unrelated from a fuse (electrical). A fuse was earlier used to ignite the propellant (e.g., such as on a firework) until the advent of more reliable systems such as the primer or igniter that is used in most modern ammunitions.
The fuze of a weapon can be used to alter how the ammunition works. For example, a common artillery shell fuze can be set to 'point detonation' (detonation when it hits the target), delay (detonate after it has hit and penetrated the target), time-delay (explode a specified time after firing or impact) and proximity (explode above or next to a target without hitting it, such as for airburst effects or anti-aircraft shells). These allow a single ammunition type to be altered to suit the situation it is required for. There are many designs of a fuze, ranging from simple mechanical to complex radar and barometric systems.
Fuzes are usually armed by the acceleration force of firing the projectile, and usually arm several meters after clearing the bore of the weapon. This helps to ensure the ammunition is safer to handle when loading into the weapon and reduces the chance of the detonator firing before the ammunition has cleared the weapon.
The propellant is the component of ammunition that is activated inside the weapon and provides the kinetic energy required to move the projectile from the weapon to the target. Before the use of gunpowder, this energy would have been produced mechanically by the weapons system (e.g., a catapult or crossbow); in modern times, it is usually a form of chemical energy that rapidly burns to create kinetic force, and an appropriate amount of chemical propellant is packaged with each round of ammunition. In recent years, compressed gas, magnetic energy and electrical energy have been used as propellants.
Until the 20th-century, gunpowder was the most common propellant in ammunition. However, it has since been replaced by a wide range of fast-burning compounds that are more reliable and efficient.
The propellant charge is distinct from the projectile charge which is activated by the fuze, which causes the ammunition effect (e.g., the exploding of an artillery round).
The cartridge is the container that holds the projectile and propellant. Not all ammunition types have a cartridge case. In its place, a wide range of materials can be used to contain the explosives and parts. With some large weapons, the ammunition components are stored separately until loaded into the weapon system for firing. With small arms, caseless ammunition can reduce the weight and cost of ammunition, and simplify the firing process for increased firing rate, but the maturing technology has functionality issues.
The projectile is the part of the ammunition that leaves the weapon and has the effect on the target. This effect is usually either kinetic (e.g., as with a standard bullet) or through the delivery of explosives.
An ammunition dump is a military facility for the storage of live ammunition and explosives that will be distributed and used at a later date. Such a storage facility is extremely hazardous, with the potential for accidents when unloading, packing, and transferring the ammunition. In the event of a fire or explosion, the site and its surrounding area is immediately evacuated and the stored ammunition is left to detonate itself completely with limited attempts at firefighting from a safe distance. In large facilities, there may be a flooding system to automatically extinguish a fire or prevent an explosion. Typically, an ammunition dump will have a large buffer zone surrounding it, to avoid casualties in the event of an accident. There will also be perimeter security measures in place to prevent access by unauthorized personnel and to guard against the potential threat from enemy forces.
A magazine is a place where a quantity of ammunition or other explosive material is stored temporarily prior to being used. The term may be used for a facility where large quantities of ammunition are stored, although this would normally be referred to as an ammunition dump. Magazines are typically located in the field for quick access when engaging the enemy. The ammunition storage area on a warship is referred to as the "ship's magazine". On a smaller scale, magazine is also the name given to the ammunition storage and feeding device of a repeating firearm.
Gunpowder must be stored in a dry place (stable room temperature) to keep it usable, as long as for 10 years. It is also recommended to avoid hot places, because friction or heat might ignite a spark and cause an explosion.
The standard weapon of a modern soldier is an assault rifle, which, like other small arms, uses cartridge ammunition in a size specific to the weapon. Ammunition is carried on the person in box magazines specific to the weapon, ammo boxes, pouches or bandoliers. The amount of ammo carried is dependent on the strength of the soldier, the expected action required, and the ability of ammunition to move forward through the logistical chain to replenish the supply. A soldier may also carry a smaller amount of specialized ammunition for heavier weapons such as machine guns and mortars, spreading the burden for squad weapons over many people. Too little ammunition poses a threat to the mission, while too much limits the soldier's mobility.
