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Characteristics of Hand Grenades

Many insurgency groups in Africa have access to hand grenades.

According to humanitarian aid workers in Bujumbura,Burundi, grenades were periodically tossed into gardens where meetings were being held.  Although the grenades often had the pin still inserted, the message was clear and demonstrated that neighbours wanted the noise of the meetings to be kept low.  Fortunately, no casualties were incurred despite the nonchalance with which these dangerous cans of explosives were thrown around.

The first historical evidence of grenades in the Western world was from the 15th century when iron balls filled with gunpowder were detonated with burning fuses.  However, the Chinese were the first to use grenades as a more offensive application of their combustible invention, gunpowder.

Yet, the name comes from the Spanish word for a pomegranate – “granado” – and the Spaniards used them fairly extensively during the 16th and 17th centuries, and they proved highly effective given the slow rate-of-fire of muskets on the battlefield.  However, by the First World War, grenades had not been in common use owing to their poor design and ill-timed detonations.   The British inventor of the golf club, William Mills, also invented the “pineapple grenade” which has continued in use into the 21st century.  During the First World War, the British attached these grenades to sticks and used a long fuse to make them easy to throw a fair distance.  But, because the German soldiers in the trenches often threw them back, the fuses were reduced to the 4.5 second delay that exists today.  By the Second World War, the grenade had been improved and included various applications using smoke (signalling and screening), phosphorus and fragmentation (to produce casualties) and gas (for both casualty and riot control effects).

The general characteristics of hand grenades are as follows: […]