82nd Airborne Division fields new grenade launcher

The US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division has begun fielding the new M-320 shorter-but-heavier advanced grenade launcher for the first time.

The new grenade launcher features a laser rangefinder and infrared laser pointer, which makes it more accurate for night-time / low-light use.  It also more flexible then the M-203 GL which it replaces, as it can mounted on a rifle or operated as a stand-alone weapon.

The M-320 is also safer to use because of its double-action trigger side opening breech.  The side-opening breech also allows quicker reloading, and the use of a wider variety of rounds.

A Paratrooper with 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, fires a training round from the new M320 grenade launcher in its standalone configuration. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael J. MacLeod) (Released)

A Paratrooper with 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, fires a training round from the new M320 grenade launcher in its standalone configuration. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael J. MacLeod) (Released)

Paratroopers of the soon-to-deploy 1st Brigade Combat Team received familiarization training on the launcher recently from a half-dozen civilian and Army trainers.

Staff Sgt. Robert Eaton, a squad leader with A Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (Strike-Hold!), participated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and was involved with clearing virtually every village and town from the Kuwaiti Border to Baghdad. He used the old M-203 grenade launcher in combat and said he was impressed with its successor.

“I wanted to find out how quickly I could fire the M-320, get behind cover, reload, re-acquire a target at a different distance, and then engage,” said Eaton. “I fired three shots in just under 30 seconds,” he said, well pleased.

“In Iraq, I found the M-203 to be pretty accurate, but it was more of a weapon of intimidation,” said Eaton. “If you are getting shot at from a building, you put a round through two windows to the left. It might not kill him, but it’s definitely going to get him to put his head down. Now with the 320, you’d probably put the round within killing range, and a lot quicker,” he said.

“The principles are still the same as with the M-203. It’s just more accurate and faster to get your rounds on the target,” said Eaton.

A Paratrooper with 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, fires a training round from the new M320 grenade launcher on a Fort Bragg, N.C., range July 1, 2009. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael J. MacLeod) (Released)

A Paratrooper with 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, fires a training round from the new M320 grenade launcher on a Fort Bragg, N.C., range July 1, 2009. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael J. MacLeod) (Released)

A trainer from Fort Benning’s 2nd Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, Staff Sgt. Raymond Miller, stressed to paratroopers that they use the weapon in the manner in which it was designed to be used.

“Many times, guys get new equipment, and they second-guess it. But the engineers who developed this weapon have already removed the guesswork,” he said.

The day-and-night sight is a new take on an old piece of equipment that many Soldiers have found problematic in the past, said Miller. The original sight was bulky and prone to mechanical issues, he said.

“The new sight has been through full-fledged operational tests,” said Miller. “Its issues have been identified and resolved, and now it’s a good piece of kit.”

Both he and his fellow trainer have used the M-320’s predecessor in combat and see practical advantages to the new grenade launcher’s modularity.

“A Soldier doing cordon-and-search is going to be doing a lot of room clearing,” said Miller. “He can remove the M-320 so that he can lift his primary weapon quickly without all that weight, and then remount it to an M-4 in less than five minutes”, said Miller.



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