GRENADES! Artillery by the Fistful

GRENADES! Artillery by the Fistful


ABOVE: A red hot blizzard of small, uniform-sized steel fragments blasts out from detonation of a single M67 grenade during a training exercise in 2017 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Carefully engineered to kill the enemy without maiming the thrower, the grenade’s lethal radius is 5 meters and wounding radius is 15 meters. But soldiers are warned that wayward fragments can still fly out to 230 meters. The M67’s consistent burst pattern and frag spray far outperform the old cast iron “pineapple” grenades of World Wars One and Two. Photo Credit: US ARMY

“There will be times in the Army when you will need a weapon you can throw … It is an added weapon to your rifle and bayonet. It is a weapon of the rifle squad.

On the defensive you can use the grenade against an approaching enemy. On the offensive, you can use it for getting rid of the enemy in pillboxes, knocking out gun positions and for close fighting anywhere.

When you are on a combat patrol, you and your detail are on your own. At times you may be entirely alone and in a situation where your grenades may be your most useful weapon. Experience in combat taught us that every man must know when to use and how to throw grenades. You will use it very often in the Army, many times when you are in a tight spot.

Take advantage of the information in this manual. Learn to use the grenade correctly and how to throw it accurately.”

U.S. Army Field Manual 23-30 Hand and Rifle Grenades, April 1949

Over the last several years, US Special Operations Command has bought more than $40 million worth of Nammo Talley’s clever Offensive Hand Grenade HGO 115-3,5 Modular. Now, Big Army may be fielding it as well, as the Scalable Offensive Hand Grenade, at long last filling a decades-old gap since booting the the asbestos-contaminated MK3. Shown here with one, two and three plastic bodied segments, it allows the soldier to tailor the desired blast effect for different targets. “Offensive” hand grenades produce shock effect with minimal fragments for use in closed spaces such as bunkers and buildings, as well as open top trenches. Each HGO 115 module can have its own fuze or up to three can be detonated with a single fuze. Photo Credit: NAMMO TALLEY

This dramatic tribute to the utility and combat effectiveness of an ancient weapon brought into the modern age introduces a comprehensive reference source and guide to practical applications for the American Army’s many types of specialized hand-thrown munitions, developed and refined during World War II.

Then and perhaps more so now, the combat soldier needs grenades of many kinds to deal with all manner of situations. The 2005 edition of Army Field Manual 3-23.30 gives us a quick guide to available types:

“U.S. Forces use colored smoke, white smoke, riot-control, special purpose, fragmentation, offensive, and practice hand grenades. Each has a different capability that provides the soldier with a variety of options to successfully complete any given mission. Historically, the fragmentation grenade has been the most important; the soldier’s personal indirect weapon system. Offensive grenades are much less lethal than fragmentation grenades on an enemy in the open, but they are very effective against an enemy within a confined space. Smoke and special purpose grenades can be used to signal, screen, control crowds or riots, start fires, or destroy equipment. Because the grenade is thrown by hand, the range is short, and the casualty radius is small. The 4 to 5 second delay on the fuze allows the soldier to safely employ the grenade.”

Under development at Picatinny Arsenal’s ARDEC for more than seven years now, the Army’s Enhanced Tactical Multi Purpose (ET-MP) grenade is a high tech hand bomb, allowing warfighters to select either offensive (blast) or defensive (fragmentation) detonation. Just how this mind-boggling bypass of the laws of physics works is absent in official announcements. However, we do get this: “At the flip of a lever, the ET-MP changes from one mode to the other, reducing the need for troops to carry multiple grenades, yet having the one to suit the current situation.” Also, it’s ambidextrous and “not only is the fuze timing completely electronic...detonation timing can now be narrowed down to milliseconds....” No word on the likely cost-per-grenade for these modern marvels but here’s ARDEC’s response to our inquiry on fielding: “Project is on hold pending decisions associated with the Army’s Modernization Priorities.” Photo Credit: US ARMY ARDEC GRAPHIC

“Safely Employ”

Technological advances and the changing nature of warfare over the dozen years since that FM was published have given rise to further specialization and innovation of grenades employed by U.S., allied and adversary forces. Pointedly, the need for safety of throwers of less than optimum strength and sufficient training–while increasing target effects but minimizing “collateral damage” on the bursting end–is being met by scores of firms worldwide.

Among the best of these is the Nammo group, represented in the U.S. by Nammo Talley. Their hand grenade line covers the full spectrum including frags big and little, color smokes (with a white one that’s non-toxic) and a novel approach to offensive tools.