Artillery shells are ammunition that is designed to be fired from artillery which has an effect over long distances, usually indirectly (i.e., out of sight of the target). There are many different types of artillery ammunition, but they are usually high-explosive and designed to shatter into fragments on impact to maximize damage. The fuze used on an artillery shell can alter how it explodes or behaves so it has a more specialized effect. Common types of artillery ammunition include high explosive, smoke, illumination, and practice rounds. Some artillery rounds are designed as cluster munitions. Artillery ammunition will almost always include a projectile (the only exception being demonstration/blank rounds), fuze and propellant of some form. When a cartridge case is not used, there will be some other method of containing the propellant explosion, usually a breech-loading weapon.
Tank ammunition was developed in WWI as tanks first appeared on the battlefield. However, as tank-on-tank warfare developed (including the development of anti-tank artillery), more specialized forms of ammunition were developed such as high-explosive anti-tank warheads and armor-piercing discarding sabot rounds. The development of shaped charges has had a significant impact on anti-tank ammunition design, now common on both tank-fire ammunition and in anti-tank missiles.
Naval weapons were originally the same as many land-based weapons, but the ammunition was designed for specific use, such as a solid shot designed to hole the enemy ship and chain-shot to cut the rigging and sails. Modern naval engagements have taken place over much larger distances than historic battles, so as ship armor has increased in strength and thickness, the ammunition to defeat it has also changed. Naval ammunition is now designed to reach very high velocities (to improve its armor-piercing capabilities) and may have specialized fuzes for defeating specific types of vessels. However, due to the extended ranges at which modern naval combat may take place, guided missiles have largely supplanted guns and shells.
With every successive improvement in military arms, there has been a corresponding modification in the method of supplying ammunition in the quantity required. As soon as projectiles were required (such as javelins and arrows), there needed to be a method of replenishment. When non-specialized, interchangeable or recoverable ammunition was used (e.g., arrows), it was possible to pick up spent arrows (both friendly and enemy) and reuse them. However, with the advent of explosive or non-recoverable ammunition, this was no longer possible and new supplies of ammunition would be needed.
The weight of ammunition required, particularly for artillery shells, can be considerable, causing a need for extra time to replenish supplies. In modern times, there has been an increase in the standardization of many ammunition types between allies (e.g., the NATO Standardization Agreement) that has allowed for shared ammunition types (e.g., 5.56×45mm NATO).
As of 2013, lead-based ammunition production is the second-largest annual use of lead in the US, accounting for over 60,000 metric tons consumed in 2012. Lead bullets that miss their target or remain in a carcass or body that was never retrieved can enter environmental systems and become toxic to wildlife. The US military has experimented with replacing lead with copper as a slug in their green bullets which reduces the dangers posed by lead in the environment as a result of artillery. Since 2010, this has eliminated over 2000 tons of lead in waste streams.
Unexploded ammunition can remain active for a very long time and poses a significant threat to both humans and the environment.
Until the 20th-century, gunpowder was the most common explosive used but has now been replaced in nearly all cases by modern compounds..22 Long Rifle
The .22 Long Rifle or simply .22 LR (metric designation: 5.6×15mmR) is a long-established variety of .22 caliber rimfire ammunition, and in terms of units sold is still by far the most common ammunition in the world today. It is used in a wide range of rifles, pistols, revolvers, smoothbore shotguns (No. 1 bore), and even submachine guns..30-06 Springfield
The .30-06 Springfield cartridge (pronounced "thirty-aught-six" or "thirty-oh-six"), 7.62×63mm in metric notation and called ".30 Gov't '06" by Winchester, was introduced to the United States Army in 1906 and later standardized; it remained in use until the late 1970s. The ".30" refers to the caliber of the bullet in inches. The "06" refers to the year the cartridge was adopted, 1906. It replaced the .30-03, 6mm Lee Navy, and .30-40 Krag cartridges. The .30-06 remained the U.S. Army's primary rifle and machine gun cartridge for nearly 50 years before being replaced by the 7.62×51mm NATO (commercial .308 Winchester) and 5.56×45mm NATO (commercial .223 Remington), both of which remain in current U.S. and NATO service. It remains a very popular sporting round, with ammunition produced by all major manufacturers..303 British
