The detachable M320 was introduced in 2009. It came with a sling for carry when it is not mounted to the M4 carbine or M16 rifle. Soldiers complained that the sling originally designed for the stand alone launcher caused the weapon to be too often drug through the dirt and "pounded on," said Darren Bean, an equipment specialist with Product Manager Soldier Clothing and Individual Equipment.
Army officials heard the feedback and stood up the M320GL Holster Soldier Enhancement Program in November 2012.
Natick has since selected three commercial holsters that were first sent to soldiers in May with the 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Ga., to complete a standardized set of tests. The Army release did not list the vendors and Natick did not immediately respond to a request for the vendor's names.
One of the holsters has pockets for grenades but is described as bulky; another is more "streamlined"; and the third is a "cross between the two," according to an Army statement on the three.
The initial feedback from the Rangers didn't set one of the holsters apart from the other competitors, Bean said in a statement. The testing was more intended to determine if the Army should buy more of the holsters for more extensive testing, he said.
The next round of testing will be done by soldiers in Afghanistan, the 10th Mountain Division and the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. Officials from the Consumer Research Team with Natick will collect data before Natick issues a recommendation to the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning in 2014.
"I think the end state of this will be that they will say, 'Yes, we need a grenade launcher holster for this when we use it in the stand-alone mode,'" Bean said in a statement.