USMC’s New M-32s/ MSGLs: Hitting the Field
While high-tech weapons items get a lot of billing, the Global War on Terror is very much an infantry war. Firepower overmatch matters in those situations, which explains the corresponding popularity of 40mm grenade systems on the modern battlefield. Enter, then, the US Marine Corps’ M-32 six-shot 40mm grenade launcher.
During an annual symposium several years ago, Marine gunners decided that they needed an option that was more powerful than the ubiquitous M203 one-shot launchers that mount under their M4 or M16 rifles. The M-32 won out as an experimental weapon for each marine battalion – and now a variant appears to have won a larger formal competition.
Milkor’s M-32/ MSGL
The USMC joined the South African, Brazilian, Italian and Philippine militaries in fielding MGL-140 derivative multi-shot 40mm grenade systems. Law enforcement models are also available, though they would be used to shoot incapacitating rounds instead.
The M-32 began fielding with the USMC in 2006. It’s a modified Milkor MGL-140 with additional features. Key modifications include the fore-grip, the collapsible modular buttstock and recoil pad, a MIL-STD-1913 “Quad Rail” set of fore end Picatinny Sight Rail. The weapon also comes with a scope/ reflex sight up top, instead of the M203’s old leaf sights. The reflex sight compensates for the natural drift of the 40mm grenade, an indexed sight base helps with range adjustment, and a quadrant grid reticule allows quick acquisition, range estimation, impact adjustment and fire for effect, without leaving the “sight picture”. The sight is fully night-time capable.
The M-32 can put all 6 rounds on target in under 3 seconds, which is very helpful during ambushes if the squad needs to suppress and break contact. The M32 has reported successful head shots at 150 meters, and can fire all DODTI and NATO Standard 40 x 46mm low velocity grenades. The weapon can be loaded with a variety of 40mm munitions for a specific mission, and the operator can select the desired round without having to unload the weapon. Beyond the “normal” M433 40mm grenade, and standard specialty rounds like smoke, compatible specialty rounds also reportedly include:
- HELLHOUND rounds with twice the lethal radius of the M433, which will breach doors and kill anything behind them;
- DRACO thermobaric rounds; and even
- HUNTIR rounds with cameras in them, that descend on a parachute and send back video.
Unsurprisingly, it is a much heavier weapon than the rifle-mounted M203 in all respects. Instead of an add-on, it’s a full weapon with a stainless steel frame. The M-32 weighs in at about 15 pounds fully loaded, with more recoil and a heavier trigger.
In January 2010, the Marines awarded their Multi-Shot Grenade Launcher (MSGL) competition to Milkor. MARSYSCOM confirms that these are not additional M-32s, but a variation on the Mk-14 Mod 0 – SOCOM’s version of the M-32. The designs can be thought of as a gradual progression, and the differences between the SOCOM weapon and the newly awarded MSGL are subtle, with some changes being the way the barrel is attached and the trigger mechanism.
Milkor has a military MGL-105 model, but there is a difference in the chamber length, which is directly related to the types of ammunition that can be fired from the MGL-105. The MSGL is more reflective of the shorter chamber length found in the M-32.
Contracts & Key Events
Jan 20/10: Milkor USA, Inc. in Tucson, AZ wins the US Marine Corps’ Multi-Shot Grenade Launcher (MSGL) competition. The $42.2 million indefinite-delivery-indefinite-quantity contract covers production, delivery, and associated support. The DefenseLINK release lists the weapon as having a maximum range of 400 meters, with greater accuracy at ranges up to 150 meters.
Marine Corps Systems Command says that the full contract would deliver 5,000 MSGLs if all options are exercised, but the Marine Corps’ initial purchase under this contract is for 2,191. The US Marines expect to begin fielding the new weapons in Q4 (summer) FY 2010.
This contract was competitively procured, with 3 offers received by the Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, VA (M67854-10-D-1038). Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ and the contract runs until Jan 19/15.
Jan 22/07: Murdoc reports from the 2007 SHOT show, where he talks with a Milkor representative. He’s told there are currently about 250 of these in Iraq with the Marines, that Australia and other nations are looking at them as well, and that the electronic targeting system has allowed head shots at 150 meters. The current model weighs in at about 15 pounds, fully loaded, but the Milkor rep says that the next generation units will be about 10 pounds. That compares well to an M249 SAW light machine gun for suppressive fire duties, and the rep. adds that some Marine squads equipped with the weapon are using it in place of a SAW gunner.
A subsequent DID discussion with MARSYSCOM established that the USMC ordered 210 M-32s as part of its Urgent Operational Requirement for a multi-shot grenade launcher.
March 9/06: The USMC announces that the M-32 has been introduced to Regimental Combat Team 5, based in Camp Fallujah, Iraq. Opening line? “Arnold Schwarzenegger is going to want one.”
- Milkor USA – Specifications
- Defense Review (March 16/06) – New Milkor Mg-140/MEI Hyper-Lethal 40mm Weapon/Combo System for Infantry