Let’s spend a little bit of time thinking about multishot grenade launchers (MGLs) Specifically, I’m thinking about the Milkor M32A1 that SOCOM and the USMC bought recently. I’m on record as liking them, and I stand by that, but I haven’t been able to slot them in anywhere. Let’s fix that.
It’s pretty typical for a fire team to have one grenadier and squads to have one or two. These grenadiers have an M320 or M203 or similar launcher, which may be attached to their carbine or carried in a standalone configuration. I prefer the standalone configuration, since it generally gives a more effective grenade launcher, and reinforces the concept that the grenade launcher should be the primary weapon for the grenadier. It’s also easier to get good sights on the grenade launcher. So let’s try the simple thing. What if we replace the standalone one-shot grenade launcher with the M32A1?
There are some obvious gains we can see immediately. We gain up to five follow-up shots, which make it a lot easier to quickly correct for aim or put more fire on the target. There’s also a well-designed stock, a launcher design that can comfortably handle medium velocity (40x53mm) grenades, a spin drift compensating optical sight, and plenty of picatinny rails for night-fighting accessories and the like. The obvious downside is, of course, weight. The M32A1, equipped with M2A1 sight, weighs 15.8 lbs.
Let’s start playing with some weight numbers. First, we need some sort of benchmark. We’ll look at a current squad member with another weighty weapon: the SAW gunner. An M249 SAW weighs 17 lbs unloaded. The gunner’s basic load of ammo is 1,000 rounds, carried in five 200-round belts. For simplicity, I’ll assume these are all carried in the standard plastic boxes. Each boxed belt weighs about 7 lbs, so the basic load is 35 lbs. Add in the usual sight, the much-maligned Elcan M1451 (1.5 lbs) and we get an all-up weight of 53.5 lbs. That’s pretty heavy, and we almost certainly shouldn’t go heavier than that for our grenadier load.
Some digging around the internet puts the grenadier’s basic load of grenades at 36. Low velocity grenades weigh about half a pound a piece, so that’s 18 lbs of grenade ammo. If we want to carry all medium velocity grenades, which weigh about three quarters of a pound, our ammo load goes up to 27 lbs. Medium velocity grenades have a number of advantages over low velocity grenades. The higher velocity doubles the maximum range from 400 meters to 800 meters. Medium velocity grenades also have a significantly larger maximum point-blank range (i.e. the largest range at which you don’t need to adjust your aim to account for grenade drop). Furthermore, medium velocity grenades have a noticeably larger warhead.
We’re not done though. While the grenadier’s primary weapon is (now) his trusty M32A1 multishot grenade launcher, he needs a secondary weapon. Something for close encounters.2 The old-school traditionalists might call out a pistol, and pistols are pretty compact and lightweight. But they’re also generally not very effective in combat. They’re harder to score hits with and they don’t have as much terminal effect as a carbine. Plus, few soldiers have the practice on one to make it work for them. Can we make the loadout work with a carbine as secondary?
While a basic load for a rifleman is seven magazines, we can reduce this to, say, three or four magazines because the carbine is a backup weapon for the grenadier. An M4A1, Aimpoint Comp M5 red dot sight, and ATPIAL for night fighting comes out to about 7.2 lbs. Three mags come out to 3.2 lbs, four come to 4.3 lbs. So total weight for the carbine secondary is 10.4 lbs with three mags, and 11.5 lbs with four mags.
Just for the record, a Glock 19 Gen5 MOS with Deltapoint Pro and four mags comes to 3.3 lbs or so.
If I go with three mags for the carbine, I can squeeze in under my SAW Gunner weight threshold, even with 36 medium velocity grenades. I’m a bit over with four carbine magazines, and of course going with the pistol option leaves me a reasonable margin. I still prefer the carbine as a secondary weapon because of its greater utility, and because carbine marksmanship is a lot less perishable than pistol marksmanship. Overall though, this seems like a plausible grenadier loadout, and I like it much better than the alternative.