M203 grenade launcher
"M203" redirects here. For the highway in Michigan, see M-203 (Michigan highway).
The M203 is a single-shot 40mm under-barrel grenade launcher designed to attach to a rifle. It uses the same rounds as the older stand-alone M79break-action grenade launcher, which utilizes the High-Low Propulsion System to keep recoil forces low. Quite versatile and compatible with many rifle models, the M203 was originally designed for the U.S. M16 and its carbine variant, the M4. The launcher can also be mounted onto a C7, a Canadian version of the M16 rifle; however, this requires the prior removal of the bottom handguard.
Stand-alone variants of the M203 exist, as do versions designed specifically for many other rifles. The device attaches under the barrel, the launcher trigger being in the rear of the launcher, just forward of the rifle magazine. The rifle magazine functions as a hand grip when firing the M203. A separate sighting system is added to rifles fitted with the M203, as the rifle's standard sights are not matched to the launcher. The version fitted to the Canadian C7 has a sight attached to the side of the launcher, either on the left or right depending on the user's needs.
The M203 was the only part of the army's Special Purpose Individual Weapon (SPIW) project to go into production. The M203 has been in service since 1969 and was introduced to U.S. military forces during the early 1970s, replacing the M79 grenade launcher and the conceptually similar Colt XM148 design. However, while the M79 was a stand-alone weapon (and usually the primary weapon of troops who carried it), the M203 was designed as an under-barrel device attached to an existing rifle. Because the size and weight of 40 mm ammunition limits the quantities that can be carried on patrol, and because a grenade is often not an appropriate weapon for a given engagement (i.e. when the target is at close range or near friendly troops), an under-barrel system has the advantage of allowing its user to also carry a rifle, and to easily switch between the two.
A new grenade launcher, the M320, will eventually replace the M203 in the United States Army. The United States Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Navy continued to use the older M203, although the Marines began issuing the M320 in June 2017. The M320 features an advanced day/night sight, a double-action firing mechanism (as opposed to the M203's single-action) as well as other benefits, such as an unobstructed side-loading breech.
The M203 grenade launcher is intended to be used as close fire support against point and area targets. The round is designed to be effective at breaking through windows and exploding inside, blowing up doors, producing multiple casualties, destroying bunkers or emplacements, and damaging or disabling soft-skinned vehicles. In the Vietnam war, U.S. Navy and Coast Guard personnel on boats would lob 40mm grenades into the water (using the M79 grenade launcher), to preemptively attack Viet Cong swimmers ("sappers") attempting to plant explosives on anchored or moored U.S. water craft.
Its primary purpose is to engage enemies in dead space that cannot be reached by direct fire. A well-trained M203 gunner can use his weapon to suppress the enemy, based on movement and sight. In addition, the M203 can be used as a crowd control weapon when equipped with the M651 Tactical CS (tear gas) grenade. Classified as an anti-personnel weapon, the M203 is not intended to be used against armored or heavy vehicles.
The M203 is able to fire a variety of different rounds for many purposes. According to the U.S. ARMY FIELD MANUAL FM 3-22.31 40-MM GRENADE LAUNCHER, M203, there are 8 different rounds for the M203:
- (M433) High-Explosive. Dual Purpose Round. The HEDP round has an olive drab aluminum skirt with a steel cup attached, white markings, and a gold ogive (head of the round). It penetrates at least 5 cm (2 inches) when fired straight at steel armor at 150 meters or less, or, at a point target, it arms between 14 and 27 meters, causes casualties within a 130-meter radius, and has a kill radius of 5 meters.
- (M406) High-Explosive Round. The HE round has an olive drab aluminum skirt with a steel projectile attached, gold markings, and a yellow ogive. It arms between 14 and 27 meters, produces a ground burst that causes casualties within a 130-meter radius, and has a kill radius of 5 meters.
- (M583A1) Star Parachute Round. This round is white impact or bar alloy aluminum, with black markings. It is used for illumination and signals and is lighter and more accurate than comparable handheld signal rounds. The parachute attached to the round deploys upon ejection to lower the candle at 7 feet per second. The candle burns for about 40 seconds. A raised letter on the top of the round denotes the color of the parachute.
- (M585) White Star Cluster Round. This round is white impact or bar aluminum alloy, with black markings. The attached plastic ogive has five raised dots for night identification. The round is used for illumination or signals. It is lighter and more accurate than comparable handheld signal rounds. The individual stars burn for about 7 seconds during free fall.
