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Replica WW2 Hand grenades on display Victory Show Cosby UK 06-09-2015 WW2 re-enactment Trade stalls Militaria personal gear replicas reprod.originals zaphad1 Flickr CCBY2.0 Hand grenades etc IMG 3865.jpg
Replica WW2 Hand grenades on display
Demonstration of a German Stielhandgranate (shaft hand grenade), a high explosive grenade with time fuze, Netherlands, 1946 Stick hand grenade throw clip.gif
Demonstration of a German Stielhandgranate (shaft hand grenade), a high explosive grenade with time fuze, Netherlands, 1946

A grenade is an explosive weapon typically thrown by hand (also called hand grenade), but can also refer to a shell (explosive projectile) shot from the muzzle of a rifle (as a rifle grenade) 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, an arming safety secured by a transport safety. The user removes the transport safety before throwing, and once the grenade leaves the hand the arming safety gets released, allowing the striker to trigger a primer that ignites a fuze (sometimes called the delay element), which burns down to the detonator and explodes the main charge.


Grenades work by dispersing fragments (fragmentation grenades), shockwaves (high-explosive, anti-tank and stun grenades), chemical aerosols (smoke and gas grenades) or fire (incendiary grenades). Their outer casings, generally made of a hard synthetic material or steel, are designed to rupture and fragment on detonation, sending out numerous fragments (shards and splinters) as fast-flying projectiles. In modern grenades, a pre-formed fragmentation matrix inside the grenade is commonly used, which may be spherical, cuboid, wire or notched wire. Most anti-personnel (AP) grenades are designed to detonate either after a time delay or on impact. [1]

Grenades are often spherical, cylindrical, ovoid or truncated ovoid in shape, and of a size that fits the hand of an average-sized adult. Some grenades are mounted at the end of a handle and known as "stick grenades". The stick design provides leverage for throwing longer distances, but at the cost of additional weight and length, and has been considered obsolete by western countries since the Second World War and Cold War periods. A friction igniter inside the handle or on the top of the grenade head was used to initiate the fuse.


The word grenade is likely derived from the French word spelled exactly the same, meaning pomegranate, [2] as the bomb is reminiscent of the many-seeded fruit in size and shape. Its first use in English dates from the 1590s. [3]


Hand grenades filled with Greek fire; surrounded by caltrops (10th-12th centuries National Historical Museum, Athens, Greece) Liquid fire granades Chania.jpg
Hand grenades filled with Greek fire; surrounded by caltrops (10th–12th centuries National Historical Museum, Athens, Greece)


Mongolian grenade attack on Japanese during Yuan dynasty Moko Shurai Ekotoba.jpg
Mongolian grenade attack on Japanese during Yuan dynasty
Seven ceramic hand grenades of the 17th Century found in Ingolstadt Germany Handgrenades Ingolstadt.jpg
Seven ceramic hand grenades of the 17th Century found in Ingolstadt Germany

Rudimentary incendiary grenades appeared in the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, not long after the reign of Leo III (717–741). [4] Byzantine soldiers learned that Greek fire, a Byzantine invention of the previous century, could not only be thrown by flamethrowers at the enemy but also in stone and ceramic jars. [4] Later, glass containers were employed.


An illustration of a fragmentation bomb known as the 'divine bone dissolving fire oil bomb' (lan gu huo you shen pao) from the Huolongjing. The black dots represent iron pellets. Ming Dynasty fragmentation bomb.jpg
An illustration of a fragmentation bomb known as the 'divine bone dissolving fire oil bomb' (lan gu huo you shen pao) from the Huolongjing . The black dots represent iron pellets.

