Grenade Launcher 101 | When in Doubt, Use A Grenade Launcher

M203When I joined the Army one of the first weapons I had an itch to fire was a grenade launcher. We’ve all seen Terminator II and have the scene imprinted in our heads of him coming up over the conveyor belt and shoots a grenade into the T1000, and then it explodes and splits him in two dropping him into the molten steel and John Connor is saved. BOOM!

I knew nothing about a grenade launcher except that it can cause  a great explosion. Now that I had seen them in action it made me an expert. How much more knowledge could it require to fire one of these bad boys? Or so I thought…

When we were being assigned our M16’s I pursued one with a M203 mounted to it. I knew this would be the closest I could get to having my own assigned grenade launcher. I was like a kid on Christmas when I snagged it. I couldn’t wait to unleash it’s fury. But for some reason they made me learn everything (classroom style) about the M203 grenade launcher first. And you know what, it did prove useful and important. For example, if you find yourself in a zombie apocalypse and your M203 grenade launcher misfires then you need to wait 30 seconds before unloading it. And my favorite is the distance before it will fire (minimum engagement range). It’s 14-38 meters before it will arm. It needs to travel that distance to make enough rotations before becoming “live” (armed). But firing and hitting a target around 5 meters away can be enough for deadly force by getting knocked in the head.

What grenade launcher have you always wanted to fire? Here are a few of my favorites.
M203 Grenade Launcher (M16A2 and M4)

This grenade launcher is fun to fire. If you’ve played Call of Duty then you have an idea of how it works. I run around with this locked and loaded like it’s the Hand of God.

Made in America – First introduced in 1969

Wars: Vietnam Era till now

Launcher: 3 pounds (1.36 kilograms)
Rifle (M16A2): 8.79 pounds (3.99 kg)
Total (including 30 rounds): 11.79 pounds (5.35 kg)
Bore diameter: 40mm
Maximum effective range:
Area target: 1148.35 feet (350 meters)
Point target: 492.15 feet (150 meters)
Maximum range: 1312.4 feet (400 meters)
Minimum safe range:
Training: 426.53 feet (130 meters)
Combat: 101.71 feet (31 meters)
Unit Replacement Cost: $601
Features: The M203 40mm Grenade Launcher is a lightweight, compact, breech loading, pump action, single shot launcher. The launcher is capable of firing a variety of low velocity 40mm ammunition (not interchangeable with Mk19 400mm rounds).
Background: The M203 was designed and procured as the replacement for the M79 grenade launcher of the Vietnam era.

What most people wonder is what’s the minimum distance before it will get ARMED. There’s a minimum distance of 14-38 meters to make enough rotations for it to be armed.

Click here for more info on how to fire it…a skill every man should possess.

M79 Grenade Launcher

Made in America  – First introduced in 1961

Wars: Vietnam War

Do you remember Terminator II with Arnold Schwarzenegger and his M79? While this is pure fiction because the grenade has to travel a minimum of 25 meters before arming…it was still awesome to see him blow up doors and the T1000 for the final punch.

XM25 aka The Punisher

Made in America with some German assistance – First introduced in 2010

Wars: Afghanistan

This bad boy is known as the Punisher for a reason. The ultimate grenade launcher! Need to hit a target behind cover or dug in the ground? This grenade launcher will make it happen. It uses 25 mm grenades that can be set to explode where you want it to. It has a laser rangefinder built-in to gauge the distance. Choose a target with the laser and the detonating distance can be manually configured by up to 10 ft; closer or further. The grenade launcher automatically sends the distance to the grenade in the firing chamber. When it is fired it tracks it’s distance traveled by how many spiral rotations and detonates exactly where it was configured to and has an air burst effect to take out hidden targets.

I always want to know the minimum distance (aka minimum engagement range) before ARMing. I couldn’t find any info from the manufacturer but on some Army sites did find postings of it ARMing at 30 meters.

Between us….I want one of these.

MK-19 Grenade Launcher

Made in America – First introduced in 1968

Wars: Vietnam Era till now

This grenade launcher is different from all the rest listed here because it’s man portable crew-served. The rest you can sling over your shoulder. It fires 40mm grenades (not interchangeable with M203) that aren’t designed to cook off and are belt fed. It can penetrate the metal of most infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers. It can be mounted on trucks, humvees and boats.

Click here for some fun facts…


Russian – First introduced in 1961

In my world this was first introduced in Grand Theft Auto. The ultimate weapon for completing most any mission. I think most of us are “experts” on this one. But what we all probably don’t know is maximum distance and failure rate.

Maximum Range: ~ 920 m (1,000 yd) (self detonates)

Hit probabilities: “The Closer the Better”

A US Army evaluation of the weapon gave the hit probabilities on a 5 meter wide (15 ft), 2.5 meter tall (7.5 ft) panel moving sideways at 4 meters per second (9 miles per hour).[8] This probability decreases when firing into crosswind due to the unusual behaviour of the round; in a 7-mile (11 km) -per-hour wind, the gunner can not expect to get a first-round hit more than 50% of the time beyond 180m.

Range Percent

50 m 100%

100 m 96 %

200 m 51 %

300 m 22 %

400 m 9 %

500 m 4 %


Swedish and American Made – First introduced in 1983

Wars: US invasion of Panama till now

This grenade launcher is similar to the RPG in it’s purpose. I first saw it in Call of Duty but it might have been introduced earlier. In real life it’s not that hard to learn how to use. But because of the cost practice versions exist. I never got to fire one of these, real or practice, but did see them fired in person. It was awesome! It’s called Anti-Tank for a reason!

Maximum effective range: 300 metres (328 yards), although it has been used in excess of 500 meters (547 yards) for area fire.

Did I miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below…
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About John

Passionate. Life Learner. Thinker. Christ Follower. Investor. Conversationalist. Army Veteran. Dog Lover. Corporate Colleague. Bears, Blackhawks, Cubs fan. Follow me on Twitter.


  1. Wow, that was a totally thorough post on grenade launchers.

    Sylvester Stallone would probably approve.

  2. Dustin Chamberlain says:

    You missed the 320. I still prefer the 203 but I’m kind of an old timer. The 320 is supposed to be accurate for about 50 more meters and gives you the freedom to use it separate from a rifle like the M79. The biggest downfall is that its a little awkward and doesn’t quite match the M4. It looks about as goofy as a 203 mounted on a muzzle loader.

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