The Guns of U.S. Army Aviation in Vietnam — Personal Defense Weapons on Slicks, Snakes & Loaches

The U.S. Army has never been a particularly agile beast when it came to bold new technologies. Horse cavalrymen were dragged kicking and screaming into tanks during World War II, and the grunts and tankers of the ’50s viewed the helicopter with a tolerant skepticism at best. In 1963 the 11th Air Assault Division was testing the practical aspects of air mobility at Fort Benning, Georgia. Two years later the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) went to war.

This WW2-era Smith and Wesson Victory .38 revolver is typical of the sorts of double action .38 revolvers issued to Army aircrews in Vietnam. Simple and stupid-proof, this basic wheelgun is easily operated one-handed.

The war in Vietnam saw the introduction of a wide array of new technologies. From smart bombs to night vision and lightweight assault rifles, Vietnam was a proving ground for countless new weapons and the tactics that drove their employment. As a result, flight crews operating Army rotary-wing combat aircraft frequently made up the rules as they went along.

There really was no precedent for what those guys were doing. UH1 Hueys and CH47 Chinooks carried troops, ammunition, equipment, and supplies into places that would have otherwise been inaccessible. The use of massed helicopter assets allowed Army commanders unparalleled mobility around and above a non-linear battlefield. Light and agile aeroscout aircraft like the OH6 provided responsive intelligence gathering. Armed versions of the UH1 and later dedicated AH1 Cobra gunships offered responsive and overwhelming aerial fire support. Throughout it, all Army flight crews operated in the treetops engaging the enemy face to face in a pitiless close range fight to the death.

The OH6A Loach (a colloquialism for Light Observation Helicopter) flew down in the treetops gathering intelligence and rooting out the enemy.

The Whirlybird Becomes a Warplane

The M3A1 Grease Gun was in common use by the Army of the Republic of South Vietnam. The gun was therefore available for barter among US forces in Vietnam.

For better or for worse the M60 was our standard belt-fed light machine gun at the time. This basic gun saw action in the D-model configuration with spade grips on a pintle mount in the doors of Hueys and Chinooks. As a flexible weapon crew chiefs frequently simply suspended their standard ground guns on bungee cords for maximum maneuverability. Solenoid-fired versions in pivoting mechanical mounts armed the first Huey gunships.

The M134 minigun saw its baptism by fire in Vietnam as well. While a few of these electric-powered Gatling guns were mounted as door guns, most saw action in the chin turrets of AH1G Cobra gunships. In this configuration, the M134 alongside the M129 automatic grenade launcher reaped a bloody harvest from the Viet Cong and NVA.

The 1911A1 pistol carried generations of GIs through several major wars. Its single-action trigger meant that the 1911A1 was not typically an issue aircrew weapon, but many were utilized for this purpose nonetheless.

One aspect of the helicopter’s low and slow operational environment was that these early aircraft were mightily vulnerable to ground fire. Heavy machineguns like the DSHk were murder on low-flying helicopters while shoulder-fired small arms were also quite effective at the sorts of ranges these engagements demanded. As a result, the Vietnam War saw an unprecedented number of survivable aircraft crashes. When faced with the prospect of personal defense while awaiting air support and extraction many of these early Army aviators acquired some unusual small arms.

The UH1 was the archetypal utility helicopter used in Vietnam. Employed as troop transports, Medevac aircraft, and gunships, the Huey transformed the battlefield in Southeast Asia.

GI-Issue Personal Defense Weapons

There is an adage in Army Aviation that you will leave a burning helicopter equipped solely with what is affixed to your body. Throughout most of the Vietnam War the standard issue handgun for Army aircrews was the double action .38 revolver. In the event of a crash pilots and aircrewmen needed to be able to operate their handguns one-handed if they were injured. As Condition 1 carry was not authorized for troops armed with the 1911, the double action .38 offered easy one-handed operation and foolproof reliability. Countless Army aviators nonetheless acquired 1911 pistols through means both official and otherwise.

