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Old September 26, 2012, 02:19 PM   #1
Winchester_73
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Met a Vietnam "sniper" - looking for facts

So the other day, I met a Vietnam "sniper" - and right then, I was suspicious because IMO many people with that kind of combat experience don't talk about it, esp unsolicited, for a variety of reasons. I work at the VA and so I get to talk to veterans.

The guy went on to say he carried "either a M16 or M14, a grenade launcher, and a 9mm sidearm". He stated that as a sniper, he had an open sight M16 but he sometimes carried the M14 instead, also open sighted. He was USMC. He didn't elaborate on the 9mm, but I'm wondering what it was, if that happened at all? A hi-power? From my limited knowledge on such subjects, I thought many USMC snipers had Winchester model 70s or a Remington bolt rifles. I also didn't think Vietnam snipers would have had open sight rifles, unless perhaps in a special situation?

Not trying to open a can of worms here, and I don't know much about this. Just wondering if anyone here can shed light on these claims.

He didn't brag about any combat specifics other than he could "shoot a flea at 500 yds" (better than I could). But nothing about kills, or medals/honors but he said his spotter one silver star or something for saving a man's life.

Was any of this true or possible ?
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Old September 26, 2012, 02:31 PM   #2
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ok here's the deal....hopefully someone else can fill in more blanks I am only throwing in a little:

maybe people don't talk about it usually(like the grandpa WWII stories etc), but that does not mean they always don't. people are people and there are all kinds too. also, maybe he liked you. as for the flea comment. if he was a sniper the guy can shoot dawgone at least close to what he said. I was in the army with some "hawkeyes" and they were not snipers. I am left eye dominant but shoot righty so I can not shoot a flea at 500yards but can shoot well and/or well enough and I am the judge of me. I still shoot to this day and have since I got out of army.

vietnam....they did have a transition from the weapons you were talking about. as an example we used the m16A2 when I was in the army last decade cuz I guess during the vietnam war soldiers were running out of ammo because their adrenaline, fear, lack of experience(draftees), whatever would hold down the trigger and the ammo would go quick(then no ammo and bye bye you're tied to a tree and made an example of by enemy forces). the most I could do with mine was hold the trigger and get a three round burst...it wouldn't keep firing.

furthermore, we are going back some years but even today not counting different jobs up the yingyang that are very diverse in all military branches, an officer trains with the 9mm and carries it andor is issued it manytimes. no for every enlisted joe schmo. that doesn't take into account we are talking about a time of war, his job being out in the field might require a backup sidearm, and marines/grunts/etc had gofers and stuff(climb thru tunnels to shoot the badguys.

my dirty penny...hope that helps+all the best
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Old September 26, 2012, 02:53 PM   #3
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Most of the people who were really in the crap don't talk much about it.

I know a few guys who were Rangers and other than the dates in-country, they don't dwell on it with others who were not there.

I would not call the guy a liar but I would not blindly accept his story either.

I was in the Navy and not in Vietnam, but when I hear former "Swabs" telling sea stories, I just bounce that against my experience and make the determination if the person is genuine or not.
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Old September 26, 2012, 03:01 PM   #4
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I am not a veteran.Thats OK,its important to me I am honest about that.It has to do with respect for those who have served,and respect for myself.

I can't say whether the gentleman you spoke with was for real,or not.

I know I have run into some phonies who introduce themselves as "Navy Seal Sniper" etc.One guy alledged he was a Ranger,had no idea who William Darby was,no clue about Roger's Rules,and...folks who make this stuff up are trying to cover up a lack of something in themselves.That lack becomes apparent.

I'm talking about competence,confidence,leadership,etc. The "Follow Me" factor.

Keep your BS detector up.

So far,of the folks who have made such claims,none of them can tell me what a mil dot reticle measures dot to dot at 1000 meters.

I just find someone else to have a conversation with.