Perhaps mindful of the WWII German trick of wiring a cluster of detached grenade heads around a central stick grenade, the Nammo version stacks up to three, letting the grenadier choose how much bang is just right for the target of the moment. Snake eaters of U.S. Special Operations Command have been enthusiastically using enormous numbers of these for several years now, so they must be good.

For obvious reasons due to its grooved cast iron body, American Doughboys in WWI nicknamed their distinctive Mark I fragmentation grenade the “pineapple.” Much needed improvements in safety, reliability and bursting effectiveness resulted in the Mark II that is almost identical externally but has an explosive filler of flaked TNT replacing various types of gunpowder. The improved MK II was the GI’s standard fragmentation grenade throughout WW2 and most of the Korean War when the M26 was adopted. With staggering numbers of MK IIs available, it remained in US service and with allies long afterward. Pictured here is a MKII display model crafted from a M21 (RFX) body fitted with old style M10 series fuze (note the safety lever “spoon” wraps over the top front of the fuze). Because of the many, many variations in body styles, fuzes and such, grenade enthusiasts are encouraged to consult

Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center

The Army’s weaponry wizards at Picatinny Arsenal have also been on the trail of better hand bombs. Naturally, they’re part of the Big Green Machine’s evaluation team considering adoption of Nammo’s triple stack.

And long needed safety improvements for regular frags are being addressed, among them replacing problematic pull rings with a clever lever that’s southpaw-friendly and detonator-detaching for added safety.

Pushing the perimeter of physics, there’s ARDEC’s Enhanced Tactical Multi-Purpose (ET-MP), with instant selection of frag vs. blast with a twist of the wrist.

Meanwhile over in Sweden, FMV’s “jumping grenade” (Blast Grenade 07) has an initial booster charge that propels it straight up a couple of meters before exploding and sending most of it fragments directly downward. How? The accompanying news release says it “knows up from down” and explodes accordingly.

M67 Fragmentation Grenade

Grenade, Hand, Fragmentation, Delay, M67

While all this (and much more we aren’t being told about yet) is going on, the well-respected M67 has soldiered on since 1968 as the standard frag for all the U.S. Armed Forces as well as numerous allies. A pretty good grenade, it brings forward all the best aspects of a long line of metal chunk blasting predecessors. It’s light, small, easy to throw, highly reliable, nastily effective and safer to carry and chuck than just about anything else in widespread use.

Interestingly, most of the rest of America’s current grenade catalog has types that have been around since WWII. But don’t think they’re old-fashioned; these 1940’s era smokers, gassers, burners and others were pretty close to semi-perfection back then and still are today.

An American EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) soldier shows a Soviet-type F1 fragmentation grenade. Photo Credit: US ARMY

Soviet F1 Limonka

Not exactly a direct counterpart to the M67 but far more widespread in use today is the old Soviet Union’s F1. It’s the AK-47 of frags, made in untold tens of millions since 1941 and found in just about every corner of the world. Immediately dubbed Limonka (lemon, for obvious reasons) by Red Army grunts in the “Great Patriotic War” against Hitler, its 60 grams of TNT blasts big chunks of cast iron in erratic patterns. While replaced in Russian service by the RG series, it’s still in daily production and used elsewhere.

May 2016, Hurlburt Field, Florida. An M18 smoke grenade sends out a thick green cloud, marking the landing zone for free-fall parachute jumpers of 24th Special Operations Wing during Exercise Emerald Warrior 2016. M18 series chemical grenades come in red, yellow, green, and violet colors, with an average burn time of 60 seconds. Other chemical grenades put out white screening smoke, with the AN-M8 HC (hexachloroethane) burning about two minutes for enhanced effectiveness. The variety of colors allow specific identification between ground to ground and ground to air elements. Photo Credit: USAF

Blast from the Past (Some Hand Grenade History)

Historians tell us that hand bombs in various forms have been in use since 700 AD when napalm-like “Greek Fire” in breakable clay pots was tossed from wooden ship to ship. Gunpowder grenades almost certainly originated with those innovative Chinese of the Song Dynasty some 300 years later.

It took four more centuries before the first cast iron Grenatos (name derived from the look-alike pomegranate fruit) were reportedly used in disturbingly common European conflicts, mostly tossed into or out of stone castles.

Grenading proceeded by fits and starts for another four centuries when siege and trench warfare of the American War Between the States inspired some rather novel inventions. The Yankee Army’s novel Ketchum Grenade is perhaps best known of these due to its distinctive appearance; sort of a 19th Century lawn dart of gunpowder-filled cast iron with a wood stick tail and cardboard fins.

Reportedly dangerous to throwers and frustratingly unreliable, it had to be carefully armed, carried and tossed into an enemy trench. With amazing luck it would hit nose first, firing a percussion cap and detonating among the unlucky Confederate troops.

