Not many attachments are as iconic on the M16/M4 series as the M203 Grenade Launcher, it’s not very often that one is seen on the Airsoft field but they always get an “ooh” of appreciation.
Certainly anyone over the age of 30 will have visions of Arnie blowing up helicopters in the lush jungles of Val Verde or the soldiers of Bravo Two Zero advancing to contact whilst banging out 66mm LAWs, sheets of 5.56mm from their Minimi and M16s alongside the occasional thump of a 40mm grenade being thrown into the mix.
After more than two decades of Airsoft I’d decided that the time was right to add one to the collection, everything had slotted together and the stars had aligned to allow me to buy one and use it how I wanted.
Firstly, TAG rounds. Love ’em or hate ’em… TAG rounds are the closest we can get in Airsoft to firing real 40mm grenades.
Secondly, I had a platform that would look great with the M203 system attached… An M4A1 GBBR with a KAC type RAS.
Finally, I had been given solid intel on mounting the grenade launcher and ensuring that my money wouldn’t be spent in vain. I also had the assurances of the guys at Fire-Support that as long as it wasn’t damaged, I could return the launcher to them for a refund (although failure just wasn’t an option).
So, what do you get? Well the package is a little on the plain side, I guess I should ha e expected that… My old G&P M16A4 came in a plain brown box with very little to stop it bumping about… The M203 is much the same. I should mention that it arrived in perfect condition, the G&Ps are a thing of beauty… I’ve a fond spot for this company and they’ve produced some of the best looking replicas money can buy.
As for the launcher, the majority is made from aluminium with only the grip being made from a plastic material. The weight is lighter than that of the real M203 due mostly to its aluminium rather than steel breech and barrel, it’s a pleasant change from reality though as at the front of the rifle its weight is really felt quite quickly once you’ve been shouldering it for an hour or so.
The weight and bulk isn’t unbearable, it’s obviously a consideration to take into account but it’s certainly not unmanageable. One thing that does change though is reloading… certainly for the left handed amongst you, working around that M203 trigger guard can prove to be challenging… Although with practice you’ll find a technique that works for you.
The handguard looks and feels pretty sturdy, there’s a touch of rattle on it but I’ve been told that there’s a little bit of movement on the real M203. It’s not much and once fitted to a rifle your left with a sturdy feeling launcher.
The markings are moulded into the breech of the launcher and are very well replicated, one thing G&P have always done well their trademarks and this is no exception.
The mount itself is well crafted, it’s designed to be compatible with the majority of AEGs (there is also an old gen Tokyo Marui specific model) but be aware that it might require modification to fit other platforms such as the Tokyo Marui Recoil or MWS GBBR series (My tutorial on how to fit to an MWS is found here: How To Mount An M203 To The Marui MWS GBBR).
You are given a choice of two different fore end barrel mounts, one with and one without an extended forward arm.
I’ve opted for the one without as it has less chance to get caught in something such as the sling and it fits subtly better but it’s worthy of noting that the one seen in lone survivor is the one with that longer arm.
The barrel is grooved internally not rifled, I’d have actually preferred it to be left blank as this actually causes issues with most TAG rounds.
I’ve actually not found the new TAG EVO-PRO shells to be much of a problem (aside a tight fit) but they do get scratched whilst loading or removing them, worth noting if your looking at a start up TAG package as some shells just won’t fit.
The trigger, unlike the real single action system is merely a “pull to actuate” system which forces the firing pin type plunger to activate the shell. The trigger pull is surprisingly light, using CO2 powered TAGs they’re usually a bit of a sod, I’ve had hang fires on a couple of occasions with the Iron Airsoft M320 due to it’s less than perfect trigger but judging from my initial test firing it’s not going to be an issue with this launcher.
The safety is functional and actually operates in a very similar fashion to the real one, it not only stops the trigger from being pulled but actually prevents your finger being seated on the trigger until put forwards in the fire position. There is an unusual half cock position which still allows the trigger to be pulled after a little resistance, it does make a satisfying click though when fired from this position.
One of the only small issues I’ve had is that the trigger guard isn’t made from a high grade spring steel, whilst it’s ok for most occasions I’ve had to bend it back into shape due to it becoming misshapen under pressure… Not a massive issue but it’s making me think twice about anything contacting the trigger guard now.
Loading the launcher is easy, simply place your fingers (or thumb) on the side barrel release and then slide forward the entire barrel assembly.
You can then load in a shell, there are also a pair of retaining clips that help prevent a shell from falling out (not an issue with the TAG shells).
Sliding the barrel rearwards you’ll hear a click once it’s locked into the firing position, it’s worth sticking the safety on before loading the launcher… Nothing will ruin your day like a TAG round to the face.
Extraction is straightforward, a spring-loaded pin on the upper face of the breech helps push the shell away from the launcher and an oversized extractor pivots the shell away from the launcher.
It’s a simple enough system but with just the right amount of thought put into the design to make it work well but lacking the intricacies that often cause issues.
Aiming the launcher isn’t straight forward, it’s surprising how tricky it can be once attached to an M4 platform. Often you’ll find real M203 launchers being fitted with either RIS mounted sights or side mounted indirect fire quadrant sights, I’ve opted to simply use the M4s front sight and muzzle… This will give me a reference for launching TAGs until I stop being a cheapskate and invest in a proper sighting system.
Firing the launcher is satisfying to say the least… gripping the M4’s magazine it feels quite intuitive to use, it’s also pretty comfortable to fire the M4 with the M203 attached and I didn’t notice any issues with the extra weight causing issues with the hop (as I’d heard is the case with some rail mounted launchers).
Overall it’s a great launcher, it comes with everything needed to fit it to your M4/M16 which is more than can be said for certain other brands. It’s not as common to see an M203 as it used to be but for me that’s part of the appeal. I’ve had an M320 and I’ve considered an M79 (or it’s pirate gun modified variant) but for me, the M203 is the iconic launcher I’ve wanted for decades and the G&P model is the best of the bunch.