- (M713) Ground Marker Round. This round is light green impact aluminum with black markings. It is used for aerial identification and for marking the location of soldiers on the ground. It arms between 15 and 45 meters. If a fuse fails to function on impact, the output mixture provided in the front end of the delay casing backs up the impact feature. The color of the ogive indicates the color of the smoke.
- (M781) Practice Round. Used for practice, this round is blue zinc or aluminum, with white markings. It produces a yellow or orange signature on impact, arms between 14 and 27 meters, and has a danger radius of 20 meters.
- (M651) CS Round. This round is gray aluminum with a green casing and black markings. Though it is a multipurpose round, it is most effective for riot control and in Urban Operations. It arms between 10 and 30 meters and produces a white cloud of CS gas on impact.
- (M576) Buckshot Round. This round is olive drab with black markings. Though it is a multipurpose round, it is most effective in thick vegetated areas or for room clearing. Inside, it has 20 metal pellets, each weighing 24 grains, with a muzzle velocity of 269 meters per second. The round has no mechanical-type fuse.
The M203 Grenade launcher system comes with a variety of components, usually including the launcher, adaptors for attachment to assault rifles, and leaf sights (which can be used with the rifle's front sight post). M203s can also come with quadrant sights, mounting to a MIL-STD 1913 Rail, or to the carrying handle of an M16 rifle.
There are numerous variants of the M203 manufactured in the U.S., and throughout the world, for various applications. These vary chiefly in the length of the barrel, attachment type, and quick detach (QD) capability.
The standard M203 is intended for permanent attachment to the M16A1, M16A2 and M16A3 rifles, and utilizes a 12-inch rifled barrel. The M203 unmodified to an A1/A2 series will not fit on the M4 Carbine series.
The U.S. M203A1 has a barrel of 12 inches, while the SOPMOD M203A1 has a 9-inch barrel. The M203A1 is intended for use with the M4 and M4A1 Carbine, and uses a special bracket mount consisting of three screws and lacing wire. Only M203A2's consist of a Quick Release Bracket.
The Canadian M203A1 by Diemaco (now Colt Canada) is a similar design with a different mounting system that does not require mounting points of the same profile as the M16A1 rifle's. The weapon's 9-inch barrel slides further forward than the standard American models, which allows longer rounds to be loaded. This model is identifiable by the increased distance between the grenade launcher's barrel axis and the rifle's. This weapon may no longer be in production, but is still in use.
The M203A2 is intended for use with the M4 Series/M16A4 and now also authorized on the M16A2 Rifle as the MWS (Modular Weapon System). Using standard 12-inch barrels, the grenade launcher is intended for use in concert with the Knight's Armament Company M5 RAS. The M5 MWS Rail System became authorized in December 2008 for the M16A2 Rifle. An advantage of this system is the use of range-finding optics to make precise targeting easier.
The M203PI system is used for attachment of the M203 to other rifles, including, but not limited to, the Steyr AUG, Heckler & Koch G3 and other rifles, and even the MP5 sub-machine gun. Most of these other companies have since devised 40mm grenade launchers custom integrated with the weapon.
The M203 DAX has a double-action trigger and longer breech opening to accommodate less-lethal rounds.
The M203 and M203A1 are currently manufactured by AIRTRONIC USA, Inc. of Elk Grove Village, Illinois for the U.S. Department of Defense under contract numbers W52H09-06-D-0200 and W52H09-06-D-0225. Each contract is for up to 12,000 units. Each unit is shipped with hand guard, leaf sight and quadrant range sight. The contracts unit prices vary from $840 to $1,050 each. The production rate is 1,500 units per month. The M203PI is manufactured for both the U.S. Department of Defense and for commercial sales to law enforcement agencies both in the United States and abroad, and for foreign military sales by RM-Equipment Inc. of Miami, Florida.
The Turkish MKEK made T-40 grenade launcher is based on the M203.
The M203 37mm version became available on the U.S. market in 2017. It is available in a 9-inch and a 12-inch barrel version. They are scroll marked: "Launcher, Grenade M203 40mm", even though they are actually 37mm devices. These 37mm versions are considered a Title 1 Firearm, and are not classified as "Destructive Devices" under the NFA. These launchers can be sold the same as regular firearms on an ATF Form 4473.
