The classic M203-series grenade launchers used by U.S. troops since Vietnam are one step closer to extinction due to M320A1 field tests by Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Plans to replace all M203-series weapons with a more lethal alternative by 2024 appear to be on track after feedback by members of II Marine Expeditionary Force.
“Reloading it and unloading it are easy compared to other systems we’ve had in the past,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jason Wattle, squad adviser for the Infantry Small Unit Leader course, Military.com reported Tuesday.
Marines have been anticipating the side-loading 40mm weapon — designed by Heckler & Koch — due to its high functionality.
“Its ability to be used as a stand-alone or in conjunction with a firearm should help warfighters combat enemy forces,” Lt. Col. Tim Hough, program manager for Infantry Weapons in Marine Corps Systems Command’s Ground Combat Element Systems, said in March 2019.
Capt. Nick Berger, MCSC project officer for the M320A1, said in a press release this week that M320A1s offer Marines a “major advantage because the breach of the weapon is clearly visible and the shooter can more easily load while in the prone [position].”
The weapon has a maximum effective range of 150 meters on a point target such as a window and a 350-meter max effective range on an area target, according to the Army’s technical manual for 40mm grenade launchers.
Military.com noted that U.S. Army soldiers were the first to field-test the weapon, which was parlayed into a $32 million manufacturing contract for Colorado-based Capco, Inc. in 2015.