During World War 2, the standard infantryman utilized thrown hand grenades and rifle grenades when clearing out suspected enemy positions. These proved viable solutions though the former was limited by the range of the throw and the latter was limited by its range when ignited off of the muzzle of a service rifle. In the early 1950s, work was being done on a dedicated grenade projecting solution. The major portion of this program produced the standardized 40x46 grenade projectile though deciding on a viable launcher concept proved elusive. The storied Springfield Armory of Springfield, Massachusetts USA had developed a serviceable prototype in the form of the "S-3" beginning in 1953. With American Army interest, the type was evolved to become the "S-5" prototype and, finally, developed into the operational-level XM79 to undergo formal evaluations into the late 1950s.
The XM79 was a break-action single-shot weapon featuring a wooden stock, integrated wooden grip and wooden forend. To this was inlaid the metalwork required of the action and the barrel which was of a simple, smooth-sided finish. The trigger unit was underslung at the action and ahead of the grip in the usual way. A forward iron sight was added at the muzzle while a more useful flip-up leaf assembly was added ahead of center for ranging. The operator need only to break the action open, insert a 40mm projectile into the breech, close the action, aim and fire. Overall weight of the loaded weapon was a handy 6.45lbs with a manageable unloaded weight of 6lbs. Overall length was 29 inches which made for a relatively compact weapon system. The barrel measured 14 inches long.
The M79 proved a success on the world stage where its use went beyond that of the American Army. Australia, Brazil, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Malaysia, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam and Yemen were just some of the notable operators of the type. S&T Daewoo produced the M79 under local license as the "KM79". South Africa's Milcor/Mechem have taken to revising M79s with optic sights and the shoulder stock of the R-series assault rifles/carbines.
If anything, the M79 certainly proved a major stepping stone in the American development of the underslung rifle-attached grenade launcher. While several recent experimental trial automatic weapons went on to see increased use of an integrated 20mm grenade launcher system, the move from the 40mm caliber does not appear likely. The M203, the system adopted to replace the venerable M79, has itself been replaced with the adoption of the Heckler & Koch HK M320 series for the US Army.
During its lengthy service life, the M79 was given rather colorful nicknames including "Bloop Tube", "Blooper", "Thumper" and "Thump-Gun". It remains in circulation with many key military powers in the world today (2013) and has even seen renewed use by the US Navy SEALs and other specialist forces operating in both Iraq and Afghanistan. It is also in widespread use as an anti-riot weapon the world over.
Springfield Armory had been the major brand label associated with the M79 though Action Mfg Company, Daewoo, Exotic Metal Products, Kanarr Corporation and Thompson-Ramo-Woolridge have also been involved, brining worldwide production numbers beyond the listed 350,000 US-produced units.
- Area Effect
- Specialized Role
731 mm (28.78 in)
356 mm (14.02 in)
6.00 lb (2.72 kg)
Flip-Up Iron; Forward Iron
Single Shot; Breech-Loaded; Reusable
250 feet-per-second (76 meters-per-second)
1,150 ft (351 m; 383 yd)
M79 - Base Series Designation