A Reproduction of a Vanishingly Rare SEAL Weapon

Up for sale on GunBroker (by a friend of the blog, actually) is an extremely rare Destructive Device. How rare it is, is a bit hard to pin down; there were 6, or 12, or 20, or maybe as many as 50 made, and then all or nearly all of them went to Vietnam for combat testing, and not many came back. This is what an original looks like:

china_lake_launcher_display

We know of one at the SEAL/UDT Museum at Ft Pierce, FL, and one in an in-house display at NSWC Crane (not open to the public). Our friend examined one in the War Remnants Museum (formerly the “War Crimes Museum”) in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) and one at the Washington Navy Yard, which was the basis for this accurate reproduction. The weapon in question is a SEAL-specific pump-action 40mm Grenade Launcher. Here’s the repro, sans barrel.

china-lake-launcher

 

From the dawn of the M79, the troops wanted a multiple-shot version. The Army, though, was deep in the rabbit hole of the ill-conceived Special Purpose Infantry Weapon program and was so determined to schedule the small arms revolution, they were not interested in something so mundane as the next logical improvement of the 40mm low-pressure grenade launcher. So it was left to the SEALs to find Navy resources to make them a short run of launchers, and they did. (Some sources, like the Firearms Information File, Nazarian, and World Guns, call this, mistakenly, the EX-41, which was a different and later development. This launcher had no known name. Here’s a close-up of the action:

china-lake-launcher-5

The launcher was built with design elements lifted from pump-action shotguns, and parts, where possible, lifted from existing weapons like the M79. The ladder sight will be familiar to anyone who’s shot the 79, china-lake-launcher-13…and it looks like there’s provision for a peep sight as well, with a guarded front sight.

china-lake-launcher-2Loading is through a trap in the bottom;

china-lake-launcher-8…the tubular magazine (which holds 3 rounds, on top of the one chambered) rides below the barrel (file photo of real China Lake launcher); china-lake-02…the stock, trigger and trigger guard all look inherited or modified from the 79, and the safety is the same tang safety (with too-sharp edges!) as the 79. china-lake-launcher-6The serials on the originals were located on the tang adjacent to the safety (original below).

china-lake-sn-002Its singular biggest weakness was that it could not feed long or odd-shaped rounds that had been developed for single-shot launchers, but it worked fine with ordinary HE and HEDP rounds. (and on the plus side, it also can’t feed high-pressure 40mm aircraft and Mk19 rounds, which is a good thing. Think kB!). From the listing:

“China Lake Pump” 40mm Grenade Launcher as used by the US Navy SEAL’s in Vietnam. A very small number of these were handmade in the machine shop at China Lake Naval Weapons Station and sent to Vietnam. Only 4 originals are KNOWN to exist, I have personally examined serial number 013 in the War Remnants Museum in Saigon. (HCMC) This is an exact replica of the originals, made from blueprints generated at great effort from the example in the Washington Navy Yard Museum, and brand new/never fired. There are only a handful of these hand built replica’s as well, one of them being owned by Kevin Dockery, the author of “Weapons of the US Navy SEAL’s”. It can be viewed in operation on Youtube by searching “China Lake Pump”. This is a rare bird by any standard.

This one has been built as a Title 1 firearm, so that one could finish it with a 37mm launcher barrel and keep it that way if so inclined. Most buyers will probably want the full-house 40mm version, and so it will transfer as Title 1, and, if if the buyer completes Form 1 with the ATF, a 40mm barrel will then be delivered to you to complete the launcher. (As it’s not presently registered as a Destructive Device, that’s how you have to do it).

This example is currently a Title 1 firearm, same as any rifle/pistol/shotgun, and will transfer as such to your FFL dealer in the same way. After receiving it you would then file a Form 1 with ATF to manufacture it as a Destructive Device. Upon receiving your approved Form 1 from ATF and providing a copy to me, the barrel and rear sight (see pic) which is in the custody of an affiliated FFL dealer, out of my possession and control, will be shipped to you free of charge. This may be your last chance to own one of these, if HRC wins the election, it is completely possible that she could issue an Executive Order to ATF not to accept further applications to make/register DD’s. If your Form 1 is in the system before that though…

It is missing one essential ingredient, a bayonet lug. But that’s the original design. (And where would you put it?)

china-lake-01

It’s expensive. Starting bid of $9,500 with a B-I-N of $14,500. But hey, Hollywood, you know Matt Damon needs to wield this in his next action movie, in between appearances talking about how icky guns are. And you Hollywood guys can afford it: you have more money than the God you don’t believe in.

Update

There’s a guy out there who reverse-engineered this to make an updated version. No idea if his work is involved in this particular weapon for sale, but it’s interesting either way.

31 thoughts on “A Reproduction of a Vanishingly Rare SEAL Weapon

  1. McThag

    Boy, that sure is a lot of money for something that might not work.

    Because it needs to be Form 1’d, it’s never been assembled and test fired. If it’s been tested with a 37mm barrel, where is that barrel?

    It’s neat but it’s not, “here be the alpha tester,” neat.

    1. Josey Wales

      You failed to read the post completely, or you would have seen the reference to the fact that there is a video of one of the other half dozen or so of these repro’s that exist working just fine on Youtube……..

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMQ1VVvjO0I

      As far as “a lot of money”, the last M79 that sold on GB went for the opening bid price.

      1. McThag

        This is not an M79, now who cannot read?

        It doesn’t matter how well OTHER replicas work; how well does THIS one work? And. We. Do. Not. Know. And. Cannot. Because. It. Is. Not. Complete.

        There’s a lot less that can go wrong with an M79 and it has the benefit of being a production item with an actual supply chain for parts.

        So it’s kind of a “duh!” moment that an M79, a known quantity, sells for asking when it comes up.

