For the Man who has Everything: 60MM mortar M224

When you see a 60mm mortar for sale, it’s usually the old vintage M2 or M19 that was the United States infantry’s go-to enemy grunt-whomper for decades, from the 1920s through World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, and various smaller wars.

Rare picture! A TF Smith mortar crew in action 11 Jul 50. Half of the mortars in B Co had just been condemned by ordnance inspectors in Japan. They fought with them anyway [Signal Corps Photo #FEC-50-4100]

Mortars rule the battlefield; they are short-range, high-angle artillery in the hands of infantry commanders and their THOONK is one of the most reassuring, or terrifying, things you can hear on the battlefield. They are prodigious casualty-producers in the defense, but can also be (and are) carried on the offense or even on patrol. They can be fired in direct or indirect mode. “Direct” doesn’t mean straight at the target, like a rifle, given a mortar’s high trajectory. It means the gunner can see and aim at the target. In “indirect” fire the gunner is firing from behind terrain, and does not have line of sight on the target — he aims at a stake in the ground and adjusts from that position using corrections fed to him by the fire direction controller, who uses a whiz wheel or calculator that’s built of pure trigonometry. (You can do FDC doing the trig “by hand” but man, does it ever slow things down).

Mortars are generally smooth-bored and so their projectiles are generally fin-stabilized. Do not mistake this for “inaccurate”; an experienced mortar crew is capable of first-round direct fire hits anywhere in range.

There is nothing wrong with an M2 or M19. These licensed-built versions of the French Brandt-Stokes mortar differ only in that the early one has a trigger (which is good for aimed direct fire), and the later a fixed firing pin (better suited to fire for effect). They use the same ammo and the same firing tables, are simple as a hammer (although indirect fire with forward observers not in the gun-target line, and fire direction control for mortar batteries, can get complicated), and persisted for decades because they were hard to beat at their job.

But it is rare to see an M224, the widowmaker, life-taker and morale-breaker that replaced the M2/M19, on the civilian market. Here’s one:

When the USA replaced its 1950s vintage 81mm mortar with a new and better one, it seemed logical to apply that same technology to the 1920s-tech light mortar, which produced the M224, a mortar that is as easily patrolled with as the old 60 but which has the firepower, range and terminal effect of the old 81. The fixed-pin-or-trigger debate was solved by providing both and making the feature operator-selectable, so you can squeeze off single rounds in direct fire or to meet an exact  Time On Target, or you can have your well-trained crew deliver a steel rain of shells on your foes. In trigger mode, that hinged bar inside the carrying handle is your trigger… and no, Wolff does not make a spring for reduced trigger pull. Sorry ’bout that.

Even the Marines like this mortar, although they have grumbled about the lack of a thermonuclear round, and absence of a bayonet lug. (Maybe they can get HK to copy it and add the lug. Not sure if turning Oberndorf loose on nuclear physics is a good idea).

The 224s very seldom come up for sale in the civilian Destructive Device market. With the price being asked for this, it’s more likely to go to a well-heeled collector than a casual shooter. It’s a nearly complete mortar with the sight, bipod, T&E, and tube, but it doesn’t seem to have the smaller “patrol” baseplate, just the big one that changes it from an instantly-firing one-man carry to a 30-seconds-to-TOT two-man carry.

Whether those thirty seconds are a long time or not, depends entirely on whether someone is shooting at you (and who). Incoming aimed fire does weird things to time.

The seller, who’s in Oklahoma (relax, New Yorkers and San Franciscans, you’re out of mortar range), says:

This is a live 60mm M224 mortar and this a registered destructive device and will need to be transferred to an NFA dealer. Very nice overall shape and highly unusual to see this trigger fired mortar available for sale.

Ammo is also restricted by the National Firearms Act — if it’s explosive rounds. Training/practice and homegrown non-warhead rounds are fine. You can also roll your own, as the current owner says he does.

It functions well and can be shot with practice rounds or I have been using aluminum beer bottles full of plaster with 12 gauge blanks for engines.

via 60MM mortar M224 : Destructive Devices at GunBroker.com.

And then there’s the other target market — the ones who want to be ready when THEY come.

Because, really, who doesn’t want to be ready when THEY come? THOONK!

33 thoughts on “For the Man who has Everything: 60MM mortar M224

  1. Mike

    If anyone buys this, you can hire me to teach you how to use it… ;) Eight years in a 60 section with two combat deployments.

    Damn, if I had the spare change to buy this I probably would.

