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The grenadier's shifting role in Infantry Squads

When a brand new Milkor Mk14 grenade launcher arrived mid-deployment I immediately recognized the older, but functional, South African design. After putting smoke, flare, HE, and even firing a XM576E1 buckshot round through it was I was more than satisfied and knew I'd be taking it out with us on future patrols. I liked it enough that it got me to thinking about how it work when employed as a soldier's primary weapon.

While I was in the Q-Course, I talked to one Cold Warrior who told me that his ODA used to have each team member patrol with the under barrel M203 grenade launcher attached to their M16's. Their SOP was that when taking enemy fire each soldier would turn to face in the direction of the contact and fire off a 40mm High Explosive round. The idea of a dozen HE rounds suddenly coming down on the enemy during a ambush is certainly appealing. For better or worse, his team never had the opportunity to validate this tactic in combat.

Now I've been told that various US and NATO units within ISAF are patrolling with a grenade launcher as their primary weapon. While positive reports about the XM25 continue to pour in, it also appears more units are adopting this technique with the HK M320 as a stand-alone. Of course grenadiers are nothing new, the idea being to beef up the fire power (and for a little added reach into the defilade) within a infantry squad just as the M249 SAW is an effort to integrate a light machine gun as an organic weapon in squad sized elements.

The concept of rolling out with just a 40mm grenade launcher was utilized as far back as the Vietnam War when a MACV-SOG operator named Henry King carried an experimental (I suspect the China Lake Model 40mm) pump action grenade launcher as his primary weapon on at least one cross border mission into Laos, so writes John Stryker Meyer in his memoir,“Across the Fence.” Just in case things went south, and they frequently did, King also carried a Browning High Power pistol as a backup. SOG operators are also reported to have fired Flechette or double-ought buckshot rounds from their M79's during the close quarter engagements they encountered in South East Asia.

While I don't want to get to deep into current operational techniques, I'm just glad that I won't be on the receiving end of 6 x 40mm grenades any time soon!

Kit Up! contributor Jack Murphy is a former Ranger, Special Forces Soldier and is the author of the military thriller Reflexive Fire.

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