Civilian ownership in the United States
In the United States, M203 grenade launcher attachments fitted with the standard rifled 40mm barrel are classified as "Destructive Devices" under the National Firearms Act part 26 U.S.C. 5845, 27 CFR 479.11, because they are a "non-sporting" firearm with a bore greater than one-half inch in diameter. M203s are on the civilian NFA market but are limited as most manufacturers have quit selling to the civilian markets. New M203 launchers sell for approximately $2,000 plus a $200 transfer tax, and new manufacture 40mm training ammunition is available for $5 to $10 per cartridge, as of March 2011. High explosive 40mm grenades are available for $400 to $500 per cartridge; however, they are exceedingly rare on the civilian market, as each grenade constitutes a Destructive Device on its own, and must be registered with the Federal government, requiring payment of a $200 tax and compliance with storage regulations for high explosives. There are also sub-caliber adapters available for the 40mm M203 (and M79) grenade launchers, which will allow the use of standard 12 gauge shotgun shells and .22 rimfire ammo.
In 2017, a 37mm civilian version became available on the market that is not considered an NFA weapon. As the 37mm version is not classified as a "Destructive Device", it can be sold to the general public on the same ATF Form 4473 as most other firearms. The 37mm launcher can use 37mm flare rounds already available on the market. This civilian version sells for around $2,000 and accessories such as quick detach mounts and a quadrant sight are also available.
The following technical data for the M203/M203A1 grenade launcher comes directly from the U.S. ARMY FIELD MANUAL FM 3-22.31 40-MM GRENADE LAUNCHER, M203.
- a. Weapon.
- Rifle and grenade launcher (overall)........................99.0 cm (39 inches)
- Barrel only................................................................30.5 cm (12 inches)
- Rifling............................................................................25.4 cm (10 inches)
- Launcher, unloaded.................................................1.4 kg (3.0 pounds)
- Launcher, loaded.....................................................1.6 kg (3.5 pounds)
- Rifle and grenade launcher, both fully loaded......5.0 kg (11.0 pounds)
- Number of lands............................................................6 right hand twist
- b. Ammunition.
- Caliber............................................................................40 mm
- Weight.............................................................................About 227 grams (8 ounces)
- c. Operational Characteristics.
- Action.............................................................................Single shot
- Front..........................................................................Leaf sight assembly
- Rear...........................................................................Quadrant sight
- Chamber pressure.........................................................206,325 kilopascals (35,000 psi)
- Muzzle velocity..............................................................76 m/s (250 fps)
- Maximum range.............................................................About 400 meters (1,312 feet)
- Maximum effective range:
- Fire-team sized area target................................350 meters (1,148 feet)
- Vehicle or weapon point target.........................150 meters (492 feet)
- Maximum effective range:
- Minimum safe firing range (HE):
- Training.....................................................................130 meters (426 feet)
- Combat......................................................................31 meters (102 feet)
- Minimum arming range.................................................About 14 to 38 meters (46 to 125 feet)
- Rate of fire......................................................................5 to 7 rounds per minute
- Minimum combat load...................................................36 HE rounds
Note: some data differs for versions that attach to the M4 Carbine.
The 40 mm grenades used in the M203 (40 × 46 mm) are not the same as those used by the Mk 19 grenade launcher (40 × 53 mm), which are fired at a higher velocity)
Diagram of a High-Explosive Dual Purpose grenade (HEDP).
Inside view of a spent casing for a 40mm grenade, showing the internal pressure chamber for the high-low pressure system.
Navy sailor loading M203 with a high explosive round
Loading an M203 attached to an M16A1 with a practice round.
A U.S. Marine takes aim with an M16A2 fitted with the M203 40 mm grenade launcher.
M4 carbine with M203A1 (9" barrel), US Navy Seabees in Afghanistan 2010.
Other under-barrel grenade launchers
- AG36 – widely used grenade launcher from Heckler & Koch
- M320 – US Army M203 successor and AG36 derived
- FN40GL – FN Herstal Mk 13 Mod 0 developed for FN SCAR and US SOCOM
- MEI HELLHOUND – 40mm ammunition development
- GP-25 – 40mm under-barrel grenade launcher for Kalashnikov series rifles
- Type 91 grenade launcher – 35mm under-barrel grenade launcher for the Chinese QBZ-95 rifle
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to M203.|
Multiple choice grenades: You decide the functionality
– The grenades we see today contain a lot of new technology, and are fundamentally different from what we had in the past. Many still think of grenades as a weapon primarily used in close combat. But that is far from the truth. Modern grenades – fired from a specialized weapon system – have become extremely capable. They can fill a number of roles on the battlefield. We are beginning to see battlefield options previously only available to dedicated specialists.
Nammo’s 40mm program director, Helge Stadheim, opens an ammunition box containing a number of 40mm grenades. The designation for this type is 40mm x 53 HEDP-RF (High Explosive Dual Purpose Airburst – Radio Frequency). Their shape clearly shows how these projectiles are not meant for hand-throwing; They have been designed to be fired from a gun.
