American Partisan: Logistics – Ammo in Guerrilla Groups

NC Scout at American Partisan writes about the importance of logistics in guerrilla conflicts in 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.

Global Security: Logistics for Low Intensity Conflict

US Army: Logistical Considerations for Low Intensity Conflict (PDF 1.1MB)

US Army: Guerrilla Logistics research thesis (PDF)