Soldiers on Fort Jackson began training with a new weapons system instructors said the troops love shooting because it can launch grenades while attached to their rifles, or be fired independently.
A training team was on Fort Jackson Tuesday and Wednesday familiarizing drill sergeants with the newest grenade launcher in the Army arsenal - M320A1.
"With the M203 it has to stay with the weapon," said Alex Mariblanca, a weapons equipment trainer with Tank Automotive Command, out of Warren, Michigan, who was on Fort Jackson schooling drill sergeants and unit cadre on the working of the M320A1 grenade launcher that is replacing the venerable M203.
The M203 weighs three pounds while the newer model weighs five.
For Sgt. Keala Burks, a drill sergeant in Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, shooting a grenade launcher isn't something she gets to do every day.
"We shoot (grenade launchers) in school and out here when we are out with the privates we might fire a few rounds. Usually they give us five rounds a piece, but here they gave us around 30," said Burks, a preventative maintenance specialist.
After a while it got heavy, she said.
The weight difference is caused by the M320 having a barrel that is much more durable, while the weapon can be used as a weapon itself or attached to an M4 carbine rifle, Mariblanca said. The heavier barrel causes the weapon to have a longer lifespan because the more rounds fired through a lighter barrel can deteriorate accuracy much quicker than a thicker one.
"A lot of the Soldiers that I ask say they prefer to fire this one," he said. "This one is easier to fire even in the stand alone mode."
The M320 has a removable stock that can be attached to the weapon to allow it fire as its own weapon. Another of the features Soldiers prefer is how the weapon is loaded. While the M203 was loaded by pushing the barrel forward, the M320's breach swings open with the press of a button to allow loading from the side.
"You just push a button and it pops out the side," Burks said. "I think it makes it easier to fire. The problem with the 203 is that I can't hardly get it open or shut all the way. So I think this one is easier. It's just a little heavier with the material it's made out of."
Unlike the M203 where the shooter fired the weapon while grasping the magazine, the M320 fires using a pistol grip.
Burks acknowledged firing the M320 while attached to her rifle was difficult because it caused her to have to fire the launcher using her left hand while her right held the M4's pistol grip.
David Beesley, another trainer from TACOM, agreed Soldiers prefer being able to fire the M320 without being attached to their rifles.
"From the feedback I've seen I think Soldiers prefer the newer weapon because it can be placed in a stand-alone mode," Beesley said. "So you know you've got the weight of that thing on the end of your M4. Think about it, you are carrying an M203 on your M16 or M4 and you're carrying five more pounds on your weapon. If you're carrying an M203 you have to have it with you (on your weapon).
"With this you can put it in stand-alone mode, say you are in a (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle) you can put it in the turret and the guy up there can engage bad guys 400 meters away."
Caliber - 40 mm.
Weight -- 5 lbs., 10.92 lbs. attached to an M4 carbine
Barrel length -- 8.46 inches
Rifling -- six lands and grooves
Maximum range -- 400 meters
Maximum effective range:
Point target: 150 meters
Area target: 350 meters