Anti-personnel mine

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Sand-colored VS-50 mine intended for use in desert environments (shown beside a wristwatch, for scale) VS50.jpg
Sand-colored VS-50 mine intended for use in desert environments (shown beside a wristwatch, for scale)

Anti-personnel mines are a form of mine designed for use against humans, as opposed to anti-tank mines, which are designed for use against vehicles. Anti-personnel mines may be classified into blast mines or fragmentation mines, the latter may or may not be a bounding mine.


The mines are often designed to injure, not kill, their victims in order to increase the logistical (mostly medical) support required by enemy forces that encounter them. Some types of anti-personnel mines can also damage the tracks on armoured vehicles or the tires of wheeled vehicles.

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines has sought to ban mines culminating in the 1997 Ottawa Treaty, although this treaty has not yet been accepted by a number of countries including the United States, Israel, Russia, the People's Republic of China, Pakistan and India.


Italian Valmara 69 bouncing type anti-personnel mine Valmara69 AP-mine.JPEG
Italian Valmara 69 bouncing type anti-personnel mine

Anti-personnel mines are used in a similar manner to anti-tank mines, in static "mine fields" along national borders or in defense of strategic positions as described in greater detail in the land mine article. What makes them different from most anti-tank mines, however, is their smaller size, which enables large numbers to be simultaneously deployed over a large area. This process can be done manually, via dispensers on land vehicles, or from helicopters or aircraft. Alternatively, they can be dispensed by cargo-carrying artillery shells.

Other uses specific to anti-personnel mines are where they are deployed on an ad hoc basis in the following situations:

Blast mines

Anti personnel mine in Cambodia Anti personnel mine.JPG
Anti personnel mine in Cambodia

Typically, anti-personnel blast mines are triggered when the victim steps on them. Their primary purpose is to blow the victim's foot or leg off, disabling them. Injuring, rather than killing, the victim is viewed as preferable in order to increase the logistical (evacuation, medical) burden on the opposing force.


When a person steps on a blast mine and activates it, the mine's main charge detonates, creating a blast shock wave consisting of hot gases travelling at extremely high velocity. The shock wave sends a huge compressive force upwards, ejecting the mine casing and any soil covering the mine along with it. When the blast wave hits the surface, it quickly transfers the force into the subject's footwear and foot. This results in a massive compression force being applied. In most cases, the victim's foot is blown off by the blast wave.

The resulting injuries to a human body depend on the size of the mine's main charge, the depth, type of soil it was laid in and how the victim contacted it, e.g. stepping on the mine, using all or part of the foot. Different types of soil will result in different amounts of energy being transferred upward into the subject's foot, with saturated "clay-like" soil transferring the most. Larger main charges result in a release of significantly more energy, driving the blast wave further up a target's foot and leg and causing greater injury, in some cases even described as severe as traumatic amputation of the leg up to the knee. [1]

Secondary injuries from a blast mine are often caused by the material that has been torn loose by the mine's explosion. This consists of the soil and stones that were on top of the mine, parts of the victim's footwear and the small bones in the victim's foot. This debris creates wounds typical of similar secondary blast effects or fragmentation. Special footwear, including combat boots or so-called "blast boots", is only moderately protective against the destructive effects of blast mines, and the loss of a foot is a typical outcome.

Blast mines have little effect on armoured vehicles, but can damage a wheeled vehicle if it runs directly over the mine. Small blast mines will severely damage a tire, rendering it irreparable while some types could also damage adjacent running gear.


Typical components of an anti-personnel blast mine Anti-Personnel Mine (Blast Type).svg
Typical components of an anti-personnel blast mine

Mine casing

The mine casing houses the components of the mine and protects it from its environment. Early mines, such as the ones used in the World War II era, had casings made of steel or aluminium. However, by the middle of the conflict, the British Army was using the first, practical, portable metal detector—the Polish mine detector. The Germans responded with mines that had a wooden or glass casing to make detection harder.

Wooden mines had been used by the Soviets in 1939, before the appearance of metal detectors, in order to save steel. Some, like the PP Mi-D mine, continued to be used into the 1980s as they were easy to make and hard to detect. Wood has the disadvantage of rotting and splitting, rendering the mine non-functional after a comparatively short time in the ground (or the advantage, in that the mine can be considered self-disabling, and will be less likely to cause unintended injuries years later).

Mines manufactured after the 1950s generally use plastic casings to hinder detection by electronic mine detectors. Some, referred to as minimum metal mines, are constructed with as little metal as possible – often around 1 gram (0.035 oz) – to make them difficult to detect. Mines containing absolutely no metal have been produced, but are uncommon. By its nature, a mine without any metal components in it cannot be found using a metal detector.

