China Lake Grenade Launcher
|China Lake Pump-Action Grenade Launcher|
China Lake 4x40 grenade launcher
|Place of origin||United States|
|Used by||See Users|
|Designer||Alfred F. Kermode|
|Manufacturer||China Lake Naval Weapons Center|
|Number built||Less than 50, 500 more to be produced from 2009|
|Weight||4.63 kg (10.21 lb) loaded
3.72 kg (8.2 lb) empty
|Length||875 mm (34.4 in)|
|Barrel length||356 mm (14.0 in)|
|Rate of fire||15 rounds/min|
|Muzzle velocity||76 m/s (249 ft/s)|
|Effective firing range||350 m|
|Feed system||3-round tubular magazine|
|Sights||Open, leaf-type, square-notch/blade|
The China Lake Model (or China Lake Pump-Action Grenade Launcher) is a pump-action grenade launcher that was developed by the Special Projects Division of the China Lake Naval Weapons Center, which provided equipment to Navy SEALs.
The M79 and XM148 grenade launchers were single-shot, and the repeating T148E1 grenade launcher was unreliable, so a request was made to China Lake engineers. SEAL Teams were pleased with the resultant pump-action grenade launcher, since the tubular magazine held three 40x46mm grenades, and so with one grenade in the chamber, four grenades could rapidly be fired before reloading. In fact, a skilled operator could fire four aimed shots before the first one landed. The grenade launcher was extremely light for its size, since a significant portion of it was made of aluminum. Despite this advantage in firepower, it did have limitations as it could not reliably feed the more oddly-shaped 40mm grenades.
The pump-action grenade launcher featured leaf iron sights similar to the M79. The front sight is a fixed square notch. Depending on if the leaf is folded or not, the rear square notch is either fixed or adjustable from 75 to 400 m in 25 m increments.
Sources differ as to how many weapons were produced. One claims that between 20 and 30 were made. However, according to another source, only 16 were made. The highest original receiver number found is 50, but it may never have been made into a functional weapon. Noted SEAL historian, Kevin Dockery has confirmed 22 completed guns being carried on Navy records. Currently, only 3 originals remain under US Navy control. It is sometimes mistakenly referred to as the EX-41 or as the "China Lake NATIC". The EX-41 was a design concept created in the mid-1980s based upon the earlier China Lake Model Pump 40mm. The EX-41 was never actually produced, having never advanced beyond the conceptual drawing. No prototype was ever produced and it was a follow on design created a full 2 decades after the China Lake Model was produced. The China Lake NATIC designation is also erroneous as the weapon was never known by that designation. Since it was made on an ad hoc basis for special operations forces, it was not formally adopted and has no official designation. Thus the SEALs referred to the experimental weapon by referencing the facility which produced it, thus creating the name, "The China Lake Grenade Launcher".
All 4 remaining original China Lake Model grenade launchers are on display in museums. One, serial number 4, is at the UDT/ SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida while serial number 13, is found in the War Remnants Museum (Ho Chi Minh City) in Vietnam., Serial number 2 is stored at the US Navy Museum in Washington DC. One additional launcher is on limited display in highly restricted US Navy facilities at NSWC Crane.
An effort to produce an improved version of the weapon began in 1992 when Samuel "Dutch" Hillenburg, a firearms writer specializing in military weapons, teamed up with master machinist Brian Fauci. In 2003, they achieved a breakthrough and were able to convince fellow writer and firearms enthusiast Captain Monty Mendenhall to finance their research effort. By 2004, they had a functional prototype and had formed Trident Enterprises Ltd. to continue their work on the project.
In June 2007, a taping of an episode of the popular military technology program, Weaponology was filmed which announced that Trident had been approached by a U.S. company seeking to license their intellectual property in exchange for a royalty on each weapon produced.
In October 2009, the U.S. company had cancelled its contract to manufacture any variation of the launchers.
At some point during 2013, the weapon, containing various aftermarket parts, mods and improvements, some of which were damaged and the launcher not currently functioning, was taken to specialist firearms company Red Jacket Firearms in Baton Rouge, Louisiana who are well known for taking on extremely complex and one-off specialized weapon builds. Red Jacket are well known due to their TV show Sons of Guns that show custom and one-off weapons going through all phases from design to test fire and customer demos. It was firearms writer/historian Samuel "Dutch" Hillenburg (who had began to create an improved version in 1992) who brought the weapon to Red Jacket. The initial meeting to discuss what "Dutch" needed creating and repairing to get the launcher to a good, safe and reliable prototype weapon system to use to pitch the idea to military and law enforcement buyers etc., along with footage of the experienced team working on the unit and then a test firing demo with the weapon's owner present were all recorded for the show and aired as part of episode 5 of season 5 of Sons of Guns that originally aired April 18, 2014 on the Discovery Channel. With some impressive CNC milling of internal parts and precision hand shaping, fitting and adjustments to the system, the China Lake launcher managed to fire a couple of test rounds safely but it suffered from multiple parts and system failures. Red Jacket owner Will Haydon and CEO Joe Meaux found that the problems were arising from a cascading knock-on effect. As one part would be replaced, the next one down the line would break on the lighter and softer earlier produced components in the weapon, as they were not up to par with the high spec modern pieces that Red Jacket produced and installed. The rebuild was a success in that they managed to get the gun operating safely, but it was still problematic. All agreed that the best course of action for future development would be to re-mill and create all the pieces in the launcher to the same standard of metal and hardness.
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