Maxwell Atchisson Invented a Disposable Grenade-Launcher
But nobody wanted it
Maxwell Atchisson was a prolific inventor who experimented with everything from rifles and shotguns to sound suppressors and light machine guns. He was best known for his AA-12 automatic shotgun.
One of Atchisson’s most interesting designs was a disposable, 40-millimeter grenade launcher. The launcher is arguably more like a rifle grenade than it is contemporary underbarrel launchers such as the XM148 and the M203.
It was the early 1970s. Atchisson wanted to give every infantryman the ability to launch grenades from a lightweight, inexpensive launcher. “The launcher must be relatively light of weight and small of volume, so as to minimize the burden which must be carried by the man,” Atchisson said.
The launcher attached between an M-16′s flash-hider and bayonet lug. It featured a short barrel and simple trigger mechanism. Atchisson’s 1974 patent for the launcher explained how the design worked.
“Both the front support and the rear support are deliberately designed to undergo a predetermined amount of structural deformation when subjected to recoil force produced by launching a projectile from the apparatus, and this predetermined deformation absorbs a portion of the recoil force. A hammer in the form of a spring is cocked by a pair of levers which pull the hammer back and which become disengaged from the hammer, so that the hammer and associated firing pin can fall to discharge the round. A safety mechanism prevents cocking of the hammer unless the launching apparatus is installed on a bayonet lug.”
Maxwell Atchisson patent
Ingeniously the attachment point of the launcher were designed to deform on firing in order to reduce recoil. The operator would pull the trigger ring while gripping the rifle’s sling, so as to trip the firing mechanism with one movement.
Once fired, the launcher would be removed from the weapon and discarded. The boresight of the launcher, once attached, was sighted-in at a predetermined distance — say, 100 meters. Atchisson made no allowance for additional aiming apparatus and the shorter barrel of his launcher would have limited the weapon’s range and accuracy. However, it would have arguably greatly increased the average infantryman’s firepower at the cost of relatively little additional weight.
The U.S. military was apparently uninterested in Atchisson’s design, instead preferring the underbarrel M203 launcher. Today Atchisson’s grenade launcher is largely unknown.