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Old September 26, 2012, 03:19 PM   #5
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U.S.M.C. sniper teams from the Vietnam era were sniper, spotter, and (not always) security. The sniper were issued Mod 70 Winchesters with Unertl 8x glass(most often but others scopes were used) or a Remington M700-40x with a Redfield Accur-Trac 3-9x X 40m/m glass. The spotter would usually carry the M-14 but may have had an M-16. Any security would be using M-16's also.
Side arms were becoming a tool of sniper teams but I am unaware of any regular issue 9m/m, the 1911 was still the pistol of the day during the Vietnam era. So if it was a 9 m/m it was probably a personal pistol.
As posted later in thread the Army did issue the M-21 or XM-21 sniper system a National Match M-14 with a tuned trigger and a Redfield/Leatherwood ART (automatic ranging telescope)scope on a side mount. I may be wrong about this but I think suppressors for the M-21's were starting to appear at this time also.
Have found one confirmed use of a M-14 as a snipers weapon by the USMC. Marine Sergeant Chuck Mawhinney USMC sniper with 103 confirmed and 216 probable kills, on Valentine's Day 1968, in a night action Mawhinney and his spotter engaged a platoon of NVA soldiers at a river crossing at range not over 100 yards used an M-14 rifle(rather than his normal Model 70 bolt rifle) in simi-auto with a starlight scope killing 16 NVA with 16 rounds in 30 seconds before withdrawing from the area. Mr Mawhinney is said to have told nobody not even his wife about his time at a sniper for over 20 years until Joseph Wars book "Dear Mom: A Sniper's Vietnam" brought him into the public view. (Footnote from the document this came from says that the History Channel has also covered this action in one of its programs on snipers.)

Last edited by sgms; September 28, 2012 at 10:16 AM. Reason: documented use of M-14 by USMC sniper Vietnam
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Old September 26, 2012, 03:22 PM   #6
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The weapons selection doesn't sound like a sniper. And the 9mm pistol was not used by the Marine Corps then.

What a combat veteran says has a lot do with who he is and who he is talking to. I had a friend who was my Dad's age who was a scout in World War 2. He didn't have much to say about it until I came back from overseas. Then he had all sorts of stuff to talk about his experiences.
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Old September 26, 2012, 03:28 PM   #7
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woody

all good posts and the one before you is sortof what I was getting at

Quote:
And the 9mm pistol was not used by the Marine Corps then
an officer very well might have had a 9mm(even if it wasn't issued) but not definitely to either possibilities.....
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Old September 26, 2012, 03:29 PM   #8
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Well it's certainly possible and probably true. So I'd accept him at his word. I was in Vietnam, and though not a sniper can say first hand there were a lot of M16s and M14s there! (As if I'm saying anything new! )

As far as a 9mm, I never saw one but no doubt they were there. As you implied the Hi-Power would be one of the most likely.
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Old September 26, 2012, 03:53 PM   #9
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If you get a good look at his DD-214 assuming he has one you will probably find he did his best fighting when he issued boots and had to argue with somebody who said they didn't fit. How old is he? There are a lot of us Viet Nam Vets dying every day but somehow there are more vets out there now then we actually had in service then and way more Viet Nam vets than we ever had over there. Call me jaundiced prejudiced and skeptical of all these heroes coming out of the woodwork now.
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Old September 26, 2012, 03:58 PM   #10
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^^^^^^^What he said.

I would think most anyone who served in Vietnam would be in their late 60s by now.
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Old September 26, 2012, 04:23 PM   #11
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Really depends on when they served. My dad is turning 60 next month and served a tour in Vietnam. His older brother is 65 and served two tours. It was a long war. I really think it all comes down to personality. My dad won't discuss anything other than he was there and some of the sites he saw while there. My uncle will talk your ear off about it if you let him. Of course he was a 30 year Marine, with lots of interesting stories.
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Old September 26, 2012, 04:41 PM   #12
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Sounds fishy to this Army veteran. The Marines had a very rigorous sniper school-read 93 Kills about Carlos Hathcock, and AFAIK only those who graduated from it were allowed to call themselves snipers. Anyone with an iron sight M14 or M16 is a "rifleman"-which is an honorable and noble title.
9MM sidearm-and where'd he get the ammo for it? "Grenade launcher"-the M-79, another standard issue weapon. The Marines transitioned to the M16 in early 1967, that led to all the complaints about the M16 jamming. Again his DD214-provided it's genuine-will detail his true service record.
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Old September 26, 2012, 05:03 PM   #13
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One or two holes......possible. That story looks like Swiss cheese.
Sad, but smile, nod, and move on.
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Old September 26, 2012, 05:14 PM   #14
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SFAIK, designated snipers usually had a good number of years of experience before the selection.

