GM94 Grenade Launcher

I was pointed to this youtube video about the Russian GM94 43mm grenade launcher.

Now, I don’t know Russian, so I have no clue what they are saying.  My first impression is that it looks like a handy launcher.  Our M203s and M320s are single shots, and the M32 6 shot launcher is somewhat awkward.  This seems like it would be easier to pack and deploy than the M32.  Being able to fire 3 rounds quickly would certainly be handy.

I doubt very many of us have any experience deploying thermobaric grenades, but I certainly would love too.  They are suppose to be more reliable and effective then fragmentation grenades for incapacitating or kill in their effective radius.  We have been fielding thermobaric rounds in our SMAWs, and even have one for the 40mm launchers (XM1060).

In the end, this video above is worth the watch just for its cutting edge computer graphics.

The Best of “Weaponsman” Part 1 (M16A1 Maintenance Survey in Vietnam)

As we reported last week and as everyone familiar with this website knows, our friend Kevin O’Brien, AKA “Hognose”, passed away. Kevin was a good friend of looserounds and  we often shared info back and forth for a variety of gun related topics.    Not 100 percent  sure that weaponsman.com has will be available in the coming years I will be running a weekly ( or maybe more or less often) “best of post” of some of Kevin’s best stuff  from his website to save  it for all and as a tribute to our friend.

 

M16A1 Maintenance Survey in Vietnam

By Kevin O’Brien ” Hognose”

We’re looking at a declassified report from the US Army Weapons Command in 1968. The report is available to subscribers to Small Arms of the World in their archives. And we came across the following little gem, which we’ve already served with several Vietnam-SF buds. Emphasis ours:

The first USAWECOM survey team stayed in Vietnam from 21 October1965 until 2 December 1966. (4) While the primary purpose of the team (5) was to provide maintenance instruction to a nucleus of officers and men from each brigade, who would then teach their own units, direct support organizations wece also instructed.

The team taught maintenance in every major USARV unit except the 1st Air Cavalry Division. (6) Students brought their own weapons, magazines, ammunition, cleaning materials, and accessories to class. A detailed inspection of each student’s equipment revealed that with the exception of the weapons of the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, the 173d Airborne Brigade, and the 5th Special Forces, all the weapons were poorly maintained.

The footnotes (4) and (5) refer to the team’s report and describe the makeup of the team — led by an ordnance LTC with four experts from USAWECOM and three from Colt. Note 6 explains why the Cav wasn’t trained — they said they were having no trrouble with the M16A1, and asked only for instructors to work with its divisional maint battalion small-arms shop.

So what was jacked up about the GIs’ guns?

The most common faults observed were:

  1. Excessive oil on the weapon
  2. Carbon buildup in the chamber, bolt, and bolt carrier group
  3. Overloading of magazines with 21 rounds of ammunition
  4. Oil and grit inside magazines (frequently accompanied by lubricated ammunition); and
  5. Failure to replace worn or broken extractors and extractor springs.

Other deficiencies noted frequently were shortages of technical manuals, cleaning equipment, and repair parts, and a general lack of knowledge of the M16 rifle among officers and noncommissioned officers.

At first it may seem strange that soldiers were unfamiliar with their weapons, but you have to remember how this report fits into American small arms history. The M16A1 was a standard — in Vietnam, only. The rest of the Army still soldiered on with the M14, and an awful lot of people in Army Ordnance still had their noses out of joint that Westmoreland had ordered a lot of weapons that were Not Invented Here (the M14, like the M1 before it, was developed in-house by the Army). Some of them wanted the M16 to go away. Others wanted it to fail. Still others were captivated by the small-caliber, high-velocity concept and the M16’s brilliant ergonomics, and determined to help make it work. And many were of a type with Army men of all nations and all times: given a mission, intent on carrying it out.

We thought it was interesting that three airborne units (the 101st was still nominally Airborne at this time, although it would only have the name as n honorific by the time it left Vietnam) had few worries with their M16s, although it seems like the 1st Cav didn’t either. So why were the airborne units squared away, when most of the legs weren’t? Turns out that it wasn’t due to the higher quality of troops in the supposedly all-volunteer paratroop units, but had a more mundane explanation:

The 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, the 173d Airborne Brigade, and the 5th Special Forces were the only units surveyed that had received training with the M16 for a significant period of time prior to deployment to Vietnam. Men in other units had been given training in marksmanship but little or no instruction in care and cleaning of the rifle.

