Left 4 Dead Wiki
"Ammo here!"
The Survivors

Pile Version of Ammo

Ammunition piles (colloquially known as Ammo) are found in safe rooms and scattered elsewhere throughout the game. They are used to restock a player's reserve ammunition for primary weapons.

These supplies do not affect the Grenade Launcher, M60, melee weapons, pistols, grenades and healing items.


Main article: Tactics
  • Ammo piles have stocks of all types of relevant ammunition.
  • All safe rooms (except the starting safe room of "The Bridge" in Left 4 Dead 2) have ammo piles. Players should use this to their advantage by:
    • Ensuring they are carrying a full ammo loadout before leaving a safe room.
    • Firing at enemies while in the safe room, then restocking on ammo before leaving.
    • Returning to a nearby safe room for more ammo.
  • It is rarely a good decision to return to a distant safe room for more ammo as the Director will invariably spawn and interpose multiple hordes and Special Infected during the transits back to and subsequently from the safe room, all of which negates the purpose of the journey. Players running low on primary weapon ammo should instead switch to pistols or melee weapons and push forward to the next safe room.
  • In Crescendo Events, players should try to stock up on ammo before the crescendo begins, then restock their ammo as soon as possible after the event.
  • In finales, players should try to reach the ammo pile before the Tank arrives.
  • The location of an ammo pile should be factored into defense plans before triggering a finale.
  • Outside of safe rooms, ammo is usually found near the venues for Crescendo Events and at intervals on longer levels.
  • If a player is concerned about a looming Primary weapon ammo shortage, it is imperative to switch to pistols or a melee weapon in order to tackle low and moderate threat events.
  • Ammo Piles cannot refill ammunition for the Grenade Launcher or M60, so players equipped with these weapons should either preserve as much as the ammo as possible for Special Infected or hordes or (if running short of ammo) drop them for an alternative fully supplied Primary weapon.
  • Be aware: In Left 4 Dead, ammo piles and cans will restock the maximum possible in reserve and not account for partially filled magazines in a player's weapon. A player with a part-filled magazine has to remember to make a pickup, reload the magazine and then make another pickup to secure a full ammunition loadout. In Left 4 Dead 2, ammo restocking under this condition is simplified. Ammo piles will restock the maximum possible in reserve and temporarily add the amount a player is missing from a part-filled magazine if present to that player's reserves; meaning maximum ammo is obtained via only a single pickup. Using a Combat Shotgun as an example, it holds 10 shells and 90 in reserve. If a player has 1 shell loaded and 75 in reserve, the ammo pile will give 99 reserve shells thus topping off the shotgun even though it has not yet been reloaded.

Ammo Management[]

