U.S. Small Arms Experiences and Use in the Vietnam War

    Our last episode with Col. Dillon, the infantry officer discusses U.S. small arms and some of their finer points of employment within the Vietnam War while on his two tours there as a battalion field grade officer. The Colt 1911? Great for shooting off locks. The M16A1? Dillon actually credits that rifle with getting through the Battle of Ia Drang due to the ability to carry more ammunition over the M14. M60s? Issues with barrel changing in the middle of a firefight due to the barrel mounted bipods. Blooper carriers/grenadiers never used their mechanical sights when employing their M79 grenade launchers.

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    Transcript ….

    – Hey guys, I wanna make this quick.

    ‘Cause we gotta get to an interview with Colonel Dylan talking about US small arms in the Vietnam War.

    Thanks again Proxibid, thanks again Ventura Munitions, for helping us out with this channel, and thanks again you guys, for helping us watch and helping being the viewership of this channel.

    Thank you so much for everything you provide to us.

    In the mean time, please enjoy this interview because I think Colonel Dylan has some awesome stuff to say about experiences with US troops in the Vietnam War and the small arms that some of our fathers, some of our grandfathers actually use in the war.

    – No pistols.

    The only thing I used my pistol for in Vietnam was to shoot locks off stuff.

    – Okay.

    – The M16, we would not have survived in that battle with the M16 because every trooper had over 300 rounds of ammunition to start of.

    – So were you guys trained on M14s beforehand? And then you transition to the M16? – Oh yeah, we had M14s right too.

    A month, two months before.

    – Before the battle? – Before we were gonna go.

    Then with the battle was about three months.

    – Before you even went to Vietnam.

    – A lot of people didn’t like it.

    It was to light, it won’t, you had to put a lot of maintenance.

    You got to constantly clean them to make them effective.

    The light weight of the ammunition made up for the deficiencies, because if we’d had M14s, you can only carry about 100 rounds in those clips.

    – So the combat load for the troopers that were going to into Ia Drang was what, 300 rounds per trooper? – 300, 350 rounds.

    – Per trooper? – Per trooper.

    – Wow, you guys were loaded down.

    – Yes.

    I thought it was an effective rifle for that reason.

    The second tour, we had a lot.

    I was in the delta with a lot of rivers, a lot of river crossing, some of my troops, if they didn’t constantly, if they’d wait a couple rivers, and they wouldn’t clean their weapon out, it might not fire when they want it.

    But down there, very rarely do we ever have any life and death fights, because it was so open, large enemy forces couldn’t hide anywhere.

    So they were normally small, we kill most of them are kills at night on ambushes.

    You just didn’t, we had one or two pretty good sized battles but most of it was, I would land about 20 platoons, landings all over different places.

    The bad guys would jump up and run and the gunships, we all have gunships, when the gunships would come.

    So the troops really weren’t involved that much in physical contact with the bad guys other than counting them when they were dead.

    The mortars will always back in a kind of a safe area.

    – The 60s and the 81s.

    – 60s.

    We had 81s in both the battalions, we had 81.

    Didn’t have any 60s.

    They were effective, especially the fire-based I had down and they could fire round.

    There were only a few spots where rice paddies crossed that had enough solid ground that the bad guys could set up a mortar on it.

    So we had all those plotted, so had an artillery company battery, had six weapons and I had a 155 track, that had four weapons.

    So we would pick out and then each of the mortars from all the company, we would pick out those little solid places at night.

    And we had a mortar detector, or round detector, when they fired it, it would give the coordinates of where it came from.

    And then we would immediately fire that weapon that had that coordinate and about half the time we fly out there the next day and there would be a mortar sitting there and four dead bodies next to it.

    – Really? – Yeah.

    – Wow. – But we got an awful lot.

    At night, we could put a star light, – Scope on it.

    – We got most of our kills were by, would have two snipers, and I have at least one squad, sometimes two.

    Their job was to secure those two guys, make sure nobody got to them.