In Song China (960–1279), weapons known as thunder crash bombs (震天雷) were created when soldiers packed gunpowder into ceramic or metal containers fitted with fuses. A 1044 military book, Wujing Zongyao (Compilation of Military Classics), described various gunpowder recipes in which one can find, according to Joseph Needham, the prototype of the modern hand grenade. [5]

Earliest known representation of a gun (a fire lance) and a grenade (upper right), Dunhuang, 10th century AD FireLanceAndGrenade10thCenturyDunhuang.jpg
Earliest known representation of a gun (a fire lance) and a grenade (upper right), Dunhuang, 10th century AD

The shells (pào) are made of cast iron, as large as a bowl and shaped like a ball. Inside they contain half a pound of 'divine fire' (shén huǒ, gunpowder). They are sent flying towards the enemy camp from an eruptor (mu pào), and when they get there a sound like a thunder-clap is heard, and flashes of light appear. If ten of these shells are fired successfully into the enemy camp, the whole place will be set ablaze... [8]

Grenade-like devices were also known in ancient India. In a 12th-century Persian historiography, the Mojmal al-Tawarikh , [9] a terracotta elephant filled with explosives set with a fuse was placed hidden in the van and exploded as the invading army approached near. [10]

The first cast-iron bombshells and grenades appeared in Europe in 1467, where their initial role was with the besieging and defense of castles and fortifications. [11] A hoard of several hundred ceramic hand grenades was discovered during construction in front of a bastion of the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt, Germany dated to the 17th century. Many of the grenades retained their original black powder loads and igniters. The grenades were most likely intentionally dumped in the moat of the bastion prior to 1723. [12]

By the mid-17th century, infantry known as grenadiers began to emerge in the armies of Europe, who specialized in shock and close quarters combat, mostly with the usage of grenades and fierce melee combat. In 1643, it is possible that "Grenados" were thrown amongst the Welsh at Holt Bridge during the English Civil War. The word "grenade" was also used during the events surrounding the Glorious Revolution in 1688, where cricket ball-sized (8.81 to 9 in (224 to 229 mm) in circumference) iron spheres packed with gunpowder and fitted with slow-burning wicks were first used against the Jacobites in the battles of Killiecrankie and Glen Shiel. [13] These grenades were not very effective owing both to the unreliability of their fuse, as well inconsistent times to detonation, and as a result, saw little use. Grenades were also used during the Golden Age of Piracy, especially during boarding actions; pirate Captain Thompson used "vast numbers of powder flasks, grenade shells, and stinkpots" to defeat two pirate-hunters sent by the Governor of Jamaica in 1721. [14]

Improvised grenades were increasingly used from the mid-19th century, the confines of trenches enhancing the effect of small explosive devices. In a letter to his sister, Colonel Hugh Robert Hibbert described an improvised grenade that was employed by British troops during the Crimean War (1854–1856): [15]

A cross-section of a Ketchum Grenade, used during the American Civil War Ketchum cs.jpg
A cross-section of a Ketchum Grenade, used during the American Civil War

We have a new invention to annoy our friends in their pits. It consists in filling empty soda water bottles full of powder, old twisted nails and any other sharp or cutting thing we can find at the time, sticking a bit of tow-in for a fuse then lighting it and throwing it quickly into our neighbors' pit where it bursts, to their great annoyance. You may imagine their rage at seeing a soda water bottle come tumbling into a hole full of men with a little fuse burning away as proud as a real shell exploding and burying itself into soft parts of the flesh.

In March 1868 during the Paraguayan War, the Paraguayan troops used hand grenades in their attempt to board Brazilian ironclad warships with canoes. [16]

Hand grenades were used on naval engagements during the War of the Pacific. [17] [18]

During the Siege of Mafeking in the Second Boer War, the defenders used fishing rods and a mechanical spring device to throw improvised grenades. [19]

Improvised hand grenades were used to great effect by the Russian defenders of Port Arthur (now Lüshun Port) during the Russo-Japanese War. [20]

Development of modern grenades

One of the earliest modern hand grenades. Fielded in the British Army from 1908, it was unsuccessful in the trenches of World War I, and was replaced by the Mills bomb. HandGrenadeNo1Mk1.jpg
One of the earliest modern hand grenades. Fielded in the British Army from 1908, it was unsuccessful in the trenches of World War I, and was replaced by the Mills bomb.

