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One of the more interesting weapons to come from the old Soviet Union is the AGS17 series of grenade launchers. While the modern examples may be the AGS30 variant, the AGS17 is still in wide service. There are also a number of countries building their own version of this 30mm fully automatic grenade launcher. Iraq, The People’s Republic of China, and the Russian Federation have produced these models, and the Yugoslav company Zastava in Kragujevac, Serbia, is one of the current manufacturers of this effective combat weapon. The Serbian variant is the BGA30. SAR has had the opportunity to test this weapon in a number of environments over the years, but it was at the “Living History” class in Serbia that we were able to get the best hands-on and photographic experience with the weapon. The roots of the system go back into the 1930s in the old Soviet Union, and for almost forty years there was no successful production of an automatic grenade launcher behind the Iron Curtain. In an almost parallel development frenzy during the 1960s, the US had started the MK18 Right: At six hundred meters, a six round burst of 30mm HE fragmentation grenades thoroughly covers a forty yard circle with a deadly hail.

“Honeywell Gun”, a crank fired grenade launcher that fired the same Hi-low pressure 40x46mm grenade as the M203, as well as the MK20 that also fired the Hilow round. In the early 1970s, the US had settled on the fully automatic high pressure grenade launcher in 40x53mm that is in current use today - the MK19 Mod 3. This was at the same time the Kremlin was secretly fielding the AGS17 30mm. The West paid scant attention to the rumors

about the new launcher until the Afghan War of the late 1970s and early 1980s. It wasn’t until Soldier of Fortune magazine brought the AGS17 to light in the early 1980s that the armed forces of the West got any education on this system. While the MK19 can reach out with HE or HEDP rounds to targets at up to 2,200 meters, its effectiveness is questionable for first round target acquisition, considering a hit probability on first burst of 53%. Of

The Small Arms Review • Vol. 8 No. 12 • September, 2005


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course, this depends largely on the experience and skill of the operator. HK has offered their GMG in the same caliber, with a hit probability in the 80% range, largely due to their effective design and the Vinghog softmount system as well as the new sighting system. SAR has covered this system in the past. Placing a MK19 on a Vinghog and adding good ranging and optics systems to the package dramatically increases the MK19’s effectiveness. The new MK47 40mm has solid target acquisition as well. The BGA-30 is an improved copy of the AGS17 made in Serbia and it has a shorter range than the 40x53mm offerings; approximately 1,700 meters. This is due largely to the Hi-low pressure grenade system it uses as opposed to the high pressure of the 40x53mm. Looking somewhat like miniature artillery when it is aimed for longer ranges, the light weight BGA-30 is a formidable launcher in the hands of a skilled operator. The rounds are not HEDP; they are fragmentation for attacks on infantry or light armored vehicles. There are two rates of fire available on this select fire launcher. Contrary to informa-

tion available in some publications, the system does not have a semi automatic setting - it is either a low rate of fire less than 100 rpm, or a higher rate of fire in the 350 rpm range. This is a useful tool in the hands of an experienced operator enabling more brush styles for the artist on the trigger. The slow rate can conserve ammunition and allow for a more carefully aimed concentration of fire, while the high rate can be used for saturation bombardment in either offensive or defensive situations. The standard fragmentation ammunition for the BGA-30 has a kill radius of anywhere from 7 to 9 meters, depending on the testing reports one reads. The difference is in the test criteria, but it is also in the variety of ammunition that will function in the weapon system. Grenade bodies vary from a pre-fragmented inner steel sheath to pre-engraved wound wire bodies, yielding somewhat different “kill” zones. Generally, a payload of RDX explosive is used for the rounds. The ammunition system is described as a “High-Low” system. This means that there are two chambers in the cartridge case - a high pressure chamber that con-

Above: Rimless short cartridge case (29mm) from the 30x29mm cartridge. Note the six vent holes that lead from the high pressure chamber into the low pressure chamber formed by the base of the projectile and the upper case section. tains the powder and the initial deflagration and expansion of the burning propellant gases occurs in this chamber. The gases then bleed over into a larger cham-

Clear the weapon. Lift the top cover and pull the charging handle to the rear on its cable. Visually inspect the weapon, and ensure that the bore is unrestricted. Do this every time. A blockage can be fatal on the first round fired. Remember that this is a “push through” feed system. On the forward stroke, the bolt will “push” the grenade forward down a ramp into the chamber. (The same steps are used for the Russian AGS17/30 and other variants.)





