Backyard Mortarmen

Text & Photos by Jody West

My interest with mortars started with a book that my parents gave me when I was 13 years old. It was titled, Up Front with U.S. It was about a 60mm mortar man during WWII. After reading that book I always wanted a 60mm mortar. In early 2000 I purchased an M2 60mm mortar made by KVS MFG.& ENG. Co. in 1945. I started shooting it in my back yard with reduced loads to launch M69 practice rounds about 50 yards. After getting pretty good at short-range target practice, a friend stopped by for a visit. He had served in Vietnam and he knew what model my mortar was. He showed me how the South Vietnamese used the M2 without the bipod and how they wrapped rope around the barrel because it would get hot after a few rounds. They shot it without sights and according to his accounts, were quite accurate.

About a week went by and I was thinking about what he had said, and I thought it would be fun to try shooting my mortar this way. So to the back yard I went with my mortar. The first and second rds. I shot landed about were I wanted them. Then came the third round. Of course I was feeling pretty confident until I dropped the round in the barrel and flinched. I watched in slow motion as the round went almost straight up and to the left. If it would have gone to the right it would not have mattered, but to the left was my house, and to make matters worse, my wife was inside. The only positive thing I could think of was that it would not hit the end of the house she was in. It missed the house and I decided shooting mortars in the back yard was a bad idea. However, I now I had the justification to buy something no mortar owner should be without so I could continue shooting safely in the back yard - a Subcaliber Mortar Trainer Device 3-F-8. This device was developed and procured by the Office of Naval Research Special Devices Center for the National Guard. There were four manufacturers: Folsom Arms (F.A.), Groov-Pin Corp. (G.P.C.), Topping Bros. (T.B.), and Waldes Kohinoor (W.K.). The kit consists of 20 subcaliber projectiles, a subcaliber insert barrel, 3 different barrel spacers,( 60mm, 81mm and a special spring steel adapter spacer is provided so this kit will also fit the larger 4.2 mortars) a pull through cleaning brush, a small cleaning brush and rod, retaining rings, rubber O ring, retaining ring removal tool, breech hole cleaner, hexagonal key and 3 spare fins. This is all contained in an olive drab wooden box. The box is approx. 31in. long by 10.in wide and 4.in. deep. There is a center tray that holds the projectiles and subcaliber barrel. The rest of the kit goes in the bottom of the box. The subcaliber barrel is approx. 26 3/4 long. It has a fixed firing pin in the end cap, which unscrews. The end cap and firing pin go into the base of the unit barrel approximately 4 1/2 inches. There are two 1/2-inch vent holes at the base to vent air out of the bottom of the subcaliber barrel into the mortar tube and out through the holes in the cover adapter when a projectile is dropped in the barrel, so the projectile will hit the firing pin hard enough to fire the primer.

The projectiles are 6 inches long and 1 inch in diameter. They consist of 8 parts. They are fired with a 22 caliber blank. There are 5 different gas bleed off settings for different ranges. In the nose of the projectile you can place another 22 blank. It has an inertia firing pin so when it hits on the nose it will fire the blank and the blast will vent through 2 holes on opposite sides of the nose. However, the projectile has to hit on a hard surface to fire the blank. The blank that goes into the nose was made by Winchester Arms, stock no. W22 BL. This is a 22 short with a black powder charge made for spotting. Winchester also made the original 22. cal. launching blanks, they came in a white box approx. 1 1/2 by 1 3/4 in. The box is marked “40 Propellants Sub Caliber Mortar Trainer Device 3-F-8” (I have 1 box marked 3-F-8A-1 I do not know if there is any difference). I use CCI 22 short blanks (Be very careful with using blanks that are more powerful. I had aprojectile blow up in the barrel). I use the smallest gas port, it launches it about 25 yards. If yougo any further it is easy to lose them, and it is quicker for the kids to run out and retrieve them if they are closer in. In the manual it states this device may be used on ranges up to 150 feet in Armories or Outdoors. When using you occasionally have a dud round. I have found it is easier to remove the subcaliber barrel and unscrew the end cap and the projectile is usually right there. Always keep the tube pointed in a safe direction, don’t get yourself or your hand in front of it, and observe safe timing of about 60 seconds after a “dud” round before you remove it. If you unhitch the barrel from the base plate to dump it out, it usually will not come out. In order to help prevent duds you have to clean the inside of the projectile base where the firing pin slides inside, as well as the outside of the chamberwhere the 22 blank goes after every shot. In order to stop damage to the nose chamber of the projectile you should keep a 22 snap cap in it while in use or the inertia firing pin will hit on the edge of the chamber damaging the chamber. Plus that will help keep dirt out of the unit. The manual I have was made in September 1953. These training kits are getting very rare and are usually not complete. So if you are lucky enough to own one be careful when used, you probably will not be able to find any spare parts. If you treat it with respect, you will have years of fun ahead of you.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V5N10 (July 2002)
and was posted online on January 31, 2014


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