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SITREP: April 2002

By Dan Shea

Every once in a while, we decide to “Theme” an issue. This is usually a huge task, requiring that a lot of people pull together to make it all happen. This time, I think we have all outdone ourselves. What you are reading is an issue that is 24 pages larger than our usual 104 pages, and we think it is a comprehensive look at the small arms used in the Vietnam War.

There are things we didn’t cover thoroughly, and some we missed. Example- I did a full photographic essay on the North Vietnamese K50 submachine gun, about 30 photos including manufacturing details and disassembly. Jeff cut MY article at layout! Sonofa...gun! Well, we just didn’t have the room! Tom Hoel did an outstanding 10 million word analysis of the M60 and its variants in civilian hands. Just too big for this issue- just kidding on the 10 million words part, but we did have Kevin Dockery’s piece on the M60 development and use in ‘Nam, so Tom’s will be in two upcoming issues. We have a nice piece on making your own M40 sniper rifle, that got cut and will be in a future issue.

If you are reading this, and are missing those items, please understand that we have limited room and had to choose rather carefully to get a balanced issue. Back issues are available from our distributors, or you can email us at to ask for a local contact.

April of 1975 was a strange time to be in the US Military. After fifteen years of war, we had to sit back and watch as the communist North Vietnamese overran Saigon. Images of terrified Vietnamese trying desperately to get onto the last US Helicopters are still in our national consciousness. There was the shame of defeat hanging in the air.

There shouldn’t have been. The soldiers won the battles, fought valiantly, and did what they were supposed to do. The problem, quite simply, was with the politicians. Recently McNamara wrote a book wherein he said he “Knew it was wrong to be there”. Well, this was McNamara’s War, and a lot of us still have strong feelings about that- as well as the trashing that Hollywood later gave the Vietnam Veterans. Some thirty years later, Hollywood has rediscovered the Vietnam Veteran as “Hero”.

Hallelujah. You will find most veterans doing their jobs every day. An amazing number took their experiences and used them, with the military training, to become very successful businessmen. The readers might be surprised to know how many of the businesses that advertise here are owned by veterans- who never really bring it up, they just take each day and do the best with it. Some guys are having a rough time, but they learned to deal with it. If you are not a vet, go talk to someone who is, that is out working, and you will discover a world of people who are stronger for their experiences. Don’t listen to the crazies the media usually brings out and parades around- many of them never even served.

Our job at SAR is to bring you info on the small arms - on the history, use, and technology. I think we have done a good job of it this month. Hell, I think we have done one OUTSTANDING job of it this month. I am proud to be working with the people who contributed to this issue. I sincerely hope that you enjoy this and the following issue, Part 2 of our Small Arms of Vietnam War series. We hope it becomes a cherished part of your collection.

- Dan Shea


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