Bucket Version of Ammo

  • The Pump Shotgun is arguably the easiest weapon to manage as it has only eight shells to keep track of and quick top-up reloads can done on the fly whilst ranged secondary weapons can be used to engage targets at medium to long ranges with no ammo reserve penalty. Players must bear in mind that this shotgun is devastating at close ranges and that its effectiveness degrades markedly beyond such distances―although distant targets can still be struck (and wounded) by two or three buckshot pellets. Overall, this weapon is a good choice for chapters characterized by plenty of short range targets at close quarters―such as "The Apartments" in Left 4 Dead. In Left 4 Dead 2, the Pump and Chrome Shotgun have severely reduced ammo reserve capacities and thus require more careful ammunition management and greater use of Pistol backup.
  • The Auto Shotgun (or Tactical Shotgun in Left 4 Dead 2) is a Tier 2 weapon and is therefore inherently more capable than the generic Tier 1 Pump Shotgun. Experienced users know to fire in a disciplined way at selected targets whilst keeping an eye on the ammo counter. Rapid magazine top-ups are essential to avoid the cooldown time-delay imposed if the weapon's magazine is emptied. For this reason, when hard-pressed and caught with an empty Auto Shotgun, it is often better to switch to Pistols and melee in order to continue the fight. This weapon's semi-automatic capability is best used when facing Tanks, Witches, and hordes. Holding down the fire key will fire this weapon in a sort of full-auto mode, though the weapon is still animated in semi-auto. This is actually slower than rapidly hitting the fire key.
  • The Hunting Rifle is the middle ground of all the weapons. The single shot, high power, and high reserve means that ammo is seldom a problem. However, the allure of rapid fire can trick many players. It only takes one shot from this weapon to kill Common Infected. Reload often, and fire slowly. Use the scope for distance and accuracy. If moving while firing, the accuracy of the Hunting Rifle is reduced.
    • When "The Sacrifice" was released, the accuracy of the Hunting Rifle (previously with extremely reduced accuracy when moving) was balanced to match the Left 4 Dead 2 version. In the latter game, the Hunting Rifle has reduced reserve ammunition, but has had its decreased accuracy while moving reduced to more manageable levels compared to the original Hunting Rifle from Left 4 Dead for balance. The Sniper Rifle functions the same as the Hunting Rifle, though it has 30 shots in a single magazine (twice of Hunting Rifle's 15 shots), and 30 more shots in reserve. As a balance, it reloads slower.
  • The Submachine Gun has a high rate of fire and can very quickly deplete an undisciplined player's ammo reserve. If fired in short three- to five-round bursts at medium to long ranges and when crouched, this weapon performs very capably. (Indeed, a review of a player's statistics may reveal that this weapon is most accurate in terms of kills-per-shots-fired.) Long bursts should be used only against large hordes, big threats like a Tank (very easy to hit) or Witch and close encounters with the likes of Smokers and other Special Infected. When facing a Horde in a choke point such as a corridor or doorway, players should aim for their heads as this will drop them almost instantly. Random solo Common Infected can be taken down by the aforementioned short burst delivered to the central body area. As indicated earlier, it is essential that players keep constant stock of their ammo reserve and plan how best to use those rounds remaining once the count gets down to 50 percent or less. For example, switching to Dual Pistols and relying more on co-op team partners are good options for a sub-machine gunner anxious about the ammo situation. In Left 4 Dead 2, the Submachine Gun and Silenced Submachine Gun have roughly a 35% increase of reserve ammunition (480 backup rounds to 650). This naturally increases their effectiveness, though active fire discipline and firing short bursts remain of fundamental importance.
  • The Assault Rifle follows the same general rules as the Submachine Gun, except the reserve is 120 rounds smaller. Increased power means that bursts of 2-4 rounds should generally get the job done, though if trying to conserve ammo aim for the head. Check your reserves more often than you would with the Submachine Gun. Continue to save full auto for those big threats. Try to shoot Common Infected in the head for instant kills. In Left 4 Dead 2, the reserve ammunition remains unchanged, though the size of the magazine for the M-16 Assault Rifle, AK-47, and Combat Rifle vary in size, as well as firing rate, power, and accuracy, requiring a slight change of tactics for each gun.
  • The Grenade Launcher is somewhat easy to keep track of in the sense of how many rounds you have used and have left over, due to its one shot capacity. Reloading frequently makes most players check their ammunition, which makes keeping track of it easy. Though this weapon is the one with the lowest amount of shells (1 in the chamber and 30 in reserve) when found, so even with its slow rate of fire a Survivor can still burn through their ammunition quickly. When using this weapon, try to only fire shots at very large groups of Infected or when a horde is spawned by the Director. The shell will kill a very large number of Infected if used properly and if this weapon is used for only large groups or Special Infected, the user can potentially get through an entire campaign without running out of munitions for it. Be careful though when using the Grenade Launcher as it deals massive amounts of splash (explosive) damage to you and your team. This can be devastating on harder difficulties. It's ammunition can't be refilled without mods.
  • The M60 is similar in function to the Assault Rifle and its variants, but all of its reserve bullets (of which there are 150) is placed right into its magazine, disabling the need for reload. As the bullets of the M60 are extremely powerful, able to kill Common Infected in a single shot, care should be used for single shot, or short burst fire for Special Infected, while saving full auto for the Witch, Tank, and hordes. The M60 cannot be supplied with fresh ammunition without modding the game (or a modded server), so in order to conserve the magazine, making use of secondary weapons such as Pistols or a melee weapon is recommended, or if other Primary Weapons are nearby, they can be used until powerful enemies arrive, by then you should use the M60.

