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U.S. Infantry Weapons

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Infantry primary, secondary and support weapons.

M-16A1, 5.56mm Assault Rifle

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This is the weapon most commonly associated with US troops in Vietnam. Despite early problems with the weapon it has now become a respected assault weapon. The 5.56mm M16A1 is a gas operated magazine-fed rifle capable of semi-automatic and automatic fire with an effective range of 300 meters and a practical rate of fire of 60 rpm.


CAR-15, 5.56mm Assault Rifle

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The XM-177E2, commonly known as the Colt Commando. This is a shortened version of the M-16 with a telescoping stock. The CAR-15 was very popular with special ops troops but saw only limited use with line units.


BROWNING .50 Cal M-2 Machine Gun

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The Ma Deuce, was origionaly developed as an anti aircraft machine gun, but in the thirties it was converted to and air cooled version so that it could be mounted on tanks.  These guns used a very thick barrel to disiate the heat generated by firing.  The effective ROF is 500 rounds per minute and the overall weight is 38.22 kg with an overall length of 1653mm.

M-60, 7.62mm GPMG

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The 7.62mm M60 general purpose machine-gun (GPMG) was employed in a light role on it's bipod (effective range 500 meters) or in a medium role on a tripod (effective range 1,100 meters) as well as being used as protective armament on vehicles and helicopters. Gas operated, air cooled and belt fed, with a quick-change barrel to counter overheating during sustained firing, it has a practical rate of fire of 200 rpm (550 rpm max). In Vietnam it was the main firepower of the infantry rifle section. With bipod the M60 weighs 10.5 kg (23 pounds), which increases by 6.8kg (15 pounds) if a tripod is added (Total 38 pounds minus ammo).


BROWNING M1919 .30 Cal Machine Gun

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The Browning was developed in WWII to be the squad light machine gun in place of the BAR.  This weapon was far from light however weighing almost 15kg(33lbs) not including ammo.  It was heavy, cumbersome and heartily disliked by all who encountered it.  Once the M60's arrived in the field the 1919's were done away with.  The effective ROF is 500 rnds per minute and overall length of the weapon is 1346mm.



M-72, 66mm Light Anti-tank Weapon (LAW)

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Weighing 2.37-kg (5.2 pounds) complete, the LAW was designed as a discardable one-man rocket launcher primarily for use as an anti-tank weapon. In Vietnam however, the LAW was used almost exclusively as a bunker buster or for attacking entrenched enemies. When carried, the smooth-bore launcher tube was carried closed, and was watertight. In action, the end covers were opened by removing safety pins and the inner tube was telescoped outwards. This cocked the firing mechanism. Held over the shoulder, aimed by the simple sights, the weapon was fired by pressing the trigger button. The LAW Fired a 1-kg rocket to a maximum effective range of 300m. The rocket motor was fully burnt out by the time it left the launcher and resulted in a large back-blast danger area behind the firer. Once fired the tube was discarded. Due to it's low weight, a number of complete assemblies could be carried in a squad with each person capable of packing at least two if necessary. 


M-20, 3.5 inch Rocket Launcher

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 Often referred to as the 'Super Bazooka', the M20 was developed from the earlier 2.36-inch M9A1 rocket launcher. Although used in Vietnam, the M-20 was on it's way out of service. It was however a very useful weapon when used against enemy fortifications. The M20 weighed 5.5-kg and was a simple rocket launcher, firing a hollow-charge 4-kg HEAT rocket to relatively short ranges of 1200-meters. It was operated by a two-man team and had a rate of fire of six shots per minute. When carried, the long tube was folded into two for easier handling. In action a rocket was loaded into the open breech and two wires were attached to electrical terminals. When the trigger was pulled, a small electrical current ignited the rocket motor and propelled the rocket forward, leaving a large and dangerous back-blast area to the rear of the launcher.


M-203, 40mm Grenade Launcher

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The combination M16A1 automatic rifle and M203 (a version of the M79) grenade launcher was produced to avoid the problem of a Grenadier having to carry a grenade launcher as well as a weapon for personal protection and hence allowing him to also function as a rifleman. The 40mm grenade launcher was used to provide additional fire support for the infantry by delivering high explosive, parachute flares and canister rounds. The high explosive had a maximum range of 400 meters and a casualty radius of 5 meters.


 M-79, 40mm Grenade Launcher

Commonly known as the 'Thumper' or 'Blooper', this weapon first appeared during the Vietnam war and closely resembled a large bore, single barrel, sawn-off shotgun. The first M79 Grenade launchers were delivered to the US Army in 1961.

The M79 was designed as a close support weapon for the infantry, with two weapons being issued to each rifle squad. The tactical use of the weapon required the gunner (grenadier) to be dedicated to the weapon and only carried a pistol as a side arm. the M79 was intended to bridge the gap between the maximum throwing distance of a hand grenade, and the lowest range of supporting mortar fire - between 50 and 300 meters - and thus gave the squad an integral indirect fire weapon. With a length of 737mm (barrel = 355mm) and a loaded weight of 3kg, (6 and a half pounds) the M79 was an ideal weapon in the close terrain of Vietnam.

