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This famous photograph of presidential aspirant Al Gore and his M16 rifle was posted on his web site when he was running for president in 1999. It’s been floating about the Internet ever since. Many use it to mock Gore for his weapon handling skills, or lack thereof. But it doesn’t look that bad to me . . .

There is no magazine in the rifle, so it is likely unloaded (even if the selector switch is on “semi” rather than safe). On closer examination, the M16’s muzzle seems to be pointing to the left (his left) of his head while he adjusts his sling – the camera angle accounting for the illusion that his head is positioned over the muzzle.

Some claim that Gore stated that the picture of him was taken in Vietnam. That is less certain. Here’s a critique by James Welborn at

While I laughed until tears were streaming down my face I did not at that time look very close at the photo until a few days later. This photo was on Al’s own website, supposedly showing Al in Viet Nam. The photo is of Al. But it ain’t Viet Nam. Why?…

1. The photo is supposedly Al, out in the, “field”. If this is so, why  is his weapon unloaded? And why does he have no ammo at all. If I, as a photog for 25th Infantry attempted to go outside the wire with a patrol, without ammo, two things would happen. First, the team I was going out with would refuse to bring me along. And secondly, I would probably be brought up on charges because such stupidity puts the rest of the patrol in danger.

2. Al has only one canteen. There was no time of year in that area of
Viet Nam where you would not carry as much water as you could with you.  Drinking fountains were thin on the ground in the bush.

3. Al has a rubberized jacket of some sort on, over his fatigues. Aside  from the fact that you would keel over after about 5 minutes wearing such a thing in the heat and humidity of that country, no such thing was issued to troops incountry. Rain cover was provided by a poncho liner and, (a tent half with a hood in the center of it.) Enlisted troops were not authorized to make up their own version of the field uniform. Nor were officers for that matter.

4. Notice in the photo that Al has what looks to be a winter sleeping bag on  his “ruck.” Try sleeping in one of these in Viet Nam and you would have a very hot and wet night inside the bag.

5. Wasn’t Al supposed to be a journalist or something? But he has no camera, no cassette recorder. No film. And if he was acting a regular “grunt,” then he would be carrying lots of ammo, both for himself and for the M-60, belt fed that goes out with any medium to large patrol.

6. No food.

7. No grenades.

8. Maybe in the special forces and seals, an enlisted man would be  allowed to go to the field with a boonie hat on. Nowhere else. Troops were required to wear the steel pot and liner and you could be brought up on charges for not doing so.

Sooooo, this is a photo of Al acting stupid in some basic training  center in the US, where you would go to the field without ammo, water and food, and with clothes that were not authorized for use in Viet Nam. Al is lying again. He might have been in Viet Nam, but this photo was not taken there.

I don’t think it matters if the picture was taken in Vietnam or not. Al Gore was in the Army during Vietnam. He served. So he wasn’t a Navy SEAL or an Army Green Beret. Not everyone can be. During Vietnam, I served my tour in California in an Army Research, Development, Testing and Evaluation (RDT&E) outfit. Most of us who served have some photographs that we keep to fondly remember our service. This is one of Al’s.

I’m glad Al Gore didn’t become president. But I also appreciate that he served. [ED: and invented the Internet.] We should honor that service, regardless of his political activities or gun safety skills.

©2015 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.

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  1. On the basis of this review I say Gore for president. Cruz, Paul, Rubio and Carson have no service record, and Hillary served in Libya at least, and The Balkans where she took sniper fire with Brian Williams.

      • Well, we know “Hellary” saw ‘action’ at least once, but doubtful she’s seen any since before Slick Willie’s recreational antics in the Oval Office.

        BTW, when Bubba famously said “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”, I wonder who was he REALLY talking about?

        Maybe he wasn’t lying at all when he made that statement; he just ‘misunderstood’ the question. ‘Misunderstanding’ crucial things runs in that family. Soon it’ll be Chelsea’s turn to carry the…torch

    • At one point, someone speculated the alleged shooting at Hillary might have been friendly fire. The joke going around in response was: It couldn’t have been an American shooting at Hillary…If it was, they wouldn’t have missed!

