The M79 Grenade Launcher is a single purpose weapon designed to fire a 40mm grenade more accurately than when fired from a WW II-type rifle adapter grenade launcher. As with other Grenade Launchers, the M79 is intended to bridge the gap between hand grenades and indirect fire assets like mortar fire. The M79 was an attempt to increase firepower for the infantryman by having an explosive projectile more accurate, and with further range than rifle grenade, but more portable than a mortar. It was adopted by the Army on 15 December 1960 with the first deliveries received in late 1961.
Owing to its ease of use, reliability, and firepower, the M79 almost immediately became popular with infantry soldiers. The two grenadiers in a rifle squad were equipped with the M79.
The M79 Grenade Launcher was used extensively during the Vietnam War, nicknamed the Thumper or Blooper. The M79 had particular appeal to the ARVN troops (Army of Vietnam) who needed a light weight area weapon and, being generally physically smaller, had handicaps in regard to both range and accuracy with hand grenades. Approximately 40,000 M-79 grenade launchers were supplied to ARVN.
The M79 is a single-shot, break-open, breech-loading, shoulder-fired weapon with a manual safety. It has a protected fixed front sight and a rear leaf sight that is adjustable for windage. Marksmanship training with the M79 grenade launcher is similar to training with other small arms. Although primarily an area fire weapon, the M79 may be fired effectively against point targets, such as window openings, foxholes, and bunkers, up to a range of 150 meters.
The M79 could fire a variety of 40x46 40mm low velocity rounds, including explosive, anti-personnel, smoke, buckshot, flechette, and illumination. See the Olive-Drab.com page on 40mm Grenade Cartridges for more information.
The M203 Grenade Launcher was type classified in August 1969, gradually replacing the M79 Grenade launcher during the early and mid-1970s.
M79 Grenade Launcher Characteristics
RADM James S. Elfelt, Commander, South Atlantic, practice fires the M-79 Grenade Launcher, Paita, Peru, 7 Nov 1981.
6.0 lb (2.72 kg)
29 in (737 mm)
14 in (356 mm)
Max Effective Range, Area Target
Approximately 383 yd (350 m)
Max Effective Range, Point Target
Approximately 164 yd (150 m)
250 fps (76 mps)
Right Hand, six lands, pitch 1 in 48 inches (1,219 mm)
Maximum Effective Rate of Fire
Over 300 000 M79 Grenade Launchers were manufactured. The technical manuals are TM 9-1010-205-10 (Operator's Manual) and TM 9-1010-205-24 (Maintenance.)
Navy Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Jonathan Bellamy firing an M-79 grenade launcher on the fantail aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), US 7th Fleet exercises, Pacific Ocean, 22 March 2008,
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