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Hamburger Hill

From Internet Movie Firearms Database - Guns in Movies, TV and Video Games
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Hamburger Hill (1987)

Hamburger Hill is a 1987 Vietnam War film that was one of the competing 'Nam movies following 1986's Platoon. This film was released in August of 1987, only a few weeks following the release of Full Metal Jacket and only a few months following Platoon's Academy Award win for Best Picture. As a result of this, there were invariably many comparisons to these other bigger budget films. While Hamburger Hill did not achieve the same success as Platoon, it did respectably at the box office.

Since Hollywood does everything in groups, Hamburger Hill was part of a slew of Vietnam War-themed movies released in the mid-1980s. Uncommon Valor (1983) was one of the early successes of these strings of movies, but generally, these films were either critically acclaimed "A-list" movies, like Platoon (1986) or low budget "B action films" like Missing in Action (1984).

Hamburger Hill refers to the infamous 'Hill 937' in the A Shau Valley, Thua Thien province, which was a major point of supply by the enemy from the north. At the north end of the A Shau Valley was a major North Vietnamese Army (NVA) staging area known as Base Area 611. Hill 937 is so named because the number lists the number of meters above sea level (hills with identical heights are given additional name identifiers, but there were few hills that had the exact same height in Vietnam).

Though the film shows a majority of the platoon being killed in the ascent to the summit, the 101st Airborne actually suffered 4% KIA during the 10 day assault. It is interesting to note that many motion pictures depict much greater casualties than actually occurred during an historical battle (Gallipoli is a stark example).

Hamburger Hill was directed by John Irvin, who covered the Vietnam War as a photographer and documentarian for the BBC, and the cast includes Dylan McDermott, Steven Weber, Tim Quill, and Don Cheadle.

The following weapons were used in the film Hamburger Hill:




The majority of the 101st Airborne troopers in the film carry mockups of XM16E1 Rifles, the interim variant of the M16 rifle which combined the 3 prong flash hider with the A1-style upper receiver. In reality, the 101st AB, at this stage of the war, did NOT carry the XM16E1, but had the M16A1 with birdcage flash hider, a fact pointed out by Hamburger Hill veterans when the film was released. The rifles, while featuring the older flash hiders, have full magazine fences, which were not on actual XM16E1s, but rather on later M16A1s.

Mockup of an XM16E1 rifle with 20 round magazine - 5.56x45mm. What distinguishes it from the original M16 was the addition of the forward assist button and a chrome bolt carrier (which was later dropped with the M16A1). This can be identified as a mockup by its full magazine fence and strengthened front pivot point, neither of which appeared on the actual XM16E1.
Pvt. Ray "Motown" (Michael Patrick Boatman) fires his XM16E1 during the opening battle. Motown and other soldiers are constantly seen having to "clear" jammed shells out of their rifles (a common problem with these rifles when they were first introduced in the war).
During the 101st Airborne's first battle seen in the film, all combatants are seen carrying XM16E1 rifles, including Sfc. Worcester (Steven Weber) on the left and Sgt. Franz (Dylan McDermott), who has his mags taped together jungle-style.
At the right, Sgt. Franz (Dylan McDermott) oversees an evac of his platoon onto UH-1D Helicopters. He carries an XM16E1 Rifle with his mags taped "jungle" style.
Left to right: Washburn (Don Cheadle), Bienstock (Tommy Swerdlow), and Galvan (Michael A. Nickles) have a laugh at the expense of Languilli (Anthony Barrile). The three pronged flash hider on their XM16E1 rifles are clearly shown here.
Following Sgt. Franz's lead, Galvan (Michael A. Nickles) prepares to put a plastic pouch over the muzzle of his XM16E1 in order to keep the moisture out.
Sgt. Franz (Dylan McDermott) sits atop his "hooch" with his XM16E1, enjoying the sunshine.
Pvt. Murphy (Michael Dolan) opens fire with the XM16E1.

MGC Replica M16

Soldiers in the beginning of the film have ModelGun Corp replica MGC M16s slung to their backs as they load wounded onto helicopters. One of the giveaways is the 'blued' 20 round magazine (the real 20 round magazine is anodized aluminum), the shape of the pistol grip, and the rear sling swivel. The most obvious detail is not seen here is the fake forward assist of the replica rifle.

The MGC M16 Assault rifle: a non-firing metal replica built by the Model Gun Corp of Japan and one of the most used non-firing replicas of the M16 in movies and television.
Soldiers of the 101st carry wounded with MGC M16 Replica rifles slung on their backs.
Soldiers of the 101st with MGC M16 Replica rifles slung on their backs carry wounded men to the evac helicopters.


Some of the NVA troops are seen carrying carrying standard AK-47-style rifles throughout the film.

