Observations on a stand-alone grenade launcher

Have a look at the beginning of this video (I won't go into details about the room for tactical improvements).

The camera man needed 18 (!) seconds to ready his AG36 (M320) stand-alone grenade launcher (0:25-0:43) - and he was one of the few who were still functioning under stress at all !

I didn't see a better argument for under-barrel grenade launchers with other than iron sights yet. Likewise, this anecdote can be understood as an argument in favour of stand-alone grenade weapons that merit being treated as a primary weapon, such as a GM-94.


  1. I think that this rather highlights the problem of even "professional" soldiers under the stress of combat, especially when ambushed as in this video.
    And why exactly do you favour yet another stand-alone weapon at the squad-level? In a squad of 8 troops, we'd have the squad leader, 1-2 SAW(s) or a Gimpy, usually an RPG and, in some nations at least, also a designated marksman. Another pure support weapon at this level would, in my eyes, reduce flexibility when compared to one or two underbarrel grenade launchers.

    Another quick question: You mention "other than iron sights" - I have to admit that I am not sure which sights you are referring to?

  2. There are optic sights such as the one on FN F2000 or the South African OEG. Neither can be flipped down.
    The cameraman spent seconds on readying his flip-up iron sights.

    You described a multi-purpose squad. It makes sense to differentiate between fire support and assault elements and thus to differentiate them in armament, too. A stand-alone repeating 40x46mm MV weapon with a good sight and a well-trained user could justify its place as a soldier's primary weapon in a fire support element.

    The alternative would be a defensive employment of the infantry - this emphasizes the importance of machine guns and AT weapons over grenade launchers in general.

  3. Did he almost shoot the guys in front of him in the back early on?

    Seems like they still suffer from the classic problem of not knowing exactly where the enemy is. So he returns fire in the general direction with unknown effects.

    I could see the value of a repeating 40mm MV weapon at the platoon level, but at the squad level it would take away a rifleman.

    Personally, I'd like to see a belt-fed, crew-served weapon that could be fired from a bipod or tripod and weighed as much as an M240 or M249. Making it crew-served means there'd be an assistant gunner and possibly ammo carrier to help carry belts of grenades and the tripod.

    OTOH, giving a single soldier something like a 12 lb MGL 40 will reduce the number of grenades he can carry vs an under-barrel, or stand-alone grenade launcher.

  4. I wonder how the xm-25 will prove itself in such a situation. I don't see it to be easier to handle, aim and fire.

    the paralysis of the other soldiers in this squad is amazing. this is a small and simple ambush yet they are unable to engage in a coordinate manner.

  5. Anonymous,

    I think the XM-25 will be easier to aim and fire, given the integrated optics, fire control and 5 round magazine.

    However it's a big, heavy weapon. Whomever carries it probably won't carry an M-4 as backup, so the squad/platoon will lose a rifleman. It remains to be see how many grenades an XM-25 gunner will carry. The 25mm rounds are half the weight of a 40mm, but his weapon is heavier than an M-4/M320 combo. I suppose he doesn't have to carry those pesky 5.56mm mags though.

    I share your amazement with their inability to react effectively. It seems like there's one guy doing everything and the rest are hunkered down.

  6. Theres an interesting piece RUSI have done, essentialy, it advises a 7.62 Machine gun, a 40mm 6 round grenade launcher and 6 PDW (like MP7 or P90)

  7. Sounds like Wilf's article, and I'm not impressed by the quite extreme choice of PDWs.

  8. Its by William F Owen.
    I was sceptical at first, not that I have any experience to draw on.
    I still think he overstates the effectiveness of a PDW, on the grounds that hitting at 200m with an assault rifle whilst stressed doesnt mean you can also hit at 200m with a PDW whilst stressed.

    However, 2 GPMG's are still better than 8 assault rifles, from a sustained fire perspective if nothing else.

    A section with two GPMG's could use them to fix the enemy in cover, which is then turned into a death trap by a half a dozen 40mm grenades.
    The other five blokes carry extra ammo and PDW's to win (survive?) firefights at close range.

    "Stopping Power" is of course less, although again, I've never been shot so cant be considered an expert, but I cant imagine many people who would run home after an AR hit, will shrug off one from a PDW, although I've read before that the Taliban are quite often so out of their minds on Opium they are still shooting back until blood loss knocks them out, which the AR wins.

