Vietnam era rifles used by the US military and allies
This article is about the
weapons used in the , which involved the Vietnam War People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) or North Vietnamese Army (NVA), National Liberation Front for South Vietnam (NLF) or Viet Cong (VC), and the armed forces of the China (PLA), Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), United States, Republic of Korea, Philippines, Thailand, and the Australian, New Zealand defence forces, and a variety of irregular troops.
Nearly all United States-allied forces were armed with U.S. weapons including the
M1 Garand, M1 carbine, M14 and M16. The Australian and New Zealand forces employed the 7.62 mm L1A1 Self-Loading Rifle as their service rifle, with the occasional US M16.
The PAVN, although having inherited a variety of American, French, and Japanese weapons from
World War II and the First Indochina War (aka French Indochina War), were largely armed and supplied by the People's Republic of China, the Soviet Union, and its Warsaw Pact allies. In addition, some weapons—notably anti-personnel explosives, the K-50M (a PPSh-41 copy), and "home-made" versions of the RPG-2—were manufactured in North Vietnam. By 1969 the US Army had identified 40 rifle/carbine types, 22 machine gun types, 17 types of mortar, 20 recoilless rifle or rocket launcher types, nine types of antitank weapons, and 14 anti-aircraft artillery weapons used by ground troops on all sides. Also in use, primarily by anti-communist forces, were the 24 types of armored vehicles and self-propelled artillery, and 26 types of field artillery and rocket launchers.
Communist forces and weapons
During the early stages of their insurgency, the Viet Cong mainly sustained itself with captured arms (often of American manufacture) or crude, self-made weapons (e.g. copies of the US
Thompson submachine gun and shotguns made of galvanized pipes). Most arms were captured from poorly defended ARVN militia outposts.
Communist forces were principally armed with Chinese and Soviet weaponry though some VC guerrilla units were equipped with Western infantry weapons either captured from French stocks during the first Indochina war, such as the
MAT-49, or from ARVN units or requisitioned through illicit purchase.
In the summer and fall of 1967, all Viet Cong battalions were reequipped with arms of Soviet design such as the
AK-47 assault rifle and the RPG-2 anti-tank weapon. Their weapons were principally of Chinese or Soviet manufacture.  The period up to the conventional phase in the 1970, the Viet Cong and NVA were primarily limited to mortars, recoilless rifles and small-arms and had significantly lighter equipment and firepower in comparison with the US arsenal, relying on ambushes alongside superior stealth, planning, marksmanship and small-unit tactics to face the disproportionate US technological advantage. 
Many divisions within the NVA would incorporate armoured and mechanised battalions including the
Type 59 tank., BTR-60, Type 60 artillery and rapidly altered and integrated new war doctrines following the Tet Offensive into a mobile combined-arms force. The North Vietnamese had both  amphibious tanks (such as the PT-76) and light tanks (such the Type 62) used during the conventional phase. Experimental Soviet equipment started being used against ARVN forces at the same time, including Man-portable air-defense system SA-7 and Grail anti-tank missiles including the AT-3 . Sagger By 1975 they had fully transformed from the strategy of mobile light-infantry and using the people's war concept used against the United States. 
M16 rifle and XM177 carbine, which both replaced the M14, were lighter and considered more accurate than the AK-47 but in Vietnam was prone to "failure to extract", in which the spent cartridge case remained stuck in the chamber after a round was fired, preventing the next round from feeding and jamming the gun. This was ultimately traced to an inadequately tested switch in propellants from DuPont's proprietary IMR 4475 to Olin's WC 846, that Army Ordnance had ordered out of concern for standardization and mass production capacity.
The heavily armored, 90 mm gun
M48A3 'Patton' tank saw extensive action during the Vietnam War and over 600 were deployed with U.S. forces. They played an important role in infantry support though there were a few tank versus tank battles. The M67A1 flamethrower tank (nicknamed the Zippo) was an M48 variant used in Vietnam. Artillery was used extensively by both sides but the Americans were able to ferry the lightweight 105 mm M102 howitzer by helicopter to remote locations on quick notice.  With its 17-mile (27 km) range, the Soviet  130 mm M-46 towed field gun was a highly regarded weapon and used to good effect by the PAVN. It was countered by the long-range, American 175 mm M107 Self-Propelled Gun.
The United States had air superiority though many aircraft were lost to surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery. U.S. airpower was credited with breaking the
siege of Khe Sanh and blunting the 1972 Easter Offensive against South Vietnam. At sea, the U.S. Navy had the run of the coastline, using aircraft carriers as platforms for offshore strikes and other naval vessels for offshore artillery support. Offshore naval fire played a pivotal role in the Battle of Huế in February 1968, providing accurate fire in support of the U.S. counter-offensive to retake the city.