Ammunition Upgrades[]

Left 4 Dead 2 features two ammunition upgrades for all primary weapons. This powerful ammo spawns randomly, usually only found a handful of times in each campaign. When picked up it occupies the First aid kit slot. To use the ammo, the player first deploys it on the ground (which takes several seconds and leaves them vulnerable to attack), after which each player can use it once to get their share of the ammo. This gives them one extra magazine loaded with the special ammunition, except in the case of the M60 where all of its remaining ammo becomes Explosive(Frag)/Incendiary(Fire) ammo, after which the gun is then discarded. AI players will neither pick up nor deploy ammunition upgrades. Also, if either ammo upgrade is already in effect and the other is used, the second upgrade will replace the current upgrade. The ammo upgrades do not stack.

Incendiary Ammunition[]

"Let's burn some shit UP!"
"Let's get a little bonfire going."
Incenbox 2.png

Official Description[]

Equip your existing primary weapon with these incendiary rounds to ignite any infected upon contact.[1]

Incendiary Ammunition, also referred to as Fire Bullets by the Survivors, sets all Common and Special Infected on fire, with the exception of Infected CEDA Workers and Jimmy Gibbs Junior. Infected CEDA Workers are immune to all sources of fire and will not be ignited by incendiary ammunition under any circumstances, though they will still take bullet damage. Jimmy Gibbs Junior spawns very rarely in "The Atrium" on "Dead Center", and wears a fireproof racing suit. Picking up incendiary ammo for a Grenade Launcher will give it an incendiary grenade that causes the explosion to almost double in size and also ignites the body parts flying away, but since only one grenade will be incendiary, a player has to plan carefully when to use it.

Since incendiary ammunition is a one-hit kill against Common and Uncommon Infected on all difficulties and in Realism mode, it is advised to conserve your fire and attempt to only hit each Infected once. Incendiary rounds are less effective when applied to Sniper Rifles and one-hit kill weapons, as it just adds the burning and no extra firepower. It does have extra effect against enemies like Riot Infected or Special Infected however. Use caution while on the run or defending, as dying Infected can obscure your view.

In the case of the Grenade Launcher, Infected who are not killed by the blast of the incendiary grenade are set on fire instead of being staggered.

When a Tank or another Special Infected is shot with incendiary ammunition by almost all weapons (except the Grenade launcher), it is only ignited only temporarily, unlike when lit by any other sources of fire such as Molotovs and gas cans. The DoT has the same damage rate, but lasts only for 4 seconds to inflict 5% of the Tank's max health as burning damage. It can be useful to have one player only shoot at the Tank in short bursts so that he is lit all the time and cause fire damage while the rest of the team unloads to cause bullet damage and slow him down. The Grenade Launcher will cause the launched Grenade to function like a Molotov and therefore will burn until extinguished or the Infected was defeated, for the same burning damage per second (1,25% of Tank's max. health).

Like Molotovs and Bile bombs, incendiary ammo will turn the Witch's attention towards you. This is good if a teammate has already startled her, but you must be ready to run. If two or more Survivors have fire bullets, have them shoot the Witch just before it can hit either of them so she will not be able to attack anyone. A single fire bullet alone can also put her down - taking 15 seconds for her to burn to a crisp assuming no other damage is taken.

A car alarm does not trigger if hit by Incendiary Ammo of anything but the Grenade Launcher.

Explosive Ammunition[]

"I'm gonna grab some of these frag rounds!"
"Grabbin' some frag rounds!"
Explosivecan 2.png

Explosive Ammunition, also known as Fragmentation Rounds or referred to by the Survivors as Frag Rounds, explode on hitting any surface, including Infected. This instantly kills all Common Infected (regardless of difficulty) and knocks down anything within a few yards to where the explosion hit. The ammo causes massive damage to the Common Infected, destroying a large amount of torso and midsection depending on shot placement. It can also stumble any Special Infected but the Tank. On Versus, the impact of explosive ammo on a human-controlled Special Infected will cause the Infected to stumble a bit as though they have been hit by a Survivor's melee attack and their ears will ring (a condition known as tinnitus) as if they were hit by an explosion such as from a propane tank.