Helicopter cockpits were cramped so small lightweight rifles that were easy to stash behind seat armor became a great boon. The M16 found its way into Aviation units as it was issued to other branches. Despite the relatively small size of those early M16’s, they still did not ride well in the front end of a helicopter. The solution was something somewhat stubbier.

In 1967 Colt developed a shortened version of the M16 called the XM177. There had been several lesser efforts previously, but the XM177 was the first Carbine version of the M16 to see large-scale production. Early versions sported a 10-inch barrel tipped with a sound moderator. Later versions extended the barrel to 11.5 inches for greater reliability as well as diminished muzzle flash and noise. These guns were universally referred to in theater as CAR-15’s.

While technically this little chopped-down M16 was designated the XM177E2; the troops who used it called it the CAR15. Sporting either a 10 or 11.5-inch barrel and a sound moderator, the CAR15 was the submachine gun version of the M16 and a popular aircrew weapon.

The CAR-15 weighed 5.35 pounds and was 29.8 inches long with its stock collapsed. These little rifles could subsequently fit inside the cramped cockpits of Cobra Attack and Loach Observation helicopters. While problems with range, poor accuracy, excessive fouling, and erratic performance with tracer rounds plagued the guns, they saw widespread service with Army aviators.

The M134 Minigun had its baptism by fire in Vietnam. While these electrically powered Gatling guns were occasionally used as helicopter door guns, they were most commonly encountered in the chin turrets of AH-1G Cobra gunships.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

A protracted war such as the one in Vietnam saw the proliferation of small arms from a variety of nations and eras. Friends who served in theater have related stories of obtaining everything from World War II-era submachine guns to civilian shotguns to captured Combloc weapons by barter, purchase, or theft. As a result, in these heady days before so much standardization, Army aircrews frequently flew with an amazing amalgam of defensive small arms.

The M1A1 Thompson and M3A1 Grease Gun were readily available as they were in widespread issue with South Vietnamese forces. These guns both launched heavy .45ACP rounds and had the added benefit of sex appeal to young soldiers who grew up on gangster movies. However, the Thompson, in particular, was brutally heavy. Many sky soldiers who acquired Thompsons soon grew weary of them after packing them for a time.

The M60 belt-fed machinegun was the standard light machine gun for US forces in Vietnam. As aircrew weapons, they were suspended on bungee cords, fitted with spade grips and mounted on a pedestal, or fired from mechanical mounts via solenoid.

Captured Iron

Fixed stock Kalashnikovs are compact and powerful making them suitable defensive tools in close quarters. This is a new stamped receiver PSAK47 from Palmetto State Armory.

The argument has frequently been made that the enemy’s AK47 was a better Infantry weapon than our M16. The Russian AK47 and its Chinese counterpart the Chicom Type 56 were robust, reliable, hard-hitting rifles. When they could be obtained AK47’s, particularly the compact folding-stocked versions, were popular aircrew guns. AKs fed from reliable 30-round magazines and carried the extra benefit of producing a common muzzle report with the enemy’s weapons. When down and evading in hostile territory it is not good to sound strange, distinctive, or foreign.

The Combloc RPD was also a superlative weapon for its time. Firing the same M43 7.62x39mm round the AK ran from non-disintegrating 100-round belts, the RPD was remarkably lightweight and effective. Though it suffered from the lack of a quick-change barrel and a tedious reloading protocol, the RPD offered a great deal of firepower for its 16-pound weight. By contrast, our M60 weighed 23 pounds. The RPD carried its onboard ammunition in a pair of connected 50-round belts connected and wound into a pressed steel drum.

The belt-fed RPD was prized for its large volume of onboard firepower. While the RPD would not fit in the most spacious helicopter cockpit, they were used on occasion by crew chiefs as survival weapons.