Pentetration testing: Nammo’s 40mm programmable ammunition vs concrete wall. Photo: Nammo
– Using a gun to propel the grenades is an obvious choice: One effect is – of course – that the range is greatly increased. Whereas a hand-held grenade can be thrown tens of meters (at most), a rifle-mounted grenade launcher has a range of up to 400 meters. But an AGL (Automatic Grenade Launcher) with a high velocity 40mm gun gets you an effective range of around two kilometers (2000m), Stadheim explains.
Kongsberg’s widely used Protector weapon station is equipped with advanced technology: A laser rangefinder, automatic ballistics calculation and correction, and thermal view options, just to mention a few. That also ensures aiming is easy: In practice it works as a simple point-and-shoot device where the user only needs to select a target. The system even works against moving targets. And the rate of fire should be enough for most scenarios: With 240-300 grenades per minute, even a single operator can wreak havoc to an enemy position
The 40mm grenades can be fired from a Heckler & Koch AGL (Automatic Grenade Launcher). Photo: Nammo
The ammunition itself has a few tricks up its sleeve as well – tricks that can make life very difficult for an enemy.
– I think the main advantage is the way that the projectile has been designed. First of all it is programmable. That means that with our programming unit, we simply set a distance for the detonation. Against an adversary in an open terrain, that is devastating, because the grenade can airburst exactly where we want it to. And even if an enemy hides in defilade – say behind a wall or in a trench, the same combination of distance programming and airburst ensures the 40mm grenades will hit. We can pinpoint exactly where the round detonates. And remember the airburst effect. Indirectly, this also lowers any collateral damage, Stadheim points out.
Nammo’s 40mm programmable ammunition. Photo: Nammo
But the ability to airburst is just one of the things that this jack-of-all-trades can do. Its ability to penetrate armor is also surprisingly good.
– We’ve done a great number of tests over the years, and see how armored steel plates of more than 65mm are penetrated. Every time. It is a jet blast with a velocity of 4000 meters per second that punches through. Quite unpleasant for anyone near that, Stadheim says.
The ability to penetrate armor means the grenades can be effective against a number of vehicles – from unarmored to lightly or even medium armored.
– Well, if you are using the grenades against cars – you will see that they certainly have the power to stop or even destroy them. This happens for those vehicles that have some light armor. As for typical IFVs (Infantry Fighting Vehicles), their armor is usually also thinner than what the 40mm grenades can penetrate, Stadheim points out.
One example could be the Soviet/Russian IFV BMP-2. While the frontal armor is designed to withstand impact from up to 25mm cannon, the side armor is not, and can easily be penetrated by Nammo’s 40mm grenades.
Pentetration testing: Nammo’s 40mm programmable ammunition vs concrete wall. Photo: Nammo
40mm grenades are also great when facing enemies hiding behind walls or inside structures. The HEDP-RF can penetrate steel-reinforced concrete with a thickness of more than 185mm.
– The capability against these heavy, solid walls is nothing short of amazing. Our tests show that every grenade – when hitting such a wall – creates a jet blast powering through, Stadheim says.
The Automatic Grenade Launcher (AGL) is usually mounted on a vehicle, but can also be mounted on a tripod. The system is – considering the punch it packs – very lightweight and can easily be moved.
– I think the main advantage lies in the versatility that allows the users to effectively combat everything from drones to armored vehicles to opponents in fortified positions. A single user with the weapon station and Nammo’s 40mm can now do what we previously needed several groups of specialists for, Stadheim concludes.
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40mm Grenade Ammunition
A 40mm grenade designed for stand-off breaching which improves both tactical and logistical operations. Current 40mm breaching grenades are energetically inefficient, limit operational effectiveness, and present a higher risk than necessary to people in the vicinity of the target. A new design from Energetics Technology Ltd overcomes these limitations and also improves both safety and logistics. (Press Release)
Typical 40mm breaching grenades suffer from design flaws which limit effectiveness. Current designs are inefficient as the explosive blast overpressure is not directed towards the target. This results in an increased Net Explosive Quantity (NEQ) to obtain the desired effect and in turn makes the grenade more hazardous to use and handle. This increase in NEQ further results in the breaching team needing to adopt an unnecessary additional stand-off distance (typically +15m). Current designs are typically based on impact for initiation. This method creates a significant fragmentation hazard both to the breaching team and to the people behind the target which is exacerbated by the higher NEQ.
The unique design of the stand-off breaching grenade is protected under GB Patent 2570534B with international patent applications pending (AU2018334105A1, EP18765962A, NZ762154A and Energetics Technology’s MV propulsion system.
