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Launcher, Grenade, 40mm,
M203 1
(dismounted)
Type Grenade launcher
Place of origin United States
Service history
In service 1969–present [1]
Used by See Users
Wars Vietnam War-present
Production history
Designer AAI
Designed 1967–68
Manufacturer Colt Defense
Diemaco
Airtronic USA
RM Equipment
U.S. Ordnance
Unit cost US$1,082[2]
Variants See Variants
Specifications
Weight 3 lb (1.36 kg) (unloaded)
Length 15 in (380mm)
Barrel length 12 in (305mm)

Cartridge 40x46mm SR
Action Single shot
Rate of fire 5 to 7 round/min
Muzzle velocity 250 ft/s (76 m/s)
Effective range 160 yd (150 m)
Maximum range 1,312 ft (400 m)
Sights Quadrant sight or ladder sight on rifle
M430a1

Diagram of a High-Explosive Dual Purpose grenade.

US Navy 040529-N-8796S-043 40mm Practice grenades are lined up for loading

40mm Practice grenades

40mm casing, inside

Inside view of a spent casing for a 40mm grenade, showing the internal pressure chamber for the high-low pressure system.

M16 M203 40mm ammunition

An M16A2 rifle equipped with an M203 grenade launcher lies in the grass near some of the types of 40 mm ammunition available for use with the M203. The cartidges are, from left to right, multiple projectile, practice, green star flare, white star flare, red star flare and high explosive.

US Navy 080806-N-7730P-202 Aviation Electronic's Technician 3rd Class Awail Hassen loads a high explosive point detonated 40MM grenade round into an M203 grenade launcher

Navy sailor loading M203 with a high explosive round

Loading M203

Loading an M203 attached to an M16A1 with a practice round.

M16A2 M203

A U.S. Marine takes aim with an M16A2 fitted with the M203 40 mm grenade launcher.

Austeyr F88 M203

An Australian F88 Austeyr rifle with a short barreled M203 grenade launcher.

India Para

Israeli Tavor rifle in service with the Indian Army.

ROK marines with K2 rifles DM-SD-03-14422

South Korean Daewoo K2 rifle w/ K201.

US Navy 101016-N-0475R-992 Steelworker 3rd Class Jesus Bridges, a Seabee assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 5

M4 carbine w/ M203A1 (9" barrel), US Navy Seabees in Afghanistan 2010.

M4m203 afmil

M4A1 with an M203

M16a2m203 afmil

M16A2 with an M203

M203 Shooting

Range qualification with a M203.

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 originally designed for the U.S. M16 and its variant, the M4 Carbine. 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. 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.

HistoryEdit

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[1] and was introduced to U.S. military forces during the early 1970s, replacing the older 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 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.Script error[citation needed] 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.[3]

UsesEdit

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.

RoundsEdit

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.[4]

(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.[5]

(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.[6]

(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.[7]

(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.[8]

(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.[9]

(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.[10]

(8) (M576)[11] 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. The round has no mechanical-type fuse.[12]

ComponentsEdit

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.

VariantsEdit

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, M16A2 and M16A3 rifles, and utilizes a 12 inch rifled barrel. These can also be attached to M4 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 and M4A1 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.[13] The weapon's 9 inch barrel slides forward further than the standard American models to allow longer rounds to be loaded.[13] This model is identifiable by the increased distance between the grenade launcher's barrel axis and the rifle's.[13] 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, 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 USA and abroad, and for foreign military sales by RM-Equipment Inc. of Miami, Florida.

Civilian ownership in the United StatesEdit

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,[14] 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[15] and .22 Rimfire ammo.[16]

DataEdit

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.

The 40 mm grenades used in the M203 (40 × 46 mm) are not the same as in the Mk 19 grenade launcher (40 × 53 mm), which are fired at a higher velocity)

ReferencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 http://web.archive.org/web/20070604003700/http://www.hk-usa.com/le_xm320_general.html
  2. M203 40mm Grenade Launcher.
  3. Script error
  4. U.S. ARMY FIELD MANUAL FM 3-22.32 40-MM GRENADE LAUNCHER, M203...page 3-8
  5. U.S. ARMY FIELD MANUAL FM 3-22.32 40-MM GRENADE LAUNCHER, M203...page 3-9
  6. U.S. ARMY FIELD MANUAL FM 3-22.32 40-MM GRENADE LAUNCHER, M203...page 3-9
  7. U.S. ARMY FIELD MANUAL FM 3-22.32 40-MM GRENADE LAUNCHER, M203...page 3-10
  8. U.S. ARMY FIELD MANUAL FM 3-22.32 40-MM GRENADE LAUNCHER, M203...page 3-10
  9. U.S. ARMY FIELD MANUAL FM 3-22.32 40-MM GRENADE LAUNCHER, M203...page 3-11
  10. U.S. ARMY FIELD MANUAL FM 3-22.32 40-MM GRENADE LAUNCHER, M203...page 3-11 & 3-12
  11. http://fliiby.com/file/34541/k2reiane1b.html
  12. U.S. ARMY FIELD MANUAL FM 3-22.32 40-MM GRENADE LAUNCHER, M203...page 3-12
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Diemaco M203A1. Retrieved on January 5, 2008.
  14. ATF NFA Handbook, Chapter 2.
  15. http://www.mr40mm.com/index_files/Page712.htm
  16. http://www.mr40mm.com/products

External links Edit

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