  2. Hartley

    When I went thru TG, we all got to play with an M2 (olde, and MANY coats of paint) but only the 11Boom-booms got to shoot ’em ‘cuz Uncle was almost out of ammo. Same situation persisted at Devens, though we made up for it by shooting 81s out at Cape Cod.
    The M224 must post-date my time :)

  3. whomever

    “the smaller “patrol” baseplate, just the big one that changes it from an instantly-firing one-man carry”

    By ‘instant fire’ you mean firing like this?

    en DOT wikipedia DOT org /wiki/File:4th_Infantry_Rgt._on_reconnaissance_mission_off_Highway_1_in_Zabul_Province_2010-10-01_1.jpg

    What’s the typical accuracy/effective range firing like that? I’d think it would be really hard to eyeball the tube angle accurately enough to be control the range??

    (I know nuffink about mortars other then seeing them fired in documentaries)

    1. Mike

      In handheld mode, your max effective range is about 1300 meters. There’s a range scale that’s on top of the carrying handle with a little black ball that moves freely in a groove. You raise or lower the barrel angle, and the black ball moves along the scale and shows you the range at that elevation when firing either Charge 0 or Charge 1. Gunners usually drew a sighting line with a paint pen near the muzzle to index the target.

    2. whomever

      Thanks, James and Mike.

      My gut reaction of ‘you can’t hit anything at 1000 meters holding it like that’ comes from the rifle world; I guess when 10 or 20 meters is close enough, the gut instinct doesn’t translate.

  4. Kirk

    The 60mm mortar and the Carl Gustav are two weapons that really ought to be a lot more prevalent in the forces. I’d have gladly traded certain parts of my anatomy to have been able to stick one of these into an Engineer platoon for job site defense, ‘cos getting access to fire support from outside the unit, for us? A non-starter. Even just having one around that was restricted to the direct-fire role would have been nice.

    My desire for the CG ought to speak for itself. That thing really is what we should have procured, over the 90mm, and had a range of bunker-busters to go with it. AT work? Not so enthused, but… Hey, it’s a handy thing to have around, when the time comes to go a-knockin’ on the enemy’s defenses. An airburst munition for it is something we should have had a couple of decades ago–And, if we hadn’t have wasted all that money and effort on useless, never-to-be-procured-or-deployed bullshit like the XM-25, we could have had it.

    1. Mike

      The Carl Gustav is now part of MTOE equipment for US light infantry, one per platoon in the weapons squad. I think, but am not sure, that combat engineer platoons now have them too.

  5. SPEMack

    I was fortunate during my stint as a company commander (a real life one not when I had the HHC) that my weapons platoon leader was a veritable Picasso with his mortars. Made for some truly spectacular indirect fire support in some,name less valley the Taliban thought they owned.

  6. Boat Guy

    One small note is that naval mortars, both 60 and 81 are capable of pert-near direct fire.
    I had also thought the M19 60mm had an option for trigger fire but USAOC&S was a long time ago and obviously the mortars I most recently owned were on boat

    1. Mike

      The French have Brandt 60mm and 81mm breech loaded mortars that are turret mounted in some of their AFVs; they’re also capable of direct fire. Royal Ordnance developed a breech loaded 120mm mortar in a turret that can be mounted on LAVs. Link below. This is what I’d have preferred to have on Strykers rather than that hot mess, the Stryker MGS.

      http://www.military-today.com/artillery/ams_mortar_system.htm

  7. Jonathan

    From what I’ve read, the M19 did have a trigger. Recently Sarco had some demil’d ones.
    I have a registered M2 mortar that was a lot, lot, lot less than this one, and still the most expensive gun I have bought (so far). I have trouble with an ignition charge – anybody know a powder type and amount that works?

    1. SemperFido

      20 gauge shotshell with the shot removed and 25 to 65 grains of Unique depending on load weight and distance desired.

  8. LSWCHP

    Thanks for that Hogbose. I sure do love me some mortar action. Queens of the battlefield for sure.

    And I’m with Kirk on the Charlie G….great pieces of kit. Every home should have one.

  9. jakew7

    Shooting m79 and 203, without sights, can put rounds through a doorway at 300m. Takes a bit of rounds of practice. Windows are tough though. There is a “just about right there,” feeling, when letting the round go.
    I’ve heard that folks that are really good with a man portable hand aimed 60 mortar can and have done some incredible things.

    1. Hognose Post author

      True enough. Our Traveling Reporter is one of those 60mm artistes. It’s been a long time, but once I was a dab hand with the 40mm. I preferred the 79, and yes, you don’t need the sights if you practice enough but 72 rounds a day beat the living daylights out of my shoulder.

      1. Aesop

        If I could have enlisted for an M79, I would have.

        At the Fort Knox Summer Camp for Wayward Boys, I ran the M203 course with quadrant sights: after I dropped every round right on the targets, including through the windows of same, our PSG, a likable E-7 Armor hillbilly, looked at the last round impact, looked me up and down, pronounced me “John F***ing Wayne” and told me to “Git movin’. You got this down cold.”

