The 37mm smoothbore launcher is a multi-use platform with both civilian and law enforcement applications. Although most agencies are transitioning or have transitioned to 40mm launchers, the 37mm is still one of the most prevalent launchers in operation with law enforcement worldwide. Capable of accepting a wide array of chemical, impact and smoke/signal munitions, it remains an effective tactical tool.
With the civil unrest spreading across the country there has been an increased interest by civilians in 37mm launchers as a tool to disperse a violent group when law enforcement is unavailable. Before anyone gets themselves into legal trouble, let’s take a look at the law as it specifically applies to 37mm launchers.
The Law & 37mm Launchers
The ATF has held that devices designed for expelling tear gas or pyrotechnic signals aren’t weapons and are exempt from the destructive device (DD) definition as defined in the Gun Control Act (GCA), 18 U.S.C. Chapter 44, and the National Firearms Act (NFA), 26 U.S.C. Chapter 53.
ATF has also held (ATF Ruling 95-3) that 37mm gas/flare guns possessed with “anti-personnel” ammunition are destructive devices as that term is used in 18 U.S.C. section 921(a)(4) and 26 U.S.C. section 5845(f)(2). Anti-personnel ammunition includes cartridges containing wood pellets, rubber pellets or balls, or bean bags. ATF takes this very seriously.
Before you make or buy any antipersonnel rounds for your launcher, you must first register it as a DD. This applies to law enforcement and corrections use also. Flares, smoke and gas are permissible with an unregistered launcher, but of course, check your local laws. Spike’s Tactical includes a printed insert covering federal regulations with every Havoc launcher.
Unless your 37mm launcher is registered as a DD, your options will be limited. Employing any round in an antipersonnel role in an unregistered 37mm launcher is a violation of law, turning the launcher into an unregistered DD.
And even if you have a registered DD, commercial less-lethal rounds will be difficult for to obtain, unless you are law enforcement.
Spikes Tactical Havoc
There are a variety of 37mm launchers on the market that are available to the general public. Quality varies greatly. Spike’s Tactical launchers are at the top.
Spike’s Tactical offers three different 37mm smoothbore launchers — the ST 9” Side Loading Havoc; ST 12” Havoc; and the ST Thumper. The ST Thumper is a full weighted steel and wood 37mm replica of the M79 40mm grenade launcher. They’re sold as a signaling device. No FFL is required.
I was provided with the 9” Side Loading Havoc. The 9″ Havoc is an exceptionally compact single-shot 37mm launcher. It’s designed to be attached to a MIL-STD-1913 (Picatinny) rail, either as an under-barrel launcher or as a standalone system in conjunction with Spike’s Tactical Kaos Stock System. It’s short enough to fit on a seven-inch (18 cm) carbine rail.
Although they support all standard 37mm (rimmed) munitions, Spike’s Tactical up Havoc launchers are designed for use with 5 ¾” USCG-approved flares, smoke or gas rounds.
Taking the Havoc out of its box, I was immediately impressed with the high quality of its construction and workmanship. Materials, fit and finish on the Havoc are absolutely top notch. The Spike’s Tactical name has become synonymous with quality.
The Havoc features a one-piece launcher tube and handgrip. Designed for heavy-duty use, it features a straightforward rugged design. It’s CAD designed and CNC machined from solid billet 6061 T6 and 7075 T6 aircraft-grade aluminum. It has a durable MIL-SPEC-A-8625F Type III hard-coat anodized matte-black finish. Additional components are made from 1018 cold-rolled steel and plated with a mil spec black oxide finish. Weight is 2.31 pounds (1.05 kg).
To install the Havoc, simply slide the launcher onto the bottom rail of a Picatinny handguard or Kaos Stock System and tighten two set screws. The Havoc mount is rock solid.
Spike’s Tactical Kaos Stock System
Two Spike’s Tactical Kaos Stock Systems are available for the 9” Havoc. You have the choice of either a standard collapsible M4 stock or an AGP Arms AR Side-Folding Stock. The M4 stock model uses a standard mil spec buffer tube and will accept most aftermarket AR stocks.
Both systems come with a Spike’s Tactical Pro Grip. It’s an excellent grip, but you can install most aftermarket AR-15 pistol grip you choose. The Kaos has multiple sling attachment points, including a QD sling swivel socket on the left side of the frame.
I was provided with the Kaos Side-Folding Stock System. Coupled with the 9″ Havoc, it makes an exceptionally compact, easy-to-handle standalone launcher system. The Havoc can be operated with the stock closed.