We pulled out of Vietnam in 1972, forty years ago. Figure a guy goes in around age 18 or 19, does five or six years before designation. Add 40 to all that and your sniper-guy oughta be around 65 years old. Roughly.
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Old September 26, 2012, 05:18 PM   #15
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Army snipers that I knew used the M-14. To me, they would be called designated marksmen today. Lots of experimental warfare was used in the Nam, everything from helicopters to weapons and tactics. Disposable rocket launchers, the CAR 16's, under barrel grenade launcher was the XM 203, and I think the M16A2 had an X on it too. The tactics my unit used was the arclight, discretion being the better part and all. Sure takes your breath away, if your close enough. Gabby enough?
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Old September 26, 2012, 07:15 PM   #16
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Before we jump to conclusions lets look at the reality of Sniping in Vietnam.

It wasn't until 69-70 that Sniping, School Trained Snipers, and decated sniper rifles showed up.

Average sniper kills in Vietnam was just north of 400 yards, well within the range of the M16a1.

I was there in 1967-68 and only seen one, what was called a Sniper Rifle, Some unit was passing through our AO and one guy had a Model 70 in '06. We were setting around BSing their SGT asked our SGT if he wanted to get a "sniper rifle", My Plt Sgt says "why, my boys do just fine with their '16s, besides who wants to deal with an odd ball round, we have enough problems getting Huey's to bring us '16 & 60 ammo" he added, "no sir, if we need snipers I got some boys who do just fine as it is".

Some people called thems snipers, some didn't. But our favorite trick was to mount a Starlight Scope on a M16a1 and send out a couple guys to cover a re-supply point we just left.

It worked quite well. We got resupplied every 5-7 days, and had to carry every thing we had. So a lot of crap was thrown away. Ham and Lima beans for example. Excess crap from Sundre packs.

Anyway after we left, the bandits would move in and go through our trash piles. Our guys would set up a couple hundred yards away and it was like shooting fish in a barrel.

Another method was when we set up ambushes. We'd set up on a trail and then send rifle men, with M16a1s w/or without starlights (depending on the time of day) to cover trail junctions on both ends of the trail we were set up on. They normally got in some pretty good shooting.

I never believed a guy had to be "school trained" or have a fancy rifle to be considered a sniper.

Way too many people do, but that's ego talking.

So if someone tells me they were a sniper in Vietnam, I'd consider the missions rather then they were school trained or had some desinated sniper rifle.

Age is a different matter. We've all ran across guys who were in Vietnam but if you did the math you'd find they were drafted at 8-9 years old.

As to 9mm's, yeap I've seen some Brownings over there, don't know where they got them, probably privately owned, didn't ask, didn't care, I had my 1911a1 and it suited me.

I'd be willing to bet, if you looked up the true defination of sniping. (The act of engaging targets from a protective distance------not distance per se, but the distance or circumstances to lessen or eliminate the chance of being detected----could be distance, concealment, noise, etc etc), you'd find the M16a1, with or without irons, had more confirmed then all the other "sniper rifles" combined.
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Old September 26, 2012, 07:57 PM   #17
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Winchester 73- I work for the VA too. Some days you'd swear there's only 4 or 5 truck drivers, cooks, clerks, mechanics, fuel supply folks etc registered in the whole system.
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Old September 26, 2012, 08:12 PM   #18
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I was 17 when I joined the Army in July '72 and with the exception of Basic and AIT I spent all my 3 years in Germany. The only combat I did was with the local beer in K-Town.