        And they paid us for that!

        Coupla years later I got saddled with the M203 for about six months after boot camp in the Corps because no one else wanted it, just long enough for a CG inspection, including our non-manual of arms manual of arms for inspection arms (hint: there’s another step to open the extra chamber) and razzle-dazzled the inspectors, but they took it away from me once I made corporal, sadly before we could take it to the range again.

        Didn’t get to fly, but I’m all about dropping a load of hate on people out of the sky, one way or another.

  10. HORSE GUNNER

    RE: DEFINITIONS: Good clarification, Hog Nose RE: Direct v. Indirect Fire. Direct Fire can be Low-Angle (i.e., Quadrant Elevation Less Than 45 Degrees/800 Mils) or High Angle Trajectory (Quadrant Elevation Greater Than 45 Degrees/800 Mils). Mortars are only capable of High Angle Fire, with Minimum Quadrant Elevation of 800 Mils.
    COMMENTS: Airborne Mortars. NOTE: I joined the Service AFTER Vietnam and did NOT serve in Vietnam.
    VIETNAM ERA: TO&E for Mortar Platoon of Airborne Rifle Company: 3 x M29 81mm Mortars
    : 5 x Jeep (each with Trailer) (1 for Platoon Commander, 1 for Fire Direction Center (FDC), and 1 for each Mortar Team. Mortars were carried in brackets on these Jeeps; each Trailer was loaded with ammunition. For Airborne Operations (Heavy Drop), the mortars were packed inside the cargo compartment of the Jeep. For Airborne Operations without Heavy Drop, the Mortars were dropped as Door Bundles, with the Jumpmaster and “Number 1” Jumper (Door Position) pushing them out at the Green Light.
    : TO&E for Mortar Platoon of Airborne Combat Support Company: 4 x 4.2 Inch (107mm)
    Mortars.
    5 x Jeeps (1 for Platoon Commander, and 1 for each Mortar Team. The Mortars were on trailers, towed behind each Jeep)
    1 x 3/4 Ton Truck (or, later M561 “Gamma Goat”) for FDC
    The 4.2 inch Mortar was only Heavy Dropped, and was too big/bulky for Door Bundles.
    “ARMY OF EXCELLENCE” ERA (MId-1980’s, Post-Grenada (October 1983)
    The Rifle Company 81mm Mortars (3 EACH) were replaced BY M224 60mm Mortars (2 EACH). The M224 Mortar Barrel COULD be jumped by one Paratrooper in his M1950, but USUALLY was dropped as a Door Bundle or a Wedge Bundle. The Jeeps were replaced by HMMWVs.
    The Battalion Mortar Platoon (in the Combat Support Company) had its 4.2 inch Mortars (4 EACH) replaced by UK M252 81mm Mortars.
    The 4.2 inch Mortars disappeared.

  11. Aesop

    $23,500 and up is a bit spendy; the .gov gets the bulk discount and they go for $10,658.
    Clearly a supply of one and a demand of hundreds to thousands is at play in the selling price.
    Damned capitalism.

    Mongo like, because they are the personal field artillery of choice for anything worth shooting at, but I’d be walking for some months after I sold the truck, it’d be a non-starter to register hereabouts, and coming up with the needful HE and WP rounds would be a cast-iron bitch. (Not strictly impossible, but really, really, REALLY hard.)

    As for the zombpocalypse, I’ll have to stick with the SgtMaj Plumley plan:
    “When the time comes I need one, I expect they’ll be plenty of ’em lying around to pick up.”

    1. John M.

      “…coming up with the needful HE and WP rounds would be a cast-iron bitch.”

      How long until Leland Yee gets out of the joint?

      -John M.

      1. Aesop

        Screw him.
        You think the things aren’t for sale in every country from Tijuana to Tierra del Fuego right now for the right price?

        It’s the transport pipeline that’s dicey.

    2. Aesop

      Oh, and the M888 shell range spread is 77-3828yds/70-3500m.
      The M722 does the same thing with WP.
      NYFC and Frisco may be out of range from here, but that kind of impact fan would pretty well encompass the entire city I live, and/or the entire AO adjacent to the future Camp Snoopy.
      Coupled with a friend’s battery of functional M101s, we have the 0-70m space covered with beehive rounds (which can be homemade with soupcans and spare hardware, if not flechettes by the pound, as most CW black powder cannoneers will attest), and two miles away (>3500m) and beyond is for his artillery.
      Those zombies aren’t going to kill themselves.

      Thermonuclear is messy anyways, and probably doesn’t work on the undead.