1) Slide the loaded drum into position and ensure it is locked into place. 2) In this photo, the drum is not present so that the link placement is more visible. The belts are 30-round, but are only loaded with 29 rounds with the first link left empty. This is to allow for the non-disintegrating belt to have enough surface contact with the guide rails for proper presentation of the grenade to the bolt and bore. 3) The top cover is closed and checked to ensure the latch is engaged, locking the cover down. 4 The operator grasps the grip with one hand and the charging handle (cable) with the other and briskly pulls it to the rear until the stroke ends. The bolt will return forward with grenade into the barrel. This is a closed bolt system, so it requires pressing the firing paddle between the two grips in order to release the firing pin.
80 The Small Arms Review • Vol. 8 No. 12 • September, 2005

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The BGA-30 belt loader has a hard job - it does not push the rounds into the belt like many other loaders. In this case, the grenades are supported in two places on a short wheel and pressed into the link from the side. This requires a lot of pressure. The belt loader works best when it is bolted to a stationary workbench, but in the example here it is mounted on its carrying case. This works, but is not optimal. Loading should only be done over a wooden or other “soft” floor in case there is a dropped round, which might lead to a fuze detonating. Care must be taken in all parts of the loading process to ensure that grenades and belt are properly presented to the moving parts. This is a dangerous operation, as is any mechanical operation dealing with explosive devices. The belt loader can be used as a belt unloader too. In this function, the operator takes the unloaded machine, puts the handle straight down, and rotates it clockwise towards himself 45 degrees. The belt is loaded from the end where a full belt usually comes out, and clicked into the star wheel. As the operator turns the crank anti-clockwise, the grenades will come out onto the tray and it is inadvisable to allow more than 3 grenades into the tray at a time during unloading.

Above left: Top and bottom view of the non-disintegrating metallic link belt for the BGA-30 grenade launcher. Above right: 30-round belt, empty, and side opening 30-round drum, which shows the fully supportive “snail” interior. Belts are only loaded to 29 rounds, as noted in other parts of this article. Below left: The operator first lowers the handle with his right hand to straight down, and allows it to come back up 45 degrees anti-clockwise, away from himself. He then slides the empty links into the tray, upside down, until they mate with the loading wheel. Several cartridges are then placed in the cartridge tray and the operator carefully turns the handle clockwise, thereby presenting and pressing the grenades into the belt. Care should be taken to not allow the unlinked grenades to move out of the tray, as well as supporting the loaded belt at all times. Below center: This is the operator’s view as he is linking. Grenades folding into the star wheel and being turned and pressed into the belt. Below right: Proper support on the base and handle give a solid support to the loading system. It is still far better to mount the loader onto a table.

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Left: The NSBG-1 sighting system can be used on a variety of Yugoslav weapon systems, and for use on the BGA-30, it is the primary sighting method for both direct and indirect fire. The operator must be trained in leveling the system and coordinating the sight to the bore relationship. Once that is mastered, range training can be effective. Right: The NSBG-1 is stored in a case with a variety of small tools and cleaning accessories, as well as two tritium night light sources and several small filters. ber, thus losing some of their velocity and producing a more even pressure on the projectile base as it separates from the cartridge case and enters the bore. The projectiles are “spin-stabilized” grenades; similar to a bullet coming from a standard rifled bore, as opposed to a “fin-stabilized” grenade which would normally be launched from the muzzle. BGA-30 ammunition is a variant of the Russian VOG-17 type, and all of the Serbian ammunition is point detonating, and inertia arming. This means that when the grenade starts its forward motion on leaving the cartridge case, the violent forward motion causes a primer to impact against a lug in the fuze body. This ignites the pyrotechnic composition that has been timed so that between 6 and 30 meters from leaving the bore, a slide is released and no longer blocks the impact firing pin from striking the detonator that activates the explosive charge. The impact firing pin is physically blocked until the pyrotechnic chain releases it. There is also a self destruct timed safety built into the fuze, so if there is a failure to explode from impact, within 27 seconds the “dud” projectile will explode. The BGA-30 is generally fielded on a lightweight tripod, but it can be mounted on vehicles, ships or aircraft. These variations are still readily dismountable, and due to the light weight of the weapon, it is very well adapted to high speed operations that require area cover fire. It is easily man portable. Dan’s testing: Over the past two decades I have only had five or six experiences with this weapon system; from the AGS17 to the BGA-