Shooting at targets point blank with explosive ammunition will inflict damage on yourself and nearby teammates. This can be devastating on Advanced and Expert difficulty settings, thus when being swarmed by the Horde it becomes more damaging to use than it's worth. When a Horde comes in close, it is best to switch to whatever secondary you have, as to avoid the splash damage from the rounds themselves. These rounds can also stumble the player in a similar way to that of a Boomer if it explodes on very close targets. If you can, avoid using this kind of ammunition when your team is in confined spaces as it is almost certain that friendly fire incidents will occur. Extreme care is strongly advised if you are using a shotgun with explosive ammo when playing on Expert as the area of effect rivals that of the Grenade Launcher. Coupled with its already high damage per shot, an explosive slug will incapacitate you, if not take off a huge chunk of your health. Explosive slugs do have an advantage though in that it increases your effective range. Instead of waiting for Infected to get close, you can attack when they are at medium to long ranges to avoid splash damage.

Explosive ammunition is similar to incendiary ammunition in a few ways. Picking it up gives you an extra magazine of explosive munitions. The item bar also changes to reflect the new ammunition type. Like incendiary rounds, explosive rounds do not penetrate infected or walls, but they do affect any Infected caught in the blast radius to devastating effect.

Explosive ammunition can be used to hit foes lurking around corners or on the other side of doorways as a result of the splash damage. Even if an Infected is not killed, usually as a result of being just outside the blast zone, it will stumble, allowing an easy kill. The higher the damage a weapon delivers in one shot, the larger its explosive blast radius will be: shotguns deliver the largest area of effect by far - a devastating slug with a blast radius closely matching the width of a sedan, rivaling the area of effect of the Grenade Launcher; scoped rifles have the second biggest splash damage, the AWP topping the other scoped rifles; followed by the automatic rifles, with the AK-47 having the largest radius; SMGs have the smallest, with the Silenced SMG's blast zone marginally larger than the MP5. When surrounded on all sides by Infected during horde attacks, you can shoot the ground to kill the Infected surrounding you, though it is not advised to do so in confined areas on higher difficulties where self-inflicted damage is more punishing.

When a shotgun is loaded with explosive ammunition, the rounds become accurate explosive slugs rather than buckshot. While the huge explosive blast radius hampers effectiveness at close range, the accuracy and the fact that the shell damage is compacted to one projectile makes it easier delivering the damage to targets at longer ranges where a shotgun would typically perform poorly.

Boomers, while already weak against conventional ammo, are extremely vulnerable to explosive ammo - a single bullet or any damage by explosive splash will always destroy them.

Explosive ammunition is effective against the Witch, as it can keep her stumbled while the team guns her down. On Expert difficulty (and all Realism difficulties) the effect is weaker, requiring landing headshots or using shotguns to be able to stumble her.

Shooting at the Tank with this ammo will not stumble him, not even with the Grenade Launcher (although player-controlled Tanks will still have the ear ringing sounds).

Explosive ammo makes gas cans, fireworks, propane tanks and oxygen tanks become huge hazards since the explosions from near misses can set these items off during a firefight. This can be a game ender on Expert so players must take great care in where they are shooting so they won't trigger any premature explosions and fires.

As of June 18, 2010, Explosive ammunition has been removed from Versus for the PC version, and removed from the Xbox 360 version on July 2, 2010.

Behind the Scenes[]

Ammo pack texture sheet

Originally in Left 4 Dead 2, there was an item called the Ammo Pack. They would be placed in the Med kits slot when picked up and used a re-skinned first aid kit model. Much like the current Incendiary and Explosive ammo packs, they could be deployed for use by teammates, with which they could resupply their ammo. This was cut because it went against the idea of players having to pick up new weapons when their current weapon was low on ammo and because play-testers would deem ammo packs less usable so long as ammo piles still existed. Its texture sheet can still be found in Left 4 Dead 2 materials files. Typing "give" in the console will show that one can type "give ammo_pack"; however, the game will not create one.