Practical Tactical

The CH47 Chinook provided heavy lift support to troops on the ground and could carry outsized cargo as a sling load.

The Smith and Wesson Victory Model .38-caliber revolver is indeed stupid-proof. Reliable and soft shooting, the .38 Special caliber has proven itself in countless police shootings over the decades. However, reloading is tedious and carrying spare ammunition loose in a survival vest is a suboptimal solution.

The 1911A1 hits like a freight train downrange, and its single action trigger is the standard by which all others are judged. A friend who carried a 1911 for two years as an Infantryman in World War II told me he carried his pistol with a round in the chamber, the hammer at half cock, and the safety on. With practice he could get his weapon into action both quickly and one-handed. The GI-issue 1911’s that I used operationally back in the day were all fairly long in the tooth. The loose tolerances that kept these guns in action in the face of dirt and grime typically came at the cost of accuracy.

The many-splendored ills of the M16 have been thoroughly explored in other venues, and most of the same problems apply equally or worse to the CAR15. However, aircrews typically had the luxury of keeping their weapons clean and in good repair. In my prime, I could consistently hit a man-sized target out to 400 meters with an M16A1. Having run a lot of rounds through the CAR15 over the years I would not trust it much past a football field.

Folding stock AKs were relatively unusual but popular among aircrews when they could be scrounged. This is a stamped receiver Chicom Type 56-1. Almost all AKs encountered in Vietnam had forged receivers.

The 5.56mm round relies upon velocity for effectiveness. As the CAR15 barrel in its earliest iterations was exactly half as long as that of the M16 the CAR15 offers questionable wound ballistics at long ranges anyway. Spare 20-round magazines typically rode in bandoleers draped over the seat armor.

The AH1G Cobra gunship was fast, sleek, and lethal. Cobras operated in concert with OH6 Loaches to form what was called a Pink Team. This combination of gunship and observation helicopter found, fixed, and destroyed enemy troops and equipment.

The M60 is a monster of a gun that is pure torture on a long forced march. When kept clean and run from fixed mounts the M60 was relatively reliable in my experience, but I never had one run really well in the dirt. Personally, I would leave the Pig, the affectionate term all soldiers used for this beast of a gun, in the aircraft. I’d grab something lighter with which to escape and evade.

The AK, particularly in its folding stock guise, is a superb aircrew weapon. The steel struts on the underfolding stock are uncomfortable, but they remain fully serviceable. You can wrap the stock struts in 550 cord to improve your cheek weld. The AK jumps around a bit on full auto, but its heavy 123-grain bullet carries energy well out to 300 meters or so. The sliding tangent sights are yesterday’s news but remain thoroughly effective.

The RPD would never ride in the cockpit of a Cobra or Loach but would easily tuck behind the sling seat in the crew compartment of a Huey or Chinook. The RPD offers massive short-term suppressive firepower during an extraction, though reloading is a pain. Additionally, any full auto belt fed gun runs through ammunition at a frightful rate.


When I flew for Uncle Sam we packed M9 Beretta pistols that offered both high capacity semiautomatic firepower along with one-handed double-action operation. A colleague indeed scrounged an M3A1 Grease Gun and flew with it during the First Gulf War. However, for the most part, Aviators of my era were expected to make do with a handgun. Much of my career was spent flying CH47D Chinooks so we had plenty of space. Nowadays the widespread issue of the M4 Carbine allows most Aviators to pack the same weapon used by his or her ground-pounding brethren.

Dedicated Huey gunships mounted a variety of machineguns, automatic grenade launchers, and unguided rockets for their aerial fire support role.

On the modern battlefield, a soldier’s personal weapon is but the smallest part of the overall tactical equation. However, for a downed aviator that handgun or rifle become his entire world. A friend who was shot down in Mogadishu actually had to rely on his handgun for real. While it was not a decisive tool, it did buy him some time. When he got home he made a point to impart to those with whom he served the importance of range time with your assigned defensive weapon.

