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Vietnam War Facts and Figures

NVA Infantry Weapons
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Infantry primary, secondary and support weapons.

AK-47 7.62mm ASSAULT RIFLE

Easily recognized with its high front sights, large selector/safety switch on the right side and the long, curved banana magazine, this is the Soviet version with a conventional wooden buttstock. The AK-47 is a gas-operated, magazine-fed rifle which has a semiautomatic ROF of 40 rounds (effective range about 400 meters), increasing to 100 rounds on fully automatic (effective range about 300 meters). It has a 30 round detachable box magazine. Renowned for it's durability, the AK-47 is shorter and heavier than the M-16 but with a lower ROF and muzzle velocity.

 


SIMONOV 7.62mm SELF-LOADING RIFLE (SKS)

A 7.62mm semi-automatic carbine with an effective range of 400 meters, the SKS has a 10 round integral magazine and an ROF of 30-35 rounds per minute. The SKS resembles a conventional bolt action rifle but is equipped with an integral folding bayonet under the muzzle. Used extensively by the VC, it weighed 3.86kg, had a length of 1122mm and a muzzle velocity of 735m per second. This rifle was the first Soviet weapon to fire the 7.62 X 39 mm Cartridge.

 


RPK- 7.62mm LMG

The RPK replaced the RPD as the standard squad automatic  for Soviet infantry and then went on to arm the Warsaw Pact armies and be distributed to sympathisers across the world.  It is simply a heavy barreled version of the standard AK47 rifle and it will accept standard magazines, which makes resupply in the field relatively easy.  Like the rifle the barrel is fixed, so that sustained fire is not entirely practical. The RPK can accept 30 or 40 round box magazines or a 75 round drum. The weapon has an overall length of 1035mm and weighs 4.76kg.  ROF is 660 rds per minute.

RPD 7.62 GPMG

 

The standard infantry squad support weapon, the RPKwas analogous to the US M-60 and fired a 7.62mm slug from a 100 round belt  which was usually contained in a drum mounted below the gun. The drum itself could be changed in a matter of seconds by an experienced gunner and protected the ammo from dirt and hence jamming. With a maximum rate of cyclic fire of about 150 rounds per minute, an effective range of 800m and rapid reload time, this light and uncomplicated weapon was capable of laying down sustained heavy fire. The gunner was usually accompanied by an assistant acting as an ammo carrier, loader and capable of taking over as the primary gunner in the event of the main gunner becoming a casualty. The RPD was approximately 1036mm in length (521mm barrel ) and had a muzzle velocity of 700m per second.

 


MAT49 modified 7.62mm SMG

 Produced by the Manufacture d’Armes de Tulle (MAT) in 1946 and using the 9mm Parabellum cartridge this SMG was adopted by the French Army in 1949 (hence the designation MAT49). The weapon was widely used by French forces in Indo-China and many found their way into the hands of the Vietminh and eventually the Viet Cong.

The Vietnamese modified the weapon to fire the Soviet 7.62mm x 25P ammunition and it’s PRC equivalent by fitting a longer 7.62mm barrel. However, they did keep all the essential features of the MAT49 except for replacing the 32-round box with a 35-round magazine.

One of the remarkable features of the weapon was the sliding wire butt stock which could be pushed forward out of the way for carrying and pulled to the rear if it was to be used in firing. The magazine housing on the receiver could be rotated forward through 90-degrees (even with the magazine fitted) to lie along the barrel. These features made the MAT49 particularly suitable for troops who required compactness in carriage.

At the back part of the pistol grip was a grip safety, which was operated by the action of squeezing the pistol grip when firing a round. This released the safety catch. When the grip safety was not squeezed, it locked the bolt in the forward position, and locked the trigger when the weapon was cocked. The lock was released by the pressure of the palm of the hand. The weapon could not be accidentally discharged.

The Vietnamese modification increased the cyclic rate of fire from 600-rounds per minute to 900-rpm.

 


PPSh41 7.62mm SMG

Designed by the Soviets in 1940 and adopted for issue in 1941, the PPSh41 met the Red Army's need for an easily mass-produced, rugged weapon. It became very popular with German soldiers fighting on the Eastern Front and was converted by German armorers to fire 9-mm Parabellum rounds.

The weapon had a fire-rate selector lever positioned just in front of the trigger, allowing the rate of fire to be changed rapidly without the weapon moving off the the point of aim.

The two-piece bolt handle allows the bolt to be locked in either the forward or the rear position.

The original weapon had two different magazines; a 71-round drum or a 35-round box. Most of the weapons used in Vietnam used the box magazine but this may have been a result of the Chinese connection since the PRC Type 50 differed only slightly from the PPSh41, mainly in that it only fitted the 35-round box magazine.

