Since the early 1970s, the M203 single shot 40-mm grenade launcher has been an extension of many Soldier’s M16s and M4s. This “under-slung” design brings close fire support to Infantry squads unable to engage targets with direct fires and can fire 8 different rounds depending on the needs of the Soldier. As the need to cover dead space on the battle field will never go away, there is always room for improvement…enter the M320 Grenade Launcher.
With its ability to fire all 40-mm rounds currently in service (and then some!), the M320 has replaced the M203 due to its side opening breech. For those who have used the M203, the “pump-action” is sometimes problematic. The pump action of the M203 also limits the types of rounds that it can fire due to its length.
Another interesting feature of the new M320 is the sights. Normally, on an M203, you would use the ladder sights on the M16/M4 weapon system. The M320 features ladder sights located on the side of weapon system. This is advantageous as it does not require the Soldier to re-zero the launcher every time it is reattached to a new rifle. There is also an optional DNS, or Day/Night Sight that can be mounted along with the typical mechanical sights.
Those who have experienced an M203 misfire (pretty common especially with training rounds), know that you must “re-pump” the weapon to re-cock the firing pin before you can fire again. Not so with the M320, which only requires you to pull the trigger again. In my mind, that is one hell of a feature especially in a combat scenario where speed is of the essence.
Lastly, my favorite feature of the M320, is its ability to operate as a stand alone grenade launcher through its attachable buttstock. I also have to praise the designers of the M320 as another fantastic feature is the ergonomically designed pistol grip which aids in accurate firing.
The M203, in my opinion, is cumbersome to fire as your hand simply supports the launcher tube. Some Soldiers use their weapon’s magazine as a make-shoft pistol grip, but pulling the trigger just doesn’t feel “natural” The M320’s pistol grip gives you more control over the aim and trigger squeeze of the weapon. Just my opinion, but I feel like the M320 is a more “natural” feel in the Soldier’s hands versus the M203.
Currently, the M320 has been assigned an NSN number and is replacing M203s in unit arms rooms throughout the Army. Even if you are not a grenadier, I urge you to get your hands on one to try it out. You will easily see the benefits I have discussed here and possibly more!
If you have experience shooting the M320 Grenade Launcher, please leave a reply to this post. Tell us what you liked or disliked about it.