Many weapons were used during the Vietnam War by both sides, some, extremely simple and others, deadly and complex. When researching for this post, I was floored when coming across an extensive list of weaponry comprised of over 600 line items. I sure got an education. I always heard it said that war is a good place for weapon manufacturers to test out their products and get rich – that’s probably why there were so many used during the 20-year war. Check out this post and let me know your thoughts.


From air power to infantry to chemicals, the weapons used in the Vietnam War were more devastating than those of any previous conflict. United States and South Vietnamese forces relied heavily on their superior air power, including B-52 bombers and other aircraft that dropped thousands of pounds of explosives over North Vietnam and Communist targets in South Vietnam. While U.S. troops and their allies used mainly American-manufactured weapons, Communist forces used weapons manufactured in the Soviet Union, China, and other European communist countries. In addition to artillery and infantry weapons, both sides utilized a variety of tools to further their war aims, including highly toxic chemical defoliants or herbicides (on the U.S. side) and inventive booby traps using sharpened bamboo sticks or crossbows triggered by tripwires (on the North Vietnamese-Viet Cong side).

Weapons of the Air

The war saw the U.S. Air Force and their South Vietnamese allies fly thousands of massive low-altitude bombing missions over North and South Vietnam as well as over sites of suspected Communist activity in neighboring Laos and Cambodia. The B-52 heavy bomber, developed by Boeing in the late 1940s, helped the U.S. and South Vietnamese dominate the skies, along with smaller, more easily maneuverable fighter planes like the F-4 Phantom. Also widely used was the Bell UH-1 helicopter, dubbed the “Huey,” which could fly at low altitudes and speeds and land easily in small spaces. U.S. forces used the Huey to transport troops, supplies and equipment, aid ground troops with additional firepower and evacuated killed or wounded soldiers.

Did you know? The U.S.-made M-16 rifle was redesigned in 1966 to perform better in the wet, dirty conditions that prevailed in ground combat during the Vietnam War, and it became the weapon most commonly associated with U.S. troops in the conflict. Before this change, M16s were plagued with malfunctions that costs many lives during firefights when soldiers could not defend themselves.

Among the more devastating explosives used in U.S. and South Vietnamese bombing runs was napalm, a chemical compound developed during World War II. When mixed with gasoline and included in incendiary bombs or flamethrowers, napalm could be propelled greater distances than gasoline and released large amounts of carbon monoxide when it exploded, poisoning the air and causing even greater damage than traditional bombs. Though the large-scale U.S. and South Vietnamese aerial bombardment efforts damaged or destroyed much of the land and population of Vietnam, they proved less destructive to the enemy than expected, as North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops fought an irregular style of guerrilla warfare that proved much more resilient than the Americans had hoped.

U.S. and South Vietnamese Artillery & Infantry Weapons

The M-48 tank, with mounted machine guns, could travel up to 30 mph and was used to provide support for U.S. and South Vietnamese troops. Due to Vietnam’s soggy jungle terrain, tanks were not used extensively in combat during the Vietnam War. Armored personnel carriers such as the M-113 transported troops and performed reconnaissance and support functions. A common artillery weapon, previously used in World War II, was the 105mm howitzer, which could be towed behind a truck or carried by helicopter and dropped into position. Operated by crews of eight men each, the howitzers fired high-explosive shrapnel shells or “beehive” cartridges (thousands of small, sharp darts) at a rate of three to eight rounds per minute over a range of some 12,500 yards.

One of the most common infantry weapons used by U.S. troops in Vietnam was the M-60 machine gun, which could also be used as an artillery weapon when mounted or operated from a helicopter or tank. The gas-powered M-60 could fire up to 550 bullets in quick succession at a range of almost 2,000 yards, or at short range when fired from the shoulder. One drawback of the M-60 was the heavyweight of its cartridge belts, which limited the ammunition that soldiers could carry. Standard issue for infantrymen in Vietnam was the M-16, a gas-operated, magazine-fed rifle that could fire 5.56 mm-caliber bullets accurately over several hundred yards at 700-900 rounds per minute on its automatic setting; it could also be used as a semi-automatic. Its ammunition came in magazines of 20-30 rounds, making it relatively easy to reload.