Grenades got better over the next 50 years of sporadic warfare, but it wasn’t until WWI that they really got the engineering attention needed to make them relatively reliable, effective and somewhat safe. The Yugoslavs made their first fuzes in 1890s, perfected in the 1912 model. By 1915, all of the major combatants had developed damn good ones including Germany’s iconic stick grenade, Britain’s Mills Bomb, France’s F1 and America’s Mark 1.

NAMMO of Norway and its US operation Nammo Talley are well known for leading edge developments in munitions. The hand grenades seen here have been enthusiastically adopted by numerous countries. (Front row left to right) The pre-fragmented, steel bodied Fragmentation Hand Grenade HGF 165-3,5 packed with 165 grams of Composition B explosive and the smaller HGF 60 with 60 grams, along with their blue-painted training counterparts. Lined up on the back row are plastic bodied “offensive” grenades that depend on powerful explosive/concussive effects with minimal flying fragments. Third from left is the modular HGO 115-3,5 with two screw-together segments, each filled with 115 grams (1/4 pound) of Comp B. Photo Credit: NAMMO TALLEY

[Editor’s Note: Not to overlook how the rapid development at this time of rifle-launched grenades increased their employment range, but we’re concentrating here on the ones heaved by hand]

Inevitably, the “War to End All War” didn’t, and when it all started up again around 1940, another burst of hand bomb innovation occurred. Among countless notables, the Germans had the improved Model 24 Sheilhandgranate, fitted when needed with a slip-on fragmentation sleeve, and the Brits issued a glue-globbed “sticky grenade” for anti-tank purposes.

American Soldiers and Marines made do quite well with the old “pineapple”—now the improved MKII—as did Brit Tommies with Mills Bombs, Frenchmen and Russkis with their respective F1s. Japanese troops smacked Type 91 and 97 frags against their helmets to ignite the fuze train.

Back for a moment to anti-tank grenades, those carrying newly developed, shaped charge warheads are only truly effective when delivered straight-on to armor plate. Accordingly, the Germans put Ketchum-like pop-out fins on the handle of their Panzerwurfmine so it would more likely hit nose first on a tank’s turret top or engine deck. The Red Army quickly adapted this tail dragger concept in the RPG-43 and then the postwar RKG-3 with its drogue parachute.

Hand grenades figured prominently in award of the Medal of Honor to Army Sergeant Candelario Garcia for heroic actions in the Vietnam War. Most likely the grenades he employed were M26 series frags; safe, reliable and devilishly effective against enemy in bunkers and out in the open. Photo Credit: US ARMY OFFICE OF THE CHIEF OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS

Candelario Garcia, GI Grenadier
(Army Office of Public Affairs 2014 News release)

Medal of Honor recipient Sergeant Candelario Garcia distinguished himself on Dec. 8, 1968, while serving with Company B, 1st Battalion, 2nd Infantry, 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division as a team leader during a company-size reconnaissance-in-force mission near Lai Khe, Vietnam.

Garcia’s platoon discovered communication wire and other signs of an enemy base camp leading into a densely vegetated area. As they advanced they came under intense fire, causing several men to be wounded and trapped in the open.

Ignoring a hail of hostile bullets, Garcia crawled to within 10 meters of a machine-gun bunker, leaped to his feet and ran directly at the fortification, firing his rifle as he charged. He jammed two hand grenades into the gun port and then placed the muzzle of his weapons inside, killing all four occupants.

Continuing to expose himself to intense enemy fire, Garcia raced 15 meters to another bunker and killed its three defenders with hand grenades and rifle fire. After again braving the communists’ barrage to rescue two casualties, he joined his company in an assault, which overran the remaining enemy positions.

While crude, burning fuze “hand bombs” had been used with varying effectiveness for several centuries, the advent of extensive trench warfare in World War I demanded development of better grenades. Most critical was the need for more reliable means of igniting them in all weather conditions, as well as safety for the unfortunate soldiers who were compelled to use them. This rush to technological innovation resulted in a variety of designs by all the major combatants. Some interesting examples of Austrian and German grenades are seen here in a museum display. Perhaps most notable is #14, the German Model 17 Stielhandgranate (stick hand grenade), an iconic design understandably nicknamed “potato masher.” An indispensable weapon for trench clearing, its black silhouette was the distinctive shoulder sleeve insignia of elite German Stosstruppen (shock troops). Photo Credit: NATIONAL WWI MUSEUM, KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI, WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

The American Lemon

Most likely the grenades Sergeant Garcia used to such devastating effect were M26/M61s, nicknamed “lemon frags” for their obvious shape. By no means a lemon in reliability and performance, the M26 series was far better in every way than the old MKII “pineapples” they replaced.