      The bayonet mount is only for things wieldy enough to buttstroke with.
      Or an A-10, if they’ll cut them loose to the civilian market.

      1. Quill_&_Blade

        Depending on your point of view, Jeff Foxworthy either exposed or ruined the word “redneck’ …”You might be a redneck if you go to the family reunion looking for hot chicks” So it is that I wish we had an alternate term, “field improvisation expert” or MacGyver-neck.
        I seem to recall Ukrainian rebels reviving an old tank on display, but not having rounds for the cannon. So they found a mortar round that fit, attacked a checkpoint or blockade, and took the position. I was sure I read that, but all I can find are articles like these two:
        https://www.liveleak.com/view?i=5ec_1399596692
        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2657083/If-good-Red-Army-Viral-video-WWII-tank-started-inspires-pro-Russian-rebels-raid-MUSEUMS-Ukraine.html
        Regardless of your position on the conflict in East Ukraine, if these guys did pull it off, I thought it was the ultimate act of redneck success.

  12. HORSE GUNNER

    RE: RECOILESS RIFLES. Before the adoption of DRAGON (circa 1980) each Airborne Rifle Platoon had 3 M67 90mm Recoilless Rifles in the Weapons Squad (along with 3 M60 Machineguns). DRAGON replaced the 90mm Recoilless Rifles on a “one-for-one” basis. Each Rifle Platoon was issued 3 DRAGON Trackers and was required to have at least six(6) (preferably nine(9)) Paratroopers DRAGON qualified. DRAGON “Qualification” was in 6 Parts: (A): Range Estimation (Maximum Effective Range: 1,000 Meters–well within the range of the main gun on Soviet Tanks); (B) Armored Vehicle Identification; (C) Digging of DRAGON Foxhole; (D) Rigging DRAGON Missile Jump Pack (which carried the DRAGON missile, itself, the DRAGON Tracker, and the M16A1 Rifle; (E) “Launch Effects Simulator” Basically, a LOUD blank charge so the Gunner would get accustomed to the noise and the need to “Super Elevate” the missile (elevate missile tube about 60 Degrees) upon firing, and then bring it down to Line-of-Sight to Target (Tank); and (F) Tracking, either on a “Model Railroad”-type set-up (with small, model Tanks) or on a movie screen.
    There was NO Live Fire. The Training Ammunition Allowance was, maybe, perhaps, four(4) or five(5) DRAGONs per Rifle Platoon, per year. So, if a Paratrooper was lucky, maybe he got to fire one Live round in his entire career!
    With the 90mm Recoilless Rifle, ammunition was plentiful and everyone could fire a half-dozen or more rounds at least two or three times per year. From several positions (prone, kneeling, standing), day or night, with or without illumination, etc.
    In The 82d Airborne Division, the 90mm Recoilless Rifles went into “Ready Storage” for the Infantry, but the Divisional Engineer Battalion (307th Engineer Battalion (Combat) (Airborne)) kept their 90mm Recoilless Rifles–three(3) per each Engineer Platoon.
    When we trained in UK with British Airborne, each Rifle “Section” (UK “Section” = US “Squad”) had an 84mm UK-made “Carl Gustav” when in “Anti-Tank” -mode. At Battalion-level, they were just beginning to replace their 120mm Land Rover-mounted Recoilless Rifles with MILAN.

  13. SemperFido

    “Even the Marines like this mortar, although they have grumbled about the lack of a thermonuclear round, and absence of a bayonet lug. ”
    Hawg you crack me up.
    This thing is a beauty compared to my old M19.
    BTW, What the hell is an “Army of Excellence?”

    1. LSWCHP

      An “Army of Excellence” is, of course, any army that contains the Royal Australian Infantry Corps, particularly the early 1980s version.

      Boom tish…I’ll be here all week. Please tip your waitress.

      There may also be other excellent armies, I was just never in ’em.

    2. Hognose Post author

      “Army of Excellence” — one year’s output of the Chief of Staff’s Buzzword Battalion. We still have “Excellence” crusting up various army posts, activities and centers. For example, we no longer have an Armor Center and School and an Infantry Center and School, we have a “Maneuver Center of Excellence,” because the Army Way to produce capital-E Excellence is to merge disparate things and then cut their budgets.

      1. Aesop

        Can we try that with the Pentagon, C&GS School, and the Naval War College? Pleeeeease?
        The mere thought of tearing down the five-sided whorehouse, firing half the inhabitants, and sending the rest to BFKansas tickles this warrior’s heart.

        1. Boat Guy

          Don’t year the P-gon down, it’s a sturdy structure. It was supposed to be used for archives “after”. Your plan for many of those infesting it has merit, though

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