Curious case of Mad Bull Airsoft in Iraq

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If you looked at this photograph and thought to yourself, “This looks like a 40x46mm Low Velocity grenade launcher, but it is unlike any launcher currently used by any Military/LE force”, then you’d be halfway to a solid conclusion. However if you are really into Airsoft, you’d probably instantly recognize it for what it is, a Mad Bull Airsoft grenade launcher made in Taiwan. But then what in the world is it doing on a “Real Steel” AR rifle? In Iraq?

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A number of photographs coming out of the firearms community in Iraq is showing these Mad Bull Airsoft grenade launchers being sold as stand alone products, in addition to being actually mounted on Kalashnikov and AR picatinny rail systems. In Iraq the firearms accessory market (mostly for ARs), is very much flooded with cheap Airsoft components from China or Taiwan. These products come into the country via Turkey (which is also the source for the majority of black market firearms), or directly from China with Iraqi dealers importing them directly into the country. The reason for this is that legally, legitimate firearms accessories cannot be imported through customs. However, Airsoft products can be imported as much as possible because they are classified as toys when coming through Iraqi customs. Thus, everything from Airsoft stocks, picatinny rails, grips, rail covers, and even scopes are being seen on legitimate firearms.

airsoft1 XM203S

However the case of the Mad Bull Grenade Launcher is interesting because it can go several ways. Most Iraqis realize it for what it is, and simply mount it on their rifles because of the “cool” factor, and know it won’t be able to fire a live 40x46mm HE grenade. However, knowing the U.S market, understanding and knowledge of firearm parts can become convoluted. How many times have you purchased a part legitimately thinking it could fit on this particular rail or any other situation but then figured out that it actually doesn’t fit at all? With this train of thought, it is statistically inevitable that an Iraqi somewhere along the line could purchase this launcher from another unsuspecting buyer and assume it could chamber a live grenade. Looking at the dimensions of the launcher this appears that it could in fact chamber a 40x46mm Low Velocity grenade, however I may be incorrect in this assumption and if I am, please let me know in the comments. Baring that being true, if a live grenade were able to chamber, and the firing pin in the Mad Bull strong enough to strike the primer, the Airsoft product would probably suffer a catastrophic malfunction, most likely shattering the launcher and possibly injuring the user. After all the Aluminum Airsoft model is probably not at all made to handle the chamber pressure of a live grenade.

But what if the opposite is true? What if the Airsoft launcher is indeed capable of firing a live 40x46mm grenade? And it could do so repeatedly, even with no rifling and little accuracy? Well in that case, we would have an unregulated Airsoft product, readily available across the world with the ability to fire live grenades. It probably isn’t the case at all, and hopefully isn’t, but it certainly entertains the mind.

Actual 40x46mm

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Miles V

Former Infantry Marine, and currently studying at Indiana University. I’ve written for Small Arms Review and Small Arms Defense Journal, and have had a teenie tiny photo that appeared in GQ. Specifically, I’m very interested in small arms history, development, and Military/LE usage within the Middle East, and Central Asia.

If you want to reach out, let me know about an error I’ve made, something I can add to the post, or just talk guns and how much Grunts love naps, hit me up at miles@tfb.tv


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  • DW

    1. Airsoft 40mm launchers have different chamber dimensions so live 40mm rounds shouldn’t chamber at all.
    2. “Ignition” of airsoft shell is achieved by “pressing” the valve of airsoft grenade, and the “striker” for that is larger in diameter than the primer on real 40mm grenade. If you can make airsoft launcher ignite real 40mm grenade you must have hand of God, and should not worry the thing going kaboom on you or better yet, question your need of firearms in general.

  • Bull

    You are the buttons in the back of the launcher? Its A transfer bar that pushes the valve in the back of the Airsoft grenade. No way you can fire real grenades in these without serious modifications.
    You can launch pepper balls though?

  • Joe Moore

    There is no firing pin, you use manual force to push a valve. So no, no way to use live ammo.

  • borekfk

    Maybe it’s some sort of non-lethal deal? Launching metal BBs to try and stun?

    • A bearded being from beyond ti

      If you want to stun your enemies with your stupidity then i guess that would be perfect.

      • borekfk

        Well I doubt anyone would accuse a person of great intelligence if they’re using an airsoft grenade launcher in Iraq.

  • kalashnikev

    This is nothing new. There is a photo from 2005-ish of some contractor dooshes posing under the sabers in Baghdad with airsoft suppressors.

