U.S. Marine Corps Begins Fielding New M320A1 Grenade Launcher

The U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) has begun fielding its new M320A1 single-shot 40 mm grenade launcher which will replace the service’s M203A2 under-barrel grenade launcher (UBGL).

The M320A1 is a single-fire system that can be employed as a stand-alone weapon or mounted onto another, such as the Marines’ M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle (IAR) which based on the Heckler & Koch HK416 rifle.

The M320 is based on the earlier Heckler & Koch AG-C, but with some U.S.-specific modifications. It includes a folding foregrip and a shorter barrel for a more compact package. The sights had to be reconfigured to shoot accurately with the slightly different ballistics from the shorter barrel length.

The predecessor of M320A1, M203, is a single-shot 40 mm under-barrel grenade launcher designed to attach to a rifle and is not primarily intended as a stand-alone weapon, even though stand-alone variants of the M203 does exist. The M320 uses the same High-Low Propulsion System as the M203.

M320 grenade launcher
A Paratrooper fires a training round from the new M320 grenade launcher. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael J. MacLeod) (Released)

The M320 has three major parts: a grenade launcher with a rifled barrel, Day/Night Sight (DNS) produced by Insight Technology, Inc and a handheld Laser Range Finder (LRF). The Day/Night Sight allows the grenadier to effectively engage the enemy in the dark.

The grenade launcher can fire all NATO high-explosive, smoke, and illumination grenades. Its breech opens to the side, allowing it to fire a variety of newer rounds which are longer, in particular, certain non-lethal rounds.

In the second quarter of the fiscal year 2020, the M320A1 program reached Initial Operational Capability (IOC) when Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC) fielded the weapon and provided New Equipment Training to Marines from II Marine Expeditionary Force aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

The training began with classroom training where Marines learned to maintain and operate the system. Participants learned to assemble, disassemble and troubleshoot the weapon. Marines also participated in live-fire exercises that enabled them to configure, shoot and test various other aspects of the system.

The M320A1 is expected to be completely fielded to infantry Marines in the fiscal year 2021. Full Operational Capability (FOC) is slated for the fourth quarter of the fiscal year 2024.

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