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Soldiers' Perspective: The M320 Grenade Launcher

In the damned if you do, damned if you don't category, the Army's new M320 grenade launcher is facing stiff criticism over one of the principle advantages of the system requested by Soldiers and touted by the Army.

There were lots of M320s among Joes in the 3rd BCT of the 101st Airborne -- in fact I don't remember seeing a single M203 among them. But just about everyone I asked about the new H&K-made M320 was that they miss the 203. I got the sense that this was mostly a reaction against changing from a tried and true system to one with a couple more whistles and bells than the simple, streamlined M203.

Soldiers complained about the pistol grip handle catching on things, the forward grip and the sighting system. Even the side loading mechanism didn't impress -- though the Army touts that capability as a plus since it allows the M320 to take longer, more high-tech rounds.

But it's the last criticism that really surprised me, and actually put me in the position of pushing back to give the Joes some perspective about what they were actually saying.

I'm sure many readers remember the rumblings back in the depth of IOF over bringing back the M79 grenade launcher. Joes and Marines both were saying that additional firepower slung over the shoulder would give the kind of accuracy in a pinch the M203 couldn't.

In fact, I remember seeing a Marine in Ramadi with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines with an M79 slung over his shoulder at the "Gov Center" combat outpost -- he was the envy of everyone.

But now, Joes complain that they don't like carrying the M320 as a stand alone grenade launcher, saying "I don't like having that thing swinging around and getting in my way." Maybe that's a function of how it's carried rather than an indictment on the weapon itself. But still, I find it ironic that after asking for a stand alone grenade launcher and the Army's finally delivering, the service is getting critiqued over this added capability.

The one problem I saw about the weapon -- and I noted this a few years ago when I did some shooting with various Army weapon systems back at Aberdeen -- is that the collapsible stock on the M320 is pretty short, forcing you to scrunch up on the weapon to get a stable grip.

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