North Vietnamese and Viet Cong Weapons in Vietnam

Most of the weapons, uniforms and equipment used by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces were manufactured by the Soviet Union and China. The portable, shoulder-fired SA-7 Grail missile was one of many anti-aircraft weapons extensively against American aircraft conducting bombing raids in North Vietnam. On the ground, the DP 7.62mm light machine gun (the equivalent to the U.S.-made M-60) was based on a Soviet design and manufactured in both the Soviet Union and China. The simple but deadly accurate AK-47, known to many as the “peasant’s rifle,” was shorter and heavier than the M-16, with a lower rate of fire (up to about 600 rounds per minute). It was extraordinarily durable, however, and was able to fire 7.62mm bullets either automatically or semi-automatically from a 30-round clip at a rate of up to about 600 rounds per minute, at a range of up to 435 yards. Another widely used semi-automatic rifle was the SKS carbine or “Chicom.”

In addition to Soviet- or Chinese-supplied arms, Communist forces also carried weapons captured from the French and the Japanese in earlier Indochina wars or used weapons made by hand in Vietnam. Troops in the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) or the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) had access to more standard-issue clothing and weapons, while Viet Cong often used improvised weapons and wore peasant clothing to blend in with the South Vietnamese population.

Other Weapons Used in Vietnam

In addition to rifles and machine guns, U.S. infantry troops were armed with hand grenades (such as the Mark-2), which could be thrown or propelled using rifle-mounted launchers. Mines were used to guard the perimeter around campsites; they could be triggered by trip wires or exploded manually. In terms of chemical weapons, U.S. Air Force planes sprayed more than 19 million gallons of herbicides over 4.5 million acres of land in Vietnam from 1961 to 1972 as part of Operation Ranch Hand, a large-scale defoliation program aimed at eliminating forest cover for North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops, as well as crops that might be used to feed them. The most commonly used defoliant, a mixture of herbicides containing the toxic dioxin and known as Agent Orange, was later revealed to cause serious health issues–including tumors, birth defects, rashes, psychological symptoms and cancer–among returning U.S. servicemen and their families as well as among large sections of the Vietnamese population.

For their part, North Vietnamese and particularly Viet Cong forces often used explosives captured from U.S. and South Vietnamese forces or cut open unexploded bombs to manufacture their own crude explosives. They also employed booby traps, including hidden bamboo maces or crossbows that could be triggered when soldiers stepped on a tripwire. One particularly common menace was the punji stake trap, a bed of sharpened bamboo stakes that was concealed in a pit for enemy soldiers to stumble across.

The information above was obtained from the channel under the same name. Here’s the direct link:


Here is the list of weapons – over 600 line items – from both sides (citations are available on the original piece on I wasn’t prepared for such an extensive list and it blew my mind. Many of the weapons are linked to either a picture or redirected back to Wikipedia for further explanation (not sure how this will work on cellphones). If you do click on the links, use the back arrow at the top left of the screen to return to this article.

Weapons of the South Vietnamese, U.S. South Korean, Australian, Philippine, and New Zealand Forces

>Hand combat weapons

The KA-BAR knife was the most famous edged weapon of the war.

>Pistols and Revolvers

>Infantry Rifles

Vietnamese Rangers with M16 rifles in Saigon during the Tết Offensive

A U.S. soldier with an M14 watches as supplies are dropped in Vietnam, 1967.

  • M1 Garand – used by the South Vietnamese and South Koreans
  • M1, M1A1, & M2 Carbine – used by the South Vietnamese Military, Police and Security Forces, South Koreans, U.S. military, and Laotians supplied by the U.S.

South Vietnamese People’s Self-Defense Force militiawomen with M1 carbines

  • M14, M14E2, M14A1 – issued to most U.S. troops from the early stages of the war until 1967–68, when it was replaced by the M16.
  • M16, XM16E1, and M16A1 – M16 was issued in 1964, but due to reliability issues, it was replaced by the M16A1 in 1967 which added the forward assist and chrome-lined barrel to the rifle for increased reliability.
  • CAR-15 – carbine variant of the M16 produced in very limited numbers, fielded by special operations early on. Later supplemented by the improved XM177.
  • XM177 (Colt Commando)/GAU-5 – further development of the CAR-15, used heavily by MACV-SOG, the US Air Force, and US Army.
  • Stoner 63 – used by US Navy SEALs and USMC.
  • T223 – a copy of the Heckler & Koch HK33 built under license by Harrington & Richardson used in small numbers by SEAL teams. Even though the empty H&R T223 was 0.9 pounds (0.41 kg) heavier than an empty M16A1, the weapon had a forty-round magazine available for it and this made it attractive to the SEALS.
  • MAS-36 rifle – used by South Vietnamese militias
  • AK-47AKM and Type 56 – Captured rifles were used by South Vietnamese[41] and U.S forces.

