The United States’ quest for a repeating firearm action grenade launcher during the Vietnam War resulted in various models in hopes of coming up with a reliable and capable squad-level one. Before the China Lake grenade launcher, what were considered the successful ones were the M79 and XM148. Even so, the performance of the two was far from satisfactory, especially in terms of the sought-after pump action power.

M79 and XM148

The M79 grenade launcher was made after World War II as a result of the dissatisfaction of the US Army with its regular rifle grenades with its insufficiency with general-purpose fire support capabilities. Through what they labeled Project Niblick, the US Army attempted to increase firepower through an explosive projectile more accurate than rifle grenades with a different range and more portable mortar.

The M79 was used during the Vietnam War and effectively defeated enemies and outpaced Viet Cong’s commando mortars. Different variants of the 40 mm rounds had also been produced, like the M381 HE (High Explosive) round, M576 Buckshot round, and M1006 less-lethal round (fires a foam rubber projectile), to name a few. However, the main issue was that it was limited to a single round fired and required manual reloading of the weapon after each shot.

United States Army Heritage and Education Center, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

XM148 was another wartime development used by the US Special Forces along with the XM177E2. Colt Firearms also manufactured it as a launcher for field testing during the Vietnam War.