How are grenade launchers used in combat?

My knowledge of them comes mainly from fiction: playing Half-Life for example; but these weapons seem to be practically the most devastatingly powerful ordinance a foot solider can wield (not counting one-shot antitank rockets or shoulder launched SAMs). Especially multiple-round versions such as the one featured in the Predator movie. I gather that they’re useful enough that many (most?) infantry now have a rifle/launcher combo as their main weapon, and that the future version will have the option of setting the projectiles to detonate at a predetermined distance.

How are they used in real life? What’s the range? Are they kept loaded or are they only loaded immediately prior to shooting? How are serious accidents with them prevented? What are the doctrines of when and how to use them? Would all the infantry in a unit have them or only designated specialists? Have they ever been used in non-military situations by criminals?

Try here for the answer to most of your questions. Orhere. Or here.

AFAIK, they have never fallen into the hands of civilians, at least in this country. I can’t swear about Columbia.

Well Lumpy, when I was in the army we had M203 grenade launchers. They can be used in either direct fire mode or indirect mode. They had several types of rounds HE or High Explosive, AP flechette anti-personel, Incindiary and smoke rounds. Pretty good for opening doors and lobbing through windows. Not so good against tanks. They are difficult to aim especially in indirect mode ie over a building. The M203 is mounted under a M16. Back in vietnam it was a stand alone model designated M49.

They are single shot but SF has a multi shot version. The range varies by type of ammunition. When I was in the army I think most infantry had at least one per squad and a few more in a special weapons squad that usually had a few M60 machine guns and some even had a few 60 mm Light mortars attached. FOr indirect fire the light mortars are much more devastating and for direct fire the machine guns were more efective. The grenade launcher was a tool like all the other weapons not particularly devastating but it had its uses.

I got out of the army over 15 years ago so some of the info may be out of date. Im sure others can correct me but I think it is fairly accurate.

If I recall correctly, the M203, Eagle II, and other launchers typically used by Western armies has a range of upwards of 200 metres with some ammunition, although the accuracy goes pretty bad at that range.

They’re loaded prior to shooting, unless you want to blow yourself up.

Historically only designated specialists would carry them.

They can be used a lot of different ways, since you don’t just use them for frag grenades; smoke grenades, for instance, would be a common form of use.

Grenade launchers are generally used as indirect fire weapons. Their loopy trajectory are handy for attacking targets hidden behind walls. You just drop the grenade in on their heads. Snipers, machine guns and so on.

In addition, they are a great way to lay smoke at a distance. Pop a few between you and them before you cross a danger area.

An overlooked technique I prefer is to mass the fire of GLs. Three or four grenades at once seem to have a major impact. Just a little trick I picked up on the way.

In the US Army, GLs are issued at two per squad (one per team), meaning you have the same number of GLs as you do SAWs; view them as complimentary systems.

Does that help?

One important thing to remember – at least about the M203 (I can’t vouch for other launchers) – is that you can’t just stick a grenade in and fire. You have to unload your rifle of the regular 0.56mm full-metal-jacket clip, grab your handy “launching bullets” clip (more gunpowder and no actual bullet – the casing is covered over with some kind of thin weather-proofing veneer) and load it, then fire.
Once you’re finished, you have to do the reverse set of actions to become a useful infantry soldier (i.e., one with a functioning gun) again.

So – nice tool in the right hands (mostly by that I mean the commander giving the orders), but of limited usefulness in a sudden clash – you have to have your specialist ready, with the right munition loaded, and you pretty much lose him as a frontline combatant for as long as he’s playing grenadier.

Noone Special:

I think you are thinking of the rifle grenades used in WWII. The M203 mounts under an M-16 and fires grenades that are designed to be fired by a grenade launcher.

Having recently completed army basic training I can tell you that an M203 requires a significant amount of training to be used effectively. I certainly would not want to have to attempt to used one with the one day class I got in basic.

I’m thinking of the M203. Yes, the grenade goes into its own mount under the nozzle, but I’m pretty sure you still need to replace your magazine – I don’t remember the 203 munitions having their own charge or the launcher having a separate trigger, for that matter.
It has been 20+ years and I’m working from memory, so I may be wrong :o

The M-16 can also fire grenades that fit on its regular nozzle – those supposedly have at least some armor-piercing capability (you’re supposed to be able to use them against some of the lesser APC-s), and yes, they are completely different animlas – you don’t need an M203 launcher add-on to use them, for starters, although they, too, require using special ordinance for shooting them – in fact, shooting one of those off using a regular bullet is extremely dangerous (as you’d be shooting the bullet itself right through the tail of the grenade in that case, unlike what happens with the M203)

We had the M79 in VN. It was designed to cover the gap between a hand grenade and the mortar. It’s primarily an anti-personnel weapon, but may be used to fire smoke grenades to mark a target, an LZ, or other signal purposes, mainly to aircraft.
They also had a “fleshette” round that could be used for direct fire at the enemy. It had a plastic nose which fell away on firing, allowing a couple dozen small metal darts to spread out, much like a shotgun. In fact the M79 resembles a sawed off shotgun w/ a huge barrel diameter, here’s a pic:
I made several trips up and down the Mekong on small landing/cargo type craft and we would use a 79 to shoot at clumps of flotsam. The VC would sometimes plant contact explosives in the flotsam and the theory was that an HE round going off in, or near, the clumps would detonate any potential threat before the boat reached it. Smaller, more maneuverable boats could just avoid the flotsam, but we often couldn’t. I never had a secondary, but I’ve seen them, it’s pretty sobering to think how close you came.
The launch attachments for the M16 came out near the end of the war. I’ve seen them, but never fired one and, as I recall, they weren’t very popular w/ the troops.
One of the problems w/ the 79, and I presume other launchers, was the clumsiness of carrying extra ammo. The rounds are large, they came in nylon bandoleers which were awkward to carry on the march. If you had the rifle mounted launcher, that meant carrying ammo for both weapons. Not a popular idea for the average G.I.
The 79 was an effective and intimidating weapon though.

