The U.S. Rifle 7.62 mm M14 was adopted for military service by the United States in 1957. It is a rotating bolt, gas operated, air cooled, magazine fed, shoulder fired weapon. As adopted, the M14 was 44.14″ long and weighed 8.7 pounds. With a full magazine and sling it weighed 11.0 pounds. The M16 rifle replaced the M14 rifle in the mid-1960s as the standard arm of the U. S. Armed Forces.
The first in the series of M16 rifles by Colt, this model did not have a forward assist and the flash suppressor was of a three prong open ended construction. The first of the ammunition caused a lot of fowling with the bolt and gas system and the bolt did not always lock back into battery. The open ended flash suppressor would catch on the jungle growth. It was important to keep the rifle very clean for it to operate properly. To say the M16 had growing pains was an understatement.
Much the same as the M16, but the M16A1 featured slight improvements, namely the addition of a forward assist and the ‘birdcage’ flash suppressor as opposed to the tri-pronged example. The forward assist was a device to counter the bolt jamming. The device was a plunger that engaged with corresponding notches on the bolt, driving it forward if it stuck. The birdcage flash suppressor was a simple fix to the problem of the open tri-pronged suppressor snagging on foliage.
This model of the M16 was a short barreled version. Internal operations were the same. The rifle is recognized by the collapsible stock and extended flash hider. The rifle was seen in theater with both the twenty and thirty round magazine. Not a common battlefield rifle for the troops, this weapon was seen with members of the K9 units and Special Forces troops such as Navy Seals and Green Berets, though it did make it’s way into the hands of some standard troops.
M79 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, sawed-off shotgun. The first M79 Grenade launchers were delivered to the US Army in 1961. 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 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.
The M203 was the melding of the M16A1 and the technology of the M79 grenade launcher. Slung under the barrel of the rifle, the grenade launcher fired the same ammunition as the M79. The barrel unlatched and slid forward to allow loading of the grenade. Ranges and effectivity were pretty much the same.
M1911A1 Colt Pistol
The .45 caliber Colt M1911 is a weapon that has a reputation the world over. This was the preferred sidearm for troops in Vietnam. The magazine holds 7 rounds.
M60 Machine Gun
A 7.62mm general purpose machine gun that gave infantry units the edge in firepower in close-quarter firefights. Nicknamed “The Pig”, it weighed at 23.75 lbs. Ammunition was generally distributed amongst the squad, each carrying at least 100 rounds, usually worn in bandolier fashion, or in special linen ammunition carriers. It 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. In Vietnam it was the main firepower of the infantry rifle section.
M3A1 Sub-Machine Gun
Introduced during World War 2 as the M3, the updated version, the M3A1, saw duty in Vietnam. Firing the same .45 caliber bullet as the M1911 pistol, it was a short range weapon with minimal accuracy. But it could lay down the lead, which had it’s advantages. This weapon was issued to armor vehicle crews throught the war and beyond.
M72 LAW – Light Anti-Tank Weapon
M72 LAW (top half of picture) and M72A1
M72 LAW (top half of picture) and M72A1
Weighing 5.2 pounds, 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. In action, the end covers were opened by removing safety pins and the inner tube was telescoped outwards. The LAW Fired a 1-kg rocket to a maximum effective range of 300m. Once fired the tube was discarded. There is a m ajor difference in the construction betwen the M72 and the M72A1, as seen above, The structure housing the firing mechanism and extension tube locking device are completely different. The warheaqds on the rockets were also improved.
M18 Smoke Grenades
This grenade weighs 19 ounces and contains a filler of 11.5 ounces of coloured smoke mixture. It employed an igniter type fuse that had a time delay of 2 seconds and emitted colored smoke for 50-90 seconds. The body of the grenade was painted olive drab with a horizontal white stripe. The writing on the side was also white. The grenade was designed to produce one of four colors: Red, Green, Yellow or Violet. The M18 smoke grenades were used to help helicopter pilot gauge wind direction as well as identifying enemy/friendly positions. Often carried by the radio operators (RTO).
M61 Fragmentation Hand Grenade A.K.A. M26A1
This is the standard fragmentation hand grenade. It has a smooth sheet metal body and is shaped like a lemon. It weights 16 ounces and is filled with 5.5 ounces of explosive material, using a detonator type fuse. The grenade is olive drab with yellow markings. Prior to the reclassification program they were known as the M26A1 grenade.
M67 Fragmentation Hand Grenade
A fragmentation grenade used by the U.S forces. A replacement for the M61 grenade used during Vietnam and the older MK2 “Pineapple” grenade used since World War Two and well into the Vietnam War.
MK2 Fragmentation Hand Grenade
Used in World War Two, and Korea as well as Vietnam. It has a cast iron body that is deeply grooved in a crisscross fasion. It weighs 21 ounces and uses a detonator type fuse to ignite 2 ounces of flaked TNT. It is olive drab with yellow markings.
Hand Held Rocket Propelled Signal Flares
These hand held rocket propelled signal grenades eliminated the need for a rifle or grenade launcher for signalling purposes. These signals contained their own launching mechanism and were designed to reach a minimum height of 200 metres. This group of ground signals includes the single star parachute flares, five star clusters, smoke parachutes, colored smoke streamers and in addition the white parachute flare. The signals were shipped in grey waterproof metal containers. They have black markings which identify their type and in addition they have letters embossed in the container ends to help identify at night. The signal is composed of three parts: Rocket Barrel (Launcher Tube) The rocket barrel made of drawn aluminium contains the complete launching and signalling devices. Different signals are identified by a gummed label on its side. This label contains information regarding the signal type, lot number, date of manufacture and instructions for firing. A narrow band coated with red lacquer is located just above the base (Primer end) of the rocket barrel. At the muzzle end of the barrel is the firing cap assembly. When this assembly is removed prior to firing, a colored cork seal is visible. This colour matches the color of the signal. Signal Carrier: The signal carrier is contained within the rocket barrel and holds the signal compostion and rocket motor. It has four flexible steel fins that unfold and stabilize the carrier in flight. Signal Compositon: This is the chemicals that burns to produce a light or smoke. This could be parachute supported depending on the type of signal. With the aid of a parachute the signals will float to the ground at a rate of 2 meters per second.
Types of Hand Held Rocket Propelled Signals
M125E1 Green Star Star Cluster Signal Grenade
M126E1 Red Star Parachute Signal Grenade
M127 White Star Parachute Signal Grenade
M128 Green Star Parachute Signal Grenade
M129 Red Star Parachute Signal Grenade
M130 Yellow Streamer Signal Grenade
T133 Red Star Cluster Signal Grenade
T134 Red Streamer Signal Grenade
T135 Green Streamer Signal Grenade
T137 White Star Cluster Signal Grenade
T138 Green Star Parachute Signal Grenade
An antipersonnel land mine. Widely used in Vietnam, the claymore antipersonnel mine was designed to produce a directionalized, fan-shaped pattern of projectiles. The claymore used a curved block of C-4 explosive, shaped to blow all its force outward in a semicircular pattern. A large number of pellets were embedded in the face of the explosive, creating a devastating blast of fragments similar to the effect of an oversized shotgun. With their directional pattern, claymores were well-suited as a perimeter-defense weapon. With electronic firing, defenders in bunkers could set claymores in a pattern to cover all approaches and fire them at will. The mines could be4 command detonated or rigged as booby-traps.
Some of the information for these pages was recovered from the now defunct Vietnam Database web site, composed by Graham Sherwood.