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This US Army Documentary is about the helicopter door gunners, nicknamed the "Shotgun Riders". The film shows them as they performed some of their various duties in Vietnam, after a rigorous training program.
About the helicopter door gunners: A helicopter door gunner is a crewman tasked with firing and maintaining manually directed armament aboard a helicopter. The actual role will vary depending on the task given on a particular mission.
The personnel who served as early door gunners aboard CH-21, UH-34, and UH-1 helicopters in Vietnam, were enlisted men, serving as both the aircraft's maintenance manager and a door gunner. Normally, a second enlisted soldier served as a second door gunner (such as on a UH-1, and UH-34 helicopters, which both used two gunners – one on each side of the aircraft). Later, the helicopter door gunner position sometimes used a non-aviation trained soldier or marine, that volunteered for door gunner duties.
The principal weapon of the helicopter door gunner was a medium machine gun (MG), initially, the M-1919A4 .30 caliber MG, and soon thereafter, the M-60 7.62mm MG became the standard helicopter door armament system. Initially however not all helicopters were armed with a machine gun for door armament. The helicopter door gunners sometimes used an M1 Carbine, an M14 rifle, or an M16 rifle, as their only weapon.
The door gunner position was not a popular one in Vietnam, due to the exposed position of manning a machine gun in the open door of a helicopter. According to popular legend, the helicopter door gunner on a Vietnam era UH-1 Huey gunship had a life-span of 5 minutes. This was exaggerated but displays the hazards of this military job at the time. The UH-1 helicopter (still in use by the U.S. Marine Corps, as the UH-1Y helicopter) is still manned as it was in Vietnam, with the gunner firing from the open cabin door.