Previous Post

I’ve seen and dealt with a lot of different guns over the years. Some are very mundane. Others are a lot of fun. But, one thing I’ve never seen before is a grenade launcher that’s geared up like a sniper rifle. It turns out that a number of countries (including the U.S.) have tested this idea, but only one has fielded it so far: China.

Here’s a video explaining the history and the concept in depth at Task & Purpose: (article continues after video)

Grenade launchers are obviously nothing new. They can be shot using the gas from blanks fired from normal rifles, and some people have a lot of fun firing inert or chalk grenades without having to pay the boom boom tax. Stand-alone grenade launchers, as well as those fixed under a rifle are also common in militaries.

But, most of these devices are made for indirect fire, or fire where the grenade arcs up to the top of its ballistic trajectory. Then, it drops down to the intended target (allowing for fire over obstacles and into “dead space”). This requires some math or the use of a special flip-up grenade sight. The Chinese grenade launcher, on the other hand, fires its lighter grenades with more powder in the cartridges. This makes for a much flatter, more rifle-like trajectory that the shooter aims directly at.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is the only military that has adopted this. Several other militaries have tested this, and as usual, China copied western militaries’ homework. In this case, it came from the OICW program, which was ultimately rejected after testing found the rifle-like grenade concept wasn’t terribly useful for U.S. forces. But, the needs of the PLA differ from the needs of western militaries, so it might be a better fit (more on this in a bit).

When western forces find that they can’t deal with a threat with small arms, they switch to other systems, call for support from the air, or otherwise up the ante as needed. But, only limited ammo, missiles or rockets are usually carried in a military unit, and getting things like air support in place can take time. So, having somebody who can deliver accurate explosive fire quickly can come in handy, even if only a few people specialize in carrying and operating this system.

Another big use for the system is that it’s an “anti-sniper sniper rifle.” Directly hitting a sniper can be hard, but delivering an explosive within a few feet is just as good and perhaps a lot easier. The rounds can be easily dropped into a window, penetrate light armor or even use programmable ammo to burst the explosive over the top of an entrenched force, dropping the shrapnel down into the hole.

This is useful enough for the PLA because they’re anticipating a very different fight than western forces. On the one hand, they expect a fight against India in the very mountainous terrain that lies along that border. This makes for a lot more opportunity for direct fire. There’s also the well-known planned (but not scheduled) invasion of Taiwan, where PLA forces would be facing heavily contested beach landings followed by warfare in the urban canyons of the western plains.

The PLA hasn’t actually been in any wars with this weapon, but it has been used very successfully against Somali pirates who were preying on Chinese ships headed for the Suez Canal. This isn’t a great test in some ways, but it does show that it can be effectively used at range against mobile targets. An export version firing 40mm rounds has also been sold to Saudi Arabia and used against both pirates and bunkers.

It’s worth watching the full video to see some great visual representations of why this all works and what its advantages are. One thing the video doesn’t do is talk much about how it might fare against U.S. forces. With the XM7 rifle on its way to service, its limited fielding could lead to some big disadvantages, with long engagements with traditional projectiles set to vastly outnumber it.

Previous Post


    • Years ago, a group of buddies and I went camping on a beach in Central CA. After nightfall and a good dinner around the campfire, one of them brought out a homemade potato launcher, the largest I had ever seen. I’m talking a six-foot tube and a combustion chamber big enough to launch the hefty Russett potatoes he brought. And when I say “launch”, I mean it. He stabilized it in a sand berm, aimed out at the ocean, and even though he covered the potatoes with the luminescent goo from cut-open break-and-shake light sticks, those suckers went up and out so far from the shore, we lost sight and didn’t know when/where they hit the water. For all we know, they went up into orbit and continue to circle the globe today.

  1. Just in case anyone is curious about exactly what this author is referring to, here is a link:

    It’s a forty millimeter grenade launcher that is man portable and not crew served. It would be even more effective if loaded with thermonuclear hand grenades.

