Enthusiasm for rifle-grenades varies considerably between armies.
One of the arguments levelled against their issue is that soldiers already have grenade-launchers and/or light mortars. However, these are team, platoon or company level weapons. A rifle-grenade gives the individual soldier extended high-angle explosive fire capability.
Others may argue that suitable roles for rifle-grenades are better served by light recoilless weapons such as LAW/LSW M72. Several rifle-grenades may be carried for the bulk and mass of a single M72. Having rifle-grenades available conserves the supply of LAW for targets most suited to their use. Rifle-grenades may be fired from locations that even confined-space models of recoilless weapon cannot.
Part of the lukewarm attitude to rifle-grenades may be one of training. While soldiers are trained how to fire rifle-grenades, little attention is paid to the when?, why? and what at?
Some illustrations of potential applications:
• When conducting a far