    That’s where we got a lot of our kills.

    I went to the, where they train some of the snipers, up in Cu Chi.

    – How was that assessment and selection, during Vietnam, how did that work? Would they take guys off the line? – What did you shoot when you were in AIT? Were you an expert? – Yeah, I was.

    – Okay, we want you to try this.

    You are willing to do that? They had these steel plates out.

    I was sitting there in a school chair, the old school chair that has the little lid comes out, sitting out there shooting down about 1,000 yard.

    Hit that thing every time.

    – Yeah.

    – Yeah, so it’s an accurate weapon.

    – Are we talking about the Remington 700 or the M14? – M14.

    – The semi automatic.

    – They used the M14s which match grade ammunition.

    – And barrels.

    – Fiber glass in the things with any vibration, – The stark, yeah.

    What about machine guns like medium heavy, the M60s, the M2s.

    – Those things we have was M60.

    Our M60, I’ve seen them fire until the barrels were red hot, you could see the bolts going down the thing.

    But being able to change the barrel, you gotta have the big asbestos gloves.

    – You had to have those.

    – To pull them off and change them.

    But sometimes in the middle of attack, when this guy, Bill Beck, the one I told you about, shoulder guy, the wannabe.

    He was a machine gunner in eight company and right in the middle of a big attack, he was assistant machine gunner, the machine gunner got wounded.

    – Don’t lose those gloves.

    – He killed over 200 with that, just continuous firing.

    And killed the last four with his pistol.

    Only guy I know ever killed anybody with a pistol.

    The first thing I did with the new people was bring them in, we’d go down by the river, put up a ammo box, say, okay here fire full automatic at that ammo box.

    Bam, they go down, how many holes you got in it? Two? Three? Two? Okay, go back here, I want you to fire semi automatic.

    The fastest you can pull the trigger, but aiming at the target.

    Bang, bang, how many have you got in there? 12? (coughs) Does that tell you anything? Is there a message there? – Accuracy over volume.

    – Try, but invariably, when we get into a firefight, they’re gonna fire on, – On fully automatic.

    – Yeah, but they knew they had a lot of ammunition.

    Then my second tour, they came out with bandoliers, so they pull the clip out and put it in.

    And then they came out with 30 round clips for the M16.

    – But were those used in Vietnam? Or towards the tail end, or they were just, would later on in the army? – I had one in, would’ve been 70, no 69.

    They started getting them then.

    – Really? – Yeah.

    Ten more shots, (gurgling).

    – Yeah, yeah.

    M79s in the bloopers in Vietnam.

    – Great weapon.

    They came out with a flechette round for the M79.

    That was good close quarter, but most of those guys did not use a sight.

    They could, you’d see the enemy that they were gonna shoot at, and they could just look at it and fire that thing, and if they didn’t hit them on the first, they’d hit them on the second one.

    I think your brain is, and eyes are better calculators than you are.

    – Yeah, more intuitive.

    – I never saw it could use a sight, he was always, boom, boom, and hit what he was looking at.

    I had one problem with, I had lurps.

    – Long-range reconnaissance patrols? – Long-range reconnaissance.

    These guys, hey we’re the long-range reconnaissance, look at it, we have camouflage and everything, and I’ve got a Swedish K and he’s got a thing.

    So what happens when you run out of ammunition? Who can share ammunition with you? Well, nobody.

    (Miles laughs) Maybe everybody has an M16, if somebody shoots up all their ammunition, they might get some help from one of their buddies.

    You want us to change.

    Yes, I want you to change.

    (cheerful music)


    Infantry Marine, based in the Midwest. Specifically interested in small arms history, development, and usage within the MENA region and Central Asia. To that end, I run Silah Report, a website dedicated to analyzing small arms history and news out of MENA and Central Asia.

    Please feel free to get in touch with me about something I can add to a post, an error I’ve made, or if you just want to talk guns. I can be reached at [email protected]