The two ammo upgrades were originally designed to be static items that the Director placed in the world. However, testing showed that players were unwilling to move away from an area that had ammo upgrades, so they made it so that ammo upgrades could be picked up by players and placed anywhere, much like the previously described ammo pack.


Main article: Achievements

Left 4 Dead 2[]

Armory of one.jpg
Deploy an ammo upgrade and have your team use it.

Burning sensation.jpg
Ignite 50 Common Infected with incendiary ammo.


  • The longer magazines that accompany the tin cans of ammo found in Left 4 Dead belong to a MP5 submachine gun, although it was first added in the German and Australian edition of Left 4 Dead 2, before being released internationally in The Last Stand community update
    • The shorter magazines that accompany the Tin Cans of Ammo found in Left 4 Dead belong to pistols, although pistols don't need to be resupplied. This may be a reference to pre-release versions where pistols still don't have infinite ammo.
  • Ammo comes in two types: A loose pile and a coffee-can-style bucket full. Both types are found in Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2. Their mechanics are identical during gameplay.
    • Originally Left 4 Dead 2 only featured the loose pile.
  • The Survivors in Left 4 Dead 2 (excluding Nick since an update after "The Sacrifice") mistook ammo piles for "weapons" and "guns" instead of "ammo." Coach says to "remember where the ammo dumps are at" on first level of "Hard Rain". This was the only time an ammo stockpile is called "ammo" properly in Left 4 Dead 2.
    • This bug was known to be a Response Rule error. Valve was aware of this bug and finally, after 1523 days, fixed it. From January 18, 2013 the new Survivors now properly identify ammo as ammo.
  • The model for a deployed ammo pack is three open boxes of the ground model of the ammo pack. Upon closer examination it's easy to see that each of them contains a certain ammo type: there's one box with Buckshot ammo ("Buckshot" written on the side), one with assault rifle ammo ("Rifle 5.56mm" written on the side) and one box with small caliber pistol ammo (it contains smaller blue boxes of 9mm and .45acp rounds). There are some discrepancies here. First of all, while there's a small caliber ammo box (apparently intended for the two SMGs: 9mm for Uzi and .45ACP for MAC-10), pistols can't be loaded with explosive ammunition, even though they use the same ammo type as the SMGs. Secondly, there's only a 5.56mm ammo pack for assault rifles, which in real life would only work with M16A2 (Assault Rifle / M-16 Assault Rifle), SCAR (Desert Rifle) and Ruger Mini-14 (Hunting Rifle); there should be a few more: 7.62 x 51mm for G3 (Military Sniper Rifle), 7.62 x 39mm for AKM (AK-47), and 40mm grenades for the M79 Grenade Launcher. Additionally, it would also require .338 Lapua Magnum for the Arctic Warfare Super Magnum (AWP) in the German version of the game.
  • If you will fully unload any of shotguns and pick up any upgraded ammo before you will load first shell (you have to hold shotgun in your arms), you will receive 8 or 10 (depending on shotgun's type) upgraded shells, but you will still load 8 or 10 normal shells, resulting in shotgun loaded with 16 or 20 shells. This won't be seen on HUD, but after you shot with all upgraded ammo, you will see that you still have additional rounds loaded in weapon.
  • An animation on Left 4 Dead 2's files show ammo packs in a box-like shape and the Survivor emptying a box on to ground, giving the ammo pile shape.
  • Videos showing previous versions of Left 4 Dead 2 show that when a Survivor was picking up upgraded ammo, they had to reload his weapon to load special rounds into it.
  • If you are playing with bot Survivors and deploy Explosive Ammo, do not deploy Incendiary Ammo immediately after (and vice-versa). Bots will automatically pick up both ammo upgrades if they are on the ground simultaneously, even if they have not expended all of the upgraded ammo already in their weapon from the first ammo upgrade. This means that deploying both upgrades at the same time will cause the bots to waste one by picking up the other, overriding the upgraded ammo.
  • A player can still reload when their primary weapon is equipped with fire or explosive bullets. However, the only differences is when the player uses all their special ammo upgrades, they don't need to reload again, it depends how much special ammo is left when reloading. For example: if a player equipped with an Assault Rifle and it have only 1 fire/explosive round and is reloaded, there will be 49 normal bullets in the magazine (this will become visible after the last fire / explosive round is expended).
  • When cr0wning a Witch with an incendiary ammo loaded shotgun, the Witch will experience a glitch that startles her immediately (which will not happen with other types of ammunition). Unless the first shot kills her, she will relentlessly attack and none of the Survivor Bots will shoot her.
  • There is no incendiary shotgun shells in use in the U.S. military. Dragon's Breath exists, but it is impractical for combat, nor was it used for combat anyway. Dragon's Breath shells also fail to cycle semi-automatic shotguns such as the Benelli M4 (Auto Shotgun/Tactical Shotgun) and the SPAS-12 (Combat Shotgun). Valve likely ignored this for balancing reasons.
  • When modifying weapon scripts, increasing the magazine capacity beyond 256 will cause the magazine count to show wrong ammunition count, such as "-44" when the magazine capacity is put at "300", until the weapon has been fired to currently have 256 or below in its magazine.
  • If you place an ammo pack of any kind in the safe room and less then 4 players take it you will be able to reuse in the next chapter


