Weapon Selection in SOF units


A while back we were asked by one of our readers how weaponry is issued out to various service members, like how some SOFs get issued 416s and some get SCARS.

As I haven’t been in the SEAL Team ONE compound since 1975, there’s no way I can provide any realistic idea or notion of how distribution is done. I DO KNOW that CNSWDG handles weaponry issue/configuration differently than the other SEAL Teams. CNSWDG personnel have a wide latitude on the configuration of their weaponry and the associated equipment with is affixed to the weapon. Their loadouts are similar, but not identical to those of other Teams/members, since their stated primary mission is “counter-insurgency in a maritime environment”.

Back during the Vietnam timeframe, once a man’s skills had been determined, and once a Platoon’s specific needs had been assessed, he was assigned a specific weaponry tasking (rifleman, grenadier, machine-gunner, etc.) in addition to his responsibility tasking (point, radioman, rear security, prisoner-handler, patrol security, interpreter, etc.). Additional equipment related to a skill assignment might sometimes conflict with weapon assignments. A Radioman carried an AN/PRC-77 “backpack” VHF radio which weighed nearly 30 pounds. Designating a Radioman to also carry an M60 Light Machine Gun with 600 rounds of ‘ball’ ammunition would place a huge load on the man and potentially slow the entire Platoon.

I WAS a SEAL Radioman, and I WAS assigned to carry an M60… but not at the same time! There were enough men with Radioman skills that more than one was likely to be in any Platoon. Such was the case in all three of the deployable Platoons in which I served.

When I carried an M60 and 600 rounds of ‘ball’ ammunition, someone else was carrying the “Prick-77” radio gear and spare battery (the size and weight of a large brick). I had my M60 cut short, with other weight reducing modifications (aviation butt stock, bipod removed, forestock removed, spare pistol grip fastened to the gas-assist tube in place of the forestock, etc). This reduced my M60 from standard issue 23.5 lbs to about 16 lbs (dry weight).

Modifications to the issued M16 rifles were very limited… mostly having to do with the attachment of an over-the-should “jungle sling” – the Vietnam era version of a 2-point weapon harness – constructed using duct tape (also known as armory tape or hundred-mile-an-hour tape) and paracord. To lighten the loadout of riflemen, we used the CAR-15 carbine (a shorter barreled version of the M16 with a collapsible stock).

The SEALs-only M63 Stoner firearm could be configured in a variety of different ways, but was mostly set up as a light machinegun with box ammo drum (side mounted). It fired linked .223 ammo and was the model on which the modern Squad Automatic Weapons (SAWs) were designed.

The M79 grenade launcher was popular in the Teams, and the modifications associated with that weapon were primarily limited to the manner in which the designated grenadier carried his load. Customized clothing with egg-carton pouches built in, or H-harness load-out with custom-made pouches were the norm.

The Point Man skill carried an option of weaponry which was partially focused on the environment, partially focused on the personal skills of the man, and partially determined by the Platoon Officer’s preference for overall load-out. The point man had the option of using an M37 Ithica pump shotgun (12ga.), an M16/ACAR-15 carbine, an M3A1 submachine gun (.45 cal), an M76 S&W submachine gun (9mm), a Swedish “K” submachine gun (9mm), a Chicom AK47, or (early in the war) an M1 Carbine (.30 cal) rifle.


I’m sorry I can’t be more specific for today’s arsenal, load-outs, and fittings. The combat requirements for fighting in a “high desert” environment are far different than we trained for during the Vietnam era and the predominant requirement to fight in a rainforest/jungle/inland-maritime setting. The available weaponry is much more advanced, more technically adaptive to differing combat task assignment, and has more options for both personalization and task-adaption.
– Steve “Moose” Robinson

RM2(SEAL) BUD/S Class 59
USN 1970-1978


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