Photo Information

Lance Cpl. Xavier Castro, a rifleman with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, fires his M203 rifle-mounted grenade launcher during a M203 qualification aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, April 5, 2015. The M203 grenade launcher fires various types of 40 mm ammunition, ranging from high explosive to ground marking rounds.

Photo by Cpl. Michael Dye

Marines qualify with M203 grenade launcher

7 May 2015 | Cpl. Michael Dye The Official United States Marine Corps Public Website

Marines with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, loaded 40 mm rounds into their M203 grenade launchers and fired them at targets resulting in an explosion of dirt and debris during a M203 grenade launcher qualification aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, April 5, 2015.

“Marines are learning how to manipulate their weapon system properly and employ it to the best of their capabilities,” said 1st Lt. Ian Killough, a training officer with the unit.

With a maximum effective range of about 350 meters, the M203 is a rifle-mounted, grenade launcher that allows the Marine to load one round at a time. 

“This is a qualification for all the grenadiers that we perform once every three months,” said Killough, a Wynne, Arkansas, native. 

Marines had ten 40 mm rounds and had to accurately place them on a target. Marines stood on the firing line and could shoot from one of three positions; standing, kneeling, and prone. They then identified a target they were firing at, and using the leaf sight system, a slotted flip-up sight that allows the Marine to sight in with the grenade launcher, fired the weapon. A spotter would then identify if the round hit the target, and if not, give corrections for direction or elevation to the Marine. The targets ranged from 100 meters to more than 200 meters.

“For every three rounds a Marine fires, two of them have to be on target,” said 1st Lt. Jake Ryan, the assistant operation officer with the unit. 

“This weapon system is a very powerful and important weapon system for a fireteam and squad in a rifle company,” Killough said. “So it is important that our Marines know how to use the weapon and use it properly.”

When targets cannot be accessed by direct fire, Marines use the M203 Grenade Launcher to engage enemies. Typically, each fireteam’s Team Leader carries this weapon. A well-trained M203 operator can effectively suppress an enemy in open, they can also equip non-lethal 40mm rounds such as the M651 CS round, which deploys tear gas to help crowd control or disperse riots. Marines must train to maintain their skills with the weapon often due to its wide range of uses. 

“This [weapon] allows the infantry fireteam to achieve a localized version of the combined arms dilemma,” Ryan said. “As an example, a fire team is engaged by an insurgent who is firing from behind a wall. The insurgent exposes himself to fire his rifle at the Marines and ducks behind cover to avoid their fire. The Marines then employ the M203 to [shoot] 40mm grenades to either force the enemy to displace from his covered position or to fix him in place so they can maneuver on his position and engage the insurgent with their rifles.”

“We don’t get to fire high explosive rounds on a maneuver range,” Killough said. “This is one of the few chances they get to fire [high explosive rounds] from their M203’s. The round flies differently than the training round, so it’s important for them to understand the difference in the two and how to employ it.”

Killough went on to say the qualification went well and he saw a lot of accurate grenadiers in the company.