    • Cynic

      Would be easier to use commercial firearms faux suppressors as most airsoft ones wont fit standard threads as their ll 14mm clockwise or 18mm clockwise

      The only one I know of that would fit is the pop bottle improvised can adapor and only coz some company in russia/the usa make an identical one

  • Jeremy Star

    Wait, thousands of Iraqi gunsmiths churn out AKs all the time and none of them have figured out how to make a real 40mm grenade launcher? I find that hard to believe.

    • xebat

      After the invasion of Iraq the domestic firearms industry collapsed.

    • Jeff NME

      A lot of the “magic” in a grenade launcher is the grenade round itself.
      Google up a cross-section and you’ll see the cartridge isn’t just a giant shotgun shell and the grenade isn’t a giant slug either.
      It’s “a little tiny bit” more complicated than that. 😉

  • Darhar M.

    Perhaps those that are versed in improvised weapons and explosives

    have turned the airsoft grenade into a lightweight short range dealer of death.

  • Elvis

    If the barrel is not rifled, an HE grenade would not arm.

    • Evan

      Wrong post…. I’m that guy now.

  • Elvis

    …and your ‘actual’ grenade pictured above, is the high velocity variant that the MK19 fires, and will not chamber or fire in an M203.

  • BillC

    This is the dumbest thing I have ever read.

    • Phillip Cooper

      Are you new to the Internet?

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    Would it really be that difficult to fabricate a functioning launcher?

  • Graham2

    I don’t want to rain on anyones parade but are you sure the AR and AK are real?

  • Evan

    So I guess the tacticool mall ninja is a thing in Iraq too. Except for they probably actually fight (poorly).

    • Billy Jack

      Tactical Iraqi spinners

  • Arie Heath

    These launchers don’t actually have a firing pin. The airsoft grenades work by opening a valve and letting the gas inside the grenade propel BB’s in a shotgun pattern. You would not be able to use real grenades in them. I’m guessing they just want to look cool.

  • Uniform223

    If you can’t make it, fake it.
    That should be the motto for those “hardcore” milsimer types.

  • Evan

    (Insert accidental suicide bombing joke here)

  • A bearded being from beyond ti
    • Michel_T

      Just wait… the mainstream media will pick up on this…

      With a bit editing on their parts, this be considered the most dangerous device in America and California will be asking for a nationwide ban…

      • A bearded being from beyond ti

        “We should respect fire and its way of expressing itself”

  • John

    While it’s airsoft and thankfully not reliable for any combat, a small part of me is glad to see that people are trying to take advantage of more modern tactical accessories. Glad to see rails, foregrips and better pistol grips on more AKs all the time, from a design perspective.

  • POsP-Eye

    I get what several of you have explained regarding the differences between real and toy launchers/grenades. That being said, is it possible that an inventive gunsmith could just use these as a starting point, or easily obtained parts to cut corners building, or an outer shell for some improvised internal wizardry? Is it dimensionally larger than the real one? Implying whether someone could add a rifled reinforcing sleeve, and or potentionally functional guts? (Whether safe or suicidal?) I mean, I’ve seen plenty of interweb kiddies debate whether starting with a “faux suppressor” would actually save you any time or money on a garage suppressor build. So my first reaction was to think that this was some kind of functional something that just *looked* like a toy – as vestigial evidence of parts scrounged. That would actually be pretty cool. OR if it’s ALL airsoft & belongs to a kid who’s into training early. Otherwise it’s just really goofy. Although I guess, oddly, not unprecedented in it’s level of goofy https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1c553db3a74473cf9b6d3d8b8a4cf12dbe3b0673ee55971bb3431662f31f92f8.jpg . (See attached pic.)

    • JoelM

      It would be easier to start from scratch than convert one of these to a real working version. I’ve look at it before, comparing both side by side. A basic rifled and striker fired 40mm launcher could be fabricated from scratch on a lathe in a day or two. You do need to file the paperwork for a DD stamp though, before making one in the US.

  • jp2336

    Interesting but….Unless heavily modified, current conventional munitions (the exception being smoke & flares) will not function due to the lack of centrifugal forces being imparted on the projo to allow escapement mechanisms to function as designed. Makes one wonder though. What’s next, made in China rifled tubed or the classic improvised (Russian style, one safety…maybe) 40mm projo. Dammnit, beat me to the punch. Sneaky bastards.

  • JoelM

    Probably only for the intimidation value. I can’t see any legitimate use.

  • cruzo1981

    From what I’ve seen on the fight in Mosul these are appropriate as weapons, vehicles and uniforms get left behind once the Iraqi War Fighter encounters opposition!