As of 2013 a CH47F helicopter cost $38.55 million. The investment required in training up the pilots and flight crewmembers to operate these complex aircraft is comparably substantial. However, when evading in hostile territory everything comes down to a basic rifle or handgun. Starting back in the 1960’s Army Aviators have carried a wide variety of personal defense weapons. In today’s non-linear battlefields these lessons learned still carry exceptional gravitas.

To purchase a Colt military/tactical rifle on GunsAmerica, click here.

To purchase an AK47 on GunsAmerica, click here.

About the author: Will Dabbs A native of the Mississippi Delta, Will is a mechanical engineer who flew UH1H, OH58A/C, CH47D, and AH1S aircraft as an Army Aviator. He has parachuted out of perfectly good airplanes at 3 o’clock in the morning and summited Mount McKinley, Alaska, six times…always at the controls of an Army helicopter, which is the only way sensible folk climb mountains. Major Dabbs eventually resigned his commission in favor of medical school where he delivered 60 babies and occasionally wrung human blood out of his socks. Will works in his own urgent care clinic, shares a business build-ing precision rifles and sound suppressors, and has written for the gun press since 1989. He is married to his high school sweetheart, has three awesome adult children, and teaches Sunday School. Turn-ons include vintage German machineguns, flying his sexy-cool RV6A airplane, Count Chocula cereal, and the movie “Aliens.”

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  • Jeff in MS March 11, 2023, 11:18 am

    Tell your friend good luck with that half-cock, safety-on, 1911 business…

  • Jim Parker July 29, 2021, 12:49 am

    I’m telling ‘Dog’ you called him worthless .. .

  • Gary Kwiecinski August 23, 2019, 5:32 pm

    I was 82nd Airborne assigned to 25th Infantry from Dec. 1968 to March 1970. I was a Combat Photographer, and also a Clerk in the 725th Maintenance Battalion at Chu Chi.

    As photographer I carried M16 along with 2 Cameras, also carried a Colt Detective Special Snub Nose as a
    back up. That little snub nose saved my Bacon more then a few times.

    Brought that little jem home with me because unit Armary told to to keep it. Provost Marshall gave me all the paper work to bring it home with me.

    Still have it and on occasion carry it as my CCW arm.

  • WarintheEast&theDelta October 11, 2017, 11:14 pm

    This (as the Brits would say) was Bloody Good! Echo the comments about minor errors in the narrative. Just a C-7 Geek at the time (Res.).

  • Lester October 5, 2017, 9:38 am

    2/17th Air Cav 101 Airborne A & HHQ 70-72. I was called “Mingo” sense I was a avid hunter and tracker before I joined up.
    I was a grunt and carried a 60 plus a S&W 38 snubbie and a sawed off side by 12 gauge Ithica shotgun about 12″ long overall, a British commando knife , a K-Bar , a switchblade stiletto and a double sided dagger . All served me well and got passed down to the next guys in country when our unit stood down. 45’s and 38’s seemed to be what most of the air crews carried in our unit and what I carried as well when I pulled door gunner duty, along with the Ithica and edged weapons of course. The British commando knife and dagger came home with me and I still have them.

    I always went into the field armed to the hilt and carried nothing but extra ammo and extra guns. The personal items I left in my hooch and stripped everything out of my ruck that was not needed for the mission. We were an air assault team and our missions were mostly hit and runs, ambush’s ect so most of our missions were short duration other than when we did recon, so personal items stayed back generally.
    There’s No substitute for,,, more firepower!! So the letters home and creature comforts could wait, I carried extra firepower instead.