>Sniper/Marksman Rifles

>Submachine Guns

  • Beretta M12 – limited numbers were used by U.S. Embassy security units.
  • Carl Gustaf m/45 – used by Navy SEALs in the beginning of the war, but later replaced by the Smith & Wesson M76 in the late 1960s. Significant numbers were also utilized by MAC-V-SOG, the South Vietnamese, and limited numbers were used in Laos by advisors, and Laotian fighters.
  • Smith & Wesson M76 – copy of the Carl Gustaf m/45. Few were actually shipped to Navy SEALs fighting in Vietnam.
  • F1 submachine gun – replaced the Owen Gun in Australian service.
  • M3 Grease gun – standard U.S. military submachine gun, also used by the South Vietnamese
  • M50/55 Reising – limited numbers were used by MACVSOG and other irregular forces.
  • Madsen M-50 – used by South Vietnamese forces, supplied by the CIA.
  • MAS-38 submachine gun – used by South Vietnamese militias.
  • MAT-49 submachine gun – used by South Vietnamese militias. Captured models were used in limited numbers
  • MP 40 submachine gun – used by South Vietnamese forces, supplied by the CIA.
  • Owen Gun – standard Australian submachine-gun in the early stages of the war, later replaced by the F1.
  • Sten submachine gun – used by US special operations forces, often with a suppressor mounted.
  • Sterling submachine gun – used by Australian Special Air Service Regiment and other special operations units.
  • Thompson submachine gun – used often by South Vietnamese troops, and in small quantities by US artillery and helicopter units.
  • Uzi – used by special operations forces and some South Vietnamese, supplied from Israel.


Ithaca 37

Shotguns were used as an individual weapon during jungle patrol; infantry units have authorized a shotgun by TO&E (Table of Organization & Equipment). Shotguns were not a general issue to all infantrymen but were select issue weapons, such as one per squad, etc.

>Machine Guns

US Marine fires his M60 machine gun at an enemy position during the Battle of Huế.

>Grenades and Mines

Claymore anti-personnel mine in use in Vietnam

>Grenade and Rocket Launchers

  • M1/M2 rifle grenade adapters – used to convert a standard fragmentation grenade (M1) or smoke grenade (M2) into a rifle grenade in conjunction with the M7 grenade launcher.
  • M7 and M8 rifle grenade launcher – rifle grenade launcher used with respectively the M1 Garand and the M1 carbine, used by the South Vietnamese. Could fire the M9 and M17 rifle grenades.
  • M31 HEAT rifle grenade – Used primarily by the U.S. Army before the introduction of the M72 LAW. Fired from the M1 Garand and M14 Rifle.
  • M79 Grenade Launcher – primary U.S. grenade launcher used by all branches of the US military, as well as ANZAC forces and the ARVN.
  • China Lake Grenade Launcher – pump-action weapon used in very small numbers.
  • XM148 – experimental under-barrel 40mm grenade launcher that could be attached to the M16 rifle or XM177 carbine. Withdrawn due to safety reasons.
  • M203 grenade launcher – single-shot 40mm underslung grenade launcher designed to attach to an M16 rifle (or XM177 carbine, with modifications to the launcher). First tested in combat in April 1969.
  • Mark 18 Mod 0 grenade launcher – Hand-cranked, belt-fed, 40x46mm grenade launcher used by the US Navy.
  • Mark 19 grenade launcher – Automatic, belt-fed, 40x53mm grenade launcher.
  • Mk 20 Mod 0 grenade launcher – Automatic, belt-fed, 40x46mm grenade launcher. Primarily used by riverine crews but also used by Air Force Special Operations.
  • XM174 grenade launcher – Automatic, belt-fed, 40x46mm grenade launcher used mainly by the US Army.
  • Bazooka – The M9 variant was supplied to the ARVN during the early years of the war, while the M20 “Super Bazooka” was used by the USMC and the ARVN until the full introduction of the M67 90mm recoilless rifle and of the M72 LAW.
  • M72 LAW – 66mm anti-tank rocket launcher.
  • XM202 – experimental four-shot 66mm incendiary rocket launcher.
  • FIM-43 Redeye MANPADS (Man-Portable Air-Defence System) – shoulder-fired heat-seeking anti-air missile, used by the US Army and USMC.
  • BGM-71 TOW – wire-guided anti-tank missile


