The Marines are giving the M79 grenade launcher a tryout in Iraq against IEDs.
Marines with Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division tested M-79 grenade launchers as a possible answer to neutralizing improvised explosive devices. The “bloopers,” named for the “bloop” the weapon makes when fired, might be the low-technology response Marines need to counter one of the deadliest threat in Iraq.
“The idea for countering the IEDs has been around, but the problem has been coming up with the correct system,” said CWO 4 Charles F. Colleton, gunner for 1st Marine Division. “Using a weapon system to detonate mines has been around. We’re just finding out if this works.”
Most IED countermeasures have been high-technology answers. Electronic jammers sending out radio waves to either detonate or block signals have been used. Still, not all IEDs are detonated with wireless radio-wave devices. Some are hard-wired.
The M-79 “blooper” gun might be just the answer to allowing the Marines the stand-off distance they need to eliminate the threat and keep roads open for convoys.
“It takes shock to create shock,” Colleton explained. “We have to get the explosion close enough to set it off. We’re trying to see if it works… something that smacks it so hard that it detonates it.”
The M79, used a lot during the Vietnam war, was phased out in the early 1970s as the M203, which can be mounted on a rifle, took its place. The M79 and the M203 fire the same rounds, so fitting the M79 into existing logistics systems wouldn’t be too difficult.
Essentially, the M-79 is the same weapon as the M-203. The fire the same projectile, shoot the same ranges and have about the same accuracy. But having a single, dedicated weapon to handle IEDs allows a “comfort” factor for which Marines are looking for when it comes defeating the explosive threat.
“I think there’s a perception that the ‘203’ is not accurate because it’s mounted below the rifle,” Fiene explained. “Sometimes it feels awkward. This is a little easier to pick up and shoot because it’s a stand-alone weapon.”
This is another example of how all the fancy gear dreamed up during peacetime can sometimes be supplanted by tried-and-true existing equipment when the boots hit the ground. MO has already pointed out (extensively) the use of M14 rifles in both Iraq and Afghanistan as sharpshooter weapons. At a time when the Army is considering switching to the the XM8 from the M16 and using Humvee-mounted lasers against roadside bombs, the fact that these older weapons still have a role to play is quite telling, I think. The Military-Industrial Complex might not like it, but there is a ton of useful equipment sitting around in warehouses (don’t forget the Ark of the Covenant, either) somewhere that might be a thousand-dollar answer to a billion-dollar problem.
Go check out the story for more info and more pics.