The U.S. Army formally adopted the M79 Grenade Launcher in 1960 as a result of Project Niblick. The Thumper, Bloop Tube, or Blooper, as GIs came to call it, was a simple variation on the basic break open shotgun theme. The innovative low-recoil system that threw the M79’s 40mm grenades much farther than could be done with a pitching arm alone was itself an evolutionary development of the WWII-era German Hoch-und-Niederdruck System. This impressive amalgam of Teutonic verbiage translates roughly into High-Low Pressure System.
The Practical Tactical of the M203 Grenade launcher
The 40mm grenade fired from the M79 was specifically designed to cover the dead space between hand grenades and 60mm company mortars. These relatively low velocity projectiles travel in a high arc such that they can drop in vertically behind cover. The effective casualty radius for standard HEDP (High Explosive Dual Purpose) rounds is five meters and the warhead will burn through two inches of steel armor plate at a 90-degree angle of incidence.
Maximum effective range of this weapon is about 400 meters against area targets and 150 meters against point targets such as windows. Alternative rounds include smoke, buckshot, flechette, CS gas, less-than-lethal crowd control rounds, and illumination loads. All HE 40 mm rounds are spin armed such that they do not arm themselves until they have traveled about 30 meters out of the tube.
The Colt CGL4 or XM148 under-barrel grenade launcher was a single shot launch-er mounted underneath the barrel of a standard M16. This combination weapon was relatively effective but overly complicated and prone to accidental discharges when used in tangled jungle foliage. The subsequent type-classified M203 optimized the design.
The M203 weighs three pounds unloaded and is a robust and effective combat weapon used by dozens of the world’s militaries. Current M203A1 versions are designed to compliment the M4 family of carbines using a variation on the original mount. The M203A2 mounts via a standard forearm rail system. M203 barrels are available in 9 and 12-inch versions.
The most desirable salient benefit of the modern small caliber assault rifle is its light weight. Today’s tactical rifles weigh a fraction of what their WWII counterparts did while delivering a markedly greater volume of fire. While the M203 does indeed add a substantial increase in man-portable firepower, the subsequent three-pound weight penalty is a big deal. With an M203 tacked on along with all the standard electronic ninja gear the previously thin and svelte M4A1 carbine can tip the scales at eleven pounds or more.
Modern warfare is frequently characterized by Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT). MOUT operations involve room clearing and tactical maneuver within confined spaces such as alleys and stairwells. Under these circumstances the extra weight of the M203 can slow an operator down and contribute some undesirable extra fatigue to an already nerve-wracking job description.
The extra mass forward on the rifle aids in controllability but makes the rifle all the tougher to drive for long periods. While the addition of an indirect fire capability and some modest armor-piercing capability is indeed a proven combat multiplier, the maneuverability penalty in the dynamic and lethal world of modern combat is a serious consideration.
The newest replacement for the M203 in the American military inventory is the German-made M320. Produced by the esteemed arms firm of Heckler and Koch, this versatile weapon can be readily run both on and off the host rifle. As a result this Information Age grenade launcher offers the best of both worlds.
A man-portable grenade launcher allows the individual operator to deliver accurate indirect fires as well as less than lethal rounds at a modest weight penalty. Given the extensive array of less than lethal options available for the 40mm platform many Law Enforcement agencies are gravitating toward this proven system.
The launcher is classified as a Destructive Device by the BATF and transfers the same way as a sound suppressor or short-barreled weapon. While a licensed Destructive Device dealer can be tough to find, BATF will allow conventional Class III dealers to transfer these launchers in small numbers infrequently. Lewis Machine and Tool is more than happy to sell these weapons to individuals and their website will get you started. Little adds more pizazz to a seasoned gun collection like a live grenade launcher.