Pressure plate/fuze mechanism

The fuze mechanism is designed to set off the detonator, either by striking it with a spring-loaded firing pin, compressing a friction sensitive pyrotechnic composition, or by passing an electric charge through it. Most mines employ a spring-loaded striker that hits a stab detonator when activated by the victim. Typically, the detonator contains a tiny pellet of lead azide. The fuze is the most complicated component in any mine, although the amount of effort required to design and manufacture a simple fuze mechanism is quite low, similar to the retraction mechanism in a ballpoint pen.[ citation needed ] More sophisticated examples, such as the Italian SB-33 mine have a fuze mechanism that detonates the mine if subject to gradual, steady pressure, but locks the fuze if subject to a sudden shock. This defeats one of the main methods of clearing a path through a minefield — detonating the mines with explosive devices, such as mine-clearing line charges.


The booster charge is a highly sensitive explosive that will activate easily when subjected to the shock of the detonator. Typically, a pea-sized pellet of RDX is used. The purpose of the booster is to amplify the shock of the detonator and initiate the main explosive charge.

Main charge

The main charge consists of a stable explosive that is detonated by the booster charge. This is necessary, because making a mine entirely out of a highly sensitive detonator or booster explosive would be more expensive, and make the device more sensitive and thereby susceptible to accidental detonation. In most AP blast mines TNT, Composition B or phlegmatized RDX are used. On a US M14 mine, 29 grams of tetryl is used, while 240 grams of TNT is used in a Russian PMN mine.


Anti-personnel blast mines are the most common type and are typically deployed on the surface (hidden by leaves or rocks) or buried under soil at a depth of 10 – 15 cm. They are activated by pressure, i.e. when the victim steps on them, but it could also be a vehicle driving over them.

They were designed for use as area denial weapons. Weapons of this type are supposed to deny opposing military forces access to a specific area.

Fragmentation mines

Stockmine M43 in a display case surrounded by other less lethal items Memorial du Souvenir 16.JPG
Stockmine M43 in a display case surrounded by other less lethal items

While blast mines are designed to cause severe injury to one person, fragmentation mines (such as the World War II era German S-mine) are designed to project fragments across a wide area, causing fragmentation wounds to nearby personnel. [2]

Fragmentation mines are generally much larger and heavier than blast mines, and contain a large amount (often several kilograms) of ferrous metal. As such, they are easy to detect if the environment is not too heavily contaminated with iron.


These mines are deemed to be more efficient than purely "blast effect" mines, because the shrapnel covers a greater area, potentially injuring more combatants.

The shrapnel from these mines can even disable some armoured vehicles, by puncturing their tires and—in the case of soft-skinned vehicles—also penetrating the skin and damaging internal components or injuring personnel. Because fragmentation mines generally contain a much larger charge than blast mines, they can cause severe damage to an unarmoured vehicle which runs directly over one.

Types of fragmentation mine


These mines (such as the Russian POMZ) are entirely above ground, having a fragmenting warhead mounted on a stake at a suitable height, concealed by vegetation or rubbish and triggered by one or more tripwires.


Bounding mines have a small lifting charge that, when activated, launches the main body of the mine out of the ground before it detonates at around chest height. This produces a more lethal spray of shrapnel over a larger area. One such—the US M16 mine—can cause injuries up to 200 metres (660 ft) away. The steel shrapnel makes bounding mines easy to detect, so they may be surrounded by minimum metal mines to make mine clearance harder.


Directional fragmentation weapons (such as the M18 Claymore) differ from other types in that they are designed to direct their fragments only in a limited arc. They are placed so that the blast will be directed at the target area and away from friendly forces. This design also allows forces to protect themselves by placing these types of mines near their own positions, but facing the enemy. They are triggered in a conventional manner with either tripwire or command detonation. They are generally referred to as claymore mines from the US mine of this type.

Improvised explosive devices

In the conflicts of the 21st century, anti-personnel improvised explosive devices (IED) have replaced conventional or military landmines as the source of injury to dismounted (pedestrian) soldiers and civilians. These injuries were recently reported in BMJ Open to be far worse than landmines, resulting in multiple limb amputations and lower body mutilation. [3] This combination of injuries has been given the name "Dismounted Complex Blast Injury" and is thought to be the worst survivable injury ever seen in war. [4]

Other mine types

Chemical mine.jpg
Chemical Mine No 1 Mk 1 diagram.jpg
British chemical mine c1940: Chemical Mine No 1 Mk 1

During World War II, flame mines known as the flame fougasse were produced by the British during the invasion crisis of 1940. Later, the Soviets produced a flame-mine, called the FOG-1. This was copied by the Germans to produce the Abwehrflammenwerfer 42, these devices were effectively disposable, trip-wire triggered flamethrowers.

