Weapons of the Vietnam War


American Flag M-16 American Flag M-2 American Flag M-60
American Flag CAR-15 American Flag M-1919A4 American Flag M-203
American Flag M-72 American Flag M-20 American Flag M-14
American Flag M-79 American Flag M-67 American Flag M-1911A1
American Flag .38 Special American Flag M-1

AK-47 Russian Rifle SIMONOV SKS Rifle RPD-7.62mm GPMG
MAT49 7.62mm SMG PPSh41 7.62mm SMG Chicom Type-56, Chinese AK47
Type-24, 7.92mm HMG RPG-7 Rocket Launcher TOKAREV TT33  Pistol
MAKAROV PM 9.5mm Pistol

American Flag US WEAPONS American Flag


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 Machine Gun

 BROWNING_50CAL.GIF (2664 bytes)



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 .30 Cal Machine Gun

 BROWNING_30CAL.GIF (2256 bytes)


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-1911A1, .45 Automatic Pistol



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.


M-1 Carbine


Cal .38 Special




NVA Weapons


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.



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 1020mm and a muzzle velocity of 735m per second.


RPD-7.62mm GPMG

The standard infantry squad support weapon, the RPD was 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 díArmes 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 itís 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.



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.



Tokarov Pistol

First introduced in the 1930ís 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 Pistol

The Pistol Makarov (PM) replaced the Tokarev in the early 1950ís 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 1930ís 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 firerís 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.

Special Thanks to GRUNT for use of some of the data above