Right: In addition to the optical sighting system for the BGA-30, there are back up iron sights, front and rear, but these are only effective until the range of the target demands so much elevation that the target is blocked from the line of sight.
82 The Small Arms Review • Vol. 8 No. 12 • September, 2005

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30, and find it to be a very well designed system. It is lightweight, easy to use, easy to clean, and as accurate as you need such an area weapon to be. It is a good candidate for perimeter security as well as being capable of providing some serious area firepower coverage for faster moving small units. While not something to be fired in the manner of a shoulder fired weapon, it is not that much more trouble

to field than any other tripod mounted heavy machine gun, and it is much lighter than the full auto grenade launcher offerings from US/NATO manufacturers. The ammunition is very important to this system, and the reliability of the fuze is critical to the safety of the operator. This is not unusual in grenade systems, but the manufacturer and their quality must be taken into account in planning. I had no

hesitation firing the Sloboda HE products in a Russian AGS17 or the BGA-30. I can’t say the same for some other manufacturer’s products. I do not consider the BGA-30 to be a replacement for the range and power of the MK19, GMG, or MK47. The BGA-30 certainly has some advantages in specific situations, and it is a combat proven design.

Above: The easiest way to tell the difference between the Russian manufactured guns and the Yugoslav ones is to look at the top plate that gives the plotting information. If you can’t immediately tell between the Russian and Serb language, then count the fins on the barrel. The Russian barrels have 12 cooling fins and a thicker base fin, while the Yugoslav barrels have 11 fins and a thicker base fin. Also, the Yugoslav BGA-30 has a thicker diameter on the muzzle end of the barrel due to relief of the tube diameter, as shown. Left: We were unable to get the rate of twist for the barrel, but the 12 grooves are right hand, well defined, and of a long twist rate. This is not a radical rotation being imparted to the projectiles.

Above: Bolt movement is dictated in part by this replaceable cam path on the inside of the receiver. Below: disassembled receiver view shows the location of the cam paths.

Left: Looking under the raised top cover reveals a fairly standard transfer bar with roller that takes recoil energy from the bolt and traverses it to a sideward motion, moving the belt into place. At the bottom of the top cover, a feed ramp can be seen, where the grenades are guided to the chamber in forward motion. One unusual feature in the center, under the transfer bar, is the cartridge case ejector.

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Above: Disassembled bolt face showing cartridge extractor, pressure detents, and the small primer striker in the center.

Above: The triggering mechanism is mounted externally on the left side of the receiver. This contains the hydraulic rate of fire regulator. When the fire lock on the right is placed on “U”, the trigger is blocked and can not fire. On “O”, it is ready to fire. The rate of fire is regulated by moving the regulator handle to either the “Maks” or “Min” setting. This changes the orifice size that allows the hydraulic fluid movement, thus changing the duration of movement for the striker and changing the rate of fire.

Above: The operator’s tool roll contains some basic cleaning and disassembly tools, as well as a few small spare parts and springs.

Above: The BGA-30 tripod is a lightweight (12kg), compact, foldable tripod, whose simplicity hides the complex firing ability that is available when the weapon is mounted on it. Traverse and elevation are fairly standard lock-lever and hand wheel controls, but when combined with the NSBG-1 sight, makes for a very accurate firing platform.

