M203: The U.S. adopted an alternative to the large, heavy M79 in 1969 in the M203. M203s are firing tubes with trigger mechanisms that attach under the barrel of M16 rifles or M4 Carbines. The tube slides forward for loading and unloading. The M203 uses the same grenades as the M79 and serves in nearly 50 countries. It is slated for replacement in the U.S. Army by the M320, derived from the Heckler & Koch AG-C, although other American forces will keep it in service. For more information, visit colt.com or call 800-962-2658.
M320: The M320 Grenade Launcher Module (GLM) is the latest U.S. Army model, initially fielded in 2009. It incorporates several system improvements, including a day/night sight and the capability to operate attached to the M16 rifle or M4 Carbine or as a standalone weapon with the installation of a folding stock. Derived from the Heckler & Koch AG-C with several changes (including a folding foregrip for standalone operation), the M320 fires standard 40mm grenades and can also accommodate longer rounds. At least eight nations use derivatives of this weapon. For more information, visit hk-usa.com or call 703-450-1900.
M79: Developed by the U.S. Springfield Armory in 1961, this single-shot, break-action, shoulder-fired design resembles an oversized sawed-off shotgun. The M79 and its 40x46mm grenade round saw extensive service in Vietnam, where its unique firing sound, using high-low propulsion to reduce felt recoil, earned it the nicknames “Thumper” or “Blooper.” It could fire explosive, smoke, illumination and close-range rounds containing flechettes or pellets as well as non-lethal gas, sponge or rubber-pellet shots for crowd control at ranges to 380 yards. More than 40 nations adopted the M79, and some still use it.
K11: The South Korean Army issued the S&T Daewoo K11 Dual-barrel Airburst Weapon (DAW) to its troops in 2010. Initial issues halted production and led to a redesign, but an improved weapon will continue service. The K11 combines a 5.56mm assault rifle with a top-mounted launcher firing 20x30mm grenades that detonate on impact or can be programmed for bursting in air near targets to spread lethal fragments over trenches, around walls or in buildings. The United Arab Emirates is currently testing the weapon. For more information, visit sntdaewoo.com.
Mk 13 EGLM: Part of the SCAR family of weapons systems, the FN MK 13 EGLM (enhanced grenade launcher module) is designed to connect to the SCAR MK 16 and MK 17 weapons or function as a standalone unit. It is constructed of steel, aluminum and polymer for light weight and rugged strength. The single-shot MK 13 EGLM features a automatic ejector system for rapid ejection of fired cases and ambidextrous controls. Barrels swivels to the right or left for ease of loading. For more information, visit fnhusa.com or call 703-288-3500.
GLX 160 A1: Marketed by Beretta Defense Technologies, the GLX 160 A1 single-shot grenade launcher can be mounted to the ARX160 family of rifles or used as a standalone unit. The single-shot launcher is fully ambidextrous, weighs only 2.2 pounds, fires 40x46mm ammunition, and is made from aluminum and high-resistance polymer. The result is a powerful yet lightweight grenade launcher. The barrel assembly slides forward for loading. For more information, visit berettadefensetechnologies.com.
GP-34: Russia’s Izhmash produces a variety of weapon systems, from AKs to grenade launchers. The GP-34 is the latest upgrade in a series of under-barrel, single-shot grenade launchers deployed in 2009. Designed to fit any Kalashnikov rifle with no modification, it fires VOG-25 40mm grenades, available in both fragmentation and “bouncing” variants as well as non-lethal types, loaded into the launcher’s muzzle. Earlier versions of the weapon include the GP-25 and GP-30, introduced in the early 1970s. About half a dozen nations, most former Warsaw Pact members, use these weapons. For more information visit kalashnikovconcern.com.
XM25: The newest entrant in the field is the U.S. XM25 Counter-Defilade Target Engagement (CDTE) System. Derived from the now defunct XM29 Objective Individual Combat Weapon (OICW) that combined a 20mm grenade launcher and 5.56mm assault rifle, the XM25, known as the Individual Semi-automatic Air Burst System and nicknamed the “Punisher,” enters service in 2016. It fires 25mm programmable grenades that can be set to explode in mid-air over or near defiladed targets with a laser rangefinder and an integrated computer. The Punisher uses a four-round box magazine, and its maximum effective range for area targets is 765 yards. For more information, visit atk.com.
