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Service ammunition is divided into full cartridge and special purpose cartridge
Full ammunition is used to destroy personal
Special ammunition depending upton its construction is designed for target
identification and correction of fire, ignition of fuel and hightly flammable objects and for
destroying lightly armoured targets.
Tracer cartridges are used for target indication, fire adjustment, signal purposes
and destroying personel. And destroying personel.
Tracer bullets can ignite, can ignite
The path of the bullet is indicated by a red flame.
AP incendary cartridges are used for destroying fuel, gasoline and for
destroying targets protected by thin armour
The standard cartridge for the AK-47 is the M43
Bullet weight: 122 grains
Powder weight: 25 grains
Standard markings: full … and … No colour
Tracer model: 3453?
API model BZ: black and red tip
Special cartridges: Plastic blank with metal case
Finland: Red, Germany: Black, Egypt: White.
Shortrange cartridges: full, round nosed, laquered steel case, white tip.
Tracer: round nosed, laquered steel case, white about green tip.

(From) Finland Red, Egypt White The Sisters of Mercy

Basic Information

Originally a term essentially meaning 'army issue1' the current sense of the word is 'that which is launched from a ranged weapon'.
Thus ammunition can be anything from a stone picked up at hazard from the ground to the last word in AI directed missiles.

Sufficient ammunition for one shot is called a 'round' and in the case of firearms this will include both projectile and propellant.

Until quite recently in human history most ammunition was kinetic - that is, it relied on the force of its impact to damage the target. This could be enhanced by careful selection of materials and shaping of the projectile but in the end the effect was controlled by the second law of thermodynamics - all you could deliver depended on your ability to accelerate mass. Kinetic ammunition is still very much in use - it is the normal load of most small arms and is found in ordnance in a variety of forms of which APDS ammunition is probably the apogee until radical advances are made in railgun technology. Multi Shot rounds are a subset of kinetic ammunition that bears particulary examination - they are the most common diet of the shotgun but are also found fired from grenade launchers and many kinds of ordnance in one form or another. In their crudest form they predate gunpowder - loading a catapult with a large number of small stones was not all that common, but was not unknown either.

Non-kinetic ammuntion in the pre-Black Powder era was pretty limited, although our ingenious ancestors managed to produce incendiary rounds (fire arrows, pitch pots and the like), chemical rounds (typically pots of quicklime, pepper or burning sulphur, although poisoned arrows may also count), biological rounds (the infamous plague-corpses catapulted into cities by the Mongols) and psychological rounds (limited to volleys of severed heads until widespread literacy made the leaflet shell useful). Whilst these sorts of ammunition existed, it should not be assumed that they were common, or even normal in day to day use.

With the advent of gunpowder the explosive round was developed and subsequent developments in chemistry gave new leases of life to most of the old types of ammunition as well as introducing new ones like the illuminating round and smoke round.

In sci-fi settings this category will almost certainly include the power packs fed to directed energy weapons - and possibly other consumables such as bottles of feedstock gas for plasma weapons.

In fantasy settings specialised ammunition may be required to overcome the damage resistance of supernatural creatures - silver bullets are the most obvious example (or silver arrows at lower tech levels). This is likely to be made from some form of depleted phlebotinum and expensive - or impossible - to obtain commercially and very likely to reduce the reliability of the weapons using it. Silver ammunition, for example, is generally best fired from very tolerant weapons like revolvers or shotguns - or prepared as a ballisticised round like a jacketed hollow point. The Agency and The Conspiracy are probably the most likely candidates to have access to professionally made 'magic bullets' - anyone else will need to handload.

Note that, at least for the foreseeable future, increasing weapon tech means increasing specificity of ammunition. Whilst sticks and rocks can be flung any old how and an arrow can be loosed from any old bow, the gunpowder era ushers in a time when the calibre of the weapon begins to matter. By the cartridge era, it will not only matter a great deal, but the overall round length matters as well (by way of example, the Warsaw Pact issued three different kinds of 7.62mm round: 7.62x25mm (aka. 7.62 Makarov), 7.62x39 (aka. 7.62 WARPAC) and 7.62x54mm (aka. 7.62 Russian) - none of which are interchangeable, nor is the latter round compatible with the 7.62x51mm NATO standard). Some types of ammunition (especially those used by a major military power or alliance) are relatively common (allowing for local legal controls whilst more exotic or heavily customised rounds can be quite distinctive. Where such things matter, the presence of an exotic round may attract unwelcome attention.

Also worth noting that, whilst military calibre ammunition is generally available in bulk (subject to finding someone prepared to sell it to you), and war surplus ammunition can often be had at a substantial discount, wartime ammunition often sacrifices quality for quantity - modern ammunition can be subject to misfires, whilst as far back as the Hundred Years War we see the footprints of sub-standard ammunition slipping into bulk contracts (specifically poorly made arrows). This goes double for battlefield salvage - ammunition recovered from battlefields will have been exposed to unknown (and likely less than ideal) storage conditions and handling and, to be honest, may have remained unfired for a reason2.

Specific Types of Ammunition


Wikipedia entry

Game and Story Use

  • Ammunition use in RPGs tends to swing between two extremes - either it always runs out at critical moments, or the player characters carry whole crates along with them to avoid just that.
  • Ammunition is heavy - the air supply maxim generally states that food and medical supplies are not a problem, but you can carry enough water or enough ammunition, not both.
    • At low tech levels substitute bulky and fragile for heavy - for example longbow rounds are three feet long and need to be treated very carefully to avoid damaging the flights or bending the shaft, either of which will make them useless at best. Crossbow bolts are a little more tolerant, but still fussier than modern, metal cased cartridges.
  • In a modern game, the supply of ammunition is critical - weapons can be made comparatively easily, but without ammunition you are doomed. Conversely in a pre-modern game making your own ammunition gets progressively easier the further back you go, whilst weapons become a bigger and bigger investment.
    • This is particularly important for criminals and resistance fighters who will have very tight supplies of ammunition - especially if you set your campaign somewhere hoplophobic like the UK.
    • Modern weapons also go through ammunition at a hellacious rate - a typical assault rifle has a full automatic rate of ~300rpm and a 30 round magazine. A soldier typically carries 6-10 loaded magazines into battle and may then carry further boxed rounds to reload them with, but allowing for magazine changes he can exhaust his ready rounds in a couple of minutes if he's not careful…
    • Likewise after the end there may be a lot of weapons lying about because their users ran out of ammunition and/or magazines for them… characters might pick up a fairly impressive weapon early on, but struggle to find anything to fire from it.
    • Consider, therefore, that in many settings the price of ammunition may rapidly outstrip that of the weapon which fires it - which may be counter-intuitive to a lot of players. Indeed an "arms dealer" may actually consider selling ammunition their real business.
  • For all the great variety of ammunition types, that which is actually available is usually pretty bland stuff: most of what is made and used is vanilla kinetic stuff, especially where small arms are involved and this goes double for the military, who are not permitted to use a lot of the fun stuff for a variety of reasons.
  • Many kinds of specialist ammunition have a reputation for reducing the reliability of weapons.
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