The M79 Grenade Launcher: Oldie but Goodie

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The M79 Grenade Launcher: Oldie but Goodie

An impression of sawed-off shotgun comes to mind when looking at the M79 grenade launcher. This is due to the weapon’s wooden feature, buttstock and foregrip that looks like an inverted rifle, and break-action operation. Without a sling, the weapon practically consists of 4 main parts: a buttstock, a receiver, a foregrip, and a barrel. Keeping the weapon safe is a must before a user can use it. The barrel-locking latch needs to be pressed to the right, which will open the weapon to access the chamber. Opening it automatically cocks the weapon. The weapon is lightweight and has soft recoil so much so that it is possible for a user to operate it the way they would a pistol. Unfortunately, the one-handed operation will make a user find it difficult to aim. The weapon comes with sights that have a rear leaf and a front blade.

The first use of this grenade launcher was during the Vietnam War. It was proven effective, lethal, and reliable while other weapons the US army used at that time were so demanding and time-consuming. Rocket launchers, recoilless rifles, rifle grenades, and commando mortars were rendered virtually less reliable in Vietnam’s dense jungle. The reliability and versatility that the weapon had were the primary reason behind its popularity and why other military forces in the world coveted it.

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There were 350,000 units of M79 produced in a period of 1961 to 1971. This number, however, does not take into account units produced outside the US, where it was still in production while States-based manufacturing had already ceased. The grenade launcher was the most prolific in history. It has been deployed by many countries including Australia, Brazil, Cambodia, Chad, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Oman, Paraguay, Philippines, Portugal, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, the United States, Vietnam, and Yemen. The Kurdish Peshmerga also includes this launcher in their arsenal.

Having been gradually replaced by the newer M203, the M79 is only available in limited number currently in the US. But that does not mean the remaining launchers are rarely used. When the time calls for it, the launcher is still proven dependable. The launcher may be old and outdated, what with the introduction of a repeating launcher like the MGL. But it is clear that it will still be involved in many conflicts for god knows how long.

Country of originUnited States
Entered service1961
Caliber40 mm
Cartridge40×46 mm
Weight (unloaded)2.7 kg
Length731 mm
Barrel length357 mm
Muzzle velocity76 m/s
Practical rate of fire6 rpm
Magazine capacity1 round
Sighting range375 m
Range of effective fire (grenade, point target)150 m
Range of effective fire (grenade, area target)350 m
Range of effective fire (buckshot)30 m

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