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Weapons: Bring Back the Thump Gun
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January 29, 2008:  Convoy operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have revealed some weapons to be more suitable for that kind of combat, than others. In particular, the troops like the Mk19 automatic grenade launcher. This weapon can fire 40mm grenades, out to about 2,000 meters, at a rate of 5-6 per second. When you have a bunch of people shooting at you, and you are not sure exactly where they are, the Mk19 is an excellent weapon for covering lots of ground with exploding grenades. Each 40mm, one pound,  grenade can kill people within five meters of the explosion, and wound out to fifteen meters. For an ambush, wounding the attackers is sufficient to weaken, and eventually shut down, the gunfire coming at you. The only problem is that this kind of fire requires an experienced operator, and careful maintenance of the relatively complex and temperamental Mk19.

 

Automatic grenade launchers, firing low speed 30-40mm shells, became popular in the 1960s when the usefulness of the American single shot M79 40mm grenade launcher was noted. Many troops today want the M79 back. But back then, Russia and the United States proceeded to develop automatic grenade launchers. This was actually the second generation, as the Russians originally developed such weapons in the 1930s. By 1939 the Russian Navy was testing a 40.8mm weapon, and the army followed a year later. The 21 ounce shells were based on the Djakonow rifle grenade and were fired at 400 feet per second (about 40 percent the speed of a pistol bullet) for a maximum range of 1200 meters. The weapon weighed 53 pounds and was used in the 1940 Winter War with Finland. For political reasons (the weapons designer fell out of favor), the weapon was withdrawn from service before the Germans invaded in 1941 and was forgotten. This sort of thing happens a lot.

 

In 1965, the U.S. developed and put into service the M18 40mm automatic grenade launcher. This weapon used the same 40mm round as the M79. The 19 pound M18 used a hand crank to load rounds (from a belt). Work on this weapon actually began in 1962, but it took the popularity of the M79 in Vietnam to spur production. Some 1200 M18s were built through 1968, and it was a popular weapon on U.S. Navy river patrol boats, where ambushes were frequently encountered. Starting in 1966, the M18 was replaced by the heavier M19 that was truly automatic, but weighed 75 pounds. This was also developed by the U.S. Navy. Russia followed in 1974 with the AGS17, a 30mm grenade launcher weighing the same as the M19, but firing a ten ounce shell instead of the 16 ounce 40mm shell used in American weapons.

 

Dozens of countries now build weapons using the 40mm (and 30-35mm as well) shells. Unlike the original 1930s weapon, the modern ones operate at lower velocities (usually 250-300 feet per second). Despite the clumsiness of the M203 40mm grenade launcher (fitted beneath the M-16s barrel), the 40mm grenade remains useful, and popular, in combat. Many countries still make stand alone launchers, often with a six round revolver design. These weigh under fifteen pounds, but do not allow the user to immediately switch to rifle fire, as with the M203. These 40mm "six guns" are also considered clumsy to carry and use. Looks great in movies, but the combat troops would rather have an M79, also known as the "thump gun," for the characteristic sound it made when fired.

 

American troops want the M79 back  because it is more accurate than the M203. They also note that the U.S. Army Special Forces still uses M79s, which have been scrounged from stockpiles of retired, but not yet destroyed, weapons. The M79 is pretty simple, since it's basically a six pound, single shot, shotgun that fires 40mm grenades instead of shot. In the hands of an experienced operator, the M79 can put those 40mm grenades on any target within 300 meters. Very handy, since it can reach enemy troops behind cover or inside rooms (if an open window is available. )

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gunnyf58    News To Me!   1/29/2008 1:29:48 PM
I was in the Marine Corps from '69 to '90 and the M79 was very popular with us for about half my career; 'till they came up with that POS M203.  However, in all the time I carried or had a grenadier (no longer part of a USMC fireteam) carry the M79, it was called the "Blooper", 'cause that's how it sounds.  I never heard it called a "Thump Gun".  Maybe "Blooper" was just a Marine Corps thing.
 
Semper Fi
GunnyF58
 
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Vulture       1/29/2008 2:52:44 PM
ok why no love for the xm25 then?  It was delivered for testing to the Army almost 3 years ago.  you would think a semi-auto design with SOTA targeting would be encouraged.
 
Although a m-79 is inepensive.
 
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Mike From Brielle    Gunny   1/29/2008 7:13:58 PM
Same here I always thought of it as the Blooper
 
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smitty237    Thumper   1/30/2008 1:26:26 AM
I've heard of the M-79 referred to as "the thumper", but maybe that's an Army thing. 
 
Anyway, the reintroduction of the M-79 would probably be a good thing, but I would improve on it.  I would eliminate the wooden stock (which was prone to warping and damage) and replace it with a synthetic stock.  Then I would make sure to design the weapon so that advanced sighting systems could be attached.  As a fan of grenade launchers, I would wholeheartedly advocate the reintroduction of a weapon similar to the M-79.  However.......................
 
