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What’s the difference between offensive and defensive hand grenades?

Posted September 26, 2019

You may think that a hand grenade is a simple weapon. You just throw it, it explodes and sends thousands of pieces of shrapnel all around, killing or seriously injuring enemy forces. However, grenades are actually not that simple at all. In fact, they are quite complicated. Did you know that offensive and defensive grenades are actually different?

M-67 grenade now is over 50 years old. Image credit: Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen via Wikimedia

Hand grenades are very effective in video games, but not so much in real life. They only work if you throw them right next to the target with no walls in between. A normal grenade explodes, shattering its steel casing and turning it into a sharp shrapnel. If grenade lands right in between several enemy soldiers, it will do its job. But if there is something in between, it won’t be very effective. You also have to know which one to use – offensive or defensive grenade – and why.

Not many people know that there are two types of hand grenades – offensive and defensive. Defensive hand grenades are just the usual shrapnel grenades we all know and love. You use them when you are on defensive positions, because in those situations you know that friendly soldiers are either retrieting or holding position right next to you. In other words, it is highly unlikely that someone from your side is going to be injured by the grenade that you’ve thrown.

According to, US Marine Corps does not have offensive grenades. And that’s a problem. M-67 hand grenade, which was designed back in 1950’s and is in servise since 1968, is great, but it is not universal. Soldiers avoid using it in order not to risk injuring friendly forces.

Offensive grenades do not produce shrapnel. Typically they work by the principle of concussive effect – the shockwave from the explosion can stun or kill the enemy, especially if these grenades are used in some buildings or trenches. Offensive grenades are less lethal and that’s by design. When your forces are pushing forward, you don’t want to use more dangerous grenades, because your own people are running towards the the explosion.

Nammo’s grenades – Mark 21 is one the far left. Stacking three grenades triples the power. Image credit: Nammo

Norwegian company Nammo produces an offensive grenade Mark 21. It causes a concussive effect and no shrapnel. However, its biggest advantage is stacking modular design. Soldiers are able to join three grenades together with a single fuse. This triples the explosive power.

Joining several grenades together allows for tuning the explosive power according to the need. Engineers are trying to create smart hand grenades that would have such capability. Nammo’s design is simple and does not require electronics. That’s why US Marine corps is interested.

Nammo Mark 21 could replace M-67 in offensive scenarios. This would help soldiers use hand grenades with more confidence and authority, without too much fear of injuring yourself or other soldiers from friendly forces.

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