        1. Josey Wales

          Of course it is not. The point is that something rarer, I dare say “cooler”, and therefor more desirable (to some anyway) would sell for more……and at least one person (so far) agrees with that premise. It will be interesting to see if others agree as well.

          These replica’s, handful of them that there are, all come from the same source. I think we can take it as a given that it can be expected to work at least as well as Kevin Dockery’s example in the YouTube vid. Other than that your points about the M79 are well taken.

  2. Kirk

    The point of theses things always escaped me. OK, I get that a man-portable Mk 19 is a sexy idea, but the concept founders on the whole “how big does this need to be, to make it work…?” question.

    Past a certain point, unless you’re training gorillas or grizzly bears to run point for you, thjs kind of thing just morphs over into “Nock Volley Gun, 20th Century version” territory. Too big and heavy to be manageable, and not practically useful outside a few perfect and very rare scenarios.

    I have a feeling that these things likely went operational once or twice, and then got left behind unless they absolutely knew they would be useful.

    1. James

      You have to remember how early this was. If you want to see the point, watch this video of Russians using the GM 94 @4:35 0:50, which is basically that weapon updated and flipped.
      https://youtu.be/LEe-zAxd-LI

      Yeah it still weighs 13 pounds loaded, compared to 6-7 lbs for a single shot, but you get a much higher rate of fire for those first crucial rounds and it is much easier to tote than a m32.

  3. S

    4 rounds rapid of 40mm…..just the thing for ambushers and ambushees. The revolver launchers might carry more, and more varied, ammo, but even heavier and less handy. The can cannon needs a Mk2 pump version. For enthusiatic sporting purposes, of course.

    1. loren

      My kid built a 40mm spud gun with PVC pipe, deodorant and the piezoelectric cell from a BBQ lighter. Damn thing worked too. The range was around 100 meters but reload was slow.
      He got change back from $20.

  4. Boat Guy

    If I was gonna go through the ass-pain of getting a DD permit, I’d just stick to the”original”. LOVED my -79 and miss it greatly.

    1. LSWCHP

      Yeah. I thought the M-79 was a great piece of kit. Huge fun to shoot, accurate and effective. No need for improvement IMHO.

      1. Boat Guy

        ” ‘Better’ is the enemy of damn good”. Easy to carry and shoot; great choice of ammo right at hand. All I want or need inside the range envelope.

  5. C Otto

    So one should get ahold of Remington, this might spice up the pump action line they have.

    But in all reality, this will go to “Shit i want to own, but never will” List.

  6. Bill T

    I remember the first M-79 I ever saw. It was at Ft. Leonard Wood MO. during Combat Engineering AIT in 1966. One of my buddies said, “I wonder if it Kicks?”. I said, after looking at the size of the 40MM cartridge, the obvious light weight of the weapon, add to that a RECOIL PAD, “Bubba, have you EVER seen the Army put a recoil pad on ANYTHING?”
    Well when it got to my turn to fire it I was expecting it to cross my eyes but was pleasantly surprised with how light the perceived recoil really was also how accurate it was from 50 to 150 meters. Love me an M79.

  7. Hillbilly

    One fine day at Ft Carson we were out doing an AT4 range, and on the range next to us was a SF ODA with a truckload of end of the year ammo. The Team leader came over and asked our Platoon Sgt if we could come over and help them with using it up.
    Among the weapons I got to fire that day was a M79. They had about ammo crate filled to overflowing with the practice rounds and said “shoot up all you want to” so I basically emptied the crate practicing with it.
    No boom but still a hell of a lot of fun.
    I know for a fact that day on the range got at least one guy to head off to SFAS.

  8. mitch

    I was just reading along for educational purposes….then you had to go and suggest a side-by-side. NOW you have my attention.

      1. Aesop

        …And yea, though I walk
        through the valley of the shadow of death,
        I shall fear no evil,
        because I am the biggest, baddest, meanest m*********** in the valley,
        and I carry a SxS M79 Squared.”

        If they need help testing the prototypes, I’m not too busy.

        Of course, they’d have to issue the grenadiers those SxS M1911 .45s as sidearms.

  9. DaveP

    First time I ever saw one of these was in a picture of Kevin Dockery . At the time I thought he was holding a M79 with a M203 underbarrel.

  10. surly old armorer

    40mm seems a cartridge that would lend itself to the (Jonathan) Browning “harmonica” design. A 4 or 5 round magazine/chamber feeding sideways? The magazine/chamber units could be made of aluminum, with steel tracks and pawl pockets to allow advancement by a pump mechanism on the launcher. They would be small/light enough that the grenadier could carry multiples in magazine pouches. The rate of fire of an M32 almost, in a more compact package.

    1. Hognose Post author

      That’s a very interesting idea. Actually, the harmonica bit could be made of modern reinforced plastics and be lighter than an alloy forging. Or it could be the round of ammunition, itself.

      1. Roguetechie

        It’s so interesting, and such a good idea, that they did just that around the same time as the original China Lake pump launchers were made.

        Here the little beasty is…

        For my money though, I’d prefer a version of the Childers double stack 20 round box magazine Remington 870’s.

  11. Mike

    Matthew Brennan was an FO in a Blue platoon of 1/9 CAV, 1CD in Vietnam. He wrote several books, about his own experiences and anthologies of the stories of other veterans of the unit. One was called Hunter Killer Squadron, and another Headhunters. I recall reading several stories by helicopter crewmen that specifically mentioned a pump action 40mm grenade launcher that was similar to an M79; I looked around for a while and never found a picture of what they were talking about. I’m pretty sure this is it.

  12. Pingback: Reproduction China Lake Launcher on Gunbroker-Pump Action HE! | Firearms Life

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