Around the turn of the 20th century, the ineffectiveness of the available types of hand grenades, coupled with their levels of danger to the user and difficulty of operation, meant that they were regarded as increasingly obsolete pieces of military equipment. In 1902, the British War Office announced that hand grenades were obsolete and had no place in modern warfare. But within two years, following the success of improvised grenades in the trench warfare conditions of the Russo-Japanese War, and reports from General Sir Aylmer Haldane, a British observer of the conflict, a reassessment was quickly made and the Board of Ordnance was instructed to develop a practical hand grenade. [21] Various models using a percussion fuze were built, but this type of fuze suffered from various practical problems, and they were not commissioned in large numbers. [20]

Marten Hale, known for patenting the Hales rifle grenade, developed a modern hand grenade in 1906 but was unsuccessful in persuading the British Army to adopt the weapon until 1913. Hale's chief competitor was Nils Waltersen Aasen, who invented his design in 1906 in Norway, receiving a patent for it in England. Aasen began his experiments with developing a grenade while serving as a sergeant in the Oscarsborg Fortress. Aasen formed the Aasenske Granatkompani in Denmark, which before the First World War produced and exported hand grenades in large numbers across Europe. He had success in marketing his weapon to the French and was appointed as a Knight of the French Legion of Honour in 1916 for the invention. [20]

The Royal Laboratory developed the No. 1 grenade in 1908. It contained explosive material with an iron fragmentation band, with an impact fuze, detonating when the top of the grenade hit the ground. A long cane handle (approximately 16 inches or 40 cm) allowed the user to throw the grenade farther than the blast of the explosion. [21] It suffered from the handicap that the percussion fuse was armed before throwing, which meant that if the user was in a trench or other confined space, he was apt to detonate it and kill himself when he drew back his arm to throw it. [22]

Early in World War I, combatant nations only had small grenades, similar to Hales' and Aasen's design. The Italian Besozzi grenade had a five-second fuze with a match-tip that was ignited by striking on a ring on the soldier's hand. [23]

The Mills bomb - the first modern fragmentation grenade - was used in the trenches from 1915. Ndeg36+ plaque de base.jpg
The Mills bomb the first modern fragmentation grenade was used in the trenches from 1915.

William Mills, a hand grenade designer from Sunderland, patented, developed and manufactured the "Mills bomb" at the Mills Munition Factory in Birmingham, England in 1915, designating it the No.5. It was described as the first "safe grenade". They were explosive-filled steel canisters with a triggering pin and a distinctive deeply notched surface. This segmentation is often erroneously thought to aid fragmentation, though Mills' own notes show the external grooves were purely to aid the soldier to grip the weapon. Improved fragmentation designs were later made with the notches on the inside, but at that time they would have been too expensive to produce. The external segmentation of the original Mills bomb was retained, as it provided a positive grip surface. This basic "pin-and-pineapple" design is still used in some modern grenades. [20]

An M67 grenade, issued to the United States Armed Forces M67b.jpg
An M67 grenade, issued to the United States Armed Forces

During World War II the United Kingdom used incendiary grenades based on white phosphorus. One model, the No. 76 special incendiary grenade, was mainly issued to the Home Guard as an anti-tank weapon. It was produced in vast numbers; by August 1941 well over 6,000,000 had been manufactured. [24]

In 2012, Spränghandgranat 07 (shgr 07, "Blast hand-grenade 07") was announced. [25] [26] [27] Developed by Ian Kinley at Försvarets Materielverk, shgr 07 is a self-righting, jumping hand grenade containing some 1900 balls that covers a cone 10 metres in diameter with the centre about 2 metres in height. This minimize the dangers outside the lethal zone as there is little to no random scattering of fragments from the blast.[ citation needed ]

Explosive grenades


DM51 2 noBG.jpg
DM51 3 noBG.jpg
Modern DM51  [ de ] fragmentation grenade with cross section

Fragmentation grenades are common in armies. They are weapons that are designed to disperse fragments on detonation, aimed to damage targets within the lethal and injury radii. The body is generally made of a hard synthetic material or steel, which will provide some fragmentation as shards and splinters, though in modern grenades a pre-formed fragmentation matrix is often used. The pre-formed fragmentation may be spherical, cuboid, wire or notched wire. Most explosive grenades are designed to detonate either after a time delay or on impact. [1]

Modern fragmentation grenades, such as the United States M67 grenade, have a wounding radius of 15 m (49 ft) – half that of older style grenades, which can still be encountered – and can be thrown about 40 m (130 ft). Fragments may travel more than 200 m (660 ft). [28]

