Now, with that observation out of the way, lets have a look at all the innovative designs at our disposal. There is the milkor M32, metal storm 3GL, QLZ-87B, PAW-20, F2000, and XM-25. The latter two examples introduce remarkable new employment options. The GL1 grenade launcher (mounted composite with the F2000 rifle) features an integrated laser sight, which verifys the range to target. The user only needs to paint the 'object of interest' to activate the ballistic computer, which will provide him with an effortless firing solution: Elevating the grenade launcher in the direction of the target, he will be informed of whether or not it is at the correct firing angle by LED lights mounted on the sight. When considering the curved trajectory of the 40x46mm round, this will allow shooters to easily place shells into enemy dead space. The XM-25, on the other hand, provides the same ability through a considerably different process. Again using a laser rangefinder to determine the distance to the target, this time, the weapons ballistic computer will provide detonation commands to the fuze of a grenade in the chamber. It does this by calculating the number of rotations the round will make on its way to the target! Clever, eh? By virtue of the weapons flat arc, any grenades it spits out will explode at a distance that was pre-set by the user and computer (which, in most cases, would be directly above an enemys head). This allows the saturation of targets in foxoles and trenchs, even without the use of plunging fire (as the F2000 system does).
The QLZ-87B, PAW-20, and XM-25 are all multi-shot weapons, being fed from a stacked magazine in a conventional manner. The fact that they do not need to be reloaded after each discharge is a highly desirable feature. Unfortunately, the latter two examples make use of proprietary grenade calibers, which are small and limited in their potency. The former example, while using full sized rounds, is also quite heavy and inconvenient for a single soldier to carry around. This marginalises their applicability as a grenadier weapon, with the attributes to replace the workhouse M320. What is needed is a system that is fairly lightweight, can fire multiple shots, has an affinity for counter defilade shooting, and also fields the standard 40x46mm grenade rounds. These requirements rule out everything except for the milkor M32, and metal storm 3GL! The imposing EX-41 china lake model (which won so much acclaim in ralph zumbros book) would also be a prime candidate, were it not for the fact that it had a tiny production run, and has been out of service for decades. The question we now have to ask ourselves is, which model has the best characteristics for its role as a primary weapon? Lets go through all the specifics. For size and weight, the M32 is 32 inchs long, and 11.7 lbs in weight. The 3GL, meanwhile, is 30 inchs long, and 5.5 lbs in weight. This clearly gives it the edge, even though its magazine capacity is of three rounds, compared to the mikors six (the difference between three grenades and six is, after all, smaller than the difference between three grenades and one!).
The EX-41, in all its glory. As paris
hilton would say... Thats hot.
However, the question we really need to ask ourselves now is whether or not the 3GL (in its current form) is worth the cost of acquisition? Although there would not be the difficultys with ammo incompatibility that are faced by the XM-25, it really doesn't seem worth it to go through the trouble of replacing the just recently introduced M320 system... That is, until, you take a look at the untapped potential the 3GL posses'. The metal storm technology this weapon is based on allows multiple rounds to be loaded into, and fired from, a single barrel. This is distinct from those designs which make use of revolver or magazine fed systems, which can be quite bulky when packing many full sized grenades. Additionally, the 3GL has been designed to be within the same tolerances as the M203/M320 and so achieves similar range, velocity & accuracy. It makes use of standard 40x46mm grenade warheads which are inserted into the metal storm ‘tail assembly.’ Again, this would make the system much more attractive to nations which currently use the standard 40x46mm rounds. The modern caseless propellant and gas seals developed by metal storm are clearly secure, and the electrical firing system is much simpler than the earlier efforts. The MS rounds basically use STK projectiles with a caseless propellant and gas seal unit affixed to the back, in place of the usual cartridge case.
With that being the case, there is a specific direction that this grenade launchers design could be taken in, to make it a truly worthy addition to our nations arsenal. Anthony g williams, in his article, some thoughts on metal storm, imagined a new type of grenade launcher which could take advantage of the MS propellant block and gas seal. This allows multiple rounds to be loaded and fired from a single barrel, making for a much more compact weapon than competing MGL systems. By using two barrels, with four rounds in each, it would be handier than the milkor, with a faster rate of fire, more ammunition capacity, and the opportunity to employ multiple different rounds at the same time. One option would be to keep the first barrel loaded, and leave the second free to hand load specialised rounds such as flare, smoke, or video reconnaissance types. This would obviate the need for the operator to employ a personal weapon, as they would have the capability to fire flechette rounds to neutralise point targets. Maybe this would be the opportunity to introduce those canister rounds that g2mil mentioned back in the day. You know, the ones which splinter into multiple segments so as to cover one square meter of space at a distance of 500 meters?
Actually, there are a large variety of special rounds that can be implemented with this design, which would make this double barreled grenade launcher a truly multi purpose weapons system. Even something as wacky as a HEDP round that can be guided towards a moving target through a SACLOS setup. But this is a topic best saved for another post. For now, our objective of investigating the best possible replacement for the M320 that money can buy is complete. The fire control system of the F2000 has especially interesting potential, particularly when considering it can be programmed to take into account the ballistic properties of up to six or more types of grenades... As a final note, just in case some people are still confused about what the squad mission of a grenade launcher is, it is enlightening to look at the results of the vietnam-era Infantry Rifle Unit Study (IRUS). According to it, the M79 pattern weapon was found to be most effective when employed as an area suppression weapon in the attack, but of comparatively little value in the defense. Whether a multi shot design like the EX-41 (which was in service at around that same time period) would suffer from these same weakness' is unknown. Only the future will tell!