The Kaos Side-Folding Stock System for the 9” Havoc weighs in at 2.125 pounds (0.96 kg). The AGP folding stock is made of ultra-strong glass-filled nylon with a 0.5-inch (1.27 cm) thick rubber butt pad. The mount is CNC machined from billet aluminum and has a mil spec Type III hard-coat anodized matte-black finish. The stock is attached to the mount with three Grade 8 hex-head screws. It has an easy-to-use push-button lock mechanism with solid lock-up.
In addition to compactness, the Kaos Side-Folding Stock System with the AGP stock has a weight advantage as well. It is 0.5-pound (0.23 kg) lighter than the Kaos Stock System with the M4 stock..
The Kaos Stock Systems have a full length Picatinny rail for the mounting of iron sights or optics. The rail is 11 inches (27.94 cm) long and has 22 slots. It doesn’t come with sights. You can put on whatever you want.
Whatever sights or optics you choose, range/trajectory determinations will need to be made for the specific 37mm munitions you wish to employ. The launcher should be sighted in for the particular load being used.
As is so often said, a sling is to a shoulder weapon as a holster is to a handgun— that is to say, essential. A single-point sling is the optimal sling for the Havoc/ Kaos standalone launcher system.
Operation of the Havoc
The 9″ Havoc is a side-swivel loading design with a cylindrical push-button breach lock. According to Spike’s Tactical, its proprietary lock design is three times stronger than existing lever lock systems.
To load the 9″ Havoc, press the breech lock button, open the launcher, slide the tube forward, and then swivel the tube breach out to the left. The side-swivel loading breach of the 9” Havoc allows quicker loading/reloading.
I am right handed and like the tube swinging to the left side. Lefties might prefer the rear-loading design of the 12″ Havoc. The M320 grenade launcher, which is replacing the US Army’s M203, also opens to the left side.
The M320 is double action. The M203 and Havoc are single-action. Unlike the M203, the Havoc doesn’t cock on cycling the breech. You manually cock the Havoc by retracting the cocking handle on the right side of the launcher.
The Havoc is equipped with a rotary safety that’s located just above the trigger guard, below the cocking handle. The Havoc has a crisp breaking trigger. Pull weight is approximately three pounds.
The Havoc doesn’t have an extractor. There isn’t any need for one. Simply elevate the muzzle, open the breech, and the casing drops free. If you do have to grasp a round for any reason, there’s a thumb cutout on the underside of the breach.
There is a wide variety of commercially available 37mm ammo. However, it isn’t inexpensive. Loading your own 37mm rounds can save you a lot of money. However, you do need to know what you’re doing. It can be dangerous if not done properly. And always check federal, state and local laws and regulations. Stay safe. Stay legal.
Grog’s 37mm and 40mm Basic and Advanced Reloading Guide and Informational CDs, by ordnance expert and retired Pennsylvania State Police Trooper George Confer (aka “Grog”) of 3LC Productions are excellent resources. They are available on eBay or on Grog’s website.
Many 37mm munitions employ black powder as the propellant. As we all know, black powder is corrosive. It contains sulfur, which combines with moisture in the air to form sulfuric acid. Launchers should be thoroughly cleaned after every shooting session.
Spike’s Tactical makes adapters for the Havoc that allow you to shoot smaller caliber 26.5mm and 12-gauge flares. The adapters are CNC machined out of 6061 T6 aluminum and hard anodized. They are fluted for weight reduction and color coded for easy identification. The 12-gauge flare adapter is designed and intended to fire only flares.
The Havoc functioned flawlessly in my testing, which was conducted in accordance with all applicable laws. Assorted permissible 37mm munitions were employed. Although I didn’t test any 37/40mm (stepped rim) munitions, they will work in any launcher that accepts standard 37mm rounds.
If you’re looking for a rugged, reliable and versatile ultra-compact 37mm launcher, look no further than the Spike’s Tactical 9″ Side-Loading Havoc. The Havoc and Kaos Side-Folding Stock System are an ideal combination.
The Spike’s Tactical 9″ Side-Loading Havoc has a MSRP of $439.95 USD. The Kaos Stock System AGP Side Folder has a MSRP of $344.95 USD. Spike’s Tactical products come with a lifetime warranty. They are made in the USA.
Any tactical applications aside, one thing is certain, 37mm launchers can be a lot of fun.
Spikes’s Tactica www.spikestactical.com
Grog’s 37mm and 40mm Webpage www.37and40mikemike.com
I received this product as a courtesy from the manufacturer so I could test it and give my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal or implied contract to give this product a good review. All opinions are my own and are based off my personal experience with the product.
*The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Spotter Up Magazine, the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.
Photos courtesy Spike’s Tactical..