In a book called “Soldier’s Load and the
Mobility of a Nation,” Colonel S.L.A.
Marshall pointed at a troubling issue plaguing
US combat troops: overloading of equipment,
hampering battlefield performance.
While the ideal US infantryman’s combat load
is not meant to exceed a third of their own
bodyweight, the recent wars in Afghanistan
and Iraq saw American infantry regularly carrying
loads that exceeded 120 lbs (54kg).
But what is all this extra equipment that
the modern soldier is being asked to carry
That’s what we’ll find out, in this episode
of the Infographics Show, the typical loadout
of a US Marine.
First, overburdening is a serious concern
for the US military, with several studies
having been undertaken on the combat effectiveness
of troops carrying modern combat loads.
Without exception, each study thus far has
shown that extreme loads critically lower
combat effectiveness, and in Afghanistan,
the Taliban was known to refer to American
and British soldiers as “donkeys” because
of how overburdened each soldier was.
In fact, NATO soldiers found it difficult
to close with the enemy because of how much
more mobile the insurgent fighter was.
The US Army field manual on foot marches dictates
that an infantryman should carry a fighting
load of no more than 48 lbs (21.7 kg), and
a marching load no greater than 72 lbs (32.7
kg), yet modern mission-critical equipment
regularly pushes combat loads to over 100
So just what are US Marines carrying into
A marine is not a marine without his weapon,
and the American Marine is equipped with the
A 5.56 mm rifle, the M4 has a maximum range
of 3600 meters, with a point target range
of 500 meters, and an area target range of
The M4 has a muzzle velocity of 2,970 feet
per second, giving it tremendous penetration
power against body armor, and a sustained
firing rate of 12-15 rounds per minute, with
a maximum cyclical firing rate of 700-970
rounds per minute.
Together with one 30 round magazine, the M4
weighs in at 7 lbs, 5 ounces (3.32 kg).
A US Marine’s M4 is typically equipped with
a PAQ-4 or similar laser for use with their
night vision, and an ACOG scope to aid with
Always ready for a close-quarters fight, US
Marines still carry bayonets for use in conjunction
with their rifle or on their own, along with
the legendary Ka-bar knife.
On his person, a Marine carries a variety
Depending on climate, they are equipped with
a suitable camouflage uniform made of extremely
durable and air-breathing fabrics.
Also, depending on the type of enemy they
may be facing, their uniform may be adorned
with a patch of infrared tape on the left
sleeve for aid in identification with night
vision equipment; although, if facing a more
modern foe, the tape will likely not be worn
as it could also be seen by the enemy.
A pair of tactical gloves, knee and elbow
pads, and Sun, Sand and Dust goggles round
out the environmental protection equipment
each individual Marine carries.
While available for decades, for the first
time in history, US Marines are all equipped
with body armor.
Today’s variant is known as the Interceptor
Body Armor system and consists of a kevlar
weave vest with two ceramic inserts.
The vest itself is rated to stop a 9mm round,
and the additional ceramic plate inserts are
each rated to stop 3 hits from up to a 7.62
All together, the body armor and plates weigh
a minimum of 16.4 lbs (7.4kg), but additional
inserts and modular add ons such as leg, groin
and neck protectors, can vastly increase that
To protect their heads, the American Marine
is equipped with the Advanced Combat Helmet.
Capable of stopping a variety of lower-end
calibers, the ACH provides protection from
small caliber weapons and shrapnel, and unlike
helmets of the past, is smaller and rides
higher on a marine’s head to improve their
ability to see and hear on the battlefield.
Each ACH comes with a night vision mount for
quick and easy deployment of each marine’s
personal night vision equipment, the PVS-14
As a monocular device, the PVS-14 is vastly
preferred over, and is phasing out, the PVS-7
which covers both eyes; having one eye adjusted
to nighttime conditions allows the Marine
a faster reaction time in case they have to
remove their night vision, avoiding temporary
blindness as eyes slowly adjust to the total
Both night vision devices work in conjunction
with the PAQ-4 laser system to provide for
accurate fire even in pitch black.