  1. Valve. Rochelle The Producer. Valve. Retrieved on 2020 December 30.

See also[]

Primary Weapons
Tier 1 Chrome invert.png Chrome Shotgun / Pump invert.png Pump Shotgun / MP5 Invert.png MP5 / Mac10 invert.png Silenced Submachine Gun / Uzi invert.png Submachine Gun
Tier 2 Ak invert.png AK-47 / Scar invert.png Combat Rifle / M16 invert.png M-16 Assault Rifle / SIG Invert.png SG 552 / Auto invert.png Auto Shotgun / Spas12 invert.png Combat Shotgun / AWSM Invert.png AWP / Hunting invert.png Hunting Rifle / Steyr Invert.png Scout / G3 invert.png Sniper Rifle
Special Tier Grenade launcher inverted.png Grenade Launcher / M60Icon.png M60 Machine Gun
Secondary Weapons
Sidearms Pistol inverted.png M1911 Pistol / Deagle invert.png Magnum Pistol / Pistol inverted.png P220 Pistol
Melee Weapons Bat invert.png Baseball Bat / Cricket invert.png Cricket Bat / Crowbar invert.png Crowbar / Axe invert.png Fireaxe / Pan invert.png Frying Pan / GolfClubIcon.png Golf Club / Guitar invert.png Guitar / Katana invert.png Katana / Knife Invert.png Knife / Machete invert.png Machete / Baton invert.png Nightstick / Icon pitchfork inverted.png Pitchfork / Icon shovel inverted.png Shovel
Special Tier Chainsaw invert.png Chainsaw
Other Weapons
Grenades Bile invert.png Bile Bomb / Molotov inverted.png Molotov Cocktail / Pipebomb invert.png Pipe Bomb
Upgrades L4D2 ammo explosive.png Explosive Ammunition / L4D2 ammo incendiary.png Incendiary Ammunition / Laser sight HUD invert.PNG Laser Sight
Fixed Weapons MMG Icon.png Heavy Machine Gun / Minigun icon.png Minigun
Usable Items Explosive Barrel HUD invert.png Explosive barrel / Fireworks icon.png Fireworks / Gas canister HUD invert.png Gas can / Oxytank icon.png Oxygen tank / Propane tank icon.png Propane tank
Special Items Cola.png Cola / Gnome icon.png Gnome Chompski
Featured in both games / L4D1-exclusive / L4D2-exclusive (Counter-Strike weapons / PC-exclusive)