By Jeff W. Zimba
Chief Gunners Mate, U.S.Navy (Ret.) Barry W. Enoch on: The Stoner 63 in Combat
Many of us know about the Stoner 63 or the Stoner System as it is commonly referred to. Very few of us, however, have actually used this superb weapon in a combat situation. One who certainly has is Chief Gunners Mate, U.S. Navy (Ret.) Barry W. Enoch. If that name sounds familiar, as I am sure it will to many readers, it is for good reason.
Barry Enoch is a founding member of SEAL Team One and used the Stoner 63A extensively during his three tours in Vietnam. He was highly decorated for his actions during this controversial war. He was the recipient of the Navy Cross, two Silver Stars, and two Bronze Stars among other awards and decorations.
It was my good fortune to come into contact with Mr. Enoch while attending the Soldier of Fortune convention in Las Vegas, in October of 1997. He was set up with Jay Tee’s of Marshall, Illinois and had an impressive representation of Stoner 63 rifles to catch the attention of the crowd. He was there promoting his book TEAMMATES: SEALs AT WAR, where he was signing autographs for those lucky enough to be in attendance.
In his book, he gives credit to Mr. Eugene Stoner for the 63A light machine gun, type-classed as the M23 Model 0 (LMG) by the United States Navy. It became the SEAL weapon of choice in Vietnam. In Vietnam, the SEALs operated in conditions that were unfavorable at best. The environment they spent so much time in produced mud, sand, saltwater and the unforgiving rains which were equally hard on the SEALs and their equipment. Just like the men themselves, the Stoner LMG stood up to it all.
A primary requirement for any SEAL unit was to have maximum firepower available to them in combat. The Stoner 63 seemed to fit the bill with a cyclic rate of between 700 and 1000 rounds per minute. The 5.56mm (.223) ammunition was available in 150 round belts that used a disintegrating metallic link. Depending upon the type of magazine used, the weapon weighed between 14 and 16 pounds. The light weight of the 5.56mm belts allowed the SEAL gunner to operate in the field with 600 to 800 rounds of ammunition. Many times a SEAL fire team engaged a superior enemy force and sent them packing due to the heavy rate of fire produced by the MK23 Stoner.
In the words of Mr. Enoch; “All of the SEALs that carried the MK23 into combat realize just how much we owe to Mr. Stoner.”
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V1N4 (January 1998)