For the purpose of context right out of the gate, this is a five minute compilation of combat footage recorded during the Global War on Terror. All of this footage features the MK-19 Blowback Operated Automatic Grenade Launcher System.
Every second grade boy with an imagination has, at some point in time, imagined his very own weapon system. For some kids, they make up massive fantastical swords or archery devices capable of firing lightning bolts. Other kids imagine all sorts of different firearms that are capable of doing all sorts of damage to the bad guys they've fought in video games or seen on TV. One of the most commonly imagined weapon systems by those same second grade boys is probably "a machine gun, but it shoots grenades instead of bullets," and boy do I have some good news for them.
Automatic Grenade Launchers have been a thing since at least the Vietnam conflict where Navy Riverines utilized the MK-18 crank operated grenade launcher to clear dense jungle packed full of Vietcong fighters. Following the success of that weapon system the Russians created a beautiful piece of weaponry called the AGS-17, which has seen widespread use throughout the Middle East, Africa, and Eastern Europe.
These earlier automatic grenade launcher were great, but there was still a lot to be desired in both their function and design. With the MK-18, the obvious crux was the fact that the weapon system was fully mechanically operated by the individual shooting the weapon system. They had to both aim the weapon system and crank it while attempting to keep the weapon on target. While all machine guns are technically area weapon systems instead of point weapon systems, it's still not a great thing when it's difficult to get the rounds on target due to a constant shake on the platform. On the topic of the AGS-17, the largest drawbacks and problems with it were mainly the size and weight of the weapon system. With all infantry weapons, your ultimate objective is to have the system man-portable so that infantry troops in the field can move it from position to position easily, and maintain some semblance of concealment on the system so the enemy can't easily pinpoint it.
Of course, as time advances, so do to the technologies we use to kill one another. Over time, the MK-18 was re-designed into the MK-19 that we know and love today. The same occurred with the AGS-17 as well, with the Russian dramatically lightening the load and making the weapon systems muzzle signature far less easy to detect. But, we're not here to talk about the AGS-30 today. We're here to talk about the king of all automatic grenade launching devices, the MK-19.
On a fundamental level, the MK-19 is a blowback operated automatic grenade launcher capable of firing 40mm grenades out to a range of 2,212 meters on an area target. The original concept was an evolution of the crank operated MK-18 grenade launcher, and the improvements made the weapon system operate based on a gas blowback system. In the field, it's primary purpose is to support both offensive and defensive operations, and it's capable of destroying large clusters of enemy troops, lightly armored vehicles, and heavily fortified enemy positions.
In the first Gulf War, and in Iraq and Afghanistan, the weapon system was utilized in a combined anti-armor role. Mounted to humvees or other vehicles, the weapon served as a mobile light tank busting machine capable of harassing enemy armor and fortified positions on the move. The MK-19 has also been adapted for use from full defilade. Through the use of a Gunner's Quadrant and light mathematics involving the range from the gun-line to the target, the MK-19 can be employed as a fully automatic mortar system capable of dropping up to 375 40mm grenades onto an enemy position every 60 seconds.
There is no greater weapon system in the world than the MK-19 automatic grenade launcher and no, you cannot change my mind even by saying the words "Carl Gustav." The video above is several clips of the MK-19 in use during the Global War on Terror.