Chemical mines have also been made. They were made by Britain, the US and the Soviet Union during World War II, but never deployed. During the Cold War, the US produced the M23 chemical mine containing VX (nerve agent). A small explosive charge burst the mine open and dispersed the chemical when the mine was triggered.


World War II anti-personnel mines
Post-War, US anti-personnel mines
Post-War, Russian anti-personnel mines
Post-War, British anti-personnel mines
Yugoslav anti-personnel mines


Anti-personnel mines are a typical example of subject-matter excluded from patentability under the European Patent Convention, because the publication or exploitation of such inventions are contrary to the "ordre public" and/or morality (Article 53(a) EPC). [5]

Criticism of name

The author Rob Nixon has criticized the use of the adjective "anti-personnel" to describe mines, noting that the word "personnel" signifies people engaged in a particular organization, whereas in reality "four-fifths of mine casualties are civilians", in particular children. Thus, he argues, the name "flatters their accuracy by implying that they target an organization, military or otherwise." [6]

See also

Related Research Articles

Land mine Explosive weapon, concealed under or on the ground

A land mine is an explosive device concealed under or on the ground and designed to destroy or disable enemy targets, ranging from combatants to vehicles and tanks, as they pass over or near it. Such a device is typically detonated automatically by way of pressure when a target steps on it or drives over it, although other detonation mechanisms are also sometimes used. A land mine may cause damage by direct blast effect, by fragments that are thrown by the blast, or by both.

M18 Claymore mine American directional anti-personnel mine

The M18A1 Claymore is a directional anti-personnel mine developed for the United States Armed Forces. Its inventor, Norman MacLeod, named the mine after a large medieval Scottish sword. Unlike a conventional land mine, the Claymore is command-detonated and directional, meaning it is fired by remote-control and shoots a pattern of metal balls into the kill zone like a shotgun. The Claymore can also be victim-activated by booby-trapping it with a tripwire firing system for use in area denial operations.

A booby trap is a device or setup that is intended to kill, harm, or surprise a human being or an animal. It is triggered by the presence or actions of the victim and sometimes has some form of bait designed to lure the victim towards it. The trap may be set to act upon trespassers that enter restricted areas, and it can be triggered when the victim performs an action. It can also be triggered by vehicles driving along a road, as in the case of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Firing pin Part of the firing mechanism in a firearm

A firing pin or striker is part of the firing mechanism used in a firearm or explosive device, designed to ignite combustions/detonations by delivering an impact force to shock-sensitive compounds known as primers. Firing pins may take many forms, though the types used in fuzes for single-use devices generally have a sharpened point. In contrast, firing pins used in firearms usually have a small, rounded portion designed to strike the primer of a cartridge, detonating the priming compound, which then ignites the propellant (inside) or fires the detonator and booster.

Anti-tank mine

An anti-tank mine is a type of land mine designed to damage or destroy vehicles including tanks and armored fighting vehicles.

Valmara 69 Bouncing anti-personnel mine

Valmara 69 or V-69 is an Italian bounding anti-personnel mine manufactured by Valsella. The mine was developed from the V-59 mine, and although the mine is no longer produced in Italy, a number of copies were produced in other countries e.g. the "SPM-1" manufactured by Singapore.


The MON-50 is a claymore shaped, plastic bodied, directional type of anti-personnel mine designed and manufactured in the Soviet Union. It is designed to wound or kill by explosive fragmentation. The mine is similar to the American M18 Claymore with a few differences.


The MRUD is a plastic bodied, convex rectangular directional type anti-personnel mine designed to wound or kill by fragmentation. It is broadly similar to the M18A1 Claymore mine.


The MON-90 is a claymore shaped, plastic bodied, directional type of anti-personnel mine designed and manufactured in the Soviet Union. It is designed to wound or kill by fragmentation. The mine is similar in appearance to the MON-50, but is approximately twice the size with a much greater depth.

M16 mine Bounding anti-personnel mine

The M16 mine is a United States-made bounding anti-personnel mine. It was based on captured plans of the World War II era German S-mine and has similar performance. The mine consists of a cast iron body in a thin steel sleeve. A central fuze well on the top of the mine is normally fitted with a pronged M605 pressure/tension (tripwire) fuze. Sufficient pressure on the prongs or tension on an attached tripwire causes the release of a striker. The freed striker is forced into a percussion cap which ignites a short pyrotechnic delay. The purpose of this delay is to allow the victim to move off the top of the mine, to prevent its upward movement from being blocked. Once the delay has burned through, a 4.5-gram black powder charge is ignited, which launches the inner iron body of the mine up into the air. The charge also ignites a second pair of pyrotechnic delays.