- Increased Tactical Advantage – improved directional control of the overpressure lowers the risk to the breaching team and reduces their stand-off distance.
- Reduced Collateral Damage – the design significantly reduces the risk of fragmentation and behind target effects.
- Increased Breaching Capability – the overpressure generated is sufficient to deform a variety of door materials including multi-lock steel doors.
- Safer / Easier Logistics – reduced NEQ gives inherent safety benefits and allows for easier shipping / storage.
Stand-off Breaching Grenade Technology
Energetics Technology Ltd supply a wide range of devices for specialist military users. (The specifications for this product can be seem in the table below.) This new technology addresses the challenges facing breaching teams with three key design features.
- The design of the explosive charge
- How the grenade or device is initiated
- The fusing of the grenade
The result is a reduction of the NEQ by approximately half while maintaining the same breaching capability displayed by conventional 40mm rounds. The design focuses blast overpressure towards the target to deform the door structure, as opposed to conventional impact detonation methods. The result is a reduction in target fragmentation, reduced omnidirectional overpressure and increased operational effectiveness, even against steel doors.
Click here to view our “Door Breaching Grenade” video
Stand-off Breaching Grenade Specifications
|Calibre||40 x 51 mm *|
|Overall Length||160 mm|
|Total Weight||Approx 280g|
|Explosive filling||HMX based|
|Initiation system||Fuze, Base 0431. (spin and setback arming)|
|Safe Arming Distance||12-15 m|
|Accuracy at 40m||150 mm x 150 mm|
|Fragmentation||No penetrating fragmentation recorded behind target door. No penetrating fragmentation recorded towards firer **|
|Service temperature||-46 / +63°C|
|Safety temperature||-46 / +63°C|
|*compatible with 40x46mm weapons||**Fragmentation recorded using DSTL skin packs. The appearance of U.S.Dept of Defence (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.|
(40mm) 40 x 51 mm medium velocity ammunition is a new system that allows greater firing distances and improved accuracy over traditional low velocity ammunition. Energetics Technology’s unique propulsion system ensures surprisingly low levels of recoil and breach pressure, and has been extensively tested in multi-shot weapons such as the XRGL40 as well as under-barrel launchers.
40 x 51mm ammunition is available in a whole suite of natures as a direct replacement wherever low velocity ammunition falls short.
• Unique design allows our 40 x 51mm ammunition to be used in both single and multi-shot weapons systems.
• Ammunition achieves ranges of 850m for area effects and accurate target marking.
• It provides superior accuracy at short ranges with a flatter trajectory.
• With a 220g projectile and low recoil forces (<60J) real effects can be delivered to target.
• The 40mm munitions extraordinary performance is enabled by high precision machining,
materials control and manufacture.
• Developed with support from weapon manufacturers (Rippel Effect Pty)
• Customised versions can be quickly developed, manufactured and range tested at Energetics Technology’s UK MOD’s approved facility.
|850 Metre Range||Training||High Explosive||Parachute Illuminating||Target Marker|
|Measurements:||40 x 130 mm (max)||40 x 135 mm (max)||40 x 135 mm (max)||40 x 130 mm (max)|
|Net explosive content:||20 gs (max)||75 - 95 gs||80 gs||95-100 gs|
|Weight of cartridge:||approx. . 280 gs||approx. . 280 gs||approx. . 280 gs||approx. . 280 gs|
|Weight of projectile approx.||220 gs||220 gs||205 gs||220 gs|
|Velocity V4 approx.||110 m/s||110 m/s||110 m/s||110 m/s|
|Chamber Pressure||170 bar (nominal)||170 bar (nominal)||170 bar (nominal)||170 bar (nominal)|
|Warranty (in original packaging)||3 years||3 years||3 years||3 years|
|Service Life (in original packaging)||5 years||5 years||5 years||5 years|
He took off his wet leather shoes with an ankle closure and stepped with his coiled feet on the plank floor. Which was crunching so dear under his six-pound weight. Skidulf was large, slanting fathoms in the shoulders, the beard descended to the chest, and his arms were as thick as the.
Lena sent her son into the room and thought for a long time. Then she grabbed her son by the elbow with a stranglehold and took him to the doctor. - Calm down, honey.America’s newest 40mm automatic grenade launcher in action
Cool, I think, my nephew. But nevertheless, if at that moment Vitya had not been with us, we would not have been lying on the sofa. With her.
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Like a mother and son. I spend so much time at work, and when I come home youre always on your computer. This is not entirely correct.