Captured South Vietnamese warplanes in Ho Chi Minh City
The Vietnam War was the first conflict that saw wide scale tactical deployment of helicopters.
The  Bell UH-1 Iroquois nicknamed "Huey" was used extensively in counter-guerilla operations both as a troop carrier and a gunship. In the latter role it was outfitted with a variety of armaments including  M60 machine guns, multi-barreled 7.62 mm Miniguns and unguided air-to-surface rockets. The Hueys were also successfully used in  MEDEVAC and search and rescue roles. Two aircraft which were prominent in the war were the  AC-130 "Spectre" Gunship and the UH-1 "Huey" gunship. The AC-130 was a heavily armed ground-attack aircraft variant of the C-130 Hercules transport plane; it was used to provide close air support, air interdiction and force protection. The AC-130H "Spectre" was armed with two 20 mm M61 Vulcan cannons, one Bofors 40mm autocannon, and one 105 mm M102 howitzer. The Huey is a military helicopter powered by a single, turboshaft engine, and approximately 7,000 UH-1 aircraft saw service in Vietnam. At their disposal ground forces had access to B-52 and F-4 Phantom II and others to launch napalm, white phosphorus, tear gas and chemical weapons as well. The aircraft ordnance used during the war included  precision-guided munition, cluster bombs, a thickening/ gelling agent generally mixed with petroleum or a similar fuel for use in an incendiary device, initially against buildings and later primarily as an anti-personnel weapon that sticks to skin and can burn down to the bone.
Claymore M18A1, an anti-personnel mine was widely used, and is command-detonated and directional shooting 700 steel pellets in the kill zone.
Weapons of the South Vietnamese, U.S., South Korean, Australian, Philippine, and New Zealand Forces
Hand combat weapons
The KA-BAR knife was the most famous edged weapon of the war.
Pistols and revolvers
A U.S. soldier with an
watches as supplies are dropped in
M1 Garand – used by the South Vietnamese and South Koreans M1, M1A1, & M2 Carbine – used by the South Vietnamese Military, Police and Security Forces, South Koreans, U.S. military, and Laotians supplied by the U.S.
M14, M14E2, M14A1 – issued to most U.S. troops from the early stages of the war until 1967–68, when it was replaced by the M16.
M16, XM16E1, and M16A1 – M16 was issued in 1964, but due to reliability issues, it was replaced by the M16A1 in 1967 which added the forward assist and chrome-lined barrel to the rifle for increased reliability. 
CAR-15 – carbine variant of the M16 produced in very limited numbers, fielded by special operations early on. Later supplemented by the improved XM177.
XM177 (Colt Commando)/GAU-5 – further development of the CAR-15, used heavily by MACV-SOG, the US Air Force, and US Army. 
Stoner 63 – used by US Navy SEALs and USMC.  T223 – a copy of the
Heckler & Koch HK33 built under license by Harrington & Richardson used in small numbers by SEAL teams. Even though the empty H&R T223 was 0.9 pounds (0.41 kg) heavier than an empty M16A1, the weapon had a forty-round magazine available for it and this made it attractive to the SEALS. 
MAS-36 rifle – used by South Vietnamese militias AK-47, AKM and Type 56 – Captured rifles were used by South Vietnamese and U.S forces.
Beretta M12 – limited numbers were used by U.S. Embassy security units. 
Carl Gustaf m/45 – used by Navy SEALs in the beginning of the war, but later replaced by the Smith & Wesson M76 in the late 1960s. Significant numbers were also utilized by MAC-V-SOG, the South Vietnamese, and limited numbers were used in Laos by advisors, and Laotian fighters. 
Smith & Wesson M76 – copy of the Carl Gustaf m/45. Few were actually shipped to Navy SEALs fighting in Vietnam.
F1 submachine gun – replaced the Owen Gun in Australian service. 
M3 Grease gun – standard U.S. military submachine gun, also used by the South Vietnamese 
M50/55 Reising – limited numbers were used by MACVSOG and other irregular forces. 
Madsen M-50 – used by South Vietnamese forces, supplied by the CIA.
MAS-38 submachine gun – used by South Vietnamese militias.
MAT-49 submachine gun – used by South Vietnamese militias. Captured models were used in limited numbers 
MP 40 submachine gun – used by South Vietnamese forces, supplied by the CIA.
Owen Gun – standard Australian submachine-gun in the early stages of the war, later replaced by the F1 and withdrawn from combat use by 1971. 
Sten submachine gun – used by US special operations forces, often with a suppressor mounted.
Sterling submachine gun – used by Australian Special Air Service Regiment and other special operations units. 
Thompson submachine gun – used often by South Vietnamese troops, and in small quantities by US artillery and helicopter units. Uzi – used by special operations forces and some South Vietnamese, supplied from Israel.
