Grenade launcher
Overview
 
A grenade launcher or grenade discharger is a weapon
Weapon
A weapon, arm, or armament is a tool or instrument used with the aim of causing damage or harm to living beings or artificial structures or systems...

 that launches a grenade
Grenade
A grenade is a small explosive device that is projected a safe distance away by its user. Soldiers called grenadiers specialize in the use of grenades. The term hand grenade refers any grenade designed to be hand thrown. Grenade Launchers are firearms designed to fire explosive projectile grenades...

 with more accuracy, higher velocity, and to greater distances than a soldier could throw it by hand.

Grenade launchers can either come in the form of standalone weapons (either single-shot or repeating) or attachments mounted under the barrel of a rifle
Rifle
A rifle is a firearm designed to be fired from the shoulder, with a barrel that has a helical groove or pattern of grooves cut into the barrel walls. The raised areas of the rifling are called "lands," which make contact with the projectile , imparting spin around an axis corresponding to the...

. Some rifles have been designed to fire rifle grenade
Rifle grenade
A rifle grenade is a grenade that uses a rifle-based launcher to permit a longer effective range than would be possible if the grenade was thrown by hand...

s, either from their muzzle or from a detachable muzzle-mounted launcher.
Encyclopedia
A grenade launcher or grenade discharger is a weapon
Weapon
A weapon, arm, or armament is a tool or instrument used with the aim of causing damage or harm to living beings or artificial structures or systems...

 that launches a grenade
Grenade
A grenade is a small explosive device that is projected a safe distance away by its user. Soldiers called grenadiers specialize in the use of grenades. The term hand grenade refers any grenade designed to be hand thrown. Grenade Launchers are firearms designed to fire explosive projectile grenades...

 with more accuracy, higher velocity, and to greater distances than a soldier could throw it by hand.

Grenade launchers can either come in the form of standalone weapons (either single-shot or repeating) or attachments mounted under the barrel of a rifle
Rifle
A rifle is a firearm designed to be fired from the shoulder, with a barrel that has a helical groove or pattern of grooves cut into the barrel walls. The raised areas of the rifling are called "lands," which make contact with the projectile , imparting spin around an axis corresponding to the...

. Some rifles have been designed to fire rifle grenade
Rifle grenade
A rifle grenade is a grenade that uses a rifle-based launcher to permit a longer effective range than would be possible if the grenade was thrown by hand...

s, either from their muzzle or from a detachable muzzle-mounted launcher. Larger grenade launchers may be mounted on vehicles.

Description

Most grenade launchers are man-portable, shoulder-fired weapons issued on a squad level, though larger launchers are sometimes mounted on armored vehicles. The most common grenade round in use by modern militaries is the 40 mm fragmentation grenade, which is effective against a wide range of targets including infantry and lightly armored vehicles. The ability of the grenade launcher to loft payloads in a high arc has resulted in many 'specialty' grenades such as less-lethal sponge grenades, flares, and even a video camera that surveys the battlefield from a bird's eye view.

Heavier grenade launchers, such as automatic grenade launchers, are typically mounted on vehicles or in emplaced positions. These generally resemble a large machine gun intended to rapidly launch grenades to suppress enemy activity in a target area.

Some armored fighting vehicles also mount fixed arrays of short range, single-shot grenade launchers as a means of defense. These mortar-style devices usually fire smoke grenades to conceal the vehicle behind a smoke screen, though can also be loaded with chaff
Chaff (radar countermeasure)
Chaff, originally called Window by the British, and Düppel by the Second World War era German Luftwaffe , is a radar countermeasure in which aircraft or other targets spread a cloud of small, thin pieces of aluminium, metallized glass fibre or plastic, which either appears as a cluster of secondary...

, flares
Flare (pyrotechnic)
A flare, also sometimes called a fusee, is a type of pyrotechnic that produces a brilliant light or intense heat without an explosion. Flares are used for signalling, illumination, or defensive countermeasures in civilian and military applications...

, or anti-personnel grenades to repel infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

 attacks. Smoke grenade launchers are also known as smoke dischargers.

Shoulder-fired

The man-portable grenade launcher can come in the form of either a single-shot weapon or a repeating weapon resembling a large revolver or pump-action shotgun. Examples include the M79
M79 grenade launcher
The M79 grenade launcher is a single-shot, shoulder-fired, break-action grenade launcher that fires a 40x46mm grenade which used what the US Army called the High-Low Propulsion System to keep recoil forces low, and first appeared during the Vietnam War...

