M203 grenade launcher
Overview
 
The M203 is a single shot 40 mm
40 mm grenade
The 40mm grenade is a military grenade caliber for grenade launchers in service with many armed forces. There are two main types in service: the 40×46mm, which is a low-velocity round used in hand-held grenade launchers; and the high-velocity 40×53mm, used in mounted and crew-served weapons. The...

 grenade launcher
Grenade launcher
A grenade launcher or grenade discharger is a weapon that launches a grenade with more accuracy, higher velocity, and to greater distances than a soldier could throw it by hand....

 designed to attach to a rifle. It uses the same rounds as the older 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...

 break-action grenade launcher, which utilize the High-Low Propulsion System
High-Low System
The High-Low system also referred to as the "High-Low Pressure system", the "High-Low Propulsion System", and the "High-Low projection system", is a design of cannon and antitank launcher using a smaller high-pressure chamber for storing the propellant...

 to keep recoil forces low. Though versatile, and compatible with many rifle models, the M203 was originally designed for the U.S. M16
M16 rifle
The M16 is the United States military designation for the AR-15 rifle adapted for both semi-automatic and full-automatic fire. Colt purchased the rights to the AR-15 from ArmaLite, and currently uses that designation only for semi-automatic versions of the rifle. The M16 fires the 5.56×45mm NATO...

 and its variant, the 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,...

. The launcher can also be mounted onto a C7, a Canadian version of the M16 rifle which requires the bottom handguard on the rifle to be removed in order to mount the launcher.

Stand-alone variants of the M203 exist, as do versions designed specifically for many other rifles.
Encyclopedia
The M203 is a single shot 40 mm
40 mm grenade
The 40mm grenade is a military grenade caliber for grenade launchers in service with many armed forces. There are two main types in service: the 40×46mm, which is a low-velocity round used in hand-held grenade launchers; and the high-velocity 40×53mm, used in mounted and crew-served weapons. The...

 grenade launcher
Grenade launcher
A grenade launcher or grenade discharger is a weapon that launches a grenade with more accuracy, higher velocity, and to greater distances than a soldier could throw it by hand....

 designed to attach to a rifle. It uses the same rounds as the older 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...

 break-action grenade launcher, which utilize the High-Low Propulsion System
High-Low System
The High-Low system also referred to as the "High-Low Pressure system", the "High-Low Propulsion System", and the "High-Low projection system", is a design of cannon and antitank launcher using a smaller high-pressure chamber for storing the propellant...

 to keep recoil forces low. Though versatile, and compatible with many rifle models, the M203 was originally designed for the U.S. M16
M16 rifle
The M16 is the United States military designation for the AR-15 rifle adapted for both semi-automatic and full-automatic fire. Colt purchased the rights to the AR-15 from ArmaLite, and currently uses that designation only for semi-automatic versions of the rifle. The M16 fires the 5.56×45mm NATO...

 and its variant, the 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,...

. The launcher can also be mounted onto a C7, a Canadian version of the M16 rifle which requires the bottom handguard on the rifle to be removed in order to mount the launcher.

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
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...

. 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.

History

The M203 was the only part of the army's Special Purpose Individual Weapon
Special Purpose Individual Weapon
The Special Purpose Individual Weapon was a long-running United States Army program to develop, in part, a workable flechette-based "rifle", though other concepts were also involved...

 (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 older M79 grenade launcher
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...

 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 40mm 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 USMC, USAF, and US Navy will continue to use the older M203. 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.

Uses

The M203 grenade launcher was intended to be used as close fire support for point and group area targets. The round is designed to be effective at penetrating windows, blowing up doors, producing casualties in groups of enemies, destroying bunkers, and damaging or disabling soft-skinned vehicles. Its primary purpose is to engage enemies in dead space that cannot be reached by direct fire. A well-trained M203 gunner can also use his weapon to suppress the enemy, both from movement and sight. In addition, the M203 can be used as a crowd control weapon when equipped with the M651 Tactical CS grenade. The M203 is not intended to be used against armored or heavy vehicles.

