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Grenade launcher

Category: Term of the day

Grenade launcher

A grenade launcher is a weapon that launches a grenade greater distances,
more accurately, and faster than a soldier could throw by hand.

The man-portable grenade launcher can either come in the form of a standalone

weapon (either single-shot or repeating weapons), or mounted under the

barrel of a rifle. Alternatively, many rifles have been designed to fire

grenades from their muzzle.

Most grenade launchers are man-portable, shoulder-fired weapons, usually

mounted on a rifle such as the AK-47 or M16. However, many can be used

independently, such as the M79 and AG36. These are almost always single

shot, manually reloaded weapons firing 3040 millimeter caliber grenades

which rarely resemble hand grenades, but look more like miniature

artillery shells. The most standard grenade round today is the 40mm

grenade, which has a wide variety of applications in man-portable and

vehicle mounted weapons systems. With this standardization, there are many

new 'specialty' grenades available, from rounds that can be used as a

flare, infrared flare, or even a video camera that surveys the battlefield

from a bird's eye view. There are also heavier examples, including

automatic grenade launchers for ground and vehicle use, such as the

American Mk 19. Capable of a relatively high rate of fire, these automatic

grenade launchers are used for suppressive fire and to destroy or disable

light vehicles and buildings. Some armored fighting vehicles also mount

grenade launchers as a means of defense, usually firing smoke grenades to

conceal the vehicle behind a smoke screen, though can also be loaded with

chaff, flares, or anti-personnel grenades to repel infantry attacks.

The man-portable grenade launcher can either come in the form of a

standalone weapon (either single-shot or repeating weapons, the latter

resembling a large revolver); or an underbarrel weapon which is

permanently mounted to the rifle. Alternatively, many rifles have been

designed to fire grenades from their muzzle, using either a special blank

propellant cartridge or a central hole through the grenade allowing the

bullet to pass through. This system has two key advantages: the grenade

can generally be made larger and more powerful as compared to underbarrel

or standalone weapons, and the rifle's weight and handling characteristics

are not affected as with underbarrel systems. The disadvantage of this

method is that when a soldier wants to launch a grenade he must unload the

weapon and then load the propellant cartridge and grenade. If he is

surprised by a close-range threat while preparing to fire the grenade, he

has to reverse the above procedure and cannot immediately react with rifle

fire. In underbarrel systems, the rifle portion and launching portion of

the weapon can both be carried loaded and ready to fire. Underbarrel tubes

generally have their own trigger and use the rifle's magazine as a grip

for the firing hand. To fire, one simply changes grips, disengages the

safety and pulls the trigger. In most systems the barrel either slides

forward or pivots to the side to allow reloading. For aiming, the M203

mounts either a flip-up rear sight, which is notched for different ranges

and utilizes the rifle's existing front sight, or a "quadrant" sight which

mounts to the side of the carrying handle. Recoil from such weapons is

significant, comparable to a high-power shotgun.

Examples of modern man-portable grenade launchers are the M203 and GP-30,

which mount to service rifles. Another type of man-portable grenade

launcher is the M32 'six shooter' grenade launcher and its cousins, which

is able to fire six grenades in quick succession from a cylindrical

chamber, this classification of firearm is often referred to as a Multi

Shot Grenade Launcher, or MSGL. Automatic launchers include the Mk 19,

AGS-17, and the HK GMG, which all fire at a higher velocity than related

shoulder-fired grenades. Modern developments tend toward smaller, faster,

and massed grenade fire. The XM25 is a shoulder-fired, magazine-fed

semi-automatic launcher firing 25 mm projectiles. It was originally a

component of the XM29 OICW program, but modified to a larger caliber. Its

heavy equivalent is the XM307 ACSW automatic grenade launcher that is

easily convertible between the 25 mm grenade ammunition and standard .50

BMG cartridges. Both are intended to fire programmable "smart" grenades

capable of being set to explode at a certain distance from launch or at a

certain height above the ground. This gives the ability to hit targets

inside of rooms or behind hard cover that would normally not be reachable

by small arms fire.

Sergyi Way

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XM307 (Automatic grenade launcher)


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