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Hand Grenades

Hand grenades include more than the casualty-producing instruments of war. The current inventory provides a specific hand grenade for most circumstances. Each has different characteristics, and each provides the soldier with a variety of capabilities. Hand grenades give the soldier the ability to kill enemy soldiers, destroy enemy equipment, give signals, and control riots. Historically, the most important hand grenade is the fragmentation grenade.

Hand grenades share the following 3 common characteristics:

  • Their employment range is short.
  • Their effective casualty radius is small.
  • Their delay element permits safe throwing.

Hand grenades have the following main parts:

  • A body that contains filler and, in certain grenades, also provides fragmentation.
  • A filler, a chemical or explosive substance in the grenade, which determines grenade use and characteristics.
  • A fuze assembly that causes the grenade to function by igniting, detonating, or otherwise expelling the filler.

Hand grenades are used extensively during combat in urban areas. Smoke grenades are used for obscuration and signaling. Riot control grenades are used to control civil disturbances. Fragmentation, concussion and stun grenades are used to clear the enemy from rooms and basements. Hand grenades are the most used explosive munition during intense combat in urban areas. In World War II, it was common for a battalion fighting in a city to use over 500 fragmentation grenades each day. Stun grenades are used primarily during precision clearing of an urban structure when the presence of noncombatants is likely.

Smoke and riot control grenades have similar employment techniques. Fragmentation and concussion grenades are used to produce enemy casualties. The stun grenade is used as a distraction device.

AN-M8 HC smoke grenade. The AN-M8 HC smoke grenade produces a dense white or gray smoke. It burns intensely and cannot be easily extinguished once it ignites. The smoke can be dangerous in heavy concentrations because it makes breathing difficult and causes choking. The M8 grenade is normally used for screening. It produces a slowly building screen of longer duration than the obsolete M34 WP grenade without the problem of collateral damage caused by scattered burning particles.

M18-Series Smoke Grenades. The M18-series smoke grenades produce several different colors of smoke, which are used for signaling. Yellow smoke is sometimes difficult to see in urban areas. Newer versions of yellow smoke grenades are more visible than the old type.

The MK3A2 offensive hand grenade, commonly referred to as the concussion grenade, produces casualties during close combat while minimizing the danger to friendly personnel. The grenade produces severe concussion effects in enclosed areas. For this reason, it is the preferred hand grenade during offensive operations in a MOUT environment. It can be used for light blasting and demolitions, and for creating breach holes in interior walls. The concussion produced by the MK3A2 is much greater than that of the fragmentation grenade. It is very effective against enemy soldiers in bunkers, buildings, and underground passages.

The M67 fragmentation grenade is the most commonly available grenade during combat in urban areas. It provides suppression during room-to-room or house-to-house fighting, and is used while clearing rooms of enemy personnel. When used at close ranges, it can be cooked off for two seconds to deny the enemy time to throw it back. The fragmentation grenade can be rolled, bounced, or ricocheted into areas that cannot be reached by 40-mm grenade launchers. Soldiers must be cautious when throwing grenades up stairs. This is not the most desired method of employment.

The M84 stun hand grenade is the most recent addition to the Army inventory of grenades. Stun hand grenades are used as diversionary or distraction devices during building and room clearing operations when the presence of noncombatants is likely or expected and the assaulting element is attempting to achieve surprise. The following is a description of the M84 stun hand grenade and its components.

The effects of smoke grenades in urban areas are nominal. Smoke grenades produce dense clouds of colored or white smoke that remain stationary in the surrounding area. They can cause fires if used indiscriminately. If trapped and concentrated within a small space, their smoke can suffocate soldiers.

The fragmentation grenade has more varied effects during urban combat. It produces a large amount of small high-velocity fragments, which can penetrate plasterboard partitions and are lethal at short ranges (15 to 20 meters). Fragments lose their velocity quickly and are less effective beyond 25 meters. The fragments from a fragmentation grenade cannot penetrate a single layer of sandbags, a cinder block, or a brick building, but they can perforate wood frame and tin buildings if exploded close to their walls.

Fragmentation barriers consisting of common office furniture, mattresses, doors, or books can be effective against the fragmentation grenade inside rooms. For this reason, a room should never be considered safe just because one or two grenades have been detonated inside. Fragmentation grenades detonated on the floor not only throw fragments laterally but also send fragments and spall downward to lower floors. Predicting how much spall will occur is difficult since flooring material varies, but wooden floors are usually affected the most.

Some foreign grenades throw fragments much larger than those of the US-made M67. Light barriers and interior walls would probably be less effective against these grenades than against the M67. A major problem with the US-made fragmentation grenade is its tendency to bounce back off hard targets. Grenades are often directed at window openings on the ground floor or second floor. At ranges as close as 20 meters, a thrower's chances of missing a standard 1-meter by 1-meter window are high. The fragmentation grenade normally breaks through standard window glass and enters a room. If the grenade strikes at a sharp angle or the glass is thick plate, the grenade could be deflected without penetrating.

The M84 stun hand grenade is designed to be thrown into a room (through an open door, a standard glass window, or other opening) to deliver a loud bang and bright flash sufficient enough to temporarily disorient personnel in the room.

The METT-TC and ROE dictates what type of grenade the soldier uses to clear each room. Because of the high expenditure of grenades, units should carry additional grenades of all types. Additional grenades can be carried in empty ammunition or canteen pouches.

Hand grenades are difficult weapons to use. They involve a high risk of fratricide. Commanders should conduct precombat training with hand grenades as part of normal preparations. Soldiers must be very careful when throwing hand grenades. The pull pins of all these hand grenades can be replaced if the thrower decides not use the weapon. This pin replacement must be done carefully.

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Page last modified: 05-12-2011 18:36:30 ZULU