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Vietnam War Weapons
Vietnam War Weapons




American M14 rifle

There was a need to replace the M1 Garand with a more suitable candidate including changes to the caliber and overall weapon design.  The M14 became the standard issue rifle in 1959 when it superseded the M1 Garand rifle. It was the first rifle issued to US troops in Vietnam.  The M14 was battle tested early in the Vietnam war revealing shortcomings that compelled a fresh reevaluation of the battle rifle’s design.   Among them, the M14 was cumbersome and unwieldy in jungle environments because of its length and weight.  The rifle with its .308 cartridge was also uncontrollable when fired in fully automatic mode. The large caliber meant that troops could carry fewer rounds of ammunition.   Although the 308 cartridge was powerful enough to penetrate brush and vegetation, the recoil from full automatic fire rendered the rifle ineffective to use in a machine gun role. 



American M16 rifle

The M14 was replaced by the lighter M16 rifle firing a smaller 5.56 mm cartridge.  Early in its deployment, the M16 was plagued by a variety of problems that created serious issue for troops in the field. Over time, the rifle design improved and the rifle eventually was considered a success.  The M16 remained the service issue rifle for ground troops throughout the war. The M16 rifle emerged from the rifle redesign evolution that began post WW2.   Eventually the .223 caliber came into favor which brought renewed interest in the AR10 rifle.  In the late 50’s Eugene Stoner developed the AR15 which is very lightweight, shorter than the M14 and had manufacturing ergonomics mitigating the need for precision machining.  The rifle fired the smaller but very potent .223 cartridge which allowed carrying larger quantities of ammunition and was more effective when fired in fully automatic mode.   In 1963, the AR15, which later evolved into the M16, was officially adopted by the US Army and the M14 was sidelined.  Early in its deployment, the M16 exhibited design flaws which inspired controversy and criticism. The first versions lacked a chrome lined barrel, the propellant for the cartridge produced excessive fouling which produced jams. The receiver mechanism was also subject to jam when exposed to wet and dirty environments. These problems blemished the rifle’s early history at a time when the enemy was equipped with a weapon immune to similar issues. The remedies for the M16’s shortcomings included the addition of a forward assist, emphasis on cleaning and maintaining in the field, and the addition of a chrome lined barrel.  As these improvements were implemented, the rifle’s performance began to improve and it overcame its initial poor reputation among solders in the field. 

The M16 is a lightweight, 5.56 mm, air-cooled, gas-operated, magazine-fed rifle, with a rotating bolt. The M16's receivers are made of 7075 aluminum alloy.  The barrel, bolt, and bolt carrier are made of steel.  Its hand guards, pistol grip, and butt stock are of plastic construction.  The M16's design allows straight line movement of the operating components which allows recoil forces to drive straight to the rear which makes the rifle more stable when firing.  In the M16 design, high pressure gas from the combustion of the propellant drives the operation of the firing mechanisms, reducing the weight of moving parts and making the rifle lighter.  The M16s straight-line recoil design, where the recoil spring is located in the stock directly behind the action, and serves the dual function of operating spring and recoil buffer.  The stock being in line with the bore reduces muzzle rise, especially during automatic fire. Because recoil does not significantly shift the point of aim, faster follow-up shots are possible and user fatigue is reduced. Also, current model M16 flash-suppressors also act as compensators to reduce recoil further.  The M16's have a distinctive ergonomic feature which is the carrying handle and rear sight assembly located on top of the receiver. This is a remnant of the original design, where the carry handle served to protect the charging handle. The M16 rifle is very accurate. Its light recoil, high-velocity and flat trajectory allow shooters to take head shots out to 300 meters. The M16s magazines are generally made of pressed/stamped aluminum and are not designed to be durable. Higher quality magazines have been produced by weapons manufacturers in other countries such as Israeli Weapons Industries. The standard magazine for the M16 originally was a 20-round magazine which was later replaced by a 30-round design. Many variants exist such as the A2, A3 and A4, the CAR 15, the M4 and a sniper variant. Today, the M16 is the most prolific 5.56 x 45 mm rifle in the world and is employed by 15 NATO nations and 80 other countries.



Russia AK 47 Assault Rifle:

The AK47 officially known as the Avtomat Kalashnikova, was designed by Michael Kalishnokov and was adopted by the Soviet Union in 1949. The AK rifle was also issued to other Communist bloc states and a large number of them were employed by the Viet Cong and the NVA in Vietnam supplied by China and the Soviet Union. The AK47 is the single most popular and widely used assault rifle in the world today. Despite the old design, this rifle is still highly favored for its reliability and ruggedness in all types of terrain and environments. The SKS rifle Samozaryadny Karabin Sistemy Simonova, 1945 preceded the AK47. 