>Infantry Support Weapons

A US soldier carries an M67 recoilless rifle past a burning Viet Cong base camp in Mỹ ThoSouth Vietnam, 1968

  • M18 recoilless rifle – 57mm shoulder-fired/tripod mounted recoilless rifle, used by the ARVN early in the war.
  • M20 recoilless rifle – 75mm tripod/vehicle-mounted recoilless rifle, used by US and ARVN forces early in the war.
  • M67 recoilless rifle – 90mm shoulder-fired anti-tank recoilless rifle, used by the US Army, US Marine Corps, ANZAC and ARVN selected forces.
  • M40 recoilless rifle 106mm tripod/vehicle-mounted recoilless rifle.
  • M2 mortar – 60mm mortar, used in conjunction with the lighter but less accurate and lower-range M19 mortar.
  • M19 mortar – 60mm mortar, used in conjunction with the older, heavier M2 mortar.
  • Brandt Mle 27/31 – 81mm mortar, used by ARVN forces
  • M1 mortar – 81mm mortar, used by ARVN forces.
  • M29 mortar – 81mm mortar, used by US and ARVN forces.
  • L16A1 mortar – 81mm, used by ANZAC forces.
  • 82-BM-37 – captured 82mm mortar, few used by USMC with US rounds
  • M30 mortar 107mm mortar, used by US and ARVN forces.
    • M98 Howtar, a variant of the latter mounted on an M116 howitzer carriage


Self-propelled Howitzer M109 in Vietnam

Artillery ammunition types


(listed alphabetically by modified/basic mission code, then numerically in ascending order by design number/series letter)

USS Garrett County at anchor in the Mekong Delta with two UH-1B Iroquois helicopters on deck


(listed numerically in ascending order by design number/series letter, then alphabetically by mission code)

>Aircraft Ordnance

See also: List of Bombs in the Vietnam War

>Aircraft weapons

minigun being fired from a combat search and rescue helicopter in Vietnam

>Chemical weapons

  • Rainbow Herbicides
  • Agent Orange – While developed to be used as a herbicide to destroy natural obstacles and tree camouflage, it was later revealed that it posed health risks to those exposed to it.
  • Agent Blue – Used to destroy agricultural land that was believed to be used to grow food for the VC/NVA.
  • Agent White
  • Napalm
  • CS-1 riot control agent – “Teargas”, used in grenades, cluster bomblets or (rarely) shells.
  • CN gas – “teargas”


In addition to cargo-carrying and troop transport roles, many of these vehicles were also equipped with weapons and sometimes armor, serving as “gun trucks” for convoy escort duties.

>Other Vehicles

>Combat Vehicles


  • M24 Chaffee – light tank; main ARVN tank early in the war, used at least as late as the Tet Offensive.
  • M41A3 Walker Bulldog – light tank, replaced the M24 Chaffee as the main ARVN tank from 1965.
  • M48 Patton – main tank of the US Army and Marines throughout the war, and also used by ARVN forces from 1971.
  • M67 “Zippo” – flamethrower variant of the M48 Patton, used by USMC.
  • M551 Sheridan – Armored Reconnaissance Airborne Assault Vehicle/Light Tank, used by the US Army from 1969.
  • Centurion Mk 5 Main Battle Tank – used by the Australian Army, with AVLB and ARV variants

>Other Armored Vehicles

>Naval Craft

Fast Patrol Craft

  • LCM-6 and LCM-8 – with several modifications:
  • LCVP – Landing craft vehicle personnel, some made by the French Services Techniques des Construction et Armes Navales/France Outremer and known as FOM
  • Swift Boat – Patrol Craft Fast (PCF)
  • ASPB – assault support patrol boat
  • PBR – Patrol Boat River, all-fiberglass boats propelled by twin water jets, used by the US Navy
  • Hurricane Aircat – airboat used by ARVN and US Army