High explosive

Diagram of the Mk3A2 concussion grenade Mk 3A2 grenade.jpg
Diagram of the Mk3A2 concussion grenade

These grenades are usually classed as offensive weapons because the effective casualty radius is much less than the distance it can be thrown, and its explosive power works better within more confined spaces such as fortifications or buildings, where entrenched defenders often occupy. The concussion effect, rather than any expelled fragments, is the effective killer. In the case of the US Mk3A2, the casualty radius is published as 2 m (6 ft 7 in) in open areas, but fragments and bits of fuze may be projected as far as 200 m (660 ft) from the detonation point. [29]

Concussion grenades have also been used as depth charges (underwater explosives) around boats and underwater targets; some like the US Mk 40 concussion grenade are designed for use against enemy divers and frogmen. Underwater explosions kill or otherwise incapacitate the target by creating a lethal shock wave underwater. [30]

The US Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) announced in 2016 that they were developing a grenade which could operate in either fragmentation or blast mode (selected at any time before throwing), the electronically fuzed enhanced tactical multi-purpose (ET-MP) hand grenade. [31]


Soviet RPG-43 HEAT grenade RPG--43.svg
Soviet RPG-43 HEAT grenade

During the Great War, handgrenades were frequently used by troops, lacking other means to defend against enemy tanks threatening to over-run the position, to various success. The Interwar period saw some limited development of grenades specifically intended to defeat armour, but it was not until the outbreak of WWII serious efforts were made. While there were infantry anti-tank weapons available, they were either not ubiquitous enough, ineffective or both. Anti-tank grenades were a suitable stopgap to ensure a rudimentary capability for every squad to be used for self-defence. Once rocket-propelled shaped charges became available in greater numbers, anti-tank hand grenades have become almost obsolete. However, they were still used with limited success in the Iraqi insurgency in the early 2000s against lightly-armoured mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles, designed for protection only against improvised explosive devices, [32] as well as drone ordnance in Ukraine 2022-2024.


Sting grenades, also known as stingball or sting ball grenades, [33] are stun grenades based on the design of the fragmentation grenade. Instead of using a metal casing to produce fragmentation, they are made from hard rubber and are filled with around 100 rubber or plastic balls. On detonation, these balls, and fragments from the rubber casing explode outward in all directions as reduced lethality projectiles, which may ricochet. [34] It is intended that people struck by the projectiles will receive a series of fast, painful stings, without serious injury. Some types have an additional payload of CS gas. [35]

Sting grenades do not reliably incapacitate people, so they can be dangerous to use against armed subjects. [36] However, they can sometimes cause serious physical injury, especially the rubber fragments from the casing. [34] :88 People have lost eyes and hands to sting grenades. [37]

Sting grenades are sometimes called "stinger grenades", which is a genericized trademark as "Stinger" is trademarked by Defense Technology for its line of sting grenades. [34] :83–84

Chemical and gas

Chemical and gas grenades burn or release a gas, and do not explode. [1]

M18 Grenade.svg
M18 US signal smoke grenade (yellow)
ABC-M7A2 A3 grenade.png
M7A2 CS gas grenade


Inert training grenade made from hard rubber Inert training grenade made from hard rubber.JPG
Inert training grenade made from hard rubber

Practice or simulation grenades are similar in handling and function to other hand grenades, except that they only produce a loud popping noise and a puff of smoke on detonation. The grenade body can be reused. [38] [39] Another type is the throwing practice grenade which is completely inert and often cast in one piece. It is used to give soldiers a feel for the weight and shape of real grenades and for practicing precision throwing. Examples of practice grenades include the K417 Biodegradable Practice Hand Grenade by CNOTech Korea. [40] [41]


Hand grenade fuze system Schema Grenade-en.svg
Hand grenade fuze system

Concerned with a number of serious incidents and accidents involving hand grenades, Ian Kinley at the Swedish Försvarets materielverk identified the two main issues as the time-fuze's burntime variation with temperature (slows down in cold and speeds up in heat) and the springs, the striker spring in particular, coming pre-tensioned from the factory by mechanism designs that had not changed much since the 1930s. In 2019, a new mechanism, fully interchangeable with the old ones, was adopted into service. The main difference, apart from a fully environmentally stable delay, is that the springs now are twist-tensioned by the thrower after the transport safety (pin and ring) has been removed, thus eliminating the possibility of unintentional arming of the hand grenade. [42]


