M79, 40 mm GRENADE LAUNCHER
The first M79 Grenade launchers were delivered to the U.S. Army in 1961; soon there after the nickname "Thumper" or "Blooper" became common for this weapon. The M79 closely resembled a large bore, single barrel, sawed-off shotgun with a large flip up sight half way down the barrel, with a basic leaf foresight fixed at the end of the barrel. The rear sight was calibrated up to 375 meters in 25-meter intervals. With a length of 737mm (barrel=355mm) and a loaded weight of 3kg (6 pounds) the M79 was an ideal weapon in the close terrain in Vietnam. In the hands of a good experienced gunner the M79 was highly accurate up to 200 meters.
The M79 was designed as a close support weapon and intended to bridge the gap between the maximum throwing distance of a hand grenade and the lowest range of supporting mortar fire - between 50 and 300 meters - thus becoming a integral indirect fire weapon.
Photo (left) from Duffy showing Phillips holding M79
The M79 was a single shot, shoulder fired, break-barrel weapon, that fired a spherical 40mm diameter grenade loaded directly into the breech. It had a rubber pad fitted to the shoulder stock to absorb some of the shock. The 40mm HE grenades fired from the M79 traveled at a muzzle velocity of 75 meters per second, and contained enough explosive within an aluminum casing that upon impact with the target would produce over 399 fragments at 1,524 meters per second within a lethal radius of up to 5 meters. Stabilized in flight by the spin imparted on it by the rifled barrel the grenade rotated at 3,700 rpm, this in turn, after approximately 15 meters of flight, armed the grenade. For close range fighting the Army came up with the flechette round (or Bee Hive) which housed approximately 45 small darts in a plastic casing. Later these rounds were replaced by buckshot round. This round contained twenty seven 00 buckshot which on firing was carried down the barrel in a 40mm plastic sabot which slowed down in flight so that the pellets could travel in their forward direction un-aided.
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