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Iran Is Going Big On Grenade Launchers

May 30, 2021
Via Iranian media.

At an exhibition for new military equipment this month Iran’s state-owned factories displayed their products inside and outside the venue. Photos shared by local media confirmed the appearance of different small arms and heavy weapons indoors. A particular curio was a local copy of the single shot M79 grenade launcher, which is an antique by any definition, and it’s still unclear if Iran’s defense ministry wants it for use by the armed forces or law enforcement. For decades, Iran was a customer and recipient of US-made arms even after the Shah was overthrown. The M79 was designed in the 1950s and became an iconic weapon of the Vietnam War (1965-1973). Of course, it was also delivered to many US allies.

The photo above was taken during this month’s exhibition and shows the M79 next to a collection of pump action shotguns resembling Italian Benellis–the reader may also recognize Glock pistols displayed at the far corner. These are copies as well. Iranian M79’s manufactured under the Defense Industries Organization (DIO) have been spotted as early as 2018 when they were shown at a locally organized exhibition called IPAS. Since then, the Iranian M79 appears whenever domestic small arms are displayed for the benefit of VIPs. When a new battle rifle was revealed at a state-owned small arms factory last year among the other weapons also shown were an M79 and another single shot grenade launcher with the same barrel but a new polymer grip and a folding skeleton stock.

It seems the same M79 and its modernized analog reappeared in this month’s exhibition. The variety of 40x46mm ammunition meant for this Iranian M79 was absent but, if open sources are correct, an M79 is able to lob grenades as far as 350 meters although its use is for much shorter distances. But Iran’s DIO manufactures so many light weapons for indirect fire by now, such as anti-tank weapons, portable mortars, and rocket launchers, the intended role for an M79 is ambiguous. An unlicensed copy of the South African Milkor MGL “revolver” grenade launcher is part of the DIO’s catalog and it’s a superior firearm to the M79 is all aspects.

Via Iranian media.

An intriguing unidentified firearm at the same exhibition was displayed in front of the M79 and its modernized analog. It can be seen in the photo above framed in a purple rectangle for emphasis. The reader will notice the leg of a tripod used on the AGS-17 automatic grenade launcher beside the unidentified firearm. The Soviet AGS-17 chambered for 30x120mm ammunition is another foreign model manufactured by the DIO along with the Mk19 that uses a different caliber. The resulting variety in the DIO’s weapons manufacturing is unprecedented. Only Vietnam’s state-owned military industries can boast making their own copies of the M79 and the AGS-17 along with other weaponry (such as Kalashnikov rifles and RPGs) also manufactured in Iran.

The unidentified firearm’s appearance defies easy classification although the heft of its barrel and a sizable muzzle brake indicates it’s chambered for large caliber ammunition. Having the M79 close by makes it easier to assume this mystery firearm is a grenade launcher as well since its breech is large enough to extract a 40x46mm casing. However, the rest of the firearm’s characteristics are harder to discern. If it’s supposed to be a portable grenade launcher like the Chinese-made QLZ-87, which is fed by a small drum magazine, the bipod underneath this Iranian firearm is too meager for stabilizing it. The same applies to the stock, a lightweight collapsible model, whose original use was for Iranian AR-pattern rifles. These parts are just too small for their roles.

The location of the mount for a telescopic sight–the wrong model, in fact–is further proof this firearm is very much a work in progress. The development of Iranian infantry weapons in the past decade has been impressive, albeit with mixed results. There’s no indication this “sniper” automatic grenade launcher is being readied for adoption by the regular army or some units of the IRGC. This holds true for a lot of Iranian small arms anyway, particularly sniper rifles. If this automatic grenade launcher undergoes improvements, including a laser rangefinder, and ergonomic furniture to better accommodate its bulk it can stand out as the only precision 40mm weapon in the Middle East.

The exhibition that featured these grenade launchers, along with various Iranian small arms, took place in the last week of May and had visitors from neighboring countries. If it proved anything it’s the volume of the DIO’s production when it comes to the basics for war material. Iran, after all, is waging war by proxy in several countries.

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