Weapons: Brits Buy Better Grenade Launcher



November 29, 2008: The British. Army has adopted the German designed AG36 40mm grenade launcher, as the L17A1. The U.S. earlier adopted a version of this as the M320 grenade launcher. Both grenade launchers fit under the barrel of an assault rifle (and similar weapons) , and weapons like have been in use for forty years, most famously as the U.S. M203. The AG36 is similar to the M203, but is easier to use, has its own pistol grip, is more accurate and can be used separately from an assault rifle with the addition of a stock. The new launcher can also be reloaded while the user is prone, because it slides to the side, rather than down, for reloading.

The biggest improvement with the AG36 is its sighting system, which features a laser range finder. At night, an infrared range finder enables a soldier wearing night vision goggles to see the light beam. The M320s sighting system has proved to be much more accurate than the older M203. This was particularly the case with new users. With the M203, you got better after you had fired a hundred or so rounds. That took time, and was expensive (the 40mm grenades cost about $28 each). The 40mm grenades weigh 19 ounces each and have a range of about 400 meters. The grenade explosion can kill within five meters, and wound up to ten meters or more.

Users of the AG36 and M320 are also getting longer range 40mm grenades, giving the weapon an effective range of 800 meters. The U.S. SOCOM (Special Operations Command) uses a variant of the AG36. The M320 was developed from the AG36, so the two are not identical. Both weigh about 3.3 pounds.