    • And that qualifies them to run a country how? In my opinion, anyone who worked in the military (or police or any Three Letter Agency) should be banned from running for any political office. Their job before was to literally fight to increase government power over people’s lives and in office they will metaphorically fight to increase government power over people’s lives. Someone who spent years (or decades) viewing the state as “God” is the absolute last person who should be making laws.

        • Well OK Curtis.

          Anyone who knows anything about Washington knows he had a rather low opinion of the State as all-powerful..

          If he were so ‘Gung-Ho’ about the State he would have accepted the proposal that he be made ‘King’.

          G.W. was just fine as first Prez.

          Some of the ones following…

          Not so much.

        • @ Geoff

          That wasn’t his point. The original claim was that anyone who was in the military should not be elected to office because there is a blanket assumption all servicemembers are big government Statists.

          Personally, as an Army Veteran, I could care less if the President served in the military, especially since there is no Constitutional requirement for it. After all, we have had a few terrible Presidents who served in the military or state and local militia.

      • I guess when I was drafted I should have said I was going to run for office some day and didn’t want to serve in the army. I’m sure that would have made a lot of difference. I am glad to see Publius doesn’t mind taking away rights given by the Constitution. Guess he understands why people think the 2nd Amendment can be ignored.

        • A small correction to an otherwise good response:

          The Constitution does not give us one single right. Not one. It restricts the government from infringing on rights we are understood to already possess as human beings. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say “The right to _____________ shall be granted” or “The People shall be allowed to…”, it says “The right of the people to ______________ shall not be infringed” or “Congress shall pass no law…”.

          An important distinction.

        • I guess when you were drafted, you should have had a spine and refused to murder people just because a politician didn’t like their chosen economic system. But who am I kidding, since when have soldiers had spines, let alone brains? It’s blind obedience and cowardly “We’ll only fight when we have overwhelming force and can massacre them”. Now sure, it’s strategically smart to have overwhelming force – but it’s sure as hell not brave to have four times then men with ten times the firepower.

      • Nope, I agree with Heinlein. Military service should be required to allow (a) voting and (b) political service. Compulsory military service like the South Koreans or the Israelis would solve a lot of issues with the country.

        • So John- a science fiction writer is your model for life? Like the thinly veiled Star ship Trooper nazi screed? Obey your masters like a good little soldier-we need more cannon fodder for the next Asian adventure. If we get invaded(no, not Mexico) I’ll be the 1st to volunteer…

        • Of course, if everyone went through brain washing – er “basic training” – then EVERYONE would support totalitarianism and we could do away with the pesky concept of rights and limitations on government! Spoken like a true soldier and a wonderful demonstration on why I have zero respect for soldiers. There is no concept of “rights” or “freedom” in a soldier’s world, only blind obedience to whoever gives them orders.

          • @Publius, ah….spoken lime a true douchefag. Wassamattah??? You got kicked out of basic training for pissing your panties?

      • Pubicus, you clearly never served in the military, I hate to even imagine where you got such stupid ideas. In the military, you learn quickly that you get to make no decisions, at all, you do what you’re told, nothing more nor less. You earn creds to run a country elsewhere, after you leave service. The reason service should be required is that the office will require you to consider sending young Americans to their deaths, you should have been on the receiving end of those decisions before, or you cannot comprehend such responsibility. Obama is a great (horrible?) example. And a moron. And a liar. But I digress.

        • Or, I know this is a novel idea to a government paid murderer, we simply DON’T keep starting wars of aggression to force the will of US politicians on other countries. Shocking, I know! Except not only has the US government spent 71 years going around the world saying “Do as we say or die”, but the mentally deficient drones – er “soldiers” – openly support this waste of life (not to mention waste of trillions of dollars).

      • Generally, service-avoiding people such as yourself are really ingenious at coming up with excuses for not serving in our nation’s armed forces. And that’s what they are, excuses. The real men out there understand that military service is a necessary function to protect a free society and that they have to sacrifice some personal freedom and maybe a whole lot more in that service.