The AK47 type rifle is the most prolific assault rifle in history.  An estimated 100 million exist in the world today. Its simplistic design, ease of manufacturing, ability to operate in a wide variety of environments, ruggedness and reliability, make this a very practical and effective weapon.  It is the weapon of choice in most 3rd world countries because of its low cost and availability.  It has also been formally adopted by armies of many nations, primarily Communist bloc and Warsaw Pact nations as well as various insurgent organizations. Interestingly,  it is also sometimes a favorite of special forces and was used by US Navy Seals in Vietnam.  The design of the AK 47 originated in the Soviet Union.  It was created by Mikael Kalisnikov in 1946 and is an evolution of the German Sturmgewehr 44 assault rifle developed during WW2.  This rifle design is a direct result of the maneuver by fire concept and all of its characteristics lend themselves to this philosophy.  The rifle is relatively small, and has marginal accuracy but is capable of a high rate of fire.  The design of the receiver and internal mechanisms do not employ tight tolerances at the sacrifice of precision operation. Yet this same factor allows the rifle to operate in harsh conditions when exposed to dirt, sand and other contaminants which might cause other rifles to fail.  The rifle became an iconic symbol of the Vietnam War where it was employed by Viet Cong and NVA soldiers against US forces armed with the M14 and later the M16 rifle. 

Many variants of the rifle exist which employ either a stamped (AKM) or milled receiver, the later is more robust and slightly heavier.  In most former Eastern Bloc countries, the weapon is known simply as the "Kalashnikov" or "AK". The differences between the milled and stamped receivers includes the use of rivets rather than welds on the stamped receiver, as well as the placement of a small dimple above the magazine well for stabilization of the magazine.  The most effective version employs a fixed stock although many exist equipped with the under-folding stock.  The folding stock makes the weapon very compact, but over time and extended use, the folding lock mechanism will begin to wear resulting in a lack of stability which degrades an already limited degree of accuracy.

There are several spin-off rifles which employ the AK 47 design including the Dragunov Sniper Rifle, the Yugo M76, the Israeli Galil, and the RPK Light Squad Automatic Rifle.  The AK-47 and variants of the design are made in dozens of countries around the world, with a wide range of manufacturing quality ranging from finely engineered to products of poor workmanship.  Generally, the AK-47 has a service life ranging from 6,000 to 15,000 rounds.  The AK-47 was designed to be an economical, simple, easy to manufacture assault rifle.  It perfectly matches Soviet military doctrine that treats equipment and weapons as disposable items.  The philosophy being that it is more cost-effective to replace rather than repair weapons.

Interesting Trivia: the National Flag of Mozambique prominently displays the AK-47 Rifle



 28 Vietnam war Carl Gustav M45

Carl Gustav M45:

The Carl Gustav M45 is a Swedish submachine gun designed by Gunnar Johnsson in 1945. Also known as the Kulsprutepistol m/45, the M45 was in service with the Swedish Army from 1946 through 1965. The design was the product of evolution from many other WW2 era submachine guns and employed sheet metal stamping techniques similar to the Soviet PPSH, the German MP40 and the British Sten.  The M45 is a fully automatic only weapon utilizing an open bolt and a fixed firing pin.  The rifle is also equipped with a side folding wire stock. The M45 has a slow cyclic rate (about 550 rounds per minute) which allows good control when firing.  It is possible to fire single rounds with appropriate trigger control. Weight when equipped with a loaded 36 round magazine is about 9.5 pounds.  The 36-round straight detachable staggered row box magazine is wider at the rear than at the front, the extra space allows the 9mm Parabellum cartridges to feed more efficiently in dusty environments and sub-zero temperatures.  The trapezium design makes the magazine very reliable. Magazines of parallel-side design are more likely to jam under adverse conditions. Maximum effective range of the weapon is about 200 meters.  The M45 was officially declared obsolete in 2007 and was replaced by the 7.62mm AK4 battle rifle, similar in appearance to the HK G3, and the 5.56mm AK5 assault rifle. Egypt obtained a license from the Swedish to produce the M45 and produced two versions known as the Port Said, and the Akaba. These were produced by the Maadi weapons factory and saw use against the Israelis during the 1956 Suez Crisis, the Six day war and the Yom Kippur War. Also known as the Swedish K rifle, the M45 was popular with US Navy SEALS for its robust design and reliable magazine. Supposedly, the Swedish K rifle can fire almost immediately when taken out of water.  The fact that it was not manufactured by US industry made it ideal for clandestine operations.  After Sweden placed an arms embargo on the US during the Vietnam War, US manufacturer Smith and Wesson produced a copy known as the M76 which saw little service.