There are reasons that the US military adopted the M-203.  First of all, the M-79 is very limited in close combat situations.  For safety reasons the grenade rounds have to travel a certain distance before they "arm", lest they blow up the grenadier if they impact too close.  At close range a 40mm will kill an enemy without blowing up, but if you miss the only purpose the M-79 will serve in close combat is as a club.  In Vietnam many M-79 grenadiers were issued M-1911A1s as back up weapons, but these are practical at ranges of 25m or less.  Issuing grenadiers rifles was impractical because it forced them to lug around two long guns requiring two different kinds of ammo.  The M-16/203 combo allowed grenadiers to carry a weapon capable of engaging individual targets while at the same time launching grenades in a specific target such as a window, or at an area target. 
 
The issue that any M-16/203 grenadier would share with you was that a full combat load of 210 M-16 rounds and 18 40mm rounds is damn heavy.  I guess you could compensate for that somewhat by issuing M-79 grenadiers PDWs, which are lighter than full sized rifles, but still forces the grenadier to carry around two different weapons and two different kinds of ammo.  Of course that opens the discussion on the limitations of PDWs, but that's another thread................ 
 
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WarNerd       1/30/2008 3:12:41 AM

American troops want the M79 back  because it is more accurate than the M203. They also note that the U.S. Army Special Forces still uses M79s, which have been scrounged from stockpiles of retired, but not yet destroyed, weapons. The M79 is pretty simple, since it's basically a six pound, single shot, shotgun that fires 40mm grenades instead of shot. In the hands of an experienced operator, the M79 can put those 40mm grenades on any target within 300 meters. Very handy, since it can reach enemy troops behind cover or inside rooms (if an open window is available. )

Sounds to me like the need is for better sights than on the M203.  Would the XM-320 be any better?
 
Also, any weapon with a high trajectory like a grenade launcher benefits from a range finder.  Check this out possibility http://www.dtic.mil/ndia/2007smallarms/5_10_07/Arvidsson_Per.pdf.
 
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Vulture       1/30/2008 9:54:18 AM
ok why no love for the xm25 then?  It was delivered for testing to the Army almost 3 years ago.  you would think a semi-auto design with SOTA targeting would be encouraged.
 
Although a m-79 is inepensive.
 
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Tiber1       1/31/2008 1:25:17 AM
I loved the 203. Was a blast! Sure carrying an extra 18 rounds of 40mm was a pain, but nothing campared to the addition of the platoon radio and all it's batteries or any of the other weight a grunt has to carry. IMHO the only real negatives were it's limited breech opening & the crappy add-on sight, but those issues is solved in the m320.
 
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Yimmy       1/31/2008 9:05:28 AM
You don't need a rifle or PDW with the grenade launcher.  Just issue the grenadier some fletchette or buckshot grenades.
 
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Horsesoldier       1/31/2008 9:54:30 AM

You don't need a rifle or PDW with the grenade launcher.  Just issue the grenadier some fletchette or buckshot grenades.



Doesn't work that well in practice with a single shot grenade launcher.  You've got one shot that may or may not hit a guy even at close range (the anti-personnel rounds they had for the 79 had problems with patterning).  Then you're done unless someone else steps up and puts the bad guy down.
 
 
This article, like most here, isn't terribly well written or thought out.  The M79 isn't more accurate than the M203 (particularly not with the new fire control systems) -- it's handier, and you're not stuck lugging around the grenade launcher portion of your combination weapon when it's time to kick doors, etc.  Taking a single shot grenade launcher to an assault rifle fight is not a winning proposition, though, in a one on one sense.
 
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larryjcr    Not so fast   1/31/2008 10:50:37 AM




You don't need a rifle or PDW with the grenade launcher.  Just issue the grenadier some fletchette or buckshot grenades.





Doesn't work that well in practice with a single shot grenade launcher.  You've got one shot that may or may not hit a guy even at close range (the anti-personnel rounds they had for the 79 had problems with patterning).  Then you're done unless someone else steps up and puts the bad guy down.

 

 

This article, like most here, isn't terribly well written or thought out.  The M79 isn't more accurate than the M203 (particularly not with the new fire control systems) -- it's handier, and you're not stuck lugging around the grenade launcher portion of your combination weapon when it's time to kick doors, etc.  Taking a single shot grenade launcher to an assault rifle fight is not a winning proposition, though, in a one on one sense.


I spent a year in Viet Nam, and had plenty of opportunity to use an M79.  I've handled, but not used, early models of the M203.  I found the '203 really clumbsy to reload compared to the 79.  A skillful grenadier with a 79 could keep a couple of shells in the air as long as he had ammo.  Try that with a 203.  Accuracy was NOT a problem.  Assuming the '203 was properly mounted, accuracy would be totally dependant on the sight provided and the skill of the grenadier.  Within 350m's the accuracy of the 79 was just about fiendish.
The 'shot-shells' did, indeed, have a patterning problem, but within the minimum range of the explosive loads, it would be pretty rare to entirely miss a man-sized target, and no doubt something better could be provided today.
I spent much of my time doing convoy escorts where carrying plenty of ammo was not a problem, we carried it by the can rather than the round, and everyone had an M16, including the grenadier and the M60 gunner.
There was only one real problem with the M79, and that was that the guy who carried it tended to draw a lot of extra fire.  The little guys on the other side REALLY didn't like them.
 
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