        You know yourself best and fully accept that you aren’t suited to serve your country. Better to have the inept and untalented keep themselves away from harming themselves and others.

        One would hope that you’d have the good sense to keep all of your excuses and fears to yourself – but it is a free country (thanks to those who did serve) and you are absolutely guaranteed the rights to tell the world of your inadequacies.

  2. But don’t skimp on hating him for selling carbon chits and global warming, and ‘we’re not gonna win in Iraq, and we shouldn’t be there’. Right?
    I don’t give a crap if he’s MOH. He and Kerry are male Jane Fonda’s.

      • The concept of “honor them for being a government employee” is just pants-on-head retarded. If they did something heroic, then honor them. If not, then they did nothing deserving of praise, just like billions of other people. It blows my mind that people who claim to be for limited government prostrate themselves and worship those who work for the government, regardless of their actions. In their minds, simply taking tax payers money and following the orders of corrupt politicians makes you a superior being….the “logic” is mind boggling.

        • Honor is given in proportion to the deed. Serving in your country military especially during times of war is an honorable thing. Applying for or even winning a popularity contest to get a job is not the same thing. If you can’t see the difference then I don’t know what to tell you. Perhaps you could you could use the example of Gore vs Bill Clinton and their actions during the Vietnam war as a case study.

        • “Serving in your country military especially during times of war is an honorable thing. ”

          If it’s a defensive war, such as WWII, then absolutely. If it’s an unjust offensive war like Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War Part 1 & 2, Afghanistan, Bosnia – literally everything our military has done since the end of WWII seventy-one years ago – then no, it’s not honorable and is in fact DISHONORABLE because you are killing people not because they have done something worthy of death, but because the politicians you blindly obey felt they were an annoyance.

  3. Don;t be too hard on Gore. He simply wanted to shotgun some weed in Nam and he was all out of shotguns.

    • Exactly. Once you have checked and triple checked the gun is unloaded and it has remained in your possession it’s just a metal tube no more dangerous than sticking a fork in an unplugged toaster. Ironically, some of the safety police attribute supernatural powers to guns in much the same way the antis do.

      • You say so…but don’t point your metal tube in my direction (if its still attached to the receiver). The obsession with safe handling is designed to protect all of us–and I haven’t cleared your tube.

  4. My understanding was that he served, but managed to get a ticket home after 6 months. But that’s 6 months longer than some folks, I guess.

  5. As much as I dislike the guy, we can only see half of his body in this pic. Couldn’t he have his ammo, another canteen, grenades, etc. on his left side? You know, the side most right handed people keep such things if they’re carrying a rifle?

    • That’s not really field gear on his back. It’s his prototype for a mobile hot spot for the internet he’s inventing.

  6. AL didn’t serve anyone or anything other than himself. He is a dick and I could careless if ever played Soldier or not.

  7. “the M16’s muzzle seems to be pointing to the left (his left) of his head while he adjusts his sling – the camera angle accounting for the illusion that his head is positioned over the muzzle”

    Nope. The rifle is close to vertical. His arms are symmetrically positioned with respect to his body. His head isn’t tilted or angled. If the barrel axis doesn’t intersect his head, it’s pretty darn close. Try posing this yourself and see if your left eye isn’t staring down the barrel. At any rate muzzle blast would likely take both eyes even if the bullet just got an ear.

    At some point there really is such thing as an unloaded gun, and maybe this was one. But there’s no way he’s off the hook for purist muzzle discipline.

    • Doesn’t matter. That rifle has one of those red plastic muzzle caps on the muzzle, obviously can’t fire.

  8. He still doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about when he spouts off about ‘global warming’.

  9. This is pure Army. It’s about following orders. It has nothing to do with what ever anyone thinks is safe or not safe. And nothing to do with COL Coopers Conditions. Army’s are effective when everyone follows orders.

    The safest way to carry an M-16 is no magazine in the weapon, bolt forward and gun on Semi, and hammer down. It is physically impossible for the gun to go off. In many of my units, You were NOT authorized to insert a magazine into the weapon until you hit the LD (Line of Departure) or until ordered to do so. At this point, you still may not pull the bolt to the rear and chamber a round……..When Ordered to do so you put you charge the weapon and put the weapon on Safe.