  • jack morrison October 4, 2017, 12:16 am

    was with the 11th cav 67-69 with the last six months I was the aircav troops aeroscout section platoon sgt and flying observer in the left seat of a OH-6 which had a minigun mounted on the left side, the only side arm I recall anyone having was the 1911, I also flew with a m1 carbine and m-60 machine gun. when I was assigned to the 503rd CAB near Hanau Germany we were issued the Navy Colt 38 cal. you could stand behind the person shooting and watch the round go down range.
    I also recall that early in the war the UH-1’S were fitted with flex 60’s before miniguns came in country.
    as I recall the car 15 was developed to take the place of the m3 grease gun, the m3 was also the personal weapon for tank crews and the car 15 fit nicely in the tank turret.

  • Tom Hammond October 3, 2017, 12:48 am

    Was with 135th EMU at Bearcat for 6mo. Then with the 117th Warlords at Long Bein there we had a night mission if I remember right called Firefly we mounted 50cal. and a very very bright spot light on UH1D but the 50’s kept tearing loose form the deck. We were indeed young and dumb and full of c_ _ 🙂

  • Quietus October 2, 2017, 10:23 pm

    The WWII vet who said he carried a chambered round at half cock with the safety engaged, is wrong. On a M1911, the thumb safety will not engage at half cock. The hammer needs to be fully cocked for this safety to be utilized.

    The Browning HP does allow safety engagement at half cock.

  • Walker Jones October 2, 2017, 9:09 pm

    I flew Scouts (OH-6As) and Cobras (AH-1Gs) in Hunter-Killer teams with C-1/9th Cav, 1st Cav Div in 1970-71. Every pilot was issued a .38 Special. We were told it was because it could be operated with one hand. I wore it in a shoulder holster. But several guys acquired alternative handguns, with big 357 magnums being the most macho. After getting to Cobras, I also acquired a cut-down M-2 with 2 clips taped together. Also sometimes carried a captured AK-47 but was a bit rusty. Lost it in a mortar attack. Others carried AR-15s, grease guns and Swedish Ks, etc. I don’t remember there being any restrictions on personal weapons.

    • CurtisDane Hatley November 12, 2020, 6:55 pm

      I was a Cobra driver for F/9th Cav in 1972. Troop was located at Lasiter Pad near Bien Hoa airbase. I could see the Air Force planes departing from our chopper pad. Earned my pay during the battle for An Loc. I remember the unit armorer trying to issue me the old S&W revolver when I arrived. I declined and “sniffed” around the troop area and found a 9mm with 4, 15 round magazines for $100 bucks. I also traded for a CAR-15 with two 30 round magazines taped back to back. Also wore two Army issue cloth bandoleers with 5, 20 round mags each over each shoulder and crossed over my chest. Yes, I look like Poncho Villa.

  • Joe October 2, 2017, 8:25 pm

    Great article. I want to truly thank you guys for your service and your stories.

  • Jim Desmond October 2, 2017, 1:45 pm

    I was an A Troop 1/9th Cav, 1st Cav Division scout from March 68 to December 68. I flew OH-13’s and Loach’s in I Corps and Loach’s in III Corps when the Cav moved south. In addition to the issue 38 special, I carried a 12 GA pump with a claymore bag of 100 rounds of double O buck. My door gunners carried the M60 as a door gun (no bungee or mount, held in their lap and very accurate and reliable), M79, 1911, and M16, plus an ammo box of mixed grenades (frag, White Phosphorus, incendiary, and smoke). Some of the other scouts carried AK’s, grease guns, Thompsons, AR’s, shotguns, M-1 carbines. Weapons and ammo to feed them were plentiful. We used grappling hooks and magnets on ropes to recover weapons after firefights when we couldn’t just land to pick them up. What we didn’t keep for ourselves were traded for beer and other necessities. I’ve been shot at by probably the full range of soviet bloc and US weapons (VC had lots of american arms, some dating to WWII). I was shot in the right hand at one point and, while healing, switched my pistol shooting practice to my left hand with little adverse impact. Never got shot down and, therefore, never needed an E and E weapon, but was very reassured by the stuff we carried.