The .303 British (designated as the 303 British by the C.I.P. and SAAMI) or 7.7×56mmR, is a .303-inch (7.7 mm) calibre (with the bore diameter measured between the lands as is common practice in Europe) rimmed rifle cartridge first developed in Britain as a black-powder round put into service in December 1888 for the Lee–Metford rifle. In 1891 the cartridge was adapted to use smokeless powder. It was the standard British and Commonwealth military cartridge from 1889 until the 1950s when it was replaced by the 7.62×51mm NATO..45 ACP
The .45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol), or .45 Auto (11.43×23mm) is a handgun cartridge designed by John Moses Browning in 1904, for use in his prototype Colt semi-automatic pistol. After successful military trials, it was adopted as the standard chambering for Colt's M1911 pistol, being named .45 ACP..50 BMG
The .50 Browning Machine Gun (.50 BMG, 12.7×99mm NATO and designated as the 50 Browning by the C.I.P.) is a cartridge developed for the Browning .50 caliber machine gun in the late 1910s, entering official service in 1921. Under STANAG 4383, it is a standard cartridge for NATO forces as well as many non-NATO countries. The cartridge itself has been made in many variants: multiple generations of regular ball, tracer, armor-piercing (AP), incendiary, and saboted sub-caliber rounds. The rounds intended for machine guns are made into a continuous belt using metallic links.
The .50 BMG cartridge is also used in long-range target and anti-materiel rifles, as well as other .50-caliber machine guns.
A wide variety of ammunition is available, and the availability of match grade ammunition has increased the usefulness of .50 caliber rifles by allowing more accurate fire than lower quality rounds.5.56×45mm NATO
The 5.56×45mm NATO (official NATO nomenclature 5.56 NATO) is a rimless bottlenecked intermediate cartridge family developed in the late 1970s in Belgium by FN Herstal. It consists of the SS109, SS110, and SS111 cartridges. On 28 October 1980 under STANAG 4172 it was standardized as the second standard service rifle cartridge for NATO forces as well as many non-NATO countries. The 5.56×45mm NATO cartridge family was derived from, but is not identical to, the .223 Remington cartridge designed by Remington Arms in the early 1960s.7.62×51mm NATO
The 7.62×51mm NATO (official NATO nomenclature 7.62 NATO) is a rimless bottlenecked rifle cartridge developed in the 1950s as a standard for small arms among NATO countries. It should not be confused with the similarly named Russian 7.62×54mmR cartridge, a slightly longer rimmed cartridge.
It was introduced in U.S. service in the M14 rifle and M60 machine gun in the late 1950s. The M14 was superseded in U.S. service as the infantry adopted the 5.56×45mm NATO M16. However, the M14 and many other firearms that use the 7.62×51 round remain in service, especially in the case of various marksman/sniper rifles, medium machine guns such as the M240, and various rifles in use by special operations forces. The cartridge is used both by infantry and on mounted and crew-served weapons mounted to vehicles, aircraft and ships.
Although not identical, the 7.62×51mm NATO and the commercial .308 Winchester cartridges are similar enough that they can be loaded into rifles chambered for the other round, but the Winchester .308 cartridges are typically loaded to higher pressures than 7.62×51mm NATO cartridges. Even though the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute (SAAMI) does not consider it unsafe to fire the commercial round in weapons chambered for the NATO round, there is significant discussion about compatible chamber and muzzle pressures between the two cartridges based on powder loads and wall thicknesses on the military vs. commercial rounds. While the debate goes both ways, the ATF recommends checking the stamping on the barrel; if unsure, one can consult the maker of the firearm.7.92×57mm Mauser
The 7.92×57mm Mauser (designated as the 8mm Mauser or 8×57mm by the SAAMI and 8 × 57 IS by the C.I.P.) is a rimless bottlenecked rifle cartridge. The 7.92×57mm Mauser cartridge was adopted by the German Empire in 1903–1905, and was the German service cartridge in both World Wars. In its day, the 7.92×57mm Mauser cartridge was one of the world’s most popular military cartridges. In the 21st century it is still a popular sport and hunting cartridge that is factory-produced in Europe and the United States.9×19mm Parabellum
