M203 Overview

Overview


The M203 is a single shot 40mm rifle attached grenade launcher. It was introduced by Colt in the 1960's as an add-on grenade launcher for the M16 family and as a replacement for the stand alone M79. It was officially adopted by the U.S. Military in the early 1970's.

Due to its global popularity, there are hundreds types of rounds available for the M203 including anti armor, anti infantry, smoke, illumination, non-lethal and training.

The M203 has two basic models: a 12 inch barrel standard M203 model designed for full length M16 rifles and a compact 9 inch barrel designed for the carbines. In Israel, with the exception of sporadic shorter homemade samples used by SF units, all M203 used are the standard length variant.

While the M203 was originally designed for the M16 family, it can be modified via adapters to be mounted on various weapons. In Israel, the M203 was modified to fit all platforms in usage including the M16, Tavor, Galil and the AK47.

 

Sights


The M023 is issued with two iron sights:

  • Leaf sight (50-250 meters range) - mounted on the handguards.

  • Quadrant sight (50-400 meters range) - mounted on the carry handle or the Flattop receiver rail.

In recent years M203 red dot sights were introduced by various manufacturers, replacing the standard issue Leaf and Quadrant iron sights. Unlike the original sights, these new red dot sights allow for increased accuracy and range as well as day/night operation with little training by the operator. In Israel, the Meprolight GLS203 has been standard issue with the IDF since 2000.

Egoz operator during basic training armed with a M16A1/M203 combo fitted with a leaf sight and a quadrant sight.

 

History


The IDF has a long history of using M203 combos, dating to the Yom Kippur War in 1973, when the U.S. launched a massive airlift to Israel containing various weapons and gear, including large quantities of M16A1 and several M203 to fit them. Several M203 were modified to fit the Galil SAR and the Galil SAR/M203 combo entered service with few IDF SF units in the late 1970's. Shortly afterwards CAR15/M203 samples also entered service with the IDF SF. Interestingly, one of the initial incentives for the CAR15 issue by the IDF SF was CAR15 compatibility with the M203, forming a more compact and lightweight platform then the Galil/M203.

Throughout the 1980's IDF SF units gradually replaced their Galil SAR and AK47 with the CAR15 and by the end of the decade the CAR15 had essentially become the standard issue weapon in the IDF SF community. The IDF conventional units soon followed and in the early 1990's the IDF officially adopted the M16 as its standard issue weapon for all infantry oriented units including both SF and conventional units. Accordingly, the M16A1/M203 was issued to conventional infantry units while the CAR15/M203 was issued to SF units and to the veteran soldiers in the IDF Infantry Brigades.

In 1997 the 52mm mortar and barrel mounted rifle grenades previously used by the IDF were taken out of service and were replaced by the CAR/M203, resulting in mass issuing of the CAR/M203 to conventional units.

In the 2000's the CAR/M203 was replaced with the M4A1/M203 and in recent years, with the Micro Tavor/M203.

PALSAR Golani during the Israel-Lebanon War in 1982. Left - operator armed with a Galil SAR; middle - operator armed with a CAR15/M203; right - operator armed with a FN MAG.

M203 Guide