Below: Inside the rear cover is the charging handle and cable. It operates on a simple principle of force applied to one wheel under spring pressure. However, it must be pulled briskly and completely or it will not fully return, similar to a lawn mower starter.


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Ammunition Specifications:
These 30mm grenades are made at Sloboda in Cacak, Bulgarian plants, Russian plants, and some Chinese plants. We have not seen examples of the Chinese. Fuze delays vary by country of manufacture and can be ordered for different times from Sloboda. Note from the old Sarge: Operators should warn friendlies of the delay if it is necessary for them to enter an area that has just been saturated with 30mm fire, to avoid a premature entry leading to any “dud” rounds activating. If you are using 27-second delays, ensure the troops are waiting appropriate time to enter the area. If you are receiving fire from this type of weapon, bear this in mind before leaving cover after a barrage. That safety timing could lead to a very unpleasant surprise if there is unexploded ordnance left.

Above: BGA-30 grenades (L-R): Cutaway of M93HE showing RDX explosive and point detonating impact fuze at top, with 27 second delay fuze incorporated. M93 HE round, M93 TP round, M93 PM round.

M93-TP Target Practice
NATO designation .......................TP Weight of round (g) ................ 360 grams Weight of projectile (g)................273 grams Length (mm) .............................132mm Muzzle velocity (m/s)................. 185 meters/ second Maximum Range (m)...................1700 meters Packing....48 grenades per sheet metal box 1 per wooden case.

M93-PM Practice (Identical to HE, no explosive)
NATO designation ...................PM Weight of round (g) .............360 grams Weight of projectile (g).............273 grams Length (mm) ...................... ...132mm Muzzle velocity (m/s)...............185 meters/ second Maximum Range (m)...............1700 meters Fuze Type.................................UT - M02, PM-SD self destruction........................27 seconds fuze safe action limit (m).........60 meters Safety distance.......................10m in front of barrel Packing....48 grenades per sheet metal box 2 per wooden case.

M93 HE High Explosive Fragmentation 30mm
NATO designation .......................HE Weight of round (g) .................360 grams Weight of projectile (g)................ 273 grams Length (mm) ..............................132mm Muzzle velocity (m/s)...................185 meters/ second Maximum Range (m)....................1700 meters Fuze Type.....................................UT - M99 SD self destruction.........................27 seconds fuze safe action limit (m)...........60 meters Safety distance........................10m in front of barrel Packing....48 grenades per sheet metal box 1 per wooden case.

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1) Clear the weapon: remove drum and belts, visually inspect by lifting the top cover and ensuring the rails are empty and no grenade is in line. Pull the charging handle to the rear, and inspect the chamber for clear. Return the bolt forward. 2) Remove the optical sight. 3) The bolt must be forward - remove rear pin. 4) The charging mechanism / rear top cover is removed upward. 5) Remove the bolt and recoil assembly to the rear. 6) Remove the recoil springs from the bolt. 7) The top cover is removed by rotating the pin about 80 degrees and lifting. 8) Remove lead bar. 9)Triggering mechanism is removed against spring pressure, and should be controlled with both hands. 10) Triggering mechanism is removed to the side of the receiver. 11) Barrel locking pin is rotated and the barrel is removed to the front. 12) Breech face / guide is removed from bolt.
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Yugoslav M93 BGA-30 Technical Specifications:

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Other nomenclature: Caliber: Overall weight w/tripod: Overall length: Barrel Length: Barrel: Rate of Fire: Combat Rate of Fire: Method of fire: Muzzle velocity: Feed method: Manufacturer:

ABG-30, AGS-17 (Incorrect), AGS30 (Incorrect) 30x29mm 45kg 840mm 380mm 12 grooves, Right Hand 350-400 RPM or 50-120 RPM recommended 65-70 RPM closed bolt, blowback, select fire 186 meters/second non-disintegrating metallic belt from 29- round ammo drum Zastava, Kragujevac, Serbia.

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Field disassembly of the BGA-30.

The Small Arms Review • Vol. 8 No. 12 • September, 2005


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