On a follow-up visit, intended to cover maintenance of the very maintenance-intensive XM148 grenade launcher, a subsequent team discovered that many of the M16s turned in for maintenance (which might not be typical of all M16s in the field; a working weapon doesn’t get turned in for maintenance) had pitting in the chamber. They did the math and came up with a statistical prediction that 10% of all 16s in Vietnam would need a replacement barrel every three months. That correlated nicely with field complaints of extraction and ejection problems. One answer was to add chrome plating to the chamber (later, the whole bore) of all M16A1 rifles, and this report seems to be where that suggestion was first committed to official writing. This suggestion was not exactly rocket surgery: at the time, the Russians had been doing it for 20 years.

The chrome chamber weapons have “MP C” or “C MP C” markings on their barrels. The later Vietnam-era chrome bore weapons are marked “C MP B.” After the war, the marking changed to “C MP CHROME BORE” and that’s what most of the small supply of surplus M16 barrels say. The bore chroming is not a sign of a particular model of M16, it’s simply a running change, one of many hundrendrds

A lot more interesting stuff in this report. There is a CYA aspect to some of it, for sure, but it’s a window into a problem (M16 Jamming, circa 1966) of which much has been written, usually without reference to primary sources like this.

About Hognose

Kevin  O’Brien  was a Former Special Forces 11B2S, later 18B, weapons man. (Also served in intelligence and operations jobs in SF).

The “Bloody Angle” Battle of Spotsylvania Couthouse

In the last year of of the US Civil war, US Grant had taken command of the Army and had began his   efforts to maneuver  R.E. Lee’s  Army of Northern Virginia into a position to be destroyed or taken.  After the efforts of the Wilderness, Grant learned why  “Old Mars Lee ” was so feared and respected by the men of the Army of the Potomac.

The series of attacks and counter attacks and  marched and counter marches  had brought both Armies to Spotsylvania.  As usual Lee had anticipated what Grant had in mind and had his men there to throw up earth works just in time.   The union army assaulted the CSA works numerous time to be repulsed.  A Junior Officer came up with a tactic designed to breach the Rebel line earlier in the battle and after showing promise it was decided to try again on a large scale.

After a rainy night delayed the attack, the Northern men assaulted In a sector of the rebel lines  known as the “The Mule Shoe”.,one of the most horrific 24 hours of the war took place. In  the 200  yard long   area that saw some of the heaviest and gruesome fighting , it became known as “The Bloody Angle”

 

The intense action took place at a section of a rebel salient known as the angle where the fighting reached an unprecedented level or savageness.  As the Union attacked and gained the  muddy works the close fighting became hand to hand.  The ground , already wet with the rain and now blood, churned under the feet of the soldiers of each side as they locked into combat.  The Lee re-enforced as Grant sent more until  a staggering amount of men crowded a small area fighting to break the line and to hold the line.

“Nothing can describe the confusion, the savage, blood-curdling yells, the murderous faces, the awful curses, and the grisly horror of the melee.”

The fighting in the bloody angle was non stop for near 24 hours before the CSA engineers  built up works 500 meter to the rear and the units withdrew unit by unit. The Unions troops completely exhausted and no doubt mentally shattered even if only temporary, withdrew from the taken by now useless works.

For those 24 hours in the angle, the veterans of the war had not seen anything like it.  Men fought hand to hand and fired at each other muzzle to muzzle.  Balls flew through the air like a swarm o bees. The wounded fell and as they tried to regain their feet became trampled down and into the mud by the men still fighting. sometimes 3 and four men deep.  Accounts of survivors tell of men brought up to a blood rage and fighting beyond  exhaustion. Some killing beyond their own physical limits but pushing on anyway. Blood lust seem to over take many of the men as they attempted to kill and maim with by any means.  All the while the fight taking place in mud. filth blood, body parts and internal organs spilled on the ground while the wounded and dead piled up.