  • BRASS October 2, 2017, 12:37 pm

    Through the early 70s, Aviation Marines still maintained individual unit armories before transitioning to Wing armories. Our squadron still had a number of older weapons and systems like M3A1 Grease Guns, M1A1 Thompsons, M1 Carbines, M1 Garands, M14s, BARs and some seldom seen then or today.
    As an Ordnanceman occasionally assigned to armory duty, he most interesting to me then was a 1941 Johnson Machine Gun, a recoil operated magazine fed light machine gun which shared some parts with the 1941 Johnson Rifle by the same name. I never fired it, but we knew it was a rare item in the Marines and a really odd weapon to have in a squadron armory, particularly in an A4 squadron. Rumor had it that it was obtained from a Marine CWO-3 Gunner in a forward ground unit after a brutal battle in which the squadron lost an aircraft from a section that provided close air support at extreme low level.

  • Dep October 2, 2017, 12:19 pm

    While I was very interested in the article and weaponry the soldiers could acquire, the recent documentary on PBS has brought back memories of watching war being waged at dinner time as a kid. The series taught me things about politics in the country booth ours and theirs that I never knew. The riots in the US looked exactly the same, even the signs would be pertinent in the riots and protests we see today. Divided as ever.

    The focus on the drafted soldiers as well as the ones that were under the impression they could fight just like their dad in WW 2 and Korea against bad guys who you could look at, see a uniform, and know it was an enemy. They soon learned the farmer by day would kill them at night. There are audio tapes the soldiers would send home, and write home quite a bit and it showed that these kids, were so dedicated to their country and so many risked and lost everything trying to drag a buddy to safety. They soon seemed to be fighting for their their buddies lives and had no idea what the hell they were doing in Vietnam. Learning the complete cluster fuck of the White House and what the end game actually was, seeming changing on a daily basis, and all those good American soldiers and young kids died for nothing. I’m not discussing Vietnamese losses, nor ignoring them, this is about the American forces.

    Watch the series and you will see attitudes change, unbelievable thoughts on wars of attrition that we thought we could win. Seeing American deaths reaching 200 or 300 a week as normal made me sick. So many lives wasted, families devastated. Interviews with self described ‘old men’ who survived the war and such vivid memories or the guys they fought with are so insightful. They cry easily, they feel guilt, they laugh about some of the funny guys they served with, they don’t deny racism was prevalent at the base. They do say that it didn’t exist during patrols and fire fights. I never knew about the heavy patriotism amongst Latino’s and their contribution because they were fighting for their country too.

    These boys were doing what they felt was right, fighting initially to stop communism and in the end they were seemingly fighting for their friends. The flag meant something to them the same way it mattered to the soldiers in Okinawa who raised it together as a sign of their fight and their win despite thousands of deaths for a piece of rock. Nobody was fighting for Nixon or Johnson, they seemed to be fighting for their fellow soldiers and America. I will salute that flag and respect it for the rest of my life. Those who kneel ? Watch the documentary and maybe you will understand what you are disrespecting.

    In closing, war is always a mother of invention of new weaponry, jamming M16’s, new helicopter warriors, and how to become a jungle warrior. Fighting an enemy as they fight us. Nobody is naive anymore, they deserve to know what the goal is. Putin will probably go for Ukraine, NK should be left alone because if they don’t implode first, one badly aimed missle will hit Japan, or China and they can resolve it. We need to let others shed blood instead of sending our own men and women to die needlessly. I say this as my only child is entering the Navy, and scared shitless because of our inability to keep colliding with other ships we are having losses in the Sea of Japan. If we have to be there, we have everything we need under the ocean to defend America. Two boomers should handle it fine.