    He could be in Vietnam. Or he could be on a training exercise. He could have just come off a day at the range, I seem to remember having to take the sling off my rifle for Bayonet drills. He could have been slinging the rifle across his chest to hump the pig (M60) or to keep his hands free for his camera. Or to go to STACK ARMS. It doesn’t matter to me. The weapon is safe. Someone else was probably pulling security. Those aren’t fast slings to adjust either.

    With all due respect to James Webb. He was a Marine and an Officer. Al Gore, photographer or not, was enlisted in the Army. I think Al Gore is a global warming alarmist and all around clown, but having said that- James Webb is not qualified to talk about what the Army’s standards were in the entire country across multiple units over more than a decade of combat. Enlisted soldiers follow the orders given to them.

    Interestingly enough, because Al was in a REMF job. It is highly possible he was forced to abide by a dumbass Sergeant Major’s rules about a packing list. Front line troops tend to get a bit more flexibility in some ways. As far as a lack of grenades go…Dude, no way in the world is the Army going to give hand grenades to a photographer as a standard issue item. As far as the rain gear goes, sometimes being a REMF helps you out. With this photo, how can Webb say there’s only 1 canteen? Normally I’d have one canteen on each side of my LBE or my ruck to balance out.

    And that’s not a winter sleeping bag. It’s a very thin looking standard Army issue sleeping bag. A winter bag is huge.

    I was a soldier for almost 10 years. I was in the first Gulf War. I’ve served with front line units and REMF units, physically slept with my rifle and with my pistol, both in a sleeping bag and on the ground. And I can assure you, depending on the context, this is absolutely acceptable behavior for a soldier.

    • I’m a more recent veteran (’00-’10), I agree with your points. As a former Armorer, I can tell everyone that the weapon was likely just issued for whatever training he’s taking part in, as they are frequently stored without a sling, and always stored with the selector on semi, and the hammer up.

      I hope I never have to run for office, as there are pictures of me doing stupid things while in uniform, though none, I think, of muzzling my own forehead.

    • “……..When Ordered to do so you put you charge the weapon and put the weapon on Safe.”

      That’s what we were taught. Pardon me if I refused to go along with it, and I still don’t. I want the safety on before I charge the weapon. That says either you rack the action and put it on safe before inserting the mag, or you lock the action back and put it on safe before inserting. For the uninitiated, BTW, when you pull the trigger to drop the hammer on an empty chamber, you cannot then put the weapon on safe until you have cocked the hammer.

      But the way we were taught, IMHO, was wrong. With a 1911 it is unavoidable to have a fully loaded weapon before you can put it on safe, but that is not the case with a AR platform.

  10. Any way of verifying time, place, and person?
    Could be the same run of fakes as the moon landings and JFK’s ‘assassination’?

  11. Do you think it’s a good idea to tweak the nose of the guy who invented the Internet?

    I’m just saying.


  12. This has to be the least concerning flagging I’ve seen in the Army. It is very common, and if you go down that rabbit hole you’ll be there for a while.

  13. Sorry I’m not applauding Al “jezeera” Gore. Just another traitor like John “you’re all baby killers” Kerry. Sorry I didn’t get drafted and die in Vietnam. Or go crazy/addicted to drugs like some poor souls I know…what is the point of this post?

    • Yeah, I was slightly too young to get into Vietnam and become an action hero, instead I just became a taxpayer.

  14. Are we really talking about Al Gore? This must be a world-record slow news day.

    I can think of fewer people with less relevance in 2015 than Al Gore.

  15. I guess-with all the horrible gun crime and criminal cop suicide in Chicago-land. Maybe the cop used a GLOCK brand GLOCK to off himself…sheesh.

  16. Al Gore had the inspirational moment for inventing the Internet the moment this photo was snapped while taking fire from his own troops, er, the enemy. Hey, everyone in the military, police, and the government in general are now action heroes.

  17. Honor him for his service, the one which he is obvious embellishing?

    That’s like saying honor your spouse while your spouse is obviously lying about being faithful.