MGL: South Africa’s Milkor Multiple Grenade Launcher (MGL), also known as the Y2, began production in the early 1980s and remains in service today. The Milkor MGL has been exported to or copied by more than 50 nations over the years. It is the first mass-produced multi-shot launcher, firing six 40mm grenades from a rotating, manually cranked, spring-loaded cylinder like a revolver, with the ability to fire six shots in three seconds. Variants of the weapon can accommodate both low- and medium-velocity rounds with a maximum effective range of nearly 900 yards. In addition, a non-lethal model is available that can only fire riot-control rounds. For more information, visit milkor.net.
DP-64: This unusual Russian weapon, made by the V.A. Degtyarev Plant, was introduced around 1990 specifically to protect moored submarines and dockyards from combat swimmers. It is configured like an over/under shotgun with a side-opening breech for loading and unloading as well as a pistol grip and foregrip. The DP-64 utilizes 45mm shells that operate much like miniature depth charges, programmed to detonate underwater to destroy submerged targets. It also fires smoke grenades to mark locations of suspected swimmers. The weapon has been reported on board Russian submarines and patrol craft but apparently has not been marketed for international use. For more information, visit zid.ru/eng.
RG-6: The Russian RG-6, introduced in the 1990s, was designed to increase infantry firepower in urban combat environments. It is a six-shot system utilizing a large, spring-loaded, revolver-like cylinder that fires the same “caseless” 40mm rounds utilized in the GP single-shot launcher series. The double-action trigger mechanism permits two shots per second, a formidable rate of fire. The RG-6 design derives from the South African Milkor MGL, and it saw extensive use in the First and Second Chechen Wars. For more information, visit kpbtula.ru/en.
PAW-20: Another South African weapon, marketed by DENEL, is the Personal Assault Weapon (PAW). It is a shoulder-fired, semi-auto, gas-operated grenade launcher firing 20mm high-explosive and incendiary shells from a seven-round box magazine. The barrel and receiver assembly move in the weapon’s composite housing to reduce felt recoil. The PAW-20’s trigger mechanism is on the receiver’s right side, so left-handers cannot fire it. The 20mm rounds are relatively high-velocity for grenades, and they can reach area targets more than 1,000 yards distant, although point or protected targets are probably vulnerable only at closer ranges. For more information, visit pmp.co.za.
MK 47: The General Dynamics Mk 47 looks like a tripod-mounted, belt-fed machine gun on steroids. An outgrowth of the Mk 19 in service since 1968, it can launch both conventional and “smart” grenades programmed to detonate at distances set in the day/night Lightweight Video Sight system. Using 32- or 48-round belts, the Mk 47 can fire up to 300 rounds per minute, and effective range of projectiles is in excess of 1,800 yards for area targets. The entire system weighs just under 40 pounds and the weapon, widely used on vehicles, can be mounted on turrets, pedestals or tripods. For more information, visit gdls.com or call 586-825-4000.
GMG: The Heckler & Koch Granatmachinengewher (grenade machine gun or GMG) is a belt-fed, fully automatic, 40mm launcher in production since the mid-1990s. It is in wide use around the world, adopted by at least 15 nations, mostly, but not exclusively, NATO members. Even the U.S. Special Operations Command utilizes the GMG. It is a relatively large and heavy weapon, so it is usually mounted on vehicles. Linked ammo belts accommodate 32 rounds with a 350-rpm rate of fire and an effective range of about 1,800 yards. It can be loaded and fired from either side, adding to its mounting versatility. For more information, visit hk-usa.com or call 703-450-1900.
Howa Type 96: Japan operates the Howa Type 96 automatic grenade launcher (AGL), in service since 1996. It complements the Japanese Sumitomo Type 62 7.62mm and M2HB .50-caliber machine guns. It is used exclusively by the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces, both by infantry and on armored vehicles, and is not exported. The 40mm weapon fires up to 350 rounds per minute with a maximum effective range of about 1,800 yards. Its belt magazine, housed in an ammunition box attached to the left side of the AGL receiver, holds 50 rounds. For more information, visit howa.co.jp/en.