Poly Technologies AK-47 (milled receiver) - 7.62x39mm
NVA hold Chinese Type 56 style AKs, some plain and some with pig-sticker bayonets.
NVA run back to their bunkers, all carrying standard AK-47-style rifles. These are probably Poly-Technology Legend series AK-47s.

Type 56 Assault Rifle

Other than the milled receiver AK-47s (which are probably Poly-Technology Legend series rifles), there are obvious stamped receiver Norinco Type 56 style AK rifles with underfolder spike bayonets (aka "Pig-Sticker". This variant has a stamped receiver, the version in the film has a milled receiver.)

Norinco Type 56 (fixed stock variant) with under-folding bayonet ("pig sticker") which was standard on PLA-issue Type 56s - 7.62x39mm
Pvt. Joe Beletsky (Tim Quill) takes a Type 56 Assault rifle from a dead NVA soldier. Note the extended 'Israeli style' screw-on blank adapter.
A montage of Pvt. Joe Beletsky (Tim Quill) with his Type 56 assault rifle during the final assault for Hill 937.
NVA troops hide in a tunnel. Type 56 rifles mixed in with milled receiver AK-47 rifles can be seen.
Flanking the M60 gunner are NVA soldiers with Type 56 rifles. In the 1980s, many of the 7.62x39mm blanks had heavy doses of black powder, which made these huge clouds of smoke when they fired, which is not at all close to the real thing.
An NVA soldier pops out of his tunnel with a Type 56 rifle.

Type 56 Carbine

The Chinese variant of the Russian SKS, the Type 56 carbine with spike bayonet, is used by the NVA combatants in the film.

Chinese Type 56 Carbine with spike bayonet - 7.62x39mm.
An NVA soldier is killed after wounding Duffy (Harry O'Reilly) in the arm during a battle. The soldier holds a Chinese Type 56 carbine with spike bayonet.
An NVA soldier bayonets Sgt. Franz (Dylan McDermott) in his side during the final battle.
A montage of the scene where the NVA soldier shoots Gaigin and Doc with his Type 56 carbine. This is particularly hard to see due to the heavy rainfall and dense smoke of the scene. The rear sight is flipped up, most likely occurring when the rifle snags on debris as the man crawls back and forth from his hole. The sight cannot be used in this manner for any sort of aimed fire, so he is purely pointing and shooting.
An NVA soldier with a Type 56 carbine fires next to an NVA soldier using a Type 56 assault rifle.

Machine Guns


The M60 machine gun is used by Duffy (Harry O'Reilly) and then by both Gaigin (Daniel O'Shea) and Bienstock (Tommy Swerlow). NVA forces are also seen using the M60 in defense of the hill. This is not somewhat inaccurate as Viet Cong forces used captured American weapons, and some could have easily have found their way into the NVA arsenal as well.

M60 - 7.62x51mm
Duffy (Harry O'Reilly) aims his M60 while Sgt. Franz (Dylan McDermott) calls in an airstrike.
Duffy (Harry O'Reilly) runs into battle with his M60 - 7.62x51mm
Duffy (Harry O'Reilly) lies dead next to his M60, a victim of friendly fire.
Bienstock (Tommy Swerdlow) opens fire with the M60 in action. Note that the rounds loaded into the machine gun are blanks, as evidenced by the crimped open-topped rounds.
Bienstock with the same M60 during a pause in the fighting. Note that this time the actual projectiles appear real, though going by the rounds in the belt carried on his person, they are in fact dummy rounds with an already expended blasting cap. It is also safe to assume that the dummy rounds do not contain any gunpowder for safety reasons.
An NVA soldier uses an M60 in defense of his bunker.
A very determined looking NVA soldier manning a captured M60 during the assault.
Bienstock fires his M60 machine gun during the final assault on Hill 937.


The M60D is seen mounted on the Huey helicopters in the film. Re-enacting a tragedy from the actual battle, an M60D machine gun is seen used to mistakenly fire on American troops.

M60D - 7.62x51mm
Always seen on helicopters, here is a clear shot of the spade grips of the M60D as wounded troops are loaded.
M60D machine guns are seen mounted as door guns on the UH-1 "Huey"'s as they transport the troopers into battle.
Door gunner provides cover with his M60D machine gun.
Re-enacting a tragedy from the actual battle, an M60D machine gun is seen when American combat aircraft mistakenly fire on their own troops.

Browning M2HB

Browning M2HB machine guns are seen in the distance on some of the perimeter shots of the base camps and mounted on M113 APCs.

Browning M2HB - .50 BMG
An M113 APC rolls by with soldiers grabbing a ride. An Browning M2HB is seen mounted on the front. Contrary to what is depicted in the film, soldiers riding vehicles were supposed to wear their M55 or M68 flak jackets, even though they were not bulletproof, they protected against grenade or bomb fragments, including roadside mines and boobytraps. Only in close-quarters battle where quick movement trumped ballistic protection, did the soldiers ditch their flak vests.


