China Lake grenade launcher
|China Lake pump-action grenade launcher|
China Lake 4x40 grenade launcher
|Place of origin||United States|
|In service||1968–present (limited)|
|Used by||See Users|
|Designer||Alfred F. Kermode|
|Manufacturer||China Lake Naval Weapons Center|
|Produced||1968 China Lake , 2009 Airtronic|
|Number built||50 original production receivers serialized of which only four are known to still remain intact in museums in the U.S. and Vietnam. Late manufactured registered reproduction China Lake Launchers are said to number at 8 in total during a completed production run in 2010 involving Airtronic Co. on a project improvement program. All 8 functioning reproduction launchers are under private ownerships.|
|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||400 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 United States 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. Navy 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 be fired rapidly 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 aluminium. Despite this advantage in firepower, it has some limitations as it could not reliably feed the more oddly-shaped 40mm grenades.
The pump-action grenade launcher features 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. SEAL historian Kevin Dockery has confirmed 22 completed guns being carried on Navy records. Currently, only four 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 prototype created in the mid-1990s based upon the earlier China Lake Model pump 40mm. The EX-41 was only produced as a single prototype. It was a follow on design created a two 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 four remaining original China Lake Model grenade launchers are on display in museums. One, serial number four, is at the UDT/ SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida while serial number 13, is on display in the War Remnants Museum in HCMC, Vietnam. Serial number two 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.
In June 2007, they were in limited production and ready to market the weapon to the military. At that time, they were approached with an offer from Airtronic USA (the current government manufacturer of the M203) to acquire a license for military production and sales.
In July 2007, Airtronic USA announced that they were entering large scale production with an initial order for 500 units destined for US military forces. This announcement occurred simultaneously with the taping of an episode of the popular military technology program, "Weaponology". As of 2009, Airtronic USA will commence manufacturing the NATIC launchers in its original form and another variant with picatinny rails, pistol grip and retractable "M4 Carbine" type stock.
In 2009 Contractor and Manufacturer Airtronic invested over 2 million dollars with Trident company a contract to reproduce the China Lake Launcher original design and also to advance further development of the original design incorporating a M203 handguard, M4 style Collapsible Stock and Barrel incorporated with a top rail for accessories and extend the magazine tube to allow four grenades plus one in chamber.
Eight of the China Lake Reproduction launchers were manufactured in 2009 but eventually the two companies involved "Airtronic and Trident" parted ways after legal action over the rights of manufacturing ownership. The last 8 privately owned China lake Airtronic launchers are also believed to be serial numbers 1 thru 8 and reside in private ownerships in the United States. 
- EX 41 grenade launcher
- M79 grenade launcher
- M203 grenade launcher
- M32 grenade Launcher
- M320 grenade launcher
- Mk 19 grenade launcher
- Bruce, Robert (December 2006). "Treasures of the UDT-SEAL Museum". Small Arms Review. 10 (3): 46. ISSN 1094-995X.
- Dockery, Kevin (December 2004). Weapons of the Navy SEALs. New York City: Berkley Publishing Group. p. 382. ISBN 0-425-19834-0.