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Use of captured weapons by US troops in Vietnam

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#1 earlymb

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Posted 09 November 2007 - 09:56 AM

Hi all,

on what scale (if any) were captured NVA/VC weapons such as AK's, SKS's, Mosin-Nagant's etc. used by US troops In Vietnam? If so, what model/type was favorite, and what sort of troops used them? I imagine it could give problems with friendly fire due to the distinctive sound... http://www.usmilitar...tyle_emoticons/default/think.gif

Greetz ;)


#2 Bank Vault

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Posted 09 November 2007 - 10:52 AM

I know guys that tossed their M16s. I believe it was David Hackworth who picked a rusty AK up that had been in the ground, threw the bolt, and emptied the magazine and said this is how an infantry weapon should preform.

#3 Jeremiah

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Posted 09 November 2007 - 11:24 AM

Unlike WW2 where this was more common, esp with the Germans on the eastern front, it was uncommon in Vietnam. Some spec-ops units and recon units would take enemy weapons to the field but the average grunt carried his M-14, M-16, or whatever he was issued.


#4 gwb123



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Posted 09 November 2007 - 08:57 PM

From what I have read and heard from vets that I served with Jeremiah is correct.

Early on, the M-16 had notorious problems jamming in the field. They simply could not take dust and dirt to the extent that more basic weapons such as an M-1 or M-14 could, let alone an AK-47. Troops reported them jamming after firing 1 to 3 rounds, resulting in the rather inconvenient need of attempting to clear the jam or even clean the weapon in the middle of a firefight.

These reports became so numerous that Congress eventually investigated the situation. The Army made some internal design changes I believe, and also enforced a more strict regimine of cleaning the weapons and keeping them dust free until needed. Between the two actions, the M-16 became more reliable and became the main US weapon of the war.

In the midst of this there were stories of in desperate moments GI's picking up AK-47's and SKS's off the ground in the middle of a battle and dumping their own weapons. While this apparently happened on rare occaision, it depended on a number of random factors, such as getting close enough to the bad guys to pick up one of their weapons, knowing how to operate it, and having enough ammunition to keep it going. As mentioned, if you did that, you ran the risk of having your own troops mistake the sound for the bad guys. Also, it would not make sense to completely desert even a jammed M-16 as that would be providing a weapon for the enemy to later pick up.

Getting back to the SF and Ranger guys, there are photos showing team members carrying AK-47's either as a primary or backup weapon. From what I am told this was specifically done to confuse the enemy in case of contact, and to make them think they maybe were firing on one of their own. Sometimes it was the point man who carried this weapon based on the logic that they might be the first one to encounter or even get stuck in the middle of the bad guys.

I recall seeing pictures of SF RECON teams where the indiginous troops all seemed to be carrying AK's and SKS weapons. I think part of the logic here was that if they were deep into enemy territory and spotted that initially they might be confused for communist troops. After all the shape of an AK can be recognized for quite a distance. This may have also been a means of boosting the fire power of the recon team if M-16s were not available for issue to indiginous troops. Perhaps one of our SF experts can clarify that.

Apparently there were also foreign automatic weapons carried by US advisors and pilots early in the war, including privately procured Swedish submachine guns. Presumably these may have been lighter than the US automatic weapons that were available (such as the Thompson SMG) with a larger clip capacity. But this practice seems to have dwindled after the M-16 and CAR-15 became available.

Keep in mind anytime you use foreign weapons, you not only have the problem of ammunition, but also parts supply and maintenance. For the average line soldier, these would be complications they would not wanted to have dealt with in combat.

Having said that, there seem to be a number of photos of GI's holding AK-47's and SKS carbines back at their base camps. It goes to reason that in their spare time they probably fired off a few rounds just to see what the other guys were using!

#5 gunbarrel

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Posted 10 November 2007 - 08:33 AM

A major problem with the M-16's early on, not mentioned here, was the powder used on the early ammo. For more on that, read this:


#6 Guest_OcelotZ3_*

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Posted 11 November 2007 - 09:44 PM

AR15's/M16's were also originally advertised as "not needing cleaning".

Bad idea...



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Posted 12 November 2007 - 03:13 AM

This is getting off topic, but when I was attending the Infantry Officer's Basic Course in 1986, the school had a demonstration that compared the M-16 and the AK-47.

The OPFOR soldier stated "This is the AK-47. I can run with it, jump with it and if I drop it in the mud, I can shake it off and continue to fight."

The US soldier said "This is the M-16A1. I can run with it, jump with it and if I drop it in the mud , I can break it down, clean it, reassemble it and continue to fight."

Gave us a lot of confidence in our weapon! That being said, I thought the M-16A2 was a good dependable weapon, compared to the earlier version.

#8 Abn Inf

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 07:20 AM


I can't speak for all SF Recon teams but in the early 60's many used the AK's because of their reliability. The Nungs and Montanyards when possible were armed with AK's not only for the reliability but also because of the Fire and knockdown power, so much better than the US carbines most were issued.

As far as US Troops using AK's it has been done with out any problems. With all the noise and havoc created in a fire fight to tell the difference between a M16 and AK is pretty hard to do, it all seems to blend in together.

#9 earlymb

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 04:42 AM

Thanks to all for your input! Please keep posting if you have comments on the subject.

Greetz ;)


#10 Spike

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Posted 30 November 2007 - 02:57 PM

I have some pics of SEALs using AK's, especially late war, around 70/71, one was a platoon commander.

#11 Schnicklfritz

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Posted 30 November 2007 - 07:24 PM

My Boy Scout Leader was a Ranger in Viet Nam. One of the things he said was that the M16A1 was a piece of crap and when he went out on patrols it would be common to "lose" his M16 when he came across an AK47. I mentioned else where that he said they would also take an AK47 and load them with a clip that had a specially made round or two in the magazine and drop it off somewhere where Charles would find it. They would remove the black powder from the cartridge and replace it with plastic explosive and load it into the magazine. http://www.usmilitar...tyle_emoticons/default/w00t.gif

Edited by Schnicklfritz, 30 November 2007 - 07:25 PM.

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