 (single-shot) and the Milkor MGL
Milkor MGL
The MGL is a lightweight 40 mm semi-automatic, 6-shot grenade launcher developed and manufactured in South Africa by Milkor Ltd. The MGL was demonstrated as a concept to the South African Defence Force in 1981. The operating principle was immediately accepted and subjected to a stringent...

 (repeating). They fill the gap between the hand grenade and the mortar
Mortar (weapon)
A mortar is an indirect fire weapon that fires explosive projectiles known as bombs at low velocities, short ranges, and high-arcing ballistic trajectories. It is typically muzzle-loading and has a barrel length less than 15 times its caliber....

.
Modern developments tend toward faster-firing grenades with a smaller blast radius to reduce collateral damage
Collateral damage
Collateral damage is damage to people or property that is unintended or incidental to the intended outcome. The phrase is prevalently used as an euphemism for civilian casualties of a military action.-Etymology:...

. The XM25
XM25
The XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System, also known as the Punisher, Individual Semiautomatic Air Burst System, and the Bowling Tube is an air burst grenade launcher derived from the XM29 OICW...

 is a shoulder-fired, magazine
Magazine (firearm)
A magazine is an ammunition storage and feeding device within or attached to a repeating firearm. Magazines may be integral to the firearm or removable . The magazine functions by moving the cartridges stored in the magazine into a position where they may be loaded into the chamber by the action...

-fed semi-automatic launcher firing 25 mm projectiles. It was originally a component of the XM29 Objective Individual Combat Weapon program
Objective Individual Combat Weapon program
The Objective Individual Combat Weapon or OICW was the next-generation service rifle competition that was under development as part of the United States Army OICW program; the program was eventually discontinued without bringing the weapon out of the prototype phase...

, but modified to a larger caliber. A 12 Gauge grenade round called the Frag-12 has also been developed for the Atchisson Assault Shotgun
Atchisson Assault Shotgun
The Auto Assault-12 , originally designed and known as the Atchisson Assault Shotgun, is a shotgun developed in 1972 by Maxwell Atchisson. The current 2005 version has been developed over 18 years since the patent was sold to Military Police Systems, Inc. The original design was the basis of...

.

Attached

Since grenade launchers require relatively low internal pressure and only a short barrel, a lightweight launcher can be mounted under the barrel of a traditional rifle
Rifle
A rifle is a firearm designed to be fired from the shoulder, with a barrel that has a helical groove or pattern of grooves cut into the barrel walls. The raised areas of the rifling are called "lands," which make contact with the projectile , imparting spin around an axis corresponding to the...

. This reduces the weight the soldier must carry by eliminating the grenade launcher's buttstock and makes the grenade launcher available for use at a moment's notice.

Underbarrel tubes generally have their own trigger group; to fire, one simply changes grips, disengages the safety, and pulls the trigger. In Western systems, the barrel slides forward or pivots to the side to allow reloading. Soviet/Russian launchers are instead loaded from the muzzle, with the cartridge casing affixed to the projectile in the style of a mortar shell. For aiming, attached grenade launchers typically use a separate sight attached to the rifle's frame alongside the iron sights, or attach a flip-up sight directly to one of the rifle's sights.

Examples of modern attached grenade launchers are the GP-30
GP-30
The GP-30 Obuvka , GP-25 Kostyor and BG-15 Mukha are Russian under barrel grenade launchers for the AK-series of assault rifle. They were first seen by the west in 1984 during the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan. The initial version was designated BG-15, and was fitted under the barrel of AK-74...

, AG36
AG36
The AG36 is a single-shot 40 mm grenade launcher which operates on the High-Low System and was designed primarily for installation on the G36 assault rifle, designed by the German weapons manufacturing company Heckler & Koch of Oberndorf am Neckar...

, FN40GL and M203
M203 grenade launcher
The M203 is a single shot 40 mm grenade launcher designed to attach to a rifle. It uses the same rounds as the older M79 break-action grenade launcher, which utilize the High-Low Propulsion System to keep recoil forces low. Though versatile, and compatible with many rifle models, the M203 was...

, which mount to service rifle
Service rifle
The service rifle of a given army or armed force is that which it issues as standard to its soldiers. In modern forces, this is typically a highly versatile and rugged assault rifle suitable for use in nearly all theatres and environments...

s.

A late development is the 3GL from Metal Storm. As with most Metal Storm products, this weapon contains three electrically ignited grenades stacked front-to-back in a single tube to eliminate reloading.

