BGA-30 grenade launcher
Text and photos by Dan Shea

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 BGA-30. 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 "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 Hi-low 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 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 information 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 contains 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 chamber, 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-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.


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.


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.

Yugoslav M93 BGA-30 Technical Specifications:

Other nomenclature: ABG-30, AGS-17 (Incorrect), AGS30 (Incorrect)
Caliber: 30x29mm
Overall weight w/tripod: 45kg
Overall length: 840mm
Barrel Length: 380mm
Barrel: 12 grooves, Right Hand
Rate of Fire: 350-400 RPM or 50-120 RPM
Combat Rate of Fire: recommended 65-70 RPM
Method of fire: closed bolt, blowback, select fire
Muzzle velocity: 186 meters/second
Feed method: non-disintegrating metallic belt from 29- round ammo drum
Manufacturer: Zastava, Kragujevac, Serbia. www.zastava-arms.com
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.

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.

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.

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-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.


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.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V8N12 (September 2005)
and was posted online on April 19, 2013


04-30-2017 2:25 PM

BGA-30 Grenade Launcher

Whoever captioned the photographs must be as clueless as they come.

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