The M79 was a single shot, shoulder fired, break-barrel weapon which fired a spherical 40mm diameter grenade loaded directly into the breech. It had a rubber pad fitted to the shoulder stock to absorb some of the shock. The M-406 40mm HE grenades fired from the M79 traveled at a muzzle velocity of 75 meters per second, and contained enough explosive within a steel casing that upon impact with the target would produce over 300 fragments at 1,524 meters per second within a lethal radius of up to 5 meters. Stabilized in flight by the spin imparted on it by the rifled barrel the grenade rotated at 3,700rpm, this in turn, after approximately 15 meters of flight, armed the grenade.

For close range fighting the Army came up with two types of M79 rounds. The first was a flechette round ( or Bee Hives round) which housed approx 45 small darts in a plastic casing, these rounds were issued on an experimental basis. Later this round was replaced by the M-576 buckshot round. This round contained twenty-seven 00 buckshot which on firing was carried down the barrel in a 40mm plastic sabot which slowed down in flight so that the pellets could travel in their forward direction un-aided. The M79 could also fire smoke grenades (both standard and parachute), CS gas, and flares.

The M79 had a large flip up sight situated half way down the barrel, with a basic leaf foresight fixed at the end of the barrel. The rear sight was calibrated up to 375 meters (410 yds) in 25 meter (27.3 yds) intervals. In the hands of a good experienced Grenadier the M79 was highly accurate up to 200 meters. Later in the war the M79 was superseded by the M203.


M-67, 90mm Recoilless Rifle

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Measuring 1,346-mm (53-inches) in length and weighing in at a hefty 16-kg (35-lbs), the M-67 was intended for use against AFV's and bunkers as a portable crew served weapon. It was a breech-loaded, single-shot weapon which was shaped like a long tube with the sight assembly and firing mechanism offset to the side in opposite directions about half way along the barrel. The breech was hinged on the right side, and had to be swung open to load the round. It was then swung closed and when the rifle was fired, the rear end of the shell case broke up and was blown out of the back of the breech block.

Capable of maintaining a sustained fire rate of 1 round per minute, the weapon could be fired at an increased rate of 1 round every 6 seconds (10 rpm) by a well trained crew. However, due to excessive heating at this rate of fire, it was necessary to allow the weapon a 15-minute cooling period after each 5 rounds fired. 

The maximum range of the M-67 was 400-meters (437-yds) and was sighted to 800-meters (875-yds) although the shell could actually be fired out to 2,000-meters (2,187-yds).

Requiring a crew of three (gunner, assistant gunner and ammo bearer) the M-67 fired a 9.5-lb M371E1 HEAT round and could be shoulder fired or ground mounted.


M-1 Carbine


The M-1 is one of the most appealing of weapons, light , handy, easy to shoot and totaly useless at ranges over 200 yards, since it fired a pistol bullet.  It was origionaly  intendet simply to replace the pistol with something having more range, but it found itself being used as a light rifle more often than not.  The effective ROF is about 750 rounds per minute, and can take either a 15 or 30 round magazine.

M-14, 7.62mm Rifle


Until the introduction of the M-16, the M-14 was the standard rifle of the US forces and saw service in Vietnam from 1957 onwards until its replacement. The M14 national Match (Accursed) was the sniper rifle variant, later renamed the M-21.

Production of the M14 ceased in 1964 but a further variant was the M14A1 which came close to being a light machine-gun. The M14A1 had a pistol grip, a folding fore-hand grip about half-way down the forestock, a folding bipod, a shoulder strap, and a sleeve was fitted over the muzzle to act as a compensator when firing fully automatic. This helped to keep the barrel down and prevent climb.

The M-14 was adopted in 1957 as the successor to the WWII M-1 Garand, and was basically an evolution of that rifle.

The main and more obvious improvements were the gas system and magazines. On the M-1 the magazine was fixed and had to be loaded using a charger. On the M-14, detachable 20-round box magazines were used. The normal M-14 fired semi-automatic only. A slide-on bipod could be provided, and the rifle fitted the M-76 grenade launcher which was slipped on to the flash suppressor and secured to the bayonet lug.

The M-14 weighed 5.1-kg (11.22 pounds) with a full magazine and cleaning kit carried. It had a maximum effective range on semi-automatic without the M-2 bipod of 460-meters. When the bipod was added this range increased to 700-meters.

A special suppressor was fitted to the muzzle of the sniper rifle which did not affect the performance  of the bullet, but reduced the velocity of the emerging gases to below that of sound. This made location very difficult as the target heard only the crack of the bullet and no shot from the rifle.


S&W Model 39

This pistol is chambered in 9mm and has an overall length og 188mm and weighs 750g.  Magazine capacity is 8. This was Smith and Wessons first modern automatic pistol and is single action only.  Numbers were taken into service by the US Navy and Special Forces.



M-1911A1, .45 Automatic Pistol


The 1911 has been around since, well 1911.  It is chambered in 45acp and has a magazine capacity of 7 rounds.  The overall length of the pistol is 216mm.  The majority of the pistols used in vietnam were WWII era issue pistols and were very worn, but still servicable. 



Cal .38 Special





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