Soldier using an AN/PRC-77 radio transceiver with the KY-38 secure voice encryptor (below), part of the NESTOR system


The geographically dispersed nature of the war challenged existing military communications. From 1965 to the final redeployment of tactical units, numerous communications-electronics systems were introduced in Vietnam to upgrade the quality and quantity of tactical communications and replace obsolete gear:

  • AN/PRT-4 and PRR-9 squad radios – replaced the AN/PRC-6.
  • AN/PRC-6 and AN/PRC-10 – older short-range radios, used for outposts
  • AN/PRC-25 and 77 – short-range FM radios that replaced the AN/PRC-8-10
  • AN/VRC-12 series (VRC-43, VRC-45, VRC-46, VRC-47, VRC-48) – FM radios that replaced the RT-66-67-68/GRC (including AN/GRC 3–8, VRC 7–10, VRC 20–22, and VRQ 1–3 sets).
  • AN/GRC-106 – AM radios and teletypewriter that replaced the AN/GRC-19.
  • TA-312 and TA-1 field telephones.

Weapons of the PAVN/VC

Main article: Viet Cong and PAVN logistics and equipment

The PAVN and the Southern communist guerrillas, the Viet Cong (VC) as they were commonly referred to during the war, largely used standard Warsaw Pact weapons. Weapons used by the PAVN also included Chinese Communist variants, which were referred to as CHICOM’s by the US military. Captured weapons were also widely used; almost every small arm used by SEATO may have seen limited enemy use. During the early 1950s, US equipment captured in Korea was also sent to the Viet Minh.

>Small Arms

Vietcong guerrilla stands beneath a Vietcong flag carrying his AK-47 rifle.

A U.S. Army M.P. inspects a Soviet AK-47 recovered in Vietnam in 1968.

PAVN troops with PPSh-41

VC soldier with SKS

>Hand combat weapons


The KA-BAR knife was also used by the PAVN & VietCong

>Handguns and revolvers

>Automatic and semi-automatic Rifles

  • SKS (Chinese Type 56) semi-automatic carbine
  • AK-47 – from the Soviet Union, Warsaw Pact countries, China and North Korea
  • AKM – from the Soviet Union, a common modernized variant of the AK-47
  • M1/M2 carbines – common and popular captured semi-automatic rifles
  • vz. 52 rifle semi-automatic rifle, very rarely used
  • Vz. 58 assault rifle
  • Sturmgewehr 44 Limited
  • Type 63 assault rifle – Limited use, received during the 1970s
  • M14M16A1 – captured from US and South Vietnamese forces.
  • M1 Garand – captured semi-automatic rifle
  • MAS-49 rifle – captured French rifle from First Indochina War

>Bolt-action rifles/marksman rifles

>Submachine Guns

  • K-50M submachine gun (Vietnamese edition, based on Chinese version of Russian PPSh-41, under license)
  • MAT-49 submachine gun – Captured during the French-Indochina War. Many were converted from 9x19mm to 7.62×25 Tokarev
  • PPSh-41 submachine gun (both Soviet, North Korean and Chinese versions)
  • PPS-43 submachine gun (both Soviet and Chinese versions)
  • M3 submachine gun Limited use 
  • Thompson submachine gun – including Vietnamese copies
  • MP 40
  • MP 38 submachine gun – Limited use.
  • MAS-38 submachine gun – Captured from the French in the Indochina War.
  • PM-63 submachine gun – Used by tank crews
  • M49 submachine gun – limited use, received from Yugoslavia
  • M56 submachine gun – limited use, received from Yugoslavia
  • Vietnamese home-made submachine guns, inspired by the Sten or the Thompson, were used by the Viet Cong early in the war.

Machine Guns

Grenades, Mines and Booby Traps


LPO-50 flamethrower

Type 74 Chinese-built copy

Rocket Launchers, Recoilless Rifles, Anti-tank Rifles & lightweight Guided Missles

North Vietnamese soldier preparing to fire an SA-7

North Vietnamese SAM crew in front of a SA-2 launcher


The KS-19

Field Artillery Rocket Launchers

Field artillery rockets were often fired from improvised launchers, sometimes a tube fixed with bamboo.

Anti-Aircraft Weapons


Aircraft Weapons



Other Armored Vehicles

Support Vehicles

Naval craft

Here’s the direct link for the list of weapons in Wikipedia:


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