    It would be nice if TTAG authors understood the journalistic principle of the five Ws


    • 40mm export, china uses it with a 35mm round which likely violates the hague convention on exploding bullets for being less than 400 gr

  2. Another Woman Defends Herself With a Gun When an Order of Protection Fails to Do the Job >

    (note: You might wonder as to the “Another Woman” part. In reality hundreds of women annually for the last few years, and before, have used a firearm to successfully defend their selves and/or children from a violent abusive ex who was under a protection order. The plain fact is, protection orders do not actually protect as they are implied to do and are worthless in terms of protection because the ‘person’ to which the order is applied can simply choose to violate the order any time they wish and its has nothing to do with if they have a gun or not because over 90% of protection order violators do not use a gun even if they had one available to inflict their violence in choosing to violate the protection order. Isn’t it odd though that as much as anti-gun gripes about those under protection orders using a gun crying about how many women are subjected to such gun-violence, they leave out the part that a gun for protection order violent people is overall the least likely thing those people would use to inflict that violence and they never seem to celebrate that a woman and her kids were saved from that violent person only because the female victim had a gun.)

  3. Zero Bail Follies: Chicago Has a New Poster Boy for Criminal Justice Reform >

    (160 counts of murder, 16 counts of attempted carjacking, nine counts of armed robbery – and hes running free on bail, and has firearms, and has an ankle bracelet for monitoring but is allowed two days of free travel each week monitoring free…finally got his sorry butt shot but apparently not killed and was found sitting in the driver’s seat of a stolen car leaking, with guns in the car (again) …. oh, did I mention hes been free thanks to progressive “criminal justice reform” … and as the saying goes, metaphorically, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop” he put those two days of free travel without monitoring and being free. Sounds like a day in any ‘progressive’ democrat controlled city. But remember, this is all our fault, hes just ‘misunderstood’ and ‘marginalized’ and ‘disenfranchise’ by ‘white privilege’ so its racist to point out these things so shhhhhh.)

    • correction for : “and as the saying goes, metaphorically, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop” he put those two days of free travel without monitoring and being free.”

      should have been

      “and as the saying goes, metaphorically, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop” but he put those idle hands to work using the two days of free travel without monitoring and being free.”

      • I was curious too, so I did some digging. That phrase “160 counts of murder” is used consistently throughout the reporting. Isn’t that Foxx’s office, so who knows? Perhaps it’s supposed to be “160 counts related to the murder” or the like. This is what happens whenever the copy editor takes the day off.

  4. The US semiautomatic 40 mm grenade launcher (M321A-MSGL) looks like a better solution. In fact, it should be provided to all ships transiting pirate infested waters. I bet that’d cut down on the problem significantly.

  5. Chicoms (PLA) don’t “copy” squat they STEAL. Not even smart enough to discern WHAT to steal. They take it all.

    The Han Chinese lore claims to have invented EVERYTHING that matter in the ancient past. But in the last 40yrs EVERYTHING they have was STOLEN from the West/US. A Pathetic nation-state. Should be a quarantined from civilized nations. Revoke most “Favored Nation” trade status w/huge customs duty.

    • “The Han Chinese lore claims to have invented EVERYTHING that matter in the ancient past.”

      Let’s see what we got here – Paper, gunpowder, fireworks, just for starters.

      Controlled explosions are pretty much the definition of modern warfare, is it not?

  6. The US military has this weapon already. It’s called the M19 grenade launcher. We had them in my unit back in the day. It was vehicle mounted. And belt feed.

      • I’m looking at how heavy this thing is just from the pictures. And I think an M203 is a much better man portable weapon. Or even the M79.

    • Still in use but different use case/ammo/portability concerns. With that said being able to hose down a hilltop from a mile away in explosive rain is something.

      • No one’s made the connection? Sad.

        The M28/M29 — the “Davy Crockett.”

        The M-28 or M-29 Davy Crockett Weapon System was a tactical nuclear recoilless smoothbore gun for firing the M388 nuclear projectile, armed with the W54 nuclear warhead, that was deployed by the United States during the Cold War. — Wiki

      • Maxims for Maximally Effective Mercenaries –
        37 – There is no “overkill.” There is only “open fire” and “reload.”

  7. As an old sniper, if I look through the scope or binoculars and see someone luging around that fence post of a weapon, guess who is basically holding a sign saying ” Shoot Me First?.
    Same thing as seeing a mortar team setting up, or spotting the NCO or officer in charge.
    A weapon like this, or other man portable longer range explosive devices get the attention of counter fire or snipers in a hurry.
    As a counter to pirate or bandit attacks, it looks to be a possibly effective weapon. Or very useful in small scale raids and skirmishes and border disputes. Likely less useful against more experienced and better trained professional troops or determined defenders.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here