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Davy Crockett Weapon System

From Internet Movie Firearms Database - Guns in Movies, TV and Video Games
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M-388 Davy Crockett nuclear projectile (W54 warhead) on M28 launcher - 120mm with 20mm spotting rifle

The Davy Crockett Weapon System was a tactical nuclear launch system developed in the 1950s, based around the small W54 nuclear warhead, also used in the AIM-26 Falcon air-to-air missile and the B54 Special Atomic Demolition Munition. The W54 variant used in the Davy Crockett's M338 projectile had a yield equivalent to 10-20 tons of TNT (damaging to structures within 500ft, with the primary effects from ionising radiation which would be instantly incapacitating at 500 feet and fatal within days to about half of those exposed at 1,000 feet). Being rather fragile, the M338 required a fairly unique launcher to be developed to fire it.

The two launchers designed for the M338 were the smaller M28, with a range of 1.25 miles, and larger M29, with a range of 2.5 miles. Both worked according to the same principles, being smoothbore recoilless guns which used a two-part propulsion system, the first part being a propelling charge about the size of a LAW rocket launcher with an integral firing mechanism triggered using a cable-linked trigger which unwound from the rear of the launcher, and the second a piston or spigot which transferred the force of the detonating charge to the projectile, the whole device functioning like a gigantic rifle grenade. Detonation was timer-based and set using a dial at the rear of the projectile, with a minimum detonation range of 1,000 feet from the launcher (dial set to 1 second): this was to ensure an air burst rather than as a safety feature. Both weapons lacked sights and instead mounted a spotting rifle under the barrel designed to match the trajectory of the M338: the 37mm spotting rifle of the M29, mounted near the muzzle end, could do this easily. The lighter 20mm spotting rifle of the M28, mounted about halfway along the gun, could only match the nuclear projectile's trajectory by using a bullet made from depleted uranium.

The system was noted for being inaccurate and not well liked by either politicians or commanders: while funding was provided for 6,247 guns of the two types, only 2,100 were ever produced, issued at a rate of four launchers to a battalion. Just 400 M338 projectiles were made, making the Davy Crockett an odd case of a gun over five times more common than its own ammunition.

The Davy Crockett Weapon System and variants can be seen in the following films, television series, video games, and anime used by the following actors:



  • Type: Recoilless spigot gun
  • Origin: United States
  • Caliber: 4.7 in (120mm) + 20mm spotting rifle (M28), 6.1 in (155mm) + 37mm spotting rifle (M29), M338 diameter 11 in (27.9 cm)
  • Weight: 116 lbs (52.6 kg) (M28, empty), 371 lbs (168.3 kg) (M29, empty) + 76 lbs (34.5 kg) (M338 nuclear projectile)
  • Length: 5 ft 1in (M28), 8 ft 2in (M29), 31in (M338 projectile)
  • Feed System: Muzzle-loading single shot
  • Fire Modes: Single shot, timer-based detonation

Video Games

Game Title Appears as Note Release Date
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater M28, fictional man-portable version, warheads incorrectly shown as self-propelled rockets 2004

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