Rounds


The M203 is able to fire a variety of different rounds for many purposes.
According to the U.S. ARMY FIELD MANUAL FM 3-22.32 40-MM GRENADE LAUNCHER, M203, there are 8 different rounds for the M203:

(1) (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.

(2) (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.

(3) (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.

(4) (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.

(5) (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.

(6) (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.

(7) (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.

(8) (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 at least 2,000 pellets, which cast a cone of fire 30 meters wide and 30 meters high and travel at 269 meters per second. Be sure to aim buckshot rounds at the foot of the target (because, soldiers tends to shoot over the heads of more distant targets). The round has no mechanical-type fuse.

Components

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
Picatinny rail
The Picatinny rail or MIL-STD-1913 rail or STANAG 2324 rail or a "Tactical Rail" is a bracket used on some firearms in order to provide a standardized mounting platform. A similar system is the Weaver rail mount.-Description:...

, or to the carrying handle of an M16 rifle.

Variants

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 (armorer level) attachment to the M16A1
M16 rifle
The M16 is the United States military designation for the AR-15 rifle adapted for both semi-automatic and full-automatic fire. Colt purchased the rights to the AR-15 from ArmaLite, and currently uses that designation only for semi-automatic versions of the rifle. The M16 fires the 5.56×45mm NATO...

, M16A2
M16 rifle
The M16 is the United States military designation for the AR-15 rifle adapted for both semi-automatic and full-automatic fire. Colt purchased the rights to the AR-15 from ArmaLite, and currently uses that designation only for semi-automatic versions of the rifle. The M16 fires the 5.56×45mm NATO...

 and M16A3
M16 rifle
The M16 is the United States military designation for the AR-15 rifle adapted for both semi-automatic and full-automatic fire. Colt purchased the rights to the AR-15 from ArmaLite, and currently uses that designation only for semi-automatic versions of the rifle. The M16 fires the 5.56×45mm NATO...

 rifles, and utilizes a 12 inch rifled barrel. These can also be attached to M4
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,...

 and M4A1 carbines, using a different front attachment point forward of the front sight block, but the SOPMOD kit uses M203A1 grenade launchers.

The American M203A1 is intended for use with the M4
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,...

 and M4A1
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,...

 Carbine. The barrel is shortened to 9 inches, and principally the M203A1 QD is able to quickly detach from the rifle, and be replaced by a Knight's Armament Company M4 Rail Adapter System lower handguard. An advantage of using a 40 mm grenade launcher on an assault rifle equipped with MIL-STD 1913 Rails is the use of various range-finding optics.

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 forward further than the standard American models to allow 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 M16A4 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. Again, an advantage of this system is the usage 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
Steyr AUG
The AUG is an Austrian bullpup 5.56mm assault rifle, designed in the early 1970s by Steyr Mannlicher GmbH & Co KG . The AUG was adopted by the Austrian Army as the StG 77 in 1977, where it replaced the 7.62mm StG 58 automatic rifle...

, Heckler & Koch G3
Heckler & Koch G3
The G3 is a 7.62mm battle rifle developed in the 1950s by the German armament manufacturer Heckler & Koch GmbH in collaboration with the Spanish state-owned design and development agency CETME ....

 and other rifles, and even the MP5 sub-machine gun
Heckler & Koch MP5
The Heckler & Koch MP5 is a 9mm submachine gun of German design, developed in the 1960s by a team of engineers from the German small arms manufacturer Heckler & Koch GmbH of Oberndorf am Neckar....

. 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
Illinois
Illinois is the fifth-most populous state of the United States of America, and is often noted for being a microcosm of the entire country. With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in central and northern Illinois, and natural resources like coal,...

 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 USA and abroad, and for foreign military sales by RM-Equipment Inc. of Miami, Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

.

