The Grenadier Returns: USMC to Deploy M320 at Fire Team Level

    USMC with an M320

    U.S. Marines with 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, provide suppressive fire utilising an M320 during a live-fire range, July 12, 2017 (USMC/Lance Cpl. Justin X. Toledo)

    Back in March we reported that the USMC order just over 600 M320 grenade launchers. The Marine Corps has now confirmed that each squad will be equipped with three M320s – issued to specialised grenadiers who will be attached to the Marine Corps new three-man fireteams. This comes as the Corps transitions to a new 12-man Rifle Squad structure the result of a number of experimentation and evaluation programs including Marine Corps Force 2025 and Sea Dragon 2025.

    While in the past the USMC has experimented with the M320 in both the under-barrel grenade launcher configuration, like the venerable M203, (as seen here) and as a stand alone weapon system (seen here) the Corps has confirmed that the M320 will be fielded  as a standalone weapon.

    Marines with M320

    Marines manoeuvre across a dirt road during a live-fire training at Range G-6 at Camp Lejeune, N.C., July 12, 2017. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Justin X. Toledo (source)

    The Corps’ Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Estimates Justification Book, explained the logic behind the move to the M320:

    The M320 Grenade Launcher will replace the M203 in Marine Infantry and Infantry-like units. Due to its side breach, the M320 will allow for the use of more capable 40mm grenades for counter-defilade, breaching and non-lethal applications.

    But made no mention of how the M320s would be issued or whether they would be deployed as under-barrel grenade launchers. But on the 14 May, the Corp’s official twitter feed shared a video announcing the ‘Modernization of the Marine Rifle Squad’.

    The video explains the structure of the new 12-Marine rifle squad and how a new ‘grenadier’ position has been added to the fire team. We covered the make up of the new squad over on our sister site, Overt Defence, last week. This move is reminiscent of the Vietnam-era M79 grenadier, although unlike his predecessor the modern Marine will carry an M27 as his primary weapon.

    A Marine photographed in 2017 with the M320 in a potential UBGL configuration mounted on an M4A1, this configuration has been rejected in favour of issuing standalone M320s to new grenadiers (U.S. Marine Corps / Pfc. Taylor Cooper)

    The new squad will be equipped entirely with the M27, which the video equates to a ‘300% increase in firepower’. The video also details other squad equipment including the MAAWS (Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle), an M27 re-purposed as a Squad Designated Marksman Rifle (M38), an intelligence gathering quad copter drone (controlled by the new squad systems operator), the PRC-117G radio set, the Marine Corps Common Tablet and a squad range finder. It remains to be seen if, like the M38, the M320 will be issued at the squad leaders discretion to the Marine most adept at the weapon system’s use.

    Source: USMC Tweet & Video

    Matthew Moss

    _________________________________________________________________________ – Managing Editor – Managing Editor

    Matt is a British historian specialising in small arms development and military history. He has written several books and for a variety of publications in both the US and UK. He also runs Historical Firearms, a blog that explores the history, development and use of firearms. Matt is also co-founder of The Armourer’s Bench, a video series on historically significant small arms.

    Here on TFB he covers product and current military small arms news.

    Reach Matt at: [email protected]