M320 Replaces the M79



UPDATE: Officials from PEO Soldier told me the designation had changed to the M320 -- even though Army publications and photo captions have it listed as the XM320. So I went ahead and changed it in this entry and will keep it as the M320 in subsequent ones.

A lot of discussion going on about the M320, the Army's new grenade launcher which replaces the '80s-era M203, which in turn replaced the venerable M79.


Now, discussing the merits of the M320 vs the M79 sometimes decends into the realm of the M4 vs the M14: caliber, stopping power, reliability, Old-School versus New School.

But one thing I want to clear up about the M320 is that it might be a more accurate to call it a replacement for the M79 than for the M203. I had the chance to shoot the M320 back in '07. And I shot it in the stand-alone mode -- that is, not attached to the M4...Seems that most KU readers liked the idea that the M79 could be slung across the shoulder and shot more accurately as a second weapon than the 203.

Here's what I said then:

Pretty close to my favorite one to shoot, the XM320 is a major upgrade for the M203, 40mm grenade slinger attached to the barrel of M4s and M-16s. Finally H&K has gotten through to the Army about its side-eject under-barrel grenade launcher. The Army plans to field about 71,600 XM320s in a one-to-one replacement of the M203 beginning in late 2008 ... and it's a good thing. The XM320 can be detached from your combat rifle and fired as a stand-alone weapon (which is how we fired it at Aberdeen) but I'll tell you, it's tough to handle in that configuration for tall people like me since the butt stock doesn't extend very far.

The best part of the system, however, is the integrated electronic sighting system that comes with it. Developed by Insight Technology, the optic uses an iron sight reticule that's precision balanced. A soldier uses a hand-held range finder to determine the distance to a target, dials in the yardage in five-yard intervals on the XM320 sight and a handy green/red light and digital bar tells the shooter whether he's on target and shooting level. I hit the target at 150 yards on my first shot. The rifle-mounted laser illuminator can be used at night with the system to find a target even in darkness, making the new grenade launcher far more effective in all conditions, said Maj. Larry Dring, assistant product manager for individual weapons with PEO Soldier.

Some readers commented that the M79 was best deployed by a "skilled" operator -- and surely that's true. But it seems that the Army is trying to accelerate some of that skill acquisition by integrating the new targeting system so the 40mm grenade doesn't have to hit its target as a result of pure dead reckoning.

Any of you folks with M320 experience get the laser rangefinder/sight fielded with the launcher?

Thanks for the interesting discussion...

-- Christian

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