On the Marine’s body armor, each infantryman
is typically loaded down with a minimum of
180 additional rounds of ammunition, bringing
a total combat load to 210 rounds; 30 rounds
always loaded in their rifle, and the rest
on ammo pouches worn on the body.
While most Marines wear the standard issue
MOLLE load-bearing vest, some opt for personally
bought equipment that they may find more comfortable
Along with 180 rounds of ammunition, American
Marines will typically carry a minimum of
one fragmentation grenade, but might carry
up to 6.
The M67 fragmentation grenade has a 4-5 second
fuse and can explode steel fragments over
a 15 meter area, causing 50% casualties within
a 5 meter area.
Varying on mission length and type, marines
will at minimum carry 64 ounces of water in
two 1-quart canteens, as well as an additional
100 ounces of water worn on ‘camelbacks’ the
marine carries on their back.
A second bladder of water is typically carried
inside the marine’s assault rucksack, along
with two Meals Ready to Eat or MREs.
A folding knife/multi-tool, plastic flex cuffs
for detaining personnel, a compass, a flashlight
and a basic first aid kit, round out gear
typically worn directly on the body.
Inside a US marine’s combat ruck though, you’ll
find additional equipment to support prolonged
This can include a 500ml intravenous fluids
bag and delivery kit for emergency care, a
poncho and Bivy Sack to keep sleeping bags
dry, additional socks and undershirts, a personal
hygiene kit, sling rope, and the all-important
weapon cleaning kit to keep their rifle serviced
and well maintained.
If that’s not enough, however, a US Marine
may be deployed with an additional, ‘main’
rucksack for long-term or extended operations.
This rucksack typically carries the marine’s
sleeping bag, even more undershirts and socks,
cold-weather gear such as knit caps and polypropylene
underwear, additional MREs, and, of course,
even more ammunition- typically an additional
While this rounds out the typical US marine’s
loadout, each marine can be equipped with
specialized support equipment.
Marines operating in urban environments may
find themselves carrying a lock pick, bolt
cutters, collapsible riot baton, hooligan
tool (ie. a specialized crowbar), and/or sledgehammer.
Most marines will also carry a collapsible
entrenching tool, or E-Tool, no matter the
mission; basically a small shovel, the E-tool
is handy for digging hasty fighting positions,
but doubles as a brutally effective close-quarters
Marines may also carry the M18 Claymore mine.
Named after the medieval era sword, the Claymore
has been in operation since 1960 and features
a layer of C-4 explosive embedded with 700
3.2mm steel pellets.
Triggered either by remote or via trip-wire,
the Claymore explodes in a 60 degree arc and
shoots steel pellets in a cone, 2 meters high
and 50 meters wide, lethal up to 250 meters.
Marines may also carry the M141 SMAW-D Bunker
Defeat Munition- a single-shot bazooka-style
weapon designed to destroy hardened bunkers
or small buildings.
In a pinch, the M141 can be extremely effective
against lightly armored vehicles, but would
likely be defeated by all but the thinner
top turret armor of most modern tanks.
The American Marine is equipped for a variety
of missions, giving US ground forces unmatched
Yet with heavy standard loads that don’t take
into account even more specialized equipment,
such as laser target designators or bulky
communications equipment, US marines and soldiers
are increasingly finding it more and more
difficult to keep pace with less equipped
and much more mobile enemies such as the Taliban.
While a variety of Department of Defense programs
are currently looking at ways to minimize
the weight a US infantryman carries into battle,
it’s likely that the United States will continue
to ask its soldiers and marines to regularly
carry over half their body weight into combat
for the foreseeable future.
So, how could US forces and their NATO allies
lower the amount of weight they carry into
What pieces of equipment do you think could
Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Also, be sure to check out our other video
called Worst Punishments In The History of
Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t
forget to like, share, and subscribe.
See you next time!
In a book called “Soldier’s Load and the