The hand grenades of today are not all that different from those of centuries past as evidenced by these three clay pot grenades from Europe in the Middle Ages, on display in the Oberhausmuseum, Passau, Germany. Filled with black powder and set off by a crude burning fuze, they were useful in close combat engagements. They were undoubtedly based on similar ones developed in 12th Century China, birthplace of gunpowder, cannon and muskets. Photo Credit: WOLFGANG SAUBER (WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Recent Recruit Quality

Ace military reporter Matthew Cox’s February 2018 feature on set off a metaphorical flash-bang grenade by quoting remarks by Maj. Gen. Malcolm Frost, newly installed commanding general of the U.S. Army Center of Initial Military Training. Speaking to Cox and other reporters about his command’s desperately needed overhaul of Basic Combat Training, Frost noted plans to remedy systemic problems with too many BCT graduates who were self-centered, undisciplined, sloppy and not physically fit.

Aside from lamenting the inevitable and obvious results of the Obama presidency’s punitive social engineering demands on the military, what’s relevant to this feature relates to lowering previous standards of competence with grenades as a graduation requirement.

“We are finding that there are a large number of trainees that come in that quite frankly just physically don’t have the capacity to throw a hand grenade 20 to 25 to 30 meters,” Frost noted. “In 10 weeks, we are on a 48-hour period; you are just not going to be able to teach someone how to throw if they haven’t thrown growing up.”

August 2006, Lebanon. Grenades of various types – including a long tailed RPG rocket – were among weapons and munitions seized from Hezbollah forces by Israeli Defense Forces in the southeastern part of Lebanon. Note the black taped Soviet type F1 Limonka at bottom left and what looks to be a US M26A1/M61 bottom right, also black taped for added safety. Photo Credit: ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES PHOTO

So, instead of lengthening the BCT cycle for increased emphasis on soldier pride, discipline and physical fitness, grenade training will be sharply shortened to make room.

But Frost, with skills honed from his previous assignment as Chief of Army Public Affairs, was quick to try reassuring observers; most notably currently serving combat arms soldiers and already cynical veterans. “They are going to learn all the technical aspects of the hand grenade, and they are going to learn tactical employment and they will throw a live hand grenade,” he said.

Meanwhile, Big Army must continue the hunt for hand grenades that even the weakest would-be soldiers can throw safely and–with some luck–effectively without killing their fellow soldiers. Perhaps Arges of Austria’s 5.8 ounce HG80 mini frag or Nammo’s 6.7 ounce HGF 60? Probably in stylish colors if requested.

Grenades of Various Types

Handy Hand Grenade References

This necessarily brief photo feature is intended as a way to stimulate an appetite for more research on the world’s fascinating array of hand-delivered munitions. As such, we offer some for starters:

Grenades overview online

Grenades (and just about all other explosive ordnance)

The Hand Grenade by Gordon Rottman,
Osprey, 2015

U.S. Army Field Manual 3-23.30 Grenades

Video: “Grenades Throughout History”

Best overall for vintage grenade collectors

Grenade Replicas

In his dramatic 1940 painting Kampf in Warschau, noted WWII German propaganda artist Wilhelm “Elk” Eber depicts a steely eyed officer awkwardly holding a P08 Luger pistol while fumbling to pull the friction igniter string on a Stielhandgranate 24. Right behind him, a rifleman is ready to pass another from the trio handily stuck in his belt. An improved version of the Great War classic, the Mod. 24 was the German Army’s standard but supplemented by other types including an egg-shaped one with no handle. The 24 depends on blast effect but is readily converted to fragmentation type by slipping on a serrated steel sleeve. Photo Credit: GALLERIA THULE-ITALIA (WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
Photographed during Operation Wheeler, Sept- Nov 1967 in South Vietnam, this squad leader of 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division carries the basic combat load of four M26 series frags somewhat securely in quick release loops on the sides of his canvas M1956 magazine pouches holding 20 rounders for his M16 rifle. The dot-fastened loops wrap around the fuze assembly, safety pin and lever to protect against accidental detonation from vegetation snags. The M26 and M61 ‘lemon frags’ have stamped sheet metal bodies, lined inside with a notched steel coil. Weighing 16 ounces and filled with 164 grams ( 5.75 ounces) of powerful Composition B explosive, it blasts a blizzard of uniformly sized splinters to a killing radius of 15 meters or more. Note also the “new squad radio” on his right side suspender. Photo Credit: US ARMY MHI, AUTHOR’S COLLECTION