The .44 magnum barrel was removed and a simple short cylinder threaded into its place. With no propellant gases escaping violently, muzzle blast, flash, and the resulting noise, is reduced considerably. In the end, not much of importance was found but the Viet Cong continuously hit troops with small surprise attacks. The Americal Division used its Tunnel Weapons with its Ranger and Infantry companies. The cap-mounted lamp slid around and either was pointing the wrong way, slipped down over the tunnel rat’s eyes, or gave the VC an aiming point that was almost guaranteed to be fatal. Typically, a tunnel rat was equipped with only a standard issue M1911 pistol or M1917 revolver,[4] a bayonet, a flashlight, and explosives. Viet Cong would also wait for a soldier to come out a trap door then kill them with stakes, guns, or knives. AMMUNITION 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. ROUND LENGTH - 1.866 inches Soldiers couldn’t fire off more than three shots in a row because Viet Cong would know that you were empty and had to reload after six shots. It even extended from the air above North Vietnam to the ground underneath South Vietnam. 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.

Even with pistols, the tunnel rats had to follow certain guidelines to try to stay alive. That was enough. Sintered tungsten-steel alloy shot was formed under pressure for the subprojectiles. Some tunnels had special holes in the wall where Viet Cong would wait for soldiers and then thrust stakes through the hole impaling the troops.

The construction of the tunnels themselves made for a challenging job for the tunnel rats.

The tunnels weren’t constructed in straight lines but with corners that had between a 60-degree and 120-degree turn. The captured piston seals off the end of the cylinder, trapping the propellant gases inside the system where they can bleed off slowly. Booby traps were an unfortunate danger for tunnel rats. This put the tunnel weapons to use in ambushes, prisoner snatches, and other more covert actions. The tunnel rats had been using a variety of weapons since the suppressed S&W fiasco eighteen months earlier. [9] Tom Mangold and John Penycate, authors of one of the definitive accounts of tunnel warfare during the Vietnam War, reported that the U.S. tunnel rats were almost exclusively soldiers of European or Hispanic descent, many of whom were Puerto Rican or Mexican American. Tunnel rats were generally men of smaller stature (165 cm (5 ft 5 in) and under), who were able to maneuver more comfortably in the narrow tunnels.

This was later used as part of the demonstration of the weapon to its users in Vietnam. The Tunnel Exploration Kit was abandoned in service, most tunnel rats wanted nothing to do with it, and it was quickly withdrawn. During the Vietnam War, the United States fought the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army forces with some of the most high-tech weapons the US could produce. According to U.S. tunnel rat veterans, however, most tunnel rats usually went without gas masks because wearing one made it even harder to see, hear, and breathe in the narrow dark passages. To increase the lethality of the shot charge, heavy metal shot was used instead of the usual lead shot. The M1911A1 was also considered too big and too cumbersome as well as being too loud. He was always secured to a rope in case he needed to be pulled out in an emergency. RIM DIAMETER - 0.550 inch Some tunnel rats had competent armorers and machinists make up suppressors for a variety of handguns, including several for the M1911A1. Generally, tunnel rats were armed with pistols, bayonets, flashlights, and sometimes explosives. The company’s experience with firearms had them quickly applying the captured piston concept to the tunnel weapon project. The Tunnel rats used a host of specialized weapons that helped them to be effective at their job. The stub barrel had a 0.400 smooth bore reamed through its center. Only the ten examples, and a single specimen maintained by AAI, were ever made. Instead, Vietnam tunnel rats were an elite group of soldiers during the Vietnam War who probably had one of the most daring jobs. Their standard military pistols weren’t ideal because the blast was so loud it would deafen them momentarily after firing. The tunnel rats were American, Australian, New Zealander, and South Vietnamese soldiers who performed underground search and destroy missions during the Vietnam War. But these weapons were very few in number and wanted by a number of other special units. Despite being many feet underground, the tunnels were fully functional. Soldiers quickly learned to scan the ceilings with their flashlights. CASE DIAMETER - 0.526 inch To fire the new ammunition, a revolver system was used to eliminate any problems with trying to function a semiautomatic weapon. Lurking in the warren of dark, hot, humid, tunnels, the tunnel rats might find boobytraps, snakes, venomous insects, weapons caches, or a weapon in the hands of a very live VC. The designers back at the LWL probably hadn’t had a lot of faith in the revolver suppressor as well, they issued ear plugs in the kit to be used when firing underground.

SOUND LEVEL - 120 Decibels at 1 meter from muzzle, This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V5N9 (June 2002)and was posted online on February 14, 2014. We have to avoid contact and the weapon doesn’t compromise our position. WEIGHT (CYLINDER) - 0.419 pounds The stakes were placed in the tunnels and camouflaged so soldiers wouldn’t see them.

This resulted in a high (18 percent) failure to fire rate on the first weapons. The Tunnel Rats who paid the supreme sacrifice in Vietnam are resting in peace in capital cities and remote towns across Australia - and in one case Malaysia, where our first KIA is … This made shooting at the enemy impossible and also made grenades fairly ineffective. But that marksman was very much the exception. The tunnel rat would look, as best he could, for any enemy troops and then feel for any booby traps or mines. A spread of shot would be much easier with when the target may only be visible for a fraction of a second, or maybe not visible at all. In July, 1969, ten Tunnel Weapons and 992 rounds of ammunition arrived in Vietnam for testing. The tunnel rats knew what worked for them and were exceedingly conservative in adopting any new hardware or weapons. But the sound of the big .45 going off in the close confines of a tunnel was deafening. Besides enemy combatants, the tunnels themselves presented many potential dangers to tunnel rats. 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. One user could hit a flying sparrow at 20 meters with a single shot. The “muzzle velocity” of the projectile, in this case the shot charge, is dependent only on the length of travel and pressure pushing the internal piston of the round. The clay where the tunnels were constructed was soft and easy to work with during the wet season and dried rock hard during the dry season making it an ideal environment for tunnels. The captured-piston ammunition for the Tunnel Weapon and other systems has been declared a suppressor by BATF. Snake traps were a particularly surprising attack. The steel cartridge cases also had some problems with the recessed primer system. Afghanistan features an extensive series of historic tunnels used for transporting water and the "kariz." The VC would even use venomous snakes (placed as living booby traps). One tunnel rat wrote that it wasn’t unusual to destroy more than 100 enemy bunkers during each operation. The shot from what was now called the Quiet, Special Purpose Revolver, would penetrate a 3/4 inch thick sheet of plywood at 15 feet.

Its bite was usually deadly. The Viet Minh commissioned volunteer villagers to dig the tunnels using hoes and baskets. The tunnels had actually been around since the First Indochina War against the French, which Vietnam fought from 1946 to 1954. The .38 revolver was relatively small, light, and easy to handle. It hits the target just by using the pointing method. Later, similar teams were used by the Soviet Army during the Soviet–Afghan War and by the Israel Defense Forces in campaigns in the Middle East.



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