Noone Special, I must insist you are mistaken. The M-203 is a 40mm tube slung under the rifle. It does not impact the ability to fire the rifle. The grenades come as cartridges, they do not use the 5.56 round for anything at all. The two systems are quite separate.

The M-16 series was once advertised as being able to handle ‘bullet trap’ rifle grenades. To the best of my knowledge (and I ought to know) the US has never fielded any bullet-trap rifle grenade. (As a cynic, I would question if the locking bolts of the M-16 family could handle the pressure, but then again I am a pessimist.)

All in all, the M-203 + M-4 carbine is quite a system. Still as said, it is nearly impossible to hump the 40 rounds of 40mm that was (may still be) the basic load.

Sorry, Dani, but you’re wrong - you’re thinking of the “RARNAT”, or rifle grenade (which were still being used by the IDF 10 years ago). The M-203 has its own charge, and its own seperate trigger and safety. Not only do you not have to replace your magazine, the M-16 mag is actually used as a “pistol grip” for firing the launcher.

Anyway… the granade launcher. Has two seperate modes of operation - deirect and indirect fire - and two seperate aiming mechnisms. The direct fire sights are located on top of the barrel, and are folded down when not in use (they’re big and rough and they’d block the regular gusights if they stayed up). The indirect sights are complex folding affairs attached to the side of the rifle’s barrel; they’re often not installed at all, and aimining is done by feel. Either way, they’re not very accurate.

In all, the M-203 is not a veryaccurate weapon. It fires large, blunt shells from a relatively short barrel, with innacurate sights and massive recoil. It takes a lot of practice to actually hit anything, and even then, the best you can hope for is, say, to hit the side of a truck at 100 metersusing direct fire, or to hit the general vicinity of a truck at 200 metee using indirect fire.

As to ammunition, well, supposedly it’s called the M-203 because it originally had 203 types of ammo (that very well be an urban legend). These are the ones I’m familiar with:

  1. AP - this is basically a very fast hand grenade. It’s used in situations where you’d want to throw a grenade relatively far at something righ in front of you, without exposing too much of you’re body (a problem with hand-thrown grenades). Used as part of the main infantry “volume of fire”, alongside a machinegun. Also used for indirect fire - wimpier than a morter, but takes less time to set up.

  2. AT - used to punch through through stuff. Probably the weakest armor piercing round out there, but still good for blowing up jeeps, doors, and small bunkers; not a bad antipersonnel weapon, either.

  3. Flair - Possibly the main use of the granade launcher, at least in the days before ubiquitous nigh vision devices. I remember when the radiomen attached to company commanders and higher would have an M-203 and a vest full of flairs - their job being to provide their officers with occasional daylight.

  4. Bouncing - AP rounds that would hit the ground, bounce up and burst over the enemy’s heads… supposedly. God knows if they worked. We never had enough for training.

  5. Shotgun - basically, a large-caliber shotgun shell in a discarding sabot. We used to call them “ambush rounds”, because that’s what they were mainly used for (in an ambush, it’s helpful to be able to release a large amount of lead in the air at very short range). Also useful fo close quarters battle.

We never had smoke.

One cool thing M-203 gunners got was a dedicated vest - it had tons of little pouches for individual rounds, along with retractible canvas belts for additional ammo. The IDF is really good when it comes to designing these sorts of cool contraptions (although it’s less good at issuing enough of them).

I stand corrected. I blame the onset of senility :o

Yup. This is the part that jogged my memory – and I was definitely conflating the M203 with what we called the RARNAT (what the #$%^ is it called in English, anyway? Y’know – those things with fins and a hole in the back that fit onto the barrel of a stock M-16?)

This’ll show me to stick my nose into a discussion when I’m going on barely-remembered training from the early 1980’s… (yeah, I’m getting old)
Now that I got the right fact to poke my brain with… it’s coming back – I remember firing the damn thing, too. Quite a kick if you held it wrong (plenty of kids ended up with a bruised sholder that day), and it took a very good eye (and some luck) to hit the proverbial barn door at 10 paces…

“Rifle grenades” - obsolete, but still pretty cool. They were fired with those special high-powered blank rounds (I have no idea what THOSE are called in English); RARNATists would carry around these little 20-round magazines full of them and switch before firing. That’s probably what got you confused - that, and the Alzheimers, of course. :wink:

Those would be the ones – “Takhmish.” No, I have no idea what they are in English, either.

I was confused about something!? What were we talking about…? :smiley:

Maybe not real 40mm grenade launchers, but US civilians can buy 37mm [del]grenade[/del] flare/bird bomb launchers!
Lots of disturbing reading .

CMC fnord!