The US Army's Natick Soldier Systems Center is currently evaluating new holsters for the detachable M320 40mm grenade launcher system as part of the M320GL holster soldier enhancement program (SEP).
Three holster types, 167 of each, were acquired by the Product Manager Soldier Clothing and Individual Equipment (PM SCIE) following soldiers' complaints that the sling provided with the launcher for transportation, when not mounted to the M4 carbine or M16 rifle, often caused the weapon to drag through the dirt.
Product Manager Soldier Clothing and Individual Equipment equipment specialist Darren Bean said the issues forced the soldiers to find a better solution compared to the sling, which weighs seven pounds with the butt stock.
"They decided they wanted to be able to put it in a holster rather than just shove it in their rucksack," Bean said.
Acquired from three commercial vendors using a 'buy-try-decide' concept, the holsters vary from each other, with the first model features pockets for grenades but is bulky, the second is more streamlined but provide less protection for the launcher, whereas the third represents a cross between the first two.
The holsters have already been validated by the personnel from the 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning in Georgia, in May, to ensure that the equipment could be tested with an entire brigade combat team.
"None of them have performed necessarily any better than the other ones. They all have some small things that need to be tweaked,'' Bean said.
Currently the holsters are being evaluated by the soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the Vermont National Guard, and those forward deployed in Afghanistan, and the data will be collected by the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center.
The recommendation for acquisition is expected to be made by PM SCIE to the Maneuver Center of Excellence in early 2014.
The M320 40 mm grenade launcher started replacing the army's M203 launcher system in 2009.
Image: PM SCIE equipment specialist Darren Bean with the new holsters for M320 40 mm grenade launcher. Photo: courtesy of David Kamm.