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The United States Marine Corps is pushing to roll out the service’s new grenade launcher. The new M320 grenade launcher will be better than the previous launcher in pretty much every way. The new grenade launcher can be attached to the bottom of an M4A1 rifle or fired independently as a standalone weapon.
The United States military has been relying on the older M203 grenade launcher for decades. The M203, which is fitted to be attached underneath an M16 or M4 rifle, has made it possible for soldiers to fire grenades to distances up to 350 meters. Unlike its predecessor, the M79, Popularmechanics.com reports that the M203 gave soldiers the capability to use both a grenade launcher and a rifle.
It took the United States military a long time to replace the older M203. Only in 2009 did the United States Army begin deploying the M320. The Marines first got it in 2017.
The M320 rounds are loaded to the M320 from the side of the weapon. The older M203 launcher is loaded from the bottom of the weapon which would make it difficult to load when in a prone position. Furthermore, loading rounds from the side decrease the probability of a dud round falling out of the weapon near the operator’s feet. The M320 is capable of firing a wider variety of grenade types including flare and illumination grenades.
The new launcher is also capable of launching the new Pike laser-guided grenade. The laser-guided projectile is most effective against enemy personnel and vehicles at ranges up to two kilometers. The Pike is also capable of being launched through windows and doorways, making it possible to target enemies hiding behind cover.
The United States Marine Corps is planning to issue one new M320 grenade launcher for every infantry fire team, or three launchers for each 13-man infantry squad. The Marines are planning to equip all Marine infantry battalions with the new launcher by the year 2021, with plans for the entire service to switch to the new M320 by the year 2024.