This went on for 24 hours before the battle ended.  Those in it or saw it never forget it.

Horace Porter,  a member of Grant’s  “military family”wrote of it later.

“The appalling sight presented was harrowing in the extreme. Our own killed were scattered over a large space near the “angle,” while in front of the captured breastworks the enemy’s dead, vastly more numerous than our own, were piled upon each other in some places four layers deep, exhibiting every ghastly phase of mutilation. Below the mass of fast-decaying corpses, the convulsive twitching of limbs and the writhing of bodies showed that there were wounded men still alive and struggling to extricate themselves from the horrid entombment. Every relief possible was afforded, but in too many cases it came too late. The place was well named the “Bloody Angle.”

One story that always turns up of accounts of the fight is of the unbelievable amount of firepower used during the fight. Tells of all the trees standing cut down by musket balls. Then those felled trees further getting shot up until nothing was left of them bigger than a match book.   One tree that was noticed by all during the fight was a large oak hit by so many minnie balls, that nothing of it remained but a 22 inch stump.    The stump was saved after the battle by a local and found its way later into the Smithsonian.  That stump pictured above.   The remains  of a large strong oak reduced to a stump attest to the wall of lead those men fought in.  You could say there was more lead in the air than oxygen and I doubt vets of the fight would think it a joke.

 

 

 

Photo above is from Smithsonian.   Obviously I have let out much of the details just  to take a look at the stump and some of the horrible hand to hand slaughter that produced it, The battle was part of a much larger story of the campaign  and  is as compelling as all  of the Civil War and the men who fought it.  I   recommend further reading for a full appreciation of the fight because this post barely starts to scratch the surface.

 

The Civil War A Narrative , Foote

Clouds of Glory,  Korda

Campaigning with Grant, Porter

 

 

Kevin O’Brien ( AKA “Hognose” of weaponsman.com ) Our Departed Friend

Tonight we learned something we had feared was coming over the last few days.  Kevin O’Brien,  known to most of his readers as Hognose, has passed away.  Kevin’s brother updated his brother’s website a few days ago with news that his brother was in bad condition in the hospital and gave an email address for people who knew Kevin more than as a reader of his website.  The details received privately had us greatly worried.  With no sign of recovery his family did what most would want their families to do, let Kevin pass on peacefully.

Kevin’s website weaponsman.com was started almost at the same time as this website, and we have been following him since the start and vice versa. Kevin wrote about us in his “Weapons website of the week ” column and the track back is how we found him.   He said many nice things about our work on his website and it was much appreciated at a time when this site was a two man show.

I got to know Kevin a little more personally via emails thanks to the introduction made by Daniel. I often would send Kevin copies of pictures I  or one of the others took at industry shows and he was usually the first person I shared new gun news with or inside info. I was glad to get to know him better.

If you have not read his website, please do so.  His brother has announced he will take it down soon and much will be lost. If you are not one of his regular readers, you don’t know what you are missing.  In my opinion his was the best gun blog on the web.  He did not do reviews or have the same format as us, but his site was a true blog and it is very  entertaining, It is filled with vast technical data on many weapons and has stories told from Kevin’s long  Army career as he was a Special Forces ( Green Beret).  The name of the site came from his job in the SF “weaponsman” among other things he did in the Army,   “WeaponsMan is a blog about weapons. Primarily ground combat weapons, primarily small arms and man-portable crew-served weapons. The site owner is a former Special Forces weapons man (MOS 18B, before the 18 series, 11B with Skill Qualification Indicator of S), and you can expect any guest columnists to be similarly qualified.”

Some of his most darkly funny posts are the “when guns are outlawed then only  outlaws will have , knive, poison, trucks, pillows, gravity etc etc.,  He would often end those posts with something like “Hug your loved ones tight as you never know when it may be the last time.”   Sadly this is true for all and we lost Kevin all too soon.

I am going to miss Kevin.  I spent a lot of time on his website reading and commenting , If you go there you will most always see a comment from me or Daniel in the comment section of nearly every post.  Indeed is commenters are often subject experts   themselves and were always well behaved and spoken,  It was like the barbershop for firearms and military vets and firearms historians to go hang out at instead of working on their own stuff.