Shotguns were used as an individual weapon during jungle patrol; infantry units were authorized a shotgun by TO&E (Table of Organization & Equipment). Shotguns were not general issue to all infantrymen, but were select issue weapons, such as one per squad, etc.
US Marine fires his M60 machine gun at an enemy position during the
Battle of Huế
Grenades and mines
Claymore anti-personnel mine in use in Vietnam
Grenade and Rocket Launchers
M1/M2 rifle grenade adapters – used to convert a standard fragmentation grenade (M1) or smoke grenade (M2) into a rifle grenade in conjunction with the M7 grenade launcher.
M7 and M8 rifle grenade launcher – rifle grenade launcher used with respectively the M1 Garand and the M1 carbine, used by the South Vietnamese. Could fire the M9 and M17 rifle grenades.
M31 HEAT rifle grenade – Used primarily by the U.S. Army before the introduction of the M72 LAW. Fired from the M1 Garand and M14 Rifle.
M79 Grenade Launcher – primary U.S. grenade launcher used by all branches of the US military, as well as ANZAC forces and the ARVN. 
China Lake Grenade Launcher – pump action weapon used in very small numbers. 
XM148 – experimental underbarrel 40mm grenade launcher that could be attached to the M16 rifle or XM177 carbine. Withdrawn due to safety reasons. 
M203 grenade launcher – single-shot 40mm underslung grenade launcher designed to attach to a M16 rifle (or XM177 carbine, with modifications to the launcher). First tested in combat April 1969. 
Mark 18 Mod 0 grenade launcher – Hand-cranked, belt-fed, 40x46mm grenade launcher used by the US Navy. 
Mark 19 grenade launcher – Automatic, belt-fed, 40x53mm grenade launcher. 
Mk 20 Mod 0 grenade launcher – Automatic, belt-fed, 40x46mm grenade launcher. Primarily used by riverine crews but also used by Air Force Special Operations. 
XM174 grenade launcher – Automatic, belt-fed, 40x46mm grenade launcher used mainly by the US Army.
Bazooka – The M9 variant was supplied to the ARVN during the early years of the war, while the M20 "Super Bazooka" was used by the USMC and the ARVN until the full introduction of the M67 90mm recoilless rifle and of the M72 LAW.
M72 LAW – 66mm anti-tank rocket launcher.
XM202 – experimental four-shot 66mm incendiary rocket launcher. 
FIM-43 Redeye MANPADS (Man-Portable Air-Defence System) – shoulder-fired heat-seeking anti-air missile, used by the US Army and USMC. BGM-71 TOW – wire-guided anti-tank missile But only fielded in 1972 and limited to use
Infantry support weapons
M18 recoilless rifle – 57mm shoulder-fired/tripod mounted recoilless rifle, used by the ARVN early in the war.
M20 recoilless rifle – 75mm tripod/vehicle-mounted recoilless rifle, used by US and ARVN forces early in the war.
M67 recoilless rifle – 90mm shoulder-fired anti-tank recoilless rifle, used by the US Army, US Marine Corps, ANZAC and ARVN selected forces.
M40 recoilless rifle 106mm tripod/vehicle-mounted recoilless rifle.
M2 mortar – 60mm mortar, used in conjunction with the lighter but less accurate and lower-range M19 mortar.
M19 mortar – 60mm mortar, used in conjunction with the older, heavier M2 mortar.
Brandt Mle 27/31 – 81mm mortar, used by ARVN forces
M1 mortar – 81mm mortar, used by ARVN forces.
M29 mortar – 81mm mortar, used by US and ARVN forces.
L16A1 mortar – 81mm, used by ANZAC forces.
82-BM-37 – captured 82mm mortar, few used by USMC with US rounds. M30 mortar 107mm mortar, used by US and ARVN forces.
M98 Howtar, variant of the latter mounted on a M116 howitzer carriage.
Artillery ammunition types
(listed alphabetically by modified/basic mission code, then numerically in ascending order by design number/series letter)
(listed numerically in ascending order by design number/series letter, then alphabetically by mission code)
being fired from a combat search and rescue helicopter in Vietnam
In addition to cargo-carrying and troop transport roles, many of these vehicles were also equipped with weapons and sometimes armor, serving as "
gun trucks" for convoy escort duties.
M24 Chaffee – light tank; main ARVN tank early in the war, used at least as late as the Tet Offensive.
M41A3 Walker Bulldog – light tank, replaced the M24 Chaffee as the main ARVN tank from 1965. 
M48 Patton – main tank of the US Army and Marines throughout the war, and also used by ARVN forces from 1971. 
M67 "Zippo" – flamethrower variant of the M48 Patton, used by USMC.
