The Can Cannon

  The M79 Grenade Launcher was the U.S.' 40mm launcher that was first introduced in 1961. It was created in order to increase the firepower a squad of men can utilize without the use of heavy ordinance. It was first given to the Army in the early days of Vietnam, however its potential and prowess were soon discovered and it was delivered to all U.S. military troops and ARVN forces.  It was a shoulder-fired, breech-loading launcher capable of a 40x46mm projectile. It had an effective range of about 350 yards. There were many types of rounds it could use including: an airburst projectile, buckshot, smoke, spotting smoke, flares, and riot control projectiles. It fired similar to a shotgun (break action) in the way the breech opened to load a new round. This turned out to be its greatest flaw, however. Using the projectile effectively was severly handicapped by this single shot launcher. It took too much time to get anothe round in the chamber, fired, and to hit the target. That time spent reloading gives the enemy time to run away or change position. 

     U.S. forces experienced a lot of combat with this launcher, mostly positive. It was initially identified as "the platoon leader's artillery" by U.S. troops but soon saw many other nicknames including: thumper (after its distinct "thump" when the round was fired, the Bloop Tube, Big Ed, and Blooper. This launcher was one of the "iconic" American weapons used in Vietnam. It saw further action in U.S. service but was replaced by the M203 Grenade Launcher in the late 60s. Many nations have also adopted it since then including Malaysia, Greece, Brazil, and Iran.  However, the launcher saw further action even in modern times. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, U.S. forces in Iraq used it to clear I.E.D.s on roadsides.