We hope Kevin has found peace, and we offer our condolences to Kevin’s Brother and Father and offer whatever assistance we can give if we can some how help ease their grief,.

Below is the post from his brother and a link.  If his brother updates with more info we will try to edit and add it to this post.

Good bye Kevin, we are all diminished.

www.weaponsman.com

 

Kevin O’Brien

I’m sorry to have to tell you all that my brother Kevin O’Brien, host of this blog, passed away peacefully this morning at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Let me start with some housekeeping.  First, the email address [email protected] remains active and you may get more and better updates there.  I say this because frankly I’m having trouble posting here.  I don’t know Kevin’s WordPress password and I’m afraid that if I restart his computer, I will not be able to post any more because the password will not autofill.  Therefore I can’t guarantee I will be able to make more updates on the blog.

We are planning a celebration of Kevin’s life for all of his friends some time in early to mid-June, here in Seacoast NH.  I will have details in a couple of days.  All those who knew and loved Kevin, including all Weaponsman readers, are welcome, but we will need an RSVP.  Again, I will make details available to those who write to [email protected]  This is not restricted to personal friends of Kevin, but space will be limited, and we will not be able to fit everyone.  It will be a great opportunity to share memories of Kevin.

We will be looking for stories and pictures of Kevin!  Please send to the email address.

I expect that some time after the celebration, I will be shutting down the blog.  No one other than Kevin could do it justice.

Finally, you should know that Small Dog, whose real name is Zac, has found a home with other relatives of ours.  Of course the poor guy has no idea what has happened to his beloved friend but his life will go on.

Now I’d like to tell you more about Kevin and how he lived and died.  He was born in 1958 to Robert and Barbara O’Brien.  We grew up in Westborough, Mass.  Kevin graduated from high school in 1975 and joined the Army in (I believe) 1979.  He learned Czech at DLI and became a Ranger and a member of Special Forces.

Kevin’s happiest times were in the Army.  He loved the service and was deeply committed to it.  We were so proud when he earned the Green Beret.  He was active duty for eight years and then stayed in the Reserves and National Guard for many years, including a deployment to Afghanistan in 2003.  He told me after that that Afghan tour was when he felt he had made his strongest contribution to the world.

Kevin worked for a number of companies after leaving active duty.  He had always loved weapons, history, the military, and writing, and saw a chance to combine all of his interests by creating Weaponsman.com.  I think the quality of the writing was what always brought people back.  Honestly, for what it’s worth, I have no interest in firearms.  Don’t love them, don’t hate them, just not interested.  But Kevin’s knowledge and writing skill made them fascinating for me.

Kevin and I really became close friends after our childhood.  We saw each other just about every day after he moved to a house just two miles away from mine.  In the winter of 2015, we began building our airplane together.  You could not ask for a better building partner.

Last Thursday night was our last “normal” night working on the airplane.  I could not join him Friday night, but on Saturday morning I got a call from the Portsmouth Regional Hospital.  He had called 911 on Friday afternoon and was taken to the ER with what turned out to be a massive heart attack.  Evidently he was conscious when he was brought in, but his heart stopped and he was revived after 60 minutes of CPR.  He never reawakened.

On Saturday, he was transported to Brigham and Women’s where the medical staff made absolutely heroic efforts to save his life.  Our dad came up on Sunday and we visited him Sunday, Monday, and today.  Each day his condition became worse.

As of last night, it was obvious to everyone that he had almost no chance of survival; and that if he did by some chance survive, he would have no quality of life.  Kevin’s heart was damaged beyond repair, his kidneys were not functioning, he had not regained consciousness, and he had internal bleeding that could not be stopped.  We made the decision this morning to terminate life support.

I’m not crying tonight.  I got that out on Saturday.  What I feel is a permanent alteration and a loss that I know can never be healed.  I loved Kevin so much.  He was brilliant, funny, helpful, kind, caring, and remarkably talented.

At dinner tonight, we agreed that there are probably many people who never “got” Kevin, but there could not be anyone who disliked him.  Rest in Peace.

Please feel free to express your thoughts in the comments and to the [email protected] email address