Via Holden at First Draft, GlobalSecurity.org crunches the numbers from the General Accountability Office (still referred to as the General Accounting Office in the report) to estimate that the armed services have purchased about 250,000 “small- and medium-calibre ammunitions” (bullets) for each of the estimated 20,000 insurgents killed in Iraq — more than five billion bullets between 2002 and 2005.
The standard-issue M16A2 rifle fires NATO-compatible 5.56mm cartridges. The preferred cartridge for the M16A2 is the M855, which weighs 12.31gm (including the case, bullet, and propellant). They’re 57.4mm long; the case is 9.7mm in diamter.
A quarter of a million such rounds would weigh 3,077.5kg — almost 6,800lbs — not as much as an original Hummer or an H2, but about 1,000lbs more than an H3. A single bullet weighing that much would be 3.616m (almost 12 feet) tall and 550mm (just over 2 feet) in diameter. A small — very heavy — missile, in other words. Essentially, we’re dropping an anvil on them.
Retail price for each round is about a quarter: that’s $62,500 in bullets per insurgent.
I should mention that the figures here are based entirely on the smaller rounds used by US forces. “Small- and medium-” actually includes the larger 7.62mm rounds used by some weapons and .50cal ammunition for machineguns. But I like to err on the low side in these types of calculations.
MORE NUMBERS: At the 800 round per minute rate of fire for an M16A2, 250,000 rounds is nearly 5.25 hours of continuous, fully-automatic fire for each dead insurgent. The 820-foot Crystal Serenity of the Crystal Cruises passenger line weighs 68,000 tons, about the same as the combined weight of 250,000 rounds for each of the 20,000 estimated Iraqi insurgents killed.