    I’ll pass on the honoring, thanks.

  18. I think we’ve all experienced misidentifying the occasion and location of our photographs; even those organized in albums. I know I’ve later laughed at the obvious impossibility of such mis-identification. The question of where that was taken seems a distraction.

    For the record, I’d rather see the muzzle directed differently, but that photo, though cringe-inducing, is hardly a “gotcha” photo for the cause.

    • I’d like to see the muzzle directed differently, too, but then you wouldn’t be able to see the muzzle, or the front sight!

  19. Also, if you look closely, there are no slots visible in the birdcage flash hider. It appears that there is a muzzle cap in place over the flash hider. That does not necessarily equate with a non-combat exercise, as these were designed to “shoot off” if necessary, and would keep dirt and debris out of the muzzle of the weapon.

  20. James Welborn served in a different Vietnam than I did. I saw everything he says wouldn’t happen over there and much more. I even remember looking down the barrel of an M-16 just to see if all the crud was out of it. I did make sure it was unloaded (it’s hard to see anything when there’s a bullet in the chamber) but no one thought it was strange to look down a barrel.

  21. “Did Al Gore Violate Gun Safety in Vietnam with an M16?


    I commend him for his service for our country in Vietnam just like any other soldier.

    But I will spit on his grave for spewing all that Pseudo-science
    Global Warming (Climate Change) BS.

  22. An M-16 during the Vietnam era wasn’t likely to go off anyway, has seen in the picture it is near dirt.

  23. This is like the criticism of Cruz and his shotgun. Manufactured outrage. There is plenty of things to criticize Gore for, this photo ain’t one of them.

    As a side note, not having a magazine in the field or downrange is still possible. I remember sending a picture of myself in Iraq. One of my friends chided me for going out without a magazine in my M16a2, but I told them it was because I just gotten back from a convoy and had to drop the magazine and clear my rifle at the entrance into the Green Zone and again on the compound.

  24. Picture was not taken in Vietnam, no piss pot, Spare Ammo missing, pack is too large for field work unless a LRRP, Force Recon etc: Even then it is not Taped or even packed right, most people will not lean forward over a rifle too adjust a rifle sling, straightening up would be a bitch,field knife is missing, Boonie hat has no smokes. matches etc: camo pants wrong pattern unless that is picture distortion,

  25. I looked at that picture and said not the Nam I served in…….he is also carrying a shelter half…..I never even saw one in Nam…….he served why people have to say they were in Nam when the weren’t is beyond me…..the military sends you where they want period…….you served that is good enough……I don’t care for Al Gore or his ideas but I would shake his hand because he served just like me…..but I don’t think he would have cut it in the Corps.

  26. Reminds me of a Monty Python army sketch. “I want to go home, sir. I could get killed out there. They have proper guns.”

  27. @ former water walker, I’m a big fan of Heinlein and of SST particularly. I have seen lots of statements about the supposed content of that particular novel but people are rarely willing to discuss the topic.

    As someone who has read the book a few times and has his own ideas concerning where the concepts in the book hit and miss I’m curious where you see anything Nazi like in the story?

  28. I spent 17 months in Vietnam ’66-’67 and I agree with most of what was posted about Al Gore and his rifle. If he was in Vietnam during this photo, he had a lot of rare and useless gear on – that rain jacket he’s wearing was usually only in the hands of rear area troops and never used by grunts in the field. The dang jackets stank because of some rancid preservative they put on them, they made the sweat pour from you, and they made too much noise when you were moving.

    Everything looks brand-spanking new! Never saw that with even the greenest of replacements – we got what was available and all of that stuff got very worn quickly in the heat and humidity and wear and tear of patrolling.

    He must have completely missed training of any sort. Nobody with five minutes in country ever carried more than was absolutely necessary: protective gear, ammunition, more ammunition, grenades, lots of water, a couple of day’s rations and a poncho. Maybe more ammunition.

    If I’d seen Al Gore where we were and he was dressed up like this, we’d have put him on point just to make sure he didn’t shoot any of us and to see what would happen to him out of idle curiosity.

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