Users

: M203PI variant.: M203PI variant.: Canadian Forces
Canadian Forces
The Canadian Forces , officially the Canadian Armed Forces , are the unified armed forces of Canada, as constituted by the National Defence Act, which states: "The Canadian Forces are the armed forces of Her Majesty raised by Canada and consist of one Service called the Canadian Armed Forces."...

.: Bushmaster M203 used with the Bushmaster M4A3 carbine issued to Czech special forces.: Used on M4A1.: M203PI variant. Also created by the Floro International Corporation
Floro International Corporation
Floro International Corporation is a Philippine company that produces a wide range of products for both the Philippine and export market.The company provides document conversion services and is ISO 9001 certified in the field of microfilming, digitizing, and indexing.They have gained some renown...

 as the FIC M203 in 2008.: A locally-manufactured clone, designated K201, is deployed on the K2 assault rifle
Daewoo K2
The Daewoo Precision Industries K2 is an assault rifle of the Republic of Korea Armed Forces, manufactured by Daewoo Precision Industries. It is a shoulder-fired, gas-operated, selective-fire assault rifle that feeds from a 20 or 30 round magazine and is chambered for 5.56 NATO. The K2 replaced the...

.: Special Air Service

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
National Firearms Act
The National Firearms Act , 73rd Congress, Sess. 2, ch. 757, , enacted on June 26, 1934, currently codified as amended as , is an Act of Congress that, in general, imposes a statutory excise tax on the manufacture and transfer of certain firearms and mandates the registration of those firearms. The...

 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 relatively common on the civilian NFA market. New M203s sell for approximately $1,750 to $2,000 plus a $200 transfer tax, and new manufacture 40mm training ammunition is available for $8 to $10 per cartridge, as of March 2008. 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, that will allow the use of standard 12 gauge shotgun shells and .22 Rimfire ammo.

Data

The following technical data for the M203/M203A1 grenade launcher comes directly from the U.S. ARMY FIELD MANUAL FM 3-22.32 40-MM GRENADE LAUNCHER, M203.
  • a. Weapon.
    • Length:
      • Rifle and grenade launcher (overall)......................99.0 cm (39 inches)
      • Barrel only................................................................30.5 cm (12 inches)
    • Rifling.............................................................................25.4 cm (10 inches)
    • Weight:
      • 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
    • Sights:
      • Front..........................................................................Leaf sight assembly
      • Rear...........................................................................Quadrant sight
    • Chamber pressure.........................................................206,325 kilopascals (35,000 psi)
    • Muzzle velocity..............................................................76 mps (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)
    • 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
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,...

.


The 40 mm grenades used in the M203 (40 × 46 mm) are not the same as in the Mk 19 grenade launcher
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:...

 (40 × 53 mm), which are fired at a higher velocity)

See also



Other under-barrel grenade launchers
  • 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...

     - 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
    MEI HELLHOUND
    The MEI HELLHOUND 40 mm Low Velocity Multi-Purpose Grenade is a fixed type ammunition designed to be fired from a 40 mm Grenade Launcher such as the M79, M203, M320 , or Milkor MK-1...

     - 40mm ammunition development
  • GP-25 - 40mm under-barrel grenade launcher for Kalashnikov
    AK-47
    The AK-47 is a selective-fire, gas-operated 7.62×39mm assault rifle, first developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov. It is officially known as Avtomat Kalashnikova . It is also known as a Kalashnikov, an "AK", or in Russian slang, Kalash.Design work on the AK-47 began in the last year...

     series rifles


Related
  • KAC Masterkey
    KAC Masterkey
    The Masterkey is a door breaching shotgun system manufactured by Knight's Armament Company.The Masterkey project was initiated during the 1980s to provide assault rifles with a potent built-in door breaching tool. Individual soldiers were often forced to carry a breaching shotgun in addition to...

     - under-barrel shotgun
  • M26 Modular Accessory Shotgun System (MASS) - under-barrel shotgun

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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