When using an antipersonnel grenade, the objective is to have the grenade explode so that the target is within its effective radius. The M67 frag grenade has an advertised effective kill zone radius of 5 m (16 ft), while the casualty-inducing radius is approximately 15 m (49 ft). [43]

An alternative technique is to release the lever before throwing the grenade, which allows the fuze to burn partially and decrease the time to detonation after throwing; this is referred to as cooking. A shorter delay is useful to reduce the ability of the enemy to take cover, throw or kick the grenade away and can also be used to allow a fragmentation grenade to explode into the air over defensive positions. [44]

Cultural impact


Modern manufacturers of hand grenades include:

See also

Related Research Articles

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A bomb is an explosive weapon that uses the exothermic reaction of an explosive material to provide an extremely sudden and violent release of energy. Detonations inflict damage principally through ground- and atmosphere-transmitted mechanical stress, the impact and penetration of pressure-driven projectiles, pressure damage, and explosion-generated effects. Bombs have been utilized since the 11th century starting in East Asia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shell (projectile)</span> Payload-carrying projectile

A shell, in a military context, is a projectile whose payload contains an explosive, incendiary, or other chemical filling. Originally it was called a bombshell, but "shell" has come to be unambiguous in a military context. A shell can hold a tracer.

<i>Stielhandgranate</i> Weapon

Stielhandgranate is the German term for "stick hand grenade" and generally refers to a prominent series of World War I and World War II–era German stick grenade designs, distinguished by their long wooden handles, pull cord arming and cylindrical warheads. The first models were introduced by the Imperial German Army during World War I and the final design was introduced during World War II by the German Wehrmacht.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fuse (explosives)</span> Device that initiates sudden release of heat and gas

In an explosive, pyrotechnic device, or military munition, a fuse is the part of the device that initiates function. In common usage, the word fuse is used indiscriminately. However, when being specific, the term fuse describes a simple pyrotechnic initiating device, like the cord on a firecracker whereas the term fuze is used when referring to a more sophisticated ignition device incorporating mechanical and/or electronic components, such as a proximity fuze for an M107 artillery shell, magnetic or acoustic fuze on a sea mine, spring-loaded grenade fuze, pencil detonator, or anti-handling device.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Continuous-rod warhead</span> Explosive device utilizing a tube of long welded metal cylinders

A continuous-rod warhead is a specialized munition exhibiting an annular blast fragmentation pattern, thus when exploding it spreads into a large circle cutting through the target. It is used in anti-aircraft and anti-missile missiles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Composition B</span> Explosive, a mix of RDX and TNT

Composition B, also known as Hexotol and Hexolite, is a high explosive consisting of castable mixtures of RDX and TNT. It is used as the main explosive filling in artillery projectiles, rockets, land mines, hand grenades and various other munitions. It was also used for the explosive lenses in the first implosion-type nuclear weapons developed by the United States.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Air burst</span> Detonation of an explosive above a target for increased pressure wave damage

An air burst or airburst is the detonation of an explosive device such as an anti-personnel artillery shell or a nuclear weapon in the air instead of on contact with the ground or target. The principal military advantage of an air burst over a ground burst is that the energy from the explosion is distributed more evenly over a wider area; however, the peak energy is lower at ground zero.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">F-1 grenade (Russia)</span> Anti-personnel hand grenade

The Soviet F-1 hand grenade is an anti-personnel fragmentation defensive grenade. It is based on the French F1 grenade and contains a 60 g (2.1 oz) explosive charge (TNT). The total weight of the grenade with the fuze is about 600 g (21 oz).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">M67 grenade</span> American hand grenade

The M67 grenade is a fragmentation hand grenade used by the United States military. The M67 is a further development of the M33 grenade, itself a replacement for the M26-series grenades used during the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and the older Mk 2 "pineapple" grenade used since World War I.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">RGO hand grenade</span> Hand grenade

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">RGD-33 grenade</span> Hand grenade

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">F1 grenade (Australia)</span> Time-fuzed hand grenade

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General references