The POMZ, POMZ-2 and POMZ-2M are three types of Soviet-made stake mounted anti-personnel fragmentation mine. The POMZ mine was used during the Second World War. It was superseded by the POMZ-2, and later by the improved POMZ-2M. These mines have been used in numerous conflicts, including the Vietnam War and the Korean War.


The PROM-1 is a Yugoslavian manufactured bounding anti-personnel mine. It consists of a cylindrical body with a pronged fuze inserted into the top of the mine. It is broadly similar in operation to the German S-mine.


The OZM-3, OZM-4 and OZM-72 are Soviet manufactured bounding type anti-personnel mines. (fragmentation-barrier mine, in the Russian and other post-Soviet armies as informally called "frog mine" or "witch" )

PMN mine Series of Soviet anti-personnel mines

The PMN series of blast anti-personnel mines were designed and manufactured in the Soviet Union. They are one of the most widely used and commonly found devices during demining operations. They are sometimes nicknamed "black widow" because of their dark casings.

VS-50 mine

The VS-50 is a circular plastic cased anti-personnel blast mine that entered production in 1985, formerly manufactured by the now-defunct Valsella Meccanotecnica SpA, an Italian high-tech defence industry specialized in area denial systems which was also the manufacturer of the Valmara 69 and one of the first industries in the world to implement plastic construction for landmines. The design is similar to the TS-50 and VS-MK2 mine. It is blast resistant and can be used in a minimum metal configuration. Though unlikely to kill, the explosive charge contained within a VS-50 is quite sufficient to destroy the victim's foot: the blast is capable of penetrating 5 mm of mild steel leaving an 80 mm-diameter hole.

M19 mine

The M19 is a large square plastic cased United States anti-tank blast mine. Intended to replace the M15 mine, the design dates from the mid-1960s and contains only two metal components: the copper detonator capsule and a stainless steel firing pin which weighs 2.86 grams. It is a minimum metal mine, which makes it very difficult to detect after it has been emplaced. This mine is produced under licence in Chile, South Korea and Turkey. A copy is produced in Iran. It is found in Afghanistan, Angola, Chad, Chile, Cyprus, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, South Korea, Lebanon, the Western Sahara, and Zambia.

The C3A1 and C3A2 are Canadian minimum metal anti-personnel mines. The differences between them are very minor and hard to distinguish visually. Elsie mines were first deployed by Canada in 1962, by the United States in 1965 and by Japan in 1967.

The MAPED F1 is a claymore shaped plastic bodied directional anti-personnel mine which is designed to wound or kill by fragmentation. It has been the standard directional anti-personnel mine of the French army since the late 70s.

Grenade Small bomb that can be thrown by hand

A grenade is an explosive weapon typically thrown by hand, but can also refer to a shell shot out by a rifle or a grenade launcher. A modern hand grenade generally consists of an explosive charge ("filler"), a detonator mechanism, an internal striker to trigger the detonator, and a safety lever secured by a linchpin. The user pulls the safety pin before throwing, and once thrown the safety lever gets released, allowing the striker to trigger a primer that ignites a fuze, which burns down to the detonator and explodes the main charge.

A.P. Shrapnel Mine Type of Bounding mine

The A.P. (anti-personnel) Shrapnel Mine is a British bounding mine of World War II.


  1. "Marine wins battle for bungalow". 5 March 2009 via
  2. "How Axis Mines Work" Popular Mechanics, April 1944, p. 131
  3. Smith S, et al. (2017). "Injury profile suffered by targets of antipersonnel improvised explosive devices: prospective cohort study". BMJ Open. 7 (7): e014697. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2016-014697. PMC   5691184 . PMID   28835410.
  4. Cannon JW, et al. (2016). "Dismounted Complex Blast Injuries: A Comprehensive Review of the Modern Combat Experience". J Am Coll Surg. 223 (4): 652–664. doi:10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2016.07.009. PMID   27481095 . Retrieved 28 August 2017.
  5. Guidelines for Examination in the EPO , section g-ii, 4.1 , "Matter contrary to "ordre public" or morality".
  6. Nixon, Rob (2011). Slow violence and the environmentalism of the poor. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. pp. 222–223. ISBN   9780674049307.