    To the veterans of the Vietnam war, all I can say is you were doing what you were led to believe was right. Many of you went for the adventure, many of you were conscripted, many of you were career military. My words are meant to be inclusive of men and women as well as every branch that was involved. Awful things happened, it was war. I thank you for your bravery, your dedication, your commitment to your country. Nobody can replace what you gave up, whether it was your life or limb, your eternal inability to forgive yourselves, and the shameless way you were treated when you came home. I am proud of you, and I am only one man who now has my only child in uniform. The lessons we have learned at every conflict where our military lost lives hopefully has made an impact of those in command. If you are proud of your service, I salute you. If you are as close to home as you want to be, you earned it. If you have a family who loves you, that can only happen because you made it back. You’ve overpaid the price it cost. Finally, the war is long over, please come home within your heart. I can only ask that you excuse my awkward way of shaking your hand and the lessons that our country has learned that will hopefully bring my boy back home in body and mind. I salute you as a hero. Thank you.

  • Leslie Hock October 2, 2017, 11:43 am

    When a arms room guy walked to the 24th Evac (I knew some folks in their ER and we were having sour kraut and Scotch at end of day-a different war story) after being shot in the shoulder by a .38 while playing John Wayne with his buddy, I decided .38 SPL FMJ was not really for me. I traded a pallet of steaks to a Special Forces outfit for a Springfield Armory 1911A1 and a thousand rounds of Ammo. I carried that everywhere in a tanker style holster rig that came with it. When leading an airfield reaction force one night (why is it ALWAYS oh-dark-thirty?) my M16A1 when click when it had to go bang. Fortunately the intruder missed and my 1911 when bang many times. I’m here, he’s not. My CCW is a Colt commander 1911 and at home I have a full size 1911. It worked when it had to, why would I change?

    As an aside, I always thought the AK was inaccurate – it had always missed me! When my bride wanted one we started playing with various ammo and I found the AK to be sufficiently accurate but not with the Chinese ammo. I’ve seen more than a foot difference from a bench rest at 50 yards. That stuff was erratic as all get out – luckily for me I guess but with good ammo it is indeed an excellent firearm.

  • Bud Harton October 2, 2017, 10:50 am

    Some bad info there. I was a UH-1C helicopter gunship crew chief/door gunner in VN from Jan 1966 to Seotember1968. My unit arrived in VN in Jan 1966 and of the eight UH1C gunships in our gun platoon. Five were armed with M134 miniguns mounted on the outboard weapons pylons and that was true of every helicopter gunship platoon in all of the assault helicopter companies in VN and in all of the Dividion based UH1 companies. As time progressed, we armed one of the gunships with a door mounted gunship as did many assault companies did and used them for both night time aerial ambushes and full time counter mortar/ rocket interdiction. All of us pretty much carried whatever we wanted for personal weapons. I myself carried a Browning HiPower that was made for the German Army in 1943. I have no idea how it got to VN. I just had it returned to me 46 years after I left it in VN

  • thomas jefferson October 2, 2017, 10:50 am

    I flew Hueys (UH-1D/H/V), OH-6A, and OH-58A’s. On the Hueys, we mounted M60D’s with spades. Before we had bungees and monkey straps but the torques/crewchiefs/gunners got a bit carried away and were putting rounds into the blades and TR, so that was the end of that. Maintenance then starting installing the pintalls with stops. Issue for us pilots were mainly COLT and S&W .38 revolvers. Some units I was in we had 1911’s. Of course, whatever you could scrounge, and most did, were taken along for the ride. Had one bud that had a Swedish K. Saved his butt when he was finally shot down.
    Best stuff was the 2.75 rockets. We had a drunk that was damn good with those. He could put one thru the door of a hootch without thinking about it. The drunker he was, the better shot he became!