The 9×19mm Parabellum is a firearms cartridge that was designed by Georg Luger and introduced in 1902 by the German weapons manufacturer Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken (DWM) (German Weapons and Munitions Factory) for their Luger semi-automatic pistol. For this reason, it is designated as the 9mm Luger by the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute (SAAMI), and the 9 mm Luger by the Commission Internationale Permanente pour l'Epreuve des Armes à Feu Portatives (CIP). The name Parabellum is derived from the Latin: Si vis pacem, para bellum ("If you seek peace, prepare for war"), which was the motto of DWM.Under STANAG 4090, it is a standard cartridge for NATO forces as well as many non-NATO countries.According to the 2014 edition of Cartridges of the World, the 9×19mm Parabellum is "the world's most popular and widely used military handgun and submachine gun cartridge." In addition to being used by over 60% of police in the U.S., Newsweek credits 9×19mm Parabellum pistol sales with making semiautomatic pistols more popular than revolvers. The popularity of this cartridge can be attributed to the widely held conviction that it is effective in police and self-defense use. Its low cost and wide availability contribute to the caliber's continuing popularity.Ammunition ship
An ammunition ship is an auxiliary ship specially configured to carry ammunition, usually for naval ships and aircraft. An ammunition ship′s cargo handling systems, designed with extreme safety in mind, include ammunition hoists with airlocks between decks, and mechanisms for flooding entire compartments with sea water in case of emergencies. Ammunition ships most often deliver their cargo to other ships using underway replenishment, using both connected replenishment and vertical replenishment. To a lesser extent, they transport ammunition from one shore-based weapons station to another.Armor-piercing shell
An armor-piercing shell, AP for short, is a type of ammunition designed to penetrate armor. From the 1860s to 1950s, a major application of armor-piercing projectiles was to defeat the thick armor carried on many warships. From the 1920s onwards, armor-piercing weapons were required for anti-tank missions. AP rounds smaller than 20 mm are typically known as "armor-piercing ammunition", and are intended for lightly-armored targets such as body armor, bulletproof glass and light armored vehicles. The classic AP shell is now seldom used in naval warfare, as modern warships have little or no armor protection, and newer technologies have displaced the classic AP design in the anti-tank role.
An armor-piercing shell must withstand the shock of punching through armor plating. Shells designed for this purpose have a greatly strengthened body with a specially hardened and shaped nose. One common addition to later AP shells is the use of a softer ring or cap of metal on the nose known as a penetrating cap, which both lowers the initial shock of impact to prevent the rigid shell from shattering, as well as aiding the contact between the target armor and the nose of the penetrator to prevent the shell from bouncing off in glancing shots. Ideally, these caps have a blunt profile, which led to the use of a thin aerodynamic cap to improve long-range ballistics. AP shells may contain little or no explosive, in this case known as a "bursting charge". Some smaller-caliber AP shells have an inert filling or incendiary charge in place of the bursting charge.
As tank armor improved during World War II, AP designs were introduced that used a smaller penetrating body within a larger shell. These lightweight shells fired at very high muzzle velocity and retained that speed and the associated penetrating power over longer distances. In modern designs the penetrator no longer looks like a classic artillery shell design, but is instead a long rod of dense material like tungsten or depleted uranium (DU) that further improves the terminal ballistics. Whether these designs are considered to be AP rounds depends on the definition and may be included or excluded from reference to reference.Arsenal
An arsenal is a place where arms and ammunition are made, maintained and repaired, stored, or issued, in any combination, whether privately or publicly owned. Arsenal and armoury (British English) or armory (American English) are mostly regarded as synonyms, although subtle differences in usage exist.
A sub-armory is a place of temporary storage or carrying of weapons and ammunition, such as any temporary post or patrol vehicle that is only operational in certain times of the day.Cartridge (firearms)
A cartridge or a round is a type of pre-assembled firearm ammunition packaging a projectile (bullet, shots or slug), a propellant substance (usually either smokeless powder or black powder) and an ignition device (primer) within a metallic, paper or plastic case that is precisely made to fit within the barrel chamber of a breechloading gun, for the practical purpose of convenient transportation and handling during shooting. Although in popular usage the term "bullet" is often used to refer to a complete cartridge, it is correctly used only to refer to the projectile.