I know for fact that:
1. 9mm were not adopted by DOD until late 80's. It would have cost an enlisted man nearly a month's wages and would have required is commanding officer approval. Zero chance of that.
2. Americans pulled out of Vietnam in May 1975, I separated in July
3. With very few exception enlisted men were not permitted to have sidearms.
Back in those days the payroll officer still had to pickup cash and checks for payday and the Colt 45 was the only pistol available, I was one of 4 guys that took turns escorting the pay officer and that was the only time I wore a sidearm or saw anyone wear a sidearm (except the MPs). It was a beat up old thing that was older than I was, and probably had been through WWII.

Any enlisted man that claims to have had a side arm is either a liar or special forces. Any enlisted man that says he was issued a 9mm in the 60's or 70's is a bad liar.
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Old September 26, 2012, 08:28 PM   #19
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Quote:
Any enlisted man that claims to have had a side arm is either a liar or special forces. Any enlisted man that says he was issued a 9mm in the 60's or 70's is a bad liar.
That's not quite true. Lots of GIs in Vietnam had their family send them all sorts of hand guns. Most were revolvers, or the most I've seen.

It was kind of a "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Infrantry units didn't care in the bush, but normally it was sugested they keep them out of sight when in the rear.

As to enlisted carrying hand guns, it was "if you can come up with one you can carry it". I carried a 1911a1. I don't really remember how I came about getting it, but I had it most of my tour, left it with another guy when I left country.
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Old September 26, 2012, 08:31 PM   #20
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Some of us served as civilians doing "pest" control at air bases using Mod 70 Winchesters with Unertl 8x glass usually chambered in 300 Win Mag. Troops were not "allowed" to shoot orangatans (sp?), civivlians could. Go figure.
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Old September 26, 2012, 08:45 PM   #21
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Very old age seems to invite catharsis and affirmation...

I have two, 80-90 year old relatives that served their country, one as a landing craft operator in WWII, the other as a spy for the CIA for several decades that followed.

Until recently, neither talked details, and both were in the thick of it multiple times. As they age, I've felt as if the greater details (no nuclear launch codes, but some things you can find in history books, only first hand) was their seeking an affirmation that what they did was a good thing.

Is it possible your 'sniper', or other aging veterans, as they see more twilight, are looking for an affirmation or simply want to get some things off their chest, and it's safe to do so now?
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Old September 26, 2012, 08:50 PM   #22
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Quote:
Call me jaundiced prejudiced and skeptical of all these heroes coming out of the woodwork now.
when did he claim to be a hero grump?


Quote:
I would think most anyone who served in Vietnam would be in their late 60s by now.
geeterman, my dad did three yrs active duty 1966-1969 and was in bac lieu(rice paddies) for at least a yr....yes, he is 60something yrs old. all my grandparents aren't passed on yet and they were WWII era(both grandpas served in that war)
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Old September 26, 2012, 09:15 PM   #23
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On this topic, I'm watching the American Rifleman on TV. History of the M16.

Suckers talking about the newer M16/M4s added the comment, "This isn't your grandfathers Vietnam M16".

Really know how to make a guy feel old.
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Old September 26, 2012, 09:27 PM   #24
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LOL
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Old September 26, 2012, 10:06 PM   #25
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M-60 gunners and grenadiers-M-79-were authorized sidearms, carrying an M-16 would have been a little much on top of an M-60, like the grenadier had his hands full and the shells for the M-79 weighed quite a bit. Personally owned firearms-like many other personal items-had a way of disappearing when the owner went on R&R, in the hospital or on detached duty. I recall Uncle Sam was pretty generous in handing out 45 ACP ball ammunition and it worked pretty well all the times I used it. And if your old M1911A1 broke, the armorer could usually restore it PDQ, or issue you another one.
I read-forget where-that constantly boasting and telling "war stories" is the mark of an insecure bore. I may be a bore, but I am sure not insecure.
Perhaps I am being too much a stickler, but to me the title of "sniper" can only be claimed by those who graduated from an official military sniper course.
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