Machine Guns are Magical Death Machines
It’s an old joke by now that nobody runs out of bullets in action movies (unless it’s suddenly convenient to the plot, that is). Hollywood shows some restraint with revolvers–usually no more than 10 or 11 shots per six-shot cylinder–but damn, do they go hog-wild with anything that fires full-auto. So much so that that most of us have wound up with an utterly ridiculous concept of how those guns work. They’re seriously depicting these things firing a hundred times more bullets than they can actually hold.
If you’ve watched a news broadcast about U.S. troops in Iraq, or played Modern Warfare, you’ve seen this gun:
That’s an M4 Carbine. It holds 30 bullets.
In fact, a U.S. infantryman only carries 210 rounds total, which means a battle conducted with full-auto machine gun fire would be over in less than a minute even if you count the time it takes to switch magazines. Fortunately, they fire on full-auto so rarely that many of the military’s rifles don’t even have that capability.
Full-auto is only really used for suppression, that is, to make the bad guys duck their heads and hunker down while your people maneuver into position. In fact, virtually all bullets are used for this. For each insurgent killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, 250,000 shots are fired that hit absolutely nothing. About three tons of ammunition for every one dude killed. Picture Arnold lugging that shit around.