Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
M79 grenade launcher
Commonly known as the "Thump-Gun", "Thumper", or "Blooper", the M79 grenade launcher first appeared during the Vietnam war. It closely resembled a large bore, break-action, sawn-off shotgun, and could fire a wide variety of 40mm rounds, including explosive, anti-personnel, smoke, buckshot, flechette, and incendiary. After the Vietnam war, the M79's popularity necessitated the invention of its successor, the M203. Sadly, the M203 has had nowhere near the same level of accuracy nor the firing rate of its predecessor.
In 1961 the first M79 grenade launchers were delivered to the US Army. They were designed as a close support weapon for the infantry in order to bridge to gap in range between hand-thrown grenades and mortars (between 50 and 300 meters). This unique ability gave the squad a very lethal integral indirect fire weapon. Short in length and fairly light in weight, the M79 proved extremely useful in the confining jungles of Vietnam.
The M79 was a single-shot, shoulder fired, break-barrel weapon which fired a spherical 40mm diameter breech-loaded grenade. It also had a rubber pad affixed to the shoulder stock to absorb some of the recoil generated when firing. The M79 was 29 inches (74cm) in length and approximately 6.5 pounds (3kg) when loaded. Situated half-way up the barrel was a large flip up (ladder-type) sight that worked in combination with a basic leaf-type foresight affixed to the end of the barrel. The rear sight was capable of ranging up to 410 yards (375 meters) in 27 yard (25 meter) intervals. In the hands of an experienced grenadier, the M79 could put out a steady stream of effective fire up to 200 meters.
Many different ammunition types were produced for the M79 (and subsequently for the M203), outside of the non-lethal smoke and illumination rounds two main types emerge: Explosive and Close-range.
The M406 40mm HE grenades fired from the M79 traveled at a muzzle velocity of 75 meters per second, and contained enough explosive to produce over 300 fragments that traveled at 1,524 meters per second within a lethal radius of 5 meters.
For close range fighting two style of M79 rounds were developed. The first was a flechette or Bee Hive round which fired dozens of small darts at once. Later in the war this was replaced by the M576 buckshot round. Containing twenty-seven 00 buckshot, this round was devastating at close ranges.
- Military technology and equipment
- List of firearms
- List of individual weapons of the US Armed Forces
- List of crew served weapons of the US Armed Forces
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