Dipprasad Pun: A Remarkably Dangerous Little Man by WILL DABBS

Just because something is small doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous.

It’s a timeless question. Nature versus nurture. Does greatness stem from some simple combination of nucleotides embedded within your DNA, or is it something that can be coaxed, taught, or trained?

This is Audie Murphy, the most highly decorated American soldier in history. It is intriguing to ponder just what made him so awesome.

Most folks who study such stuff feel that it is some holy combination. To attain greatness one requires a certain modicum of raw material leavened in the crucible of experience. Had Audie Murphy not come of age when the entire planet was at war he might have lived out his life in anonymity selling vacuum cleaners door to door. The combination of his raw material and some extraordinary circumstances, however, ultimately produced the most highly decorated warrior in American history.

Dipprasad Pun (right) is shown here alongside his war hero grandfather, Tul Bahadar Pun. Both of these diminutive guys were truly epic warriors.

In Dipprasad Pun we have an example illustrating the mysterious power of genetics. Dipprasad’s grandfather, Tul Bahadur Pun, earned the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest award for gallantry. In 1944 he was fighting the Japanese in Burma.

This shriveled up old dude was a stud of the highest order.

The sole uninjured survivor of his Infantry section, the elder Pun charged an entrenched Japanese emplacement with a Bren gun, firing from the hip. He mowed down four Japanese soldiers with his Bren and then dispatched another three with his legendary kukri knife. Later he acquired a flamethrower and incinerated another thirty. This fearless little man singlehandedly crushed the Japanese defenses that bloody day. Sixty-six years later his grandson Dipprasad showed that he was made from similar stuff.

Living Legends

The British Royal Gurkha Rifles are some epically hard warriors. There are roughly 3,500 serving on active duty. Each year around 25,000 young Nepalese undergo a grueling selection process vying for some 230 slots. The Gurkha’s fearsome kukri knife is part of their mythos.

Gurkhas are drawn from the mountainous regions of Nepal, and they are legendarily fierce warriors. Though genetically small, Dipprasad Pun stood all of five foot seven, these industrious little guys are renowned for their courage in battle. One September night in 2010 Acting Sergeant Dipprasad Pun was on duty manning a defensive sangar on the roof of a Gurkha outpost near Babaji in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

Though there were but four Gurkhas left behind to defend their outpost, the facility was nonetheless in good hands.

His unit from the 1st Battalion, Royal Gurkha Rifles, had pushed out on a combat operation leaving only Pun and three comrades behind to defend the outpost. Late at night and alone on the rooftop sangar, Pun heard a noise outside the nearby gate but presumed it was a cow. Further investigation exposed a pair of Taliban fighters furiously emplacing an IED with which to ambush the returning Gurkhas. Pun’s three comrades were deep within the bowels of the outpost. This was to be a come-as-you-are party.

Dipprasad Pun kicked off the engagement with a round from his 40mm grenade launcher.

Pun quickly gathered a pair of radios along with an L7A2 GPMG machinegun and a supply of grenades. He also had the clacker to a Claymore mine as well as his SA80 personal weapon equipped with a grenade launcher. He then lobbed a 40mm grenade into the darkness. That little bomb precipitated quite the firestorm.

Sangar is an Anglicized term for a fortified defensive position.

Before he could summon help, Pun was suddenly attacked by a large number of determined Taliban fighters armed with AK rifles and RPGs. Heavy automatic weapons fire raked his defensive position, while RPG warheads tore his sandbagged sangar to pieces. While as many as thirty Taliban fighters maneuvered toward him, Dipprasad Pun took up his GPMG and moved from place to place, laying accurate and effective automatic fire on the enemy while shooting from the hip.

This little dude was stone cold in the face of a determined Taliban attack. I’d love to know why he has a patch depicting a rat on his left shoulder.

During a subsequent interview Pun stated, “As soon as I knew they were Taliban, I thought I was going to die. But as soon as I started firing, that feeling went away. I knew I had to do something before they killed me and my three comrades…I thought, before they kill me I have to kill some of them.”

The Weapons

The FM MAGN  gun is arguably the finest belt-fed general purpose machinegun in the world. FN Herstal.

No offense to the acolytes of the German MG42, but in the early 1950s a Belgian gun designer named Ernest Vervier working at Fabrique Nationale crafted the greatest light machinegun ever devised. The original designation of the weapon was Mitrailleuse d’Appui General or MAG gun. This remarkable weapon was subsequently adopted by more than eighty nations.

Like most successful weapons, the MAG gun incorporated features from a variety of proven designs.

The MAG gun was a gas-operated, belt-fed, full auto-only support weapon that utilized the long-stroke gas piston system of operation. The locking mechanism for the MAG gun was drawn from that of the Browning Automatic Rifle, while the trigger and feed mechanism were aped from those of the MG42. The MAG gun fired from the open bolt and included a simple crossbolt safety.

The nature of a GPMG is that it can be used in a variety of roles. The L7A2 is man-portable but can also be fired off of bipod, tripod, vehicle, or aircraft mounts.

The British Infantry version of the MAG gun is designated the L7A2. British Tommies refer to the gun as the GPMG, short for General Purpose Machinegun. Conversationally they call the gun the “Gimpy.”

The M240 in its various guises serves throughout the US armed forces today.

