At that point, the Vietnam tunnel rats’ role became much more involved. And even with a tight cylinder gap, the suppressor didn’t reduce the sound of the shot enough to be worth the trouble. Personal weapons were used by the rats, ranging from .25 caliber automatics to sawed-off shotguns. The shot load of the Tunnel Weapon was effective but it didn’t have the stopping power of a regular bullet.
Sometimes while on the mission, a Tunnel Rat would meet a Viet Cong soldier, and would then have to engage in exceedingly close combat.
Then, the first tunnel rat would be lowered head first into the tunnel by his feet. In the years since the Vietnam War ended tunnel rats have suffered from a high percentage of Agent Orange injuries and diseases due to soldier's exposure to the chemicals on the ground, or that leeched from topsoil into the tunnel environment.
 According to contemporary accounts, the U.S. Marine Corps and British Royal Marines were involved in similar work in the war in Afghanistan. Because of the trap doors, the Viet Cong could seal off the rest of the tunnel system from dangers such as gas and flooding.
The “silent” quality of the tunnel weapon gave some of the users questions regarding its lethality. Sometimes, tunnel rats would run into Viet Cong in such close proximity that you couldn’t use your weapons and instead had to use hand-to-hand combat. In the end, not much of importance was found but the Viet Cong continuously hit troops with small surprise attacks. ROUND LENGTH - 1.866 inches
The extractor rod of the revolver was cut back to just in front of the end of the muzzle. With no propellant gases escaping violently, muzzle blast, flash, and the resulting noise, is reduced considerably. Ceilings were no greater than 1.8 meters high, and much more often closer to the minimum 0.8 meters high.
They would move out a safe distance and detonate the explosives. What they had been using for several years had worked for them and they were still alive. “That pistol is the most magnificent weapon I ever seen in action. There weren’t generally more than 100 tunnel rats on the ground at any given time. The revolver decided on was the Smith & Wesson Model 29, .44 Magnum. The Army LWL passed on the project to a qualified civilian contractor, Aircraft Armaments Inc. (AAI) of Baltimore, Maryland. The construction of the tunnels themselves made for a challenging job for the tunnel rats. Before entering, a grenade was usually thrown into the tunnel entrance to kill any Viet Cong that may be near the top. It didn’t take long to figure out that the odds of a tunnel rat dying were much higher than a soldier carrying out regular operations. The M1911A1 was also considered too big and too cumbersome as well as being too loud. The arena of combat ranged from swamps to mountain highlands, from the water to the land. Accuracy was reasonable with the new weapons. Its bite was usually deadly. The captured-piston ammunition for the Tunnel Weapon and other systems has been declared a suppressor by BATF. I drug him outside but he was dead.” The firing pin was replaced in-country with a harder metal one, and the ammunition primer redesigned. Earlier, in December, 1967, the U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MAC-V) had recognized that the need still existed for a low-noise weapon for what were now officially called the tunnel exploration personnel in the Republic of Vietnam. , By Mangold and Penycate's account, the contributions of tunnel rats first garnered public attention in January 1966, after a combined U.S. and Australian operation against the Củ Chi tunnels in Bình Dương Province, known as Operation Crimp. After the tunnel was searched, the tunnel rats would go back in with explosives and place them at tunnel bends and other strong points. I swear I could hear my heart beating.” –Jack Flowers, “Rat Six”, 1st Infantry Division. The work was constant. Over 2.75 ounces of steel were removed from the cylinders that originally weighed over half a pound. A sealed-in percussion primer ignites the propellant charge in a normal way. The tunnel rat would look, as best he could, for any enemy troops and then feel for any booby traps or mines. A tunnel exploration kit was developed in 1966 by the Limited Warfare Laboratory (LWL). The tunnel rat in front was always the one who had to look for booby traps or enemies. For our platoon we could use five or six of these weapons.” During the Vietnam War, "tunnel rat" became an unofficial specialty for volunteer combat engineers and infantrymen from Australia and the United States who cleared and destroyed enemy tunnel complexes. The areas usually searched by the tunnel rats were often little more than 30-inch wide tubes cut through the sticky earth. The "Diehards" of the U.S. Army's 1st Engineer Battalion, whose exploits are featured in Mangold and Penycate's book, later claimed a special place for tunnel rats in American military history during their rotation through the Cu Chi District of Vietnam in 1969..
Two of these are at the US Ordnance Museum at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Specimen #5 is on public display there and the AAI specimen is there in storage. Typically, a tunnel rat was equipped with only a standard issue M1911 pistol or M1917 revolver, a bayonet, a flashlight, and explosives. Instead, Vietnam tunnel rats were an elite group of soldiers during the Vietnam War who probably had one of the most daring jobs. Afghanistan features an extensive series of historic tunnels used for transporting water and the "kariz." The stakes were placed in the tunnels and camouflaged so soldiers wouldn’t see them. There were some suggestions made for improving the weapon, and especially the ammunition. Enemy soldiers were killed at ranges of less than ten feet with other troops nearby never hearing the shots. MUZZLE VELOCITY - 750 fps The steel cartridge cases also had some problems with the recessed primer system. Tunnel construction occasionally included anti-intruder features such as U-bends that could be flooded quickly to trap and drown the tunnel rat.
These weapons were used in against some of the most low-tech forces the US military had faced in a long time. The company’s experience with firearms had them quickly applying the captured piston concept to the tunnel weapon project. He was running, and he was about 20 to 25 feet away.” AMMUNITION Five of the new weapons and 496 rounds of ammunition were each issued to the 1st and 25th Infantry Divisions for a 90-day field test period.
The means of this military magic was discovered by a US Army sergeant when he sat on a nail that was sticking up from a hidden trapdoor. Vietnam tunnel rats – these weren’t some vermin soldiers encountered during the Vietnam War.
Only the ten examples, and a single specimen maintained by AAI, were ever made. This weapon is far by being better than a .38 pistol we had. EFFECTIVE RANGE - 50 feet
BARREL LENGTH - 1.372 inches Soldiers quickly learned to scan the ceilings with their flashlights. But these weapons were very few in number and wanted by a number of other special units. MAXIMUM RANGE - 1,400 feet The Vietnam tunnel rats faced a casualty rate of around 30% compared to a casualty rate of 10% (for United States troops) for soldiers in regular combat. To increase hit probability in the dark tunnels, ammunition for the new weapons would be of the multiple-projectile type.
CASE DIAMETER - 0.526 inch In addition to their regular role, tunnel rats had to be extremely good at hand-to-hand combat.
The Viet Cong were determined tunnellers, and it proved to … To fire the new ammunition, a revolver system was used to eliminate any problems with trying to function a semiautomatic weapon. Many tunnel rats reportedly came to dislike the intense muzzle blast of the relatively large .45 caliber round, as the .45's loud report could often leave one temporarily deaf when fired in a confined space.
, SAMOOR ("Weasel"), a formation within Israel's Yahalom elite combat engineer unit, is charged with many of the same missions that tunnel rats performed during the Vietnam War. This put the tunnel weapons to use in ambushes, prisoner snatches, and other more covert actions. In the dark tunnels, Vietnam War tunnel rats needed every one of their senses so they had to settle for lesser quality pistols. On a very odd note, one of the Tunnel Weapons was reported lost in Vietnam.
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