The most interesting variant of the weapon was the K50M, which was the Vietnamese modification of the PRC Type 50. The Vietnamese removed the wooden butt stock and replaced it with a wooden pistol grip and a French-style sliding wire butt stock similar to that on the MAT49. At the front end of the weapon they shortened the perforated barrel jacket, left off the muzzle brake, and attached the foresight to the barrel, giving the gun a shape strongly reminiscent of the MAT49. The K50M was about 500-g (1.1-lbs) lighter than the PPSh41 at 3.4-kg (7.5-lbs) as opposed to 3.9-kg (8.6-lbs).

The weapons were all blowback operated and had an effective range of about 150-m (164-yards).

 


Chicom Type-56, 7.62mm ASSAULT RIFLE

The Chinese copy of the original Soviet AK-47, the Type-56 has a folding metal stock.

 


Type-24, 7.92mm HEAVY MACHINEGUN

A Chinese copy of the German WWI vintage Maxim machine gun often used in an air defense role.

 


RPG-7 ROCKET LAUNCHER

The RPG-7 (CHICOM Type-69) is a muzzle loaded, shoulder fired antitank grenade launcher. The VC and NVA used the RPG7V, a Soviet produced short-range, anti-Armour, rocket-propelled grenade, from 1967 against armored vehicles, defensive positions, personnel and even helicopters. This smoothbore, recoilless  weapon consists of a launcher tube fitted with a simple iron sight or a more sophisticated telescopic range-finding sight, and a HEAT rocket grenade projectile with a caliber of 40mm. The RPG-7 has an effective range of 300 meters against moving targets and up to 500 meters against stationary targets. The projectile explodes either on impact or at its maximum range of 920 meters.

 


  TOKAREV TT33 7.62mm AUTOMATIC PISTOL

Tokarov Pistol

First introduced in the 1930’s and utilizing the self-cocking design from Colt, the Tokarev TT33 was used extensively by Soviet forces in WWII and was produced in nearly all Warsaw Pact countries and the PRC.

The Chinese Type-54 could be distinguished from the Soviet TT33 by the serrations on the slide and by the Chinese ideograms on the pistol grip (the Soviet weapon had a star in the center of the pistol grip). The Soviet TT33 had alternate narrow and wide vertical cuts, whereas the Type-51 and Type-54 had uniform narrow markings, to aid gripping the slide when manually cocking the weapon.

There was no safety mechanism but the hammer could be locked at half-cock and the weapon was normally carried around with a round in the chamber.

Production of the weapon in the USSR stopped in 1954, but continued in other Communist countries, notably the PRC. The pistol was widely used by VC and NVA officers.

The Tokarev TT33 fired the Soviet 7.62-mm x 25 Type-P pistol cartridge. It operated on a recoil single action and was semi-automatic, feeding ammunition from an 8-round box magazine. Maximum ROF was 32-rpm and with a maximum effective range out to about 50-meters.

The pistol was quite heavy, weighing about 1-kg (2.2-lbs) when loaded and was 196-mm (7.72-inches) in length.

 


MAKAROV PM 9.5mm AUTOMATIC PISTOL

 Makarov Pistol

The Pistol Makarov (PM) replaced the Tokarev in the early 1950’s in the Warsaw Pact countries and was produced in the PRC as the Type-59. originally copied from the West German Walther PP (police pistol) of the 1930’s the Makarov was chambered for the 9-mm round rather than the 7.65-mm cartridge of the original pistol and used Soviet 9-mm x 18 ammunition rather than the original NATO 9-mm x 19.

Following it's introduction the Makarov became the standard pistol in most Euro-Asian Communist forces.

The pistol was operated by a blowback, self-loading double action, and loaded from an 8-round box magazine. It measured 160-mm (6.3-inches) in length and weighed 800-grammes (1.8-lbs) when loaded.

The pistol grip was slightly bulky, making firing it a little uncomfortable. Soviet manufactured weapons had a star in the center of the pistol grip. There was a simple safety catch at the rear of the slide, and a slide stop on the outside of the receiver, both of which could be operated by the firer’s thumb if right handed.

 


81 mm Mortar

81mm Mortar. Manufactured in North Vietnam and is a copy of the US 81 mm MI Mortar. Very popular with the VC as it could be broken down into three one-man loads.


75 mm Recoilless Rifle

75 mm recoilless Rifle. Again, very popular with VC forces because of they combined firepower and light weight. A direct copy of the obsolete US M20 - it was quite adequate for the needs of the VC.

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