In 1977 the US Army adopted the MAG gun as the standard coaxial machinegun for US armored vehicles under the designation M240. In 1995 the military adapted these M240 guns to a ground configuration under the new designation M240B. The M240B weighs 28 pounds. A lightened version titled the M240G weighs 24.2 pounds and is now the standard medium machinegun throughout the US armed forces.

The SA80 replaced the SLR shown here in British Army service.

The SA80 was almost but not quite awesome. Originally designated the L85, this radical bullpup assault rifle was first accepted for service by the British Army in 1987 as a replacement for the revered L1A1 SLR (Self-Loading Rifle). The SLR was itself an anglicized version of the Belgian FN FAL.

In the immediate aftermath of WW2, the British EM-2 shown here was a radically revolutionary firearm.

The origins of the SA80 reach all the way back to WW2. Drawing from experience gleaned from rugged combat against the Nazis across mainland Europe, British designers conceived a bullpup assault rifle titled the EM-2 that would fire an intermediate 7mm cartridge. While the EM-2 would have been the most advanced Infantry weapon in the world at the time, pressures from the US exerted through NATO mandated the heavier 7.62x51mm round. That mandate ultimately led to the SLR that equipped the British Army for the next several decades.

The SA80 was a curious hybrid design that used the same operating system as the ArmaLite AR180. The gun’s SUSAT optical sight was well ahead of its time.

In 1969, work resumed in earnest on the bullpup rifle project. Taking the short-stroke, gas piston-driven operating system of the ArmaLite AR180 and Stoner 63 weapons, Enfield designers crafted what should have been the finest assault rifle on the planet. However, these early guns were plagued with problems.

Adapting the SA80 from the 4.85x49mm version shown here caused some serious mechanical challenges.

This gun was originally designed around a proprietary British 4.85x49mm round. The conversion to 5.56x45mm resulted in a mechanism that ejected empties differently based upon the number of rounds fired and temperatures achieved. This also mandated a large ejection port that increased the risk of fouling. Additionally, many of the gun’s subcomponents were formed from flimsy plastic that just didn’t hold up well under hard use.

The SA80A2 was an upgraded version overhauled by HK.
The L86 Light Support Weapon (LSW) was a Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) version of the SA80. I’m told this particular model is being withdrawn from service.
The latest SA80A3 features a redesigned forearm and FDE finish, among other improvements.     

In 2000 after some well-publicized failures, Heckler and Koch was brought in to completely revamp the design. HK was at the time owned by the British defense conglomerate BAE Systems. The end result was the SA80A2. Changes included a modified bolt and ejector along with a redesigned hammer assembly and cocking handle. The SA80 was ultimately issued in Assault Rifle, Carbine, and Light Support Weapon formats. Though the LSW is being withdrawn from service, the latest SA80A3 serves downrange with British forces today.

The Rest of the Story

SGT Pun fought back with every weapon at his disposal.

Over the next seventeen minutes, the Taliban relentlessly assaulted Pun’s rooftop sangar. Pun fired his GPMG until he exhausted all of his ammunition. He then began hurling grenades at the attacking Taliban force, expending six white phosphorus grenades, six frags, and another four rounds from his 40mm grenade launcher. Despite his efforts, the Taliban insurgents began scaling the walls to his second-floor defensive position.

When the going gets tough, the Gurkhas go full Chuck Norris.

The first Taliban fighter crawled onto the rooftop, and SGT Pun killed him with his SA80 assault rifle. Pun then turned to address the next Taliban terrorist only to have his SA80 malfunction at the worst possible moment. With more Taliban following right behind things looked bleak.

Now truly desperate and essentially unarmed, Pun grabbed the tripod for his GPMG and charged the nearest insurgent. He swung the ungainly implement at the Afghan terrorist, connecting with his face and knocking him off the roof. Pun then ran to the edge of the building in time to see the rest of the attacking force scaling the walls by the flickering light of white phosphorus still burning below.

The military uses sandbags for all sorts of things. SGT Pun used one to make an improvised weapon.
The M18A1 Claymore mine has been in service since 1960. Essentially an ambush weapon, these directional mines are a critical part of most any fixed defense.

Pun then hefted a nearby sandbag and released it above the scrambling Taliban. The heavy sack struck one fighter squarely on the head, purportedly knocking the group down into a heap. Pun then touched off a Claymore mine. The sleeting cloud of ball bearings that erupted from the directional mine broke the back of the attack. The surviving Taliban fled back into the darkness.

For his gallant actions that fateful evening SGT Pun was decorated by the Queen.

During this frenetic quarter-hour, Dipprasad Pun expended 250 rounds through his GPMG, 180 rounds from his SA80 assault rifle, seventeen grenades, and a Claymore mine. He also weaponized a machinegun tripod and a sandbag before beating back the assault. For his actions in singlehandedly defending the outpost and saving the lives of his comrades, Pun was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross, Britain’s second-highest award for bravery in combat.

Don’t let the goofy hat and cherubic demeanor fool you, Dipprasad Pun is a freaking animal.
Dipprasad’s grandfather, Tul Bahadar Pun, was a stone-cold hero in WW2. Dipprasad’s father and brother have also served in the Gurkha Regiment.

The motto of the Royal Gurkha Rifles is, “Better to die than to be a coward.” In the family of Tul Bahadur and Dipprasad Pun we see the legendary courage of the Nepalese Gurkhas on glorious display. Sometimes big things do indeed come in small packages.

You don’t want these guys after you.
The Carbine version of the SA80 is used as an aircrew survival weapon.
That’s a whole lot of butt kicking in one tight enclosed space.

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