Muzzle-fired

Many grenades have been designed to launch from a rifle's muzzle, usually using either a special blank propellant cartridge, or (in more modern designs) a central bullet pass-through or "bullet trap" which allow the grenade to fire using regular live rounds. 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 mount the grenade to the muzzle prior to each shot. If he is surprised by a close-range threat while preparing to fire the grenade, he has to reverse the procedure before he can respond with rifle fire. Rifle grenades also tend to be more difficult to fire accurately compared to under-barrel or standalone designs.

The SIMON breach grenade
SIMON breach grenade
The SIMON is a rifle grenade designed to breach through doors, developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. It is intended for use with 5.56 mm rifles such as the M4 carbine.-Overview:...

 is a muzzle-fired grenade for breaching doors. The SIMON launches using a bullet trap to capture a standard 5.56 bullet fired from an M4 carbine
M4 carbine
The M4 carbine is a family of firearms tracing its lineage back to earlier carbine versions of the M16, all based on the original AR-15 designed by Eugene Stoner and made by ArmaLite. It is a shorter and lighter variant of the M16A2 assault rifle, with 80% parts commonality.It is a gas-operated,...

 or M16.

Automatic

Automatic launchers include the Mk 19
Mk 19 grenade launcher
The Mk 19 Grenade Launcher is a 40 mm belt-fed automatic grenade launcher or grenade machine gun that entered U.S. military service during the Cold War, first seeing action during the Vietnam War and remaining in service today.-Overview:...

, AGS-17
AGS-17
The AGS-17 Plamya is a Soviet-designed automatic grenade launcher currently in production in the Russian Federation and in service worldwide.-Description:...

, and the HK GMG, which all fire at a higher velocity
Muzzle velocity
Muzzle velocity is the speed a projectile has at the moment it leaves the muzzle of the gun. Muzzle velocities range from approximately to in black powder muskets , to more than in modern rifles with high-performance cartridges such as the .220 Swift and .204 Ruger, all the way to for tank guns...

 than related shoulder-fired grenades. They generally function as large-caliber machine guns with a relatively low rate of fire, used from an emplaced position in a similar way to a heavy machine gun
Heavy machine gun
The heavy machine gun or HMG is a larger class of machine gun generally recognized to refer to two separate stages of machine gun development. The term was originally used to refer to the early generation of machine guns which came into widespread use in World War I...

.
The heavy equivalent of the XM29 is the XM307
XM307
The XM307 Advanced Crew Served Weapon was a developmental 25 mm belt-fed Grenade Machine Gun with smart shell capability. It is the result of the OCSW or Objective Crew Served Weapon project. It is lightweight and designed to be two-man portable, as well as vehicle mounted...

 ACSW automatic grenade launcher that is easily convertible between the 25 mm grenade ammunition and standard .50 BMG
.50 BMG
The .50 Browning Machine Gun or 12.7×99mm NATO is a cartridge developed for the Browning .50 caliber machine gun in the late 1910s. Entering service officially in 1921, the round is based on a greatly scaled-up .30-06 cartridge...

 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 rooms or behind hard cover that would normally not be reachable by small arms
Small arms
Small arms is a term of art used by armed forces to denote infantry weapons an individual soldier may carry. The description is usually limited to revolvers, pistols, submachine guns, carbines, assault rifles, battle rifles, multiple barrel firearms, sniper rifles, squad automatic weapons, light...

 fire.

See also

  • List of grenade launchers
  • Mortar
  • Rocket-propelled grenade
  • Tear gas
  • Smoke grenade
    Smoke grenade
    Smoke grenades are canister-type grenades used as ground-to-ground or ground-to-air signaling devices, target or landing zone marking devices, or as screening devices for unit movements. Smoke grenades are normally considered non-lethal, although incorrect use may cause death...

  • Recoilless rifle
    Recoilless rifle
    A recoilless rifle or recoilless gun is a lightweight weapon that fires a heavier projectile than would be practical to fire from a recoiling weapon of comparable size. Technically, only devices that use a rifled barrel are recoilless rifles. Smoothbore variants are recoilless guns...

  • Hand mortar
    Hand mortar
    The hand mortar is a firearm that was used in the late 17th century and 18th century to throw fused grenades. The action was similar to a flintlock, matchlock, or wheellock firearm , but the barrel was short, usually less than 2 inches to 4 inches long , and had a...


External links

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