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June 02, 2004

Viven-Bessiere Rifle grenade and launchers. Part III

The Launchers.

There were essentially 5 types of V-B launchers in US service. To minimize the time between adoption, production, and issuance, the V-B launcher and grenades were adopted as-is. The only initial changes needed were the dimensional changes required to adapt to US rifle barrel/front sight profiles. When US production caught up there were 4 US- specific Marks of launcher adopted, though the Mark II was never manufactured.

1. The original was the French launcher. While US producers were tooling up to the new specs, the French produced 50.000 launchers for issuance made to the French specs, with the problems alluded to in the report above.
2. Mark I. Between the time the specs were determined and US producers were tooled up, the French produced another 50.000 launchers to the US spec.
3. Mark II. Not much is known about this one. It was spec’d but never adopted or produced.
4. Mark III. These launchers were stamped on the outside for which rifle they were intended to be used, and the launchers intended for the M1917 had a knurled band on them so that a soldier could assure himself he had the right launcher in darkness. (Trivia- the US issued more M1917 rifles during the war than M1903s). The Mark IIIs were like the original French launchers in that they had a straight slot milled in the stem and they slipped over the barrel and were shimmed in place.
5. The Mark IV had a spiral groove that hooked around the front sight and gave a more positive lock. The version for the M1917 rifle maintained the knurled band. My example is a M1917 version. The knurled band is eroded away by years of being buried on the battlefield, but it fits the M1917 easily, and will not fit the M1903. At least not with the effort I’m willing to put forth!

Part IV. The Grenades.