Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Necessity was the Mother of Lethality (Part 2): Scrap Wood & Metal Becomes Pistol

Cut off from a reliable source of manufactured goods early in the war thanks in part to U.S. and Republic of Vietnam Navy vigilance, National Liberation Front (also known as Viet Cong) fighters operating in South Vietnam carried primitive firearms such as this single-shot smoothbore pistol, which used a nail as a safety.  It is one of the more unusual weapons featured in the Hampton Roads Naval Museum's exhibit, The 10,000 Day War at Sea, the U.S. Navy in Vietnam, 1950-1975 .  (Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) collection/ Photograph by M.C. Farrington)
By Thomas Grubbs
Contributing Writer

The 9mm round is the AK47 of the ammunition world. Widely available, it is fired from literally hundreds of firearms, both pistols and submachine guns. It can be found in every armory and most every gun store or arms bazaar on earth. Their ubiquity has made it the go-to caliber for homemade weaponry. The Viet Cong, denied access to traditional sources of weaponry such as foreign imports or in territory factories, naturally turned to manufacturing their own firearms, such as the pistol seen above.

Like the RC Cola grenade, this homemade handgun is a product of necessity. Small arms, like all other types of military materiel, would have to be transported over the difficult land route known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail or by sampan along the coast. It would also have to compete for scarce space against other equally important war materiel such as medical supplies or spare parts. Both routes were exposed to American air and sea power, particularly units supporting Operation Market Time, which took a steady toll on supplies traveling down them. Therefore, manufacturing weapons on site in South Vietnam was a much safer and more convenient alternative.

Unfortunately, there were no arms factories supplying Viet Cong forces in South Vietnam. Making weaponry in hidden workshops allowed the Viet Cong to have a source of supply of small arms to be close to the, for lack of a better term, front line yet protected from attack. The pistol’s crude construction from commonly available materials belies its effectiveness: at close range it would be just as effective in killing as a pistol constructed in a factory. In this case, necessity is the mother of invention.

This slightly different view shows a serial number painted onto the grip. (NHHC collection/ Photograph by M.C. Farrington)

Editor's Note: Thomas Grubbs earned a master's degree in military history from Southern New Hampshire University and is currently a park ranger interpreter at Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi. His research interest is in the history of the dreadnought battleship. 

This and every HRNM blog post by a contributing writer reflects the opinions of the writer and should not be construed as representing the official policies or opinions of the Hampton Roads Naval Museum, the Naval History and Heritage Command, Department of the Navy, or the United States Government.

No comments: