Let’s launch some grenades – VIDEO


The Gun Writer fires Bates & Dittus’ line of 37mm ordnance launchers – no permits or FFL needed.

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I love explosions.

When Ed Dittus, co-owner of Bates & Dittus, asked if I was interested in test firing some of his 37mm ordinance launchers, I couldn’t refuse. I knew it was going to be a grand time.

Ed and his wife Pieper recently moved to Florida from Connecticut. They live on a large acreage so there’s plenty of room to test fire their products.

Bates & Dittus, LLC is a privately held Connecticut-based company that makes about the best 37mm ordinance launchers currently available. The company was formed four years ago, when George Bates showed Ed Dittus one of his launchers. Bates is a master gunsmith, but had no marketing experience. Ed had his own marketing firm. It was the perfect match.

Their clients include U.S. and foreign police and military, but sales to individuals have also been brisk, because you can purchase one of his launchers without an FFL transfer. There are no licenses or paperwork required to buy their products in Florida and most states, but check local ordinances.

“Sales have been great,” Ed said. “The only impediment has been a shortage of product.”

Walking into his office, which could qualify as a firearms museum, you know he’s a man who has a passion for weaponry. There’s a working Hotchkiss Gun – a breech-loading cannon – plus halberds, cutlasses, rapiers, a mace and other cutlery. There are also plenty of black guns.

Ed began pulling out a selection of Bates & Dittus launchers, describing their unique features and handing them over one at a time. Soon, the entire sofa was covered with the weapons.

Products – At the top of the B&D product line is the ExD-37. It’s constructed out of 6061 aircraft grade aluminum and 4140 hardened steel, and comes with either a 12″ or 16″ barrel. It’s a top break design, similar to a shotgun. The barrel release is on the right side of the weapon. It features a DAO trigger, with a long 15-pound pull – it’s not a sniper rifle. The benefit of the DAO trigger is that the shooter can squeeze a second time if they experience a FTF. This is a handy feature since some of the non-mil-spec 37mm ammunition on the market today uses imported shotgun primers of questionable reliability.

Bates & Dittus ExD-37, 37mm ordinance launcher. Photo courtesy Bates & Dittus.

Bates & Dittus ExD-37, 37mm ordinance launcher. Photo courtesy Bates & Dittus.

The ExD-37 can accept any AR-style stock and hand grip, so it feels familiar to AR shooters and is easy to customize.

The launchers lack sights, but nowadays everyone has their own particular preference.

The top and bottom of the barrel come with standard mil-spec 1913 rails for mounting sights, lights, lasers, grips and other accessories.

The model I test fired had a standard AR-style fore grip.

The ExD-37 and other launchers in the line, are coated with a thick black phosphate finish. The metal work is first-class. There are no sharp edges. This is a quality weapon.

Those old enough to remember the Vietnam-era M-79 grenade launcher will appreciate Bates & Dittus’ take on the familiar boom-stick.

Their top-break TBL-37 brings the reliable M-79 into the 21st Century.

Bates & Dittus 37mm TBL-37, an updated version of the venerable M-79. Photo courtesy Bates & Dittus.

Bates & Dittus 37mm TBL-37, an updated version of the venerable M-79. Photo courtesy Bates & Dittus.

It is festooned with top and bottom rails along the length of the barrel, available in 12″ or 16″, and features a single-action trigger and exposed hammer. Trigger pull is lighter and more crisp than the ExD-37.

The action closes with a solid-feeling “thunk.”

Bates & Dittus also produces a pistol launcher, the SML-37, and the under-barrel UBL-37, which is similar in design to the 40mm M-203, to include the horizontal Teflon fore grip and side-mounted slide release.

Ammunition – There are two classes of 37mm ammunition: rounds available to civilians and those sold only to military or law enforcement. Typically, Dittus said civilian ammo consists of smoke, flares and “breakers,” which launch a pyrotechnic-type explosive that creates a loud report but produces no shrapnel.

37mm ammunition. Photo courtesy Bates & Dittus.

A selection of 37mm and 26.5mm ammunition. The yellow rounds are exploding “breakers.” Photo courtesy Bates & Dittus.

Military and police rounds consist of CS/CN/OC gas rounds and several types of less-lethal projectiles.

B&D also manufactures adapters that slide into the weapon’s barrel, and allow the shooter to use 26.5mm and 12 gauge flares, smoke and other rounds.

Lately, 26.5mm ammunition from Eastern Europe is easy to find on the surplus market, priced between $8-$10 per round.

Range report – If you don’t have an extra $400-$700 in your bank account, do not shoot one of B&D’s launchers. They’re addictive. We launched flares, smoke and breakers – the best bang for the buck.

Recoil is minimal, due to the low-pressure and lack of rifling.

The 37mm breakers traveled about 100 yards before exploding with a resounding boom. The 26.5mm flares traveled much farther before bursting into an intense bright-blue light, clearly visible even during a sunny day. The smoke rounds produced enough yellow and red smoke to easily serve as emergency signals.

There was one FTF, which involved the aforementioned hard shotgun primers. There were no issues involving the weapons, which functioned flawlessly.

I was surprised by the accuracy of the smoke rounds, which Ed could place on target at 75 yards.

Takeaways – Thousands of B&D’s launchers are already in use with law enforcement SWAT teams, as well as military and paramilitary units around the world.

They’re perfect for boaters who want the capability to deliver both a loud, violent warning to any uninvited boarders, as well as smoke and flares in the event of an at-sea emergency.

The launchers can fill a niche for wildlife management. Tactical shooters will love them, especially the under-barrel mounted UBL-37.

I have used several types of ordinance launchers, both 37mm and 40mm. These are beyond mil-spec – without a doubt some of the best I have seen.

For more information, contact Bates & Dittus on Facebook and Twitter.

Additional stories about Bates & Dittus will be forthcoming, and published here and on the Herald-Tribune website.


About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.

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