The M45 uses a 36 round magazine and has no semi-automatic firing mode. However, the slow rate of fire made it possible for the user to fire single shots and also made the weapon effective in fully automatic firing. 


 Chinese Type 53 Carbine 1

Chinese Type 53 Carbine: 

The Type 53 rifle is a licensed copy of the Soviet made Mosin Nagant M1944 rifle which is claimed to be the longest serving and most widely used bolt action rifle of all time. The Type 53 was produced for the People’s Liberation Army of China until sometime around 1961.  As in the case of the SKS rifle, the Type 53 entered service at a time of significant change in rifle design and was quickly superseded. However, also like the SKS, the Type 53 retained popularity with insurgent groups and militias.  The rifle was heavily used by the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong.  A distinctive feature present in the Mosin Nagant and also found in the Type 53 design is the use of slots in the stock instead of swivels for sling attachment which eases manufacture and reduces sound when carrying the rifle. Otherwise, differences between the Mosin Nagant and the Type 53 are very minor.  The Type 53 rifles had stocks made of a Chinese wood that held up well in humid environments. 


 M 79 Grenade Launcher 1

American M79 Grenade launcher:

The M79 grenade launcher is a single-shot, shoulder-fired, break-action grenade launcher that fires a 40×46mm grenade. Also known as the blooper, the M79 made its appearance during the Viet Nam War. The M79 can fire a variety of rounds such as flechette, anti-personnel, explosive, buckshot and illumination. The M79 was developed to fulfill a requirement to provide additional firepower more effective than rifle grenades for the infantryman and lighter than the mortar. The M79 was delivered to the US Army in 1961 and quickly became popular. The single shot operation resulted in a slow rate of fire and because of the size of the weapon, most grenadiers did not carry a rifle and were generally equipped with a sidearm. The M79 has been replaced with the M203 under barrel grenade launcher. The M79 Grenade Launcher, also known as the “Blooper” gun for its distinctive sound when firing, filled a niche between rifle grenades and mortars. The simple design resembles a break-open sawed-off shotgun. Despite the single shot capability of the M79 and the fact that it has been superseded by the M203, it is highly effective in the field and is still used by many countries today. 


 Chinese Type 56 SKS 1

Chinese Type 56 SKS Rifle: 

The SKS was also designed in the Soviet Union.  The SKS, which stands for “Self Loading Carbine of the Simonov System” is a Soviet designed semi-automatic gas-piston operated rifle chambered for the 7.62 x 39 mm cartridge. Also known as the SKS-45, it was produced by the Tula Arsenal from 1945 through 1958 and at Izhevsk Arsenal in just 1953 and 1954. Total production was about 2.7 million. The rifle was an improvement over the Mosin- Nagant, but was quickly rendered obsolete with the advent of the AK 47. The rifle was also licensed for production by Romania, East Germany and China. Inexpensive and utilizing readily available ammunition, the rifle has been very popular on the export market in the US. The SKS was designed by Sergei Siminov, famous inventor of the PTRS-41 anti-tank gun. The SKS is a down-sized PTRS-41 chambered for the 7.62x39 cartridge. Unlike the Mosin-Nagant, the SKS is fed by an internal 10 round magazine easily topped off by stripper clips. The front sight is a hooded post. The rear, a tangent notch sight graduated out to 1,000 meters. The rifle is 40 inches long and weighs 8.5 pounds. A notable characteristic of post 1950 rifles is the free-floating firing pin. The rifle was adopted for use in 1945. These rifles were first encountered by the French in Egypt in 1956 during the Suez Crisis. Large numbers of SKS rifles were provided to the Viet Cong by the Soviets and Chinese during the Vietnam War. In the USSR, the usefulness of the SKS design was short-lived. However the rifle retained popularity with the Chinese whose Maoist tactics found enough utility to overlook the shortcomings of its design. The SKS remains in weapons stockpiles of various insurgent and guerrilla organizations and has been in use by at least 90 countries around the world.  However, also like the AK47, the field effectiveness of the SKS rifle has allowed it to retain popularity into present times. 

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