    I suppose you can really technical and ask how long/far the section is from resupply, and how long they're expected to last on carried supplies.
    If your holding a fixed point, or patrolling a mile from one, weight isnt really an issue, if you expend lots, go back for more.

  9. I don't think Wilf overstates the effectiveness of the PDW, per say. The gist of his argument is that personal weapons are primarily used for self defense, limited suppression and CQB. For this, a PDW isn't demonstrably worse than a carbine (or so he asserts).

    Killing at range is done by crew-served weapons, HE projectors and long-ranged rifles.

    So by having infantryman spend less of their load capacity on personal weapons, they can use more of it to carry ammo for crew-served weapons, HE, improved sensors (e.g. optics, thermals), or just carry less to improve mobility.

    Even substituting a Carbon-15 SBR for a PDW like the MP7 would result in a significantly heavier overall load once ammo is factored in.

  10. Personal weapons are of little effect in firefights BECAUSE they are more effective than PDWs.

    This surely seems paradoxical, but I think I explained this pattern already:

    The personal weapon's effectiveness discourages much hostile action. This in turn offers fewer opportunities for exploiting their effectiveness.
    Wilf assumed that he could ceteris paribus assign lighter personal weapons without paying much attention to the psychological and tactical effects of the change.

  11. Interesting way to look at it Sven.

    A PDW may very well be measurably less "discouraging" of hostile action than a carbine, but has this actually been proven? Many soldiers got a lot of mileage out of MP-40s, Stens, and Thompsons in WW-II.

    Perhaps because a PDW-equipped soldier can carry a lot more ammo for his weapon, he can afford to use it more prodigiously. A soldier with an M-4 and 10 x 30 rnd mags (300 rnds) carries approximately the same weight as one with an MP7 and 15 x 40 rnd mags (600 rnds).

  12. I think the most obvious evidence of Repulsion would be the strategic IED campaigns in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Last time I checked more than two thirds of UK deaths were from mine strikes.

    Even IF we assume the two ground forces are equal, our airpower is usualy available within 10 minutes for a juicey target, at which point it becomes very unequal, so much so, that almsot all ground combat beyond the short term ambush, long range harresment fire and solid urban warfare has dried up.

    The loss of a rifleman is an "issue", but I dont think its a big one.
    As others have mentioned, of the squad engaged, only one promptly returns fire on the enemy.
    A rifle not fired is just as ineffective as a PDW not fired, but the PDW can give the shooting bloke an extra ammunition supply.

    If we assume that the switch to PDW's encourages more enemy action, I'm not sure thats a bad thing. To a point, that is our goal, get the enemy to reveal himself and give him a darn good thrashing, obviously its a bad thing if it results in an increased casualty rate, but I'm not sure it would.

  13. Certainly our opponents have a "repulsion" to engage us in prolonged firefights, but how much of that is due to the individual weapons carried? In my humble, uninformed opinion, not much.

    They have adjusted tactics to account for our lethal fire support assets and generally higher level of individual training.

    IMHO, the most interesting thing to think about with regards to the PDW vs carbine argument is what soldiers could be carrying with the extra weight. An MP7 and 8 x 40 rnd mags (320 rnds) weighs about 3.2kg less than an M-4 with 10 x 30 rnd mags (300 rnds).

    Each soldier could be issued an MP7 with 8 mags and an M320 with 10 grenades (total weight - 3.9kg) and only be over the M-4 soldier's load by .7kg.

    I wonder if one made an integrated, over-under, single-shot 40mm/4.6mm PDW, if you couldn't get that weight back and more? Would it be too light to fire MV grenades?

    Maybe every "rifleman" should be a grenadier.

  14. I'm surprised no-one has commented on the 2 jams the cameraman appeared to have on his M4, especially given the PMAGs he was using.

    Sven, if it's true that assault rifles cause relatively few casualties, due to their effectiveness, why isn't this also true of GPMGs, etc? Surely given that both operate in the same way, we should see a similarly low % of casualties attributed to them?

  15. I think I wrote about that before.
    Smart leaders assign the heavier weapons to some of the few men who are aggressive in combat.
    Machine guns also have the benefit of bipod/tripod and they make their user believe that he can make a difference. This helps him psychologically.
    Finally, the relevant statistics are mostly from WW2 and the Korean War - a time when machine guns were about as effective as today, but rifles not yet.

    Effectiveness is not just about the projectiles.

  16. 7 hole minutes jumping around like a chicken. what ever happened to seeking cover.