M79 grenade launcher

The M79 Grenade Launcher is first carried in the film by McDaniel (Don James), and then later by Pvt. Joe Beletsky (Tim Quill).

M79 grenade launcher - 40mm
McDaniel (Don James) gestures for others to follow him, while carrying his M79 grenade Launcher.
McDaniel (Don James) chases fleeing NVA soldiers in the forest with his M79 grenade Launcher. Note the writing on McDaniel's M1 Helmet which was common in 'Nam.
Sgt. Frantz (Dylan McDermott) looks on as Pvt. Joe Beletsky (Tim Quill) struggles to load and fire the M79 after being assigned grenadier following the first engagement. Frantz is seen taking the launcher and "eyeballing" the shot instead of using the sights.
Pvt. Joe Beletsky (Tim Quill) becomes much more adept at using the M79 launcher during the final battle for Hill 937.
Pvt. Joe Beletsky (Tim Quill) fires his M79 Grenade Launcher.

Fake RPG Training Aid

When Sgt. Frantz (Dylan McDermott) is lecturing the new members of the platoon, he uses a former NVA crossover (a participant in the Chieu Hoi program) named "Han" to demonstrate how "not paying attention" will get them killed. Han is "armed" with a long empty tube made to resemble an RPG launcher of sorts (most likely the RPG-2, given the single pistol grip and the prevalence of the weapon in Vietnam). It has a dud warhead loaded in it. "Han" demonstrates his skill and ability by avoiding the noisemakers, tripwire, and barbed wire of the perimeter to get within striking distance of the G.I.s

"Han" holds up his training aid fake RPG.
"Han" says "hello" to the new replacement soldiers.


Some of the Airborne soldiers are seen carrying M72 LAW rocket launchers, but these are not seen used. Since the enemy at this stage had no armor to defeat, the M72 LAW rockets were used primarily as "bunker busters", though they are not effective against soft earth targets like the tunnel entrances on Hill 937.

M72A2 LAW - 66mm. The "Empty" marking makes it clear this is a spent tube.
A soldier seen climbing the hill with an M72 slung on his shoulder.
A soldier seen climbing the hill with an M72 slung on his shoulder.



The M1911A1 is standard issue in the black leather holster of officers and NCOs, however, the handgun is only seen holstered and not seen fired.

M1911A1 - .45 ACP
The M1911A1 is carried by Lt. Eden (Tegan West) in the black leather holster at the left.


M26 Fragmentation Grenade

A variety of "lemon grenades" are seen on soldier's web gear throughout the film. They are often seen from a distance on webbing or in men's hands as they are thrown. In real life, they are supposed to be M61 Grenades (virtually identical to the M26A1 lemon grenades most associated with Vietnam), however, these have a slightly unusual shape, implying that they are some sort of "trainer" grenade that is not often used to impersonate the M26/M61 series of grenades.

M26 HE Frag hand grenade
SFC Worcester (Steven Weber) on the left carries what appear to be M26/M61 grenades on his web gear, however the shape is slightly off.
Lt. Eden (Tegan West) carries a muddy M26 hand grenade, clearly shown on his web gear.

M18 Smoke Grenade

M18 Smoke Grenades are generally seen carried on soldiers' gear, primarily NCOS like Sgt. Frantz and RTOs like Murphy (Michael Dolan).

M18 smoke grenade - Red.
RTO Murphy (Michael Dolan) has M18 Smoke grenades attached to his web gear.

Type 67

Throughout the film, the enemy uses what appear to be Chinese Type 67 stick grenades. These weapons typically were an oval pineapple-style grenade attached to the top of a short wooden stick and noticeably shorter than the famous German Model 24 Stielhandgranates of World War II vintage.

Type 67 hand grenade
A Chinese stick grenade is thrown in the direction of a soldier.

Weapons Platforms

M41 Walker Bulldog Tank

An M41 Walker Bulldog tank can be seen parked in a field during a visit to a rear area, away from the fighting. The fact that this tank has U.S. armored division markings is a bit of an anachronism, since the M41 was only supplied to the ARVN and was an obsolete tank for U.S. forces. In fact, the M41 was perfect for the ARVN armored units, since its interior was too small for tall American tank crews but perfectly sized for the smaller-statured Vietnamese tankers. The Bulldog's secondary armament was one Browning M2HB .50 Cal machine gun and a .30 Cal machine gun

An M41 Walker Bulldog tank with an 76mm M32 Main gun is seen in a field during a lull in the fighting.

F-4 Phantom

A pair of F-4 Phantom jets with their 20mm M61 Vulcan cannons are seen making numerous bombing runs on the hill.

GE M61 Vulcan Cannon - 20x102mm
A pair of F-4 Phantom jets with their 20mm M61 Vulcan cannons are seen making numerous bombing runs on the hill.

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