    • Glen McEntire (call signed Sooner) October 2, 2017, 6:26 pm

      Bud, I had the same experience as you. All the mini guns I observed were mounted on the pylons of our Charlie models. I flew Huey’s in Vietnam in 67-68 & 70-71. The first time I saw a mini gun mounted as a door gun was on TV several years ago. I also carried a 1911 and it served me well when the short shaft failed and I spent several hours on the ground all alone. I also carried an M-2 carbine that I er ah kind of borrowed from the Koreans . I’ve spent 35+ years in law enforcement and carried a 1911 most of the time. The 1911 has served me well since I was about 18 years old. Welcome home. Glen McEntire

      • jack morrison October 4, 2017, 12:18 am

        the thing my pilots liked about the 1911 was its use for personal protection, they flew with it between their legs to protect their vitals.

  • Charles October 2, 2017, 10:12 am

    While I was not true military..I carried 2 1911s with a crossdraw shoulder rig. The guns were made to shoot by our marine G/sgt armorer. That guy was great. I also had a suppressed 9mm Swedish K that I carried in the plane(fixed wing) next to the seat. Tried about every personal weapon that could be carried. Loved the Thompson but damn that thing was heavy…and every grunt that saw it wanted it…It was finally appropriated.. The Swedish K was a bit heavy but it was suppressed and was made very reliable by that marine. He was a genius with weapons. Even after all these years I still have one of those 45s..And still carry it. Ole ugly!

  • Ronnie October 2, 2017, 8:58 am

    This brought back some memories with the pictures. Not all good ones but some things I still remember.
    I carried the same 1911 45 for six years and it was a great reliable gun and I never had a single problem with it.
    I’m guessing I had more then 5,000 rounds through that gun.
    I wish they would have let me keep it when I got out but “NO WAY”

  • david conley October 2, 2017, 8:34 am

    as a crew chief on a c model huey, i was issued a .45 and a m79. always wondered why the pilots were issued .38s. seem like we should have had common ammo to share if needed. a/7/1 air cav. vinh long.

  • Richard Schuster October 2, 2017, 6:59 am

    When I was first assigned to and SF company (C/3/5) in the mid 80’s, I was issued an XM177E2 receiver in the M16A1 configuration. I knew it used to be a CAR-16 but it was converted to the full length model. We soon got the A2 with the 3 round burst. I did not like it and we were soon thinking of ways to get rid of the burst and back to full auto.

  • DaveW September 29, 2017, 3:52 pm

    The ARVN QC armory had a “fire” and I bought a 1911 with 2 mags, a holster, and a bunch of ammo for $35. I carried it on patrol with a round in the chamber. I carried it on and off duty. While on duty, I was required to carry the S&W Mod15 .38., and my M-16.

  • Martin V. September 25, 2017, 10:12 pm

    Thank you for the interesting article. It was a refreshing change of pace. I was particularly interested as I too served in an aviation unit (5-101st Aviation Regiment) in the mid 80s. While assigned to that unit we were issued a S&W 38 just like the one you pictured with a well used leather shoulder holster.

  • Will Drider September 23, 2017, 2:49 am

    Enjoyable article! On the Marine side (long ago in a far away place), aircrew had the personal choice between the .38 and the .45, you just needed to have qualified with it. We cut strips of tire inner tube and die cut (7.62 case, lol) holes in them for speed loadng strips for the .38s In G and later J model Cobras: sidearms were worn and M16s had rear take down pin pulled an two “folded” rifles were put behind the pilot (rear) seat, copilot-Gunner sat in the front. UH-1E didn’t all come with MG hard mounts. Two point bungee worked supporting the weight but no limits on angles, better not shoot your main or tail rotors. Tail rotors took a beating from the ejected brass until we got deflector chutes or brass catcher bags (trash: can’t hold all you can feed). M60 were Grunt stocked, no rear grip and butterfly triggers till later on. Even after the M16 were fielded, M14 were still carried by some CrewChiefs due to its better range, power and common ammo with the M60. A Pig is nice in its place but it does not work for escape and evasion when you need distance between you and the smoke flare you crashed in. Either way their was always two rifles slung on the transmission bulkhead. Always had rifles left on board from the walking wounded and sometimes litter patients. Damn, 50 years ago….

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