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The Mk-19 Automatic 40mm Grenade Launcher Is a Beast

MK 19 Grenade Launcher
Image: Creative Commons.

We at 19FortyFive have recently published our fair share of articles about grenade launchers, from the venerable M203 40mm grenade launcher to the ‘203’s intended replacement weapons systems such as Precision Grenadier System (PGS) and the XM25 “Punisher”.

But for sheer awesomeness, badas*ery, and ability to rain hellfire and brimstone upon the enemy, none of those can compare to the Mk-19 automatic grenade launcher (although, granted, those first three weapons do have the advantage of man-portability). 

Mk-19 Origins and Specifications

Hard to believe as it may seem, the Mk-19 is actually a Vietnam War-vintage weapon, designed way back in 1966 and went into production in 1968, one year before the M203 did so.

The upgraded Mod 1, Mod 2, and Mod 3 were developed in 1971, 1974, and 1976 respectively; the Mod 3It is manufactured by Saco Defense Industries, which was acquired in 2000 by General Dynamics. Unit production cost is a mere $20,000.00 USD, which is absolute chump change compared to military budgetary boondoggles such as, say, the F-35. As noted by Eric Sof of Spec Ops Magazine:

“The Mk 19 is a blowback operated, open bolt, an air-cooled weapon capable of fully automatic or single shot fire chambered for 40 mm grenades. Mk 19 can fire high explosive fragmentation, dual-purpose (armor-piercing/fragmentation), and smoke grenades. Those rounds are fed from 32 or 48-round disintegrating link belts weighing 19 or 27 kg. This weapon’s rate of fire is 60 rounds per minute for fast fire or 40 rounds per minute for sustained fire. The Mk 19A is a man-portable crew-served weapon that can fire from a tripod-mounted position or from a vehicle mount, with the latter being the preferred method, as the weapon alone weighs 77.6 pounds (35.2 kg). The primary ammunition for it is the high-explosive dual-purpose M430 grenade. On impact, the grenade can kill anyone within a radius of five meters and wound them within a radius of 15 meters.”

In addition, that M430 round generates a muzzle velocity of 240 meters per second and can penetrate up to 50 mm of rolled homogeneous armor with a direct hit, which translates into effectiveness against most armored personnel carriers (APCs), some infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs), infantry, and even helicopters, but not main battle tanks (MBTs).

The practical effective range is 1,600 meters and the max range is 2,200 meters. The weapon itself is 43.1 inches in length with a barrel length of 16.25 inches, a width of 9.46 inches, and a height of 7.8 inches.

It uses a leaf sight that is divvied into 100-meter increments, which contrasts with the 50-meter increments of the M203; unlike the ‘203, the Mk19 does not have a quadrant sight.

Non-U.S. users of the Mk-19 include Mexico, Pakistan, Canada, Israel, and Greece. Turkey and Egypt.

In addition to the Vietnam War, the weapon has seen combat in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, the 2006 Lebanon War, the Turkey-PKK Conflict, and the Mexican Drug War

I Fired This Grenade Launcher

I had the honor and pleasure of firing the Mk-19 as an active-duty U.S. Air Force Security Forces troop (HOOAH!); more specifically as a 1st Lieutenant undergoing technical training Security Forces Academy’s Security Forces Officer Course at Lackland AFB’s Medina Annex in January 2004.

I only got to fire a single 32-round through the thing, as the Combat Arms Training & Maintenance (CATM) instructors only had so many smoke grenade practice rounds available for my 40+ classmates for the “FAMFIRE” (familiarization firing) session.

But those measly 32 rounds were definitely sufficient to provide for a fun and memorable shooting experience. 

My classmates and I fired the weapon in a seated position on the tripod mount.

As this was mere familiarization and not a marksmanship qualification course, we were given no actual targets per se, instead dropping our rounds on a wide-open patch of ground.

As far as the recoil of the weapon being fired, the closest analogy I can draw is that of being like controlling a large dog repeatedly tugging excitedly at his leash.

The sound effect of the grenades exiting the muzzle created a distinct ka-thunk-ka-thunk-ka-thunk-ka-thunk rhythm. (Such highly technical terminology, I know.) 

Good times, good times. 

Christian D. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.  In his spare time, he enjoys (besides shooting, obviously) dining out, cigars, Irish and British pubs, travel, USC Trojans college football, and Washington DC professional sports.

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Written By

Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force officer, Federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments worked in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany, and the Pentagon).