Cartridges can be categorized by the type of their primers — a small charge of an impact- or electric-sensitive chemical mixture that is located at the center of the case head (centerfire), inside the rim of the case base (rimfire and the now obsolete cupfire), in a sideway projection that is shaped like a pin (pinfire, now obsolete) or a lip (lipfire, now obsolete), or in a small nipple-like bulge at the case base (teat-fire, now obsolete).
Military and commercial producers continue to pursue the goal of caseless ammunition. Some artillery ammunition uses the same cartridge concept as found in small arms. In other cases, the artillery shell is separate from the propellant charge.
A cartridge without a projectile is called a blank. One that is completely inert (contains no active primer and no propellant) is called a dummy. One that failed to ignite and shoot off the projectile is called a dud, and one that ignited but failed to sufficiently push the projectile out of the barrel is called a squib.Caseless ammunition
Caseless ammunition is a type of small arms ammunition that eliminates the cartridge case that typically holds the primer, propellant, and projectile together as a unit.
Caseless ammunition is an attempt to reduce the weight and cost of ammunition by dispensing with the case, which is typically precision made of brass or steel, as well as to simplify the operation of repeating firearms by eliminating the need to extract and eject the empty case after firing. Its acceptance has been hampered by problems with production expenses, heat sensitivity, sealing, and fragility. Its use to date has been mainly limited to prototypes and low-powered firearms, with some exceptions.Hollow-point bullet
A hollow-point bullet is an expanding bullet. It is used for controlled penetration, where over-penetration could cause collateral damage (such as aboard an aircraft). In target shooting, they are used for greater accuracy due to the larger meplat. Although a pointed bullet has a higher ballistic co-efficiency (BC), it's also more sensitive to bullet harmonic characteristics and wind deflection, thus making hollow point bullets consistently more accurate and predictable.
Plastic-tipped bullets are a type of (rifle) bullet meant to confer the aerodynamic advantage of the spitzer bullet (for example, see very-low-drag bullet) and the stopping power of hollow point bullets.M61 Vulcan
The M61 Vulcan is a hydraulically, electrically or pneumatically driven, six-barrel, air-cooled, electrically fired Gatling-style rotary cannon which fires 20 mm rounds at an extremely high rate (typically 6,000 rounds per minute). The M61 and its derivatives have been the principal cannon armament of United States military fixed-wing aircraft for fifty years.The M61 was originally produced by General Electric. After several mergers and acquisitions, it is currently produced by General Dynamics.Magazine (artillery)
Magazine is the name for an item or place within which ammunition or other explosive material is stored. It is taken originally from the Arabic word "makhāzin" (مخازن), meaning storehouses, via Italian and Middle French.The term is also used for a place where large quantities of ammunition are stored for later distribution, or an ammunition dump. This usage is less common.Rate of fire
Rate of fire is the frequency at which a specific weapon can fire or launch its projectiles. It is usually measured in rounds per minute (RPM or round/min), or rounds per second (RPS or round/s).
Several different measurements are used. The fastest and most commonly quoted rate is the cyclical rate of fire. However, heat (possibly leading to weapon failure) and exhaustion of ammunition mean most automatic weapons are unlikely to sustain their cyclic rate of fire for a full minute. That is why lower rates apply in practice and it is incorrect to describe the cyclic rate of fire as "the number of rounds a weapon can fire in one minute."Shell (projectile)
A shell is a payload-carrying projectile that, as opposed to shot, contains an explosive or other filling, though modern usage sometimes includes large solid projectiles properly termed shot. Solid shot may contain a pyrotechnic compound if a tracer or spotting charge is used. Originally, it was called a "bombshell", but "shell" has come to be unambiguous in a military context.
All explosive- and incendiary-filled projectiles, particularly for mortars, were originally called grenades, derived from the pomegranate, so called because the many-seeded fruit suggested the powder-filled, fragmenting bomb, or from the similarity of shape. Words cognate with grenade are still used for an artillery or mortar projectile in some European languages.Shells are usually large-caliber projectiles fired by artillery, combat vehicles (including tanks), and warships.
Shells usually have the shape of a cylinder topped by an ogive-shaped nose for good aerodynamic performance, possibly with a tapering base (boat-tail), but some specialized types are quite different.