M551 Sheridan – Armored Reconnaissance Airborne Assault Vehicle/Light Tank, used by the US Army from 1969. Centurion Mk 5 Main Battle Tank – used by the Australian Army, with AVLB and ARV variants.
Other armored vehicles
LCM-6 and LCM-8 – with several modifications:
LCVP – Landing craft vehicle personnel, some made by the French Services Techniques des Construction et Armes Navales/ France Outremer and known as FOM
Swift Boat – Patrol Craft Fast (PCF)
ASPB – assault support patrol boat
PBR – Patrol Boat River, all-fiberglass boats propelled by twin water jets, used by the US Navy Hurricane Aircat – airboat used by ARVN and US Army
The geographically dispersed nature of the war challenged existing military communications. From 1965 to the final redeployment of tactical units, numerous communications-electronics systems were introduced in Vietnam to upgrade the quality and quantity of tactical communications and replace obsolete gear:
AN/PRT-4 and PRR-9 squad radios – replaced the
AN/PRC-6 and AN/PRC-10 – older short range radios, used for outposts
AN/PRC-25 and 77 – short-range FM radios that replaced the AN/PRC-8-10.
AN/VRC-12 series (VRC-43, VRC-45, VRC-46, VRC-47, VRC-48) – FM radios that replaced the RT-66-67-68/GRC (including AN/GRC 3–8, VRC 7–10, VRC 20–22, and VRQ 1–3 sets). AN/GRC-106 – AM radios and teletypewriter that replaced the AN/GRC-19.
TA-312 and TA-1 field telephones.
Encryption systems developed by the
National Security Agency and used in Vietnam included:
NESTOR – tactical secure voice system, including the TSEC/KY-8, 28 and 38 was used with the PRC-77 and VRC-12
KW-26 – protected higher level teletype traffic
KW-37 – protected the U.S. Navy fleet broadcast
KL-7 – provided offline security A number of paper encryption and authentication products, including one time pads and the KAL-55B Tactical Authentication System 
Weapons of the PAVN/VC, China, Soviet and North Korea Force
The PAVN and the Southern communist guerrillas, the
Viet Cong (VC) as they were commonly referred to during the war, largely used standard Warsaw Pact weapons. Weapons used by the PAVN also included Chinese Communist variants, which were referred to as CHICOM's by the US military. Captured weapons were also widely used; almost every small arm used by SEATO may have seen limited enemy use. During the early 1950s, US equipment captured in Korea was also sent to the Viet Minh.
guerrilla stands beneath a Vietcong flag carrying his
A U.S. Army M.P. inspects a Soviet
recovered in Vietnam in 1968.
Hand combat weapons
Handguns and revolvers
Automatic and semi-automatic rifles
SKS (Chinese Type 56) semi-automatic carbine
AK-47 – from the Soviet Union, Warsaw Pact countries, China and North Korea
AKM – from the Soviet Union, common modernized variant of the AK-47
M1/M2 carbines – common and popular captured semi-automatic rifles
vz. 52 rifle semi-automatic rifle, very rarely used
Vz. 58 assault rifle
Sturmgewehr 44 Limited 
Type 63 assault rifle – Limited use, received during the 1970s
M14, M16A1 – captured from US and South Vietnamese forces.
M1 Garand – captured semi-automatic rifle MAS-49 rifle – captured French rifle from First Indochina War
Bolt-action rifles/marksman rifles
K-50M submachine gun (Vietnamese edition, based on Chinese version of Russian PPSh-41, under licence)
MAT-49 submachine gun – Captured during the French-Indochina War. Many were converted from 9x19mm to 7.62x25 Tokarev 
PPSh-41 submachine gun (both Soviet, North Korean and Chinese versions) 
PPS-43 submachine gun (both Soviet and Chinese versions)
M3 submachine gun Limited use
Thompson submachine gun – including Vietnamese copies
MP 38 submachine gun – Limited use.
MAS-38 submachine gun – Captured from the French in the Indochina War.
PM-63 submachine gun – Used by tank crews
M49 submachine gun – limited use, received from Yugoslavia
M56 submachine gun – limited use, received from Yugoslavia Vietnamese home-made submachine guns, inspired by the Sten or the Thompson, were used by the Viet Cong early in the war.  
Grenades, mines and Booby Traps
Rocket launchers, recoilless rifles, anti-tank rifles and lightweight guided missiles
North Vietnamese soldier preparing to fire an
crew in front of a
Field artillery rocket launchers
Field artillery rockets were often fired from improvised launchers, sometines a tube fixed with bamboo.
102mm 102A3 rockets
107mm Type 63 MRL – used with single-tube or 12-tubes launchers single-tube 122mm 9M22M rocket taken from
BM-21 Grad MRL single-tube 140mm M14-OF rocket taken from BM-14 MRL
Field guns and howitzers
Other armored vehicles
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