AGS-30: Another weapon designed to answer unconventional warfare threats, the Russian fully automatic AGS-30, adopted by the Russian Federation in 2002, fires 30mm GPD-30 grenades in 30-round linked belts. Its fully loaded weight is just over 66 pounds, so it can be carried by one operator. Firing is controlled by a trigger built into the weapon’s tripod, although the AGS-30 is more likely to be mounted on vehicles. The Russian AGS-30 can fire up to 400 rounds per minute, and it has a maximum effective range up to 2,500 yards. For more information, visit kpbtula.ru/en.
The RPG-7 is the most widely used grenade launcher in the world. Frequently called a rocket-propelled grenade, its Russian name, Ruchnoy Protivotankovyy Granatomyot, means “handheld anti-tank grenade launcher.” Its projectiles are used in both anti-armor and anti-personnel roles. The reusable launching tube is propped on the shooter’s shoulder, aimed through a simple sight, and it fires a variety of projectiles (40mm to 105mm) with a gunpowder charge until the grenade’s rocket engine ignites and propels it to a target. It is loud, smoky and slow, with a limited effective range of about 220 yards, but it is exceedingly deadly.
RPG-26: Another Russian product, the RPG-26 is a disposable anti-tank rocket launcher, 30 inches in length, similar to the U.S. LAW. It fires a 72.5mm, shaped-charge warhead that can penetrate more than 17 inches of armor plating or 38 inches of concrete. In service since the mid-1980s with the Russian Ground Forces, its effective range is about 275 yards. A variant can fire a thermobaric warhead that uses oxygen in surrounding air to intensify its explosive force and produce a stronger blast wave. Although the RPG-26’s range is shorter, this weapon is optimized for bunker busting. For more information, visit Bazalt at bazalt.ru/en.
As early as the 8th century, soldiers in the Byzantine Empire learned to throw Greek fire, an incendiary chemical mixture whose composition is lost to history, in small pots with lit fuses that ignited the contents. Iron grenades first appeared in Europe in the 15th century, using burning wicks or fuses to set off densely packed blackpowder contents. The grenadier badge, showing flames emitting from a small spherical bomb, is an accurate representation of the inherently hazardous operation of hand grenades. Despite slight improvements in grenade and fuse designs, including the Civil War-era Ketchum device that used a plunger to detonate a percussion cap in the powder charge and a tail fin to ensure the plunger hit the ground when thrown, the dangers of grenades made them essentially obsolete by the turn of the 20th century. Modern fuses, similar to those in use today, that made grenades safe to carry and operate brought the weapons back in World War I. Still, grenade effectiveness was limited to the distance it could be thrown by an average soldier—about 100 feet. Furthermore, the grenade had to be lightweight. A larger, heavier device was unwieldy with a shorter throw range.
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The solution to this problem was the grenade launcher, with ranges far greater than the human arm. Russia originated several devices as early as World War I, most of which used blank rounds to propel grenades several times farther than throwing range. The Japanese created tube-launched grenade dischargers, commonly called “knee mortars” in World War II, and developed sophisticated grenades that could be adapted for throwing, rifle launching or firing from discharger tubes. The U.S. developed the M7 grenade launcher in 1943. The M7 followed the Russian approach, using a tube attached to the M1 Garand barrel and launching cylindrical rifle grenades with blank rounds, usually fired with the stock on the ground because of its considerable recoil. Grenades fired from the M7 could reach out to approximately 380 yards.
Grenade launchers have evolved considerably since World War II. Today, military forces employ everything from old-fashioned muzzle-fired devices to attached or standalone launchers, single- and multi-shot, automatic and rocket-propelled weapons. Grenades also have improved over time, with far more lethal performance and flexibility. The following survey of these systems demonstrates the wide variety of this venerable, proven infantry weapon.
For More Information:
- GLX 160 A1:berettadefensetechnologies.com.
- GP-34: kalashnikovconcern.com
- K11: sntdaewoo.com
- M203: colt.com
- M320: hk-usa.com
- MK 13 EGLM: fnhusa.com
- DP-64: zid.ru/eng
- MGL: milkor.net
- PAW-20: pmp.co.za
- RG-6: kpbtula.ru/en
- XM25: atk.com
- AGS-30: kpbtula.ru/en
- GMG: hk-usa.com
- Howa Type 96: howa.co.jp/en
- MK 47: gdls.com
- RPG-7: bazalt.ru/en
- RPG-26: bazalt.ru/en
The OC Flameless Tri-Chamber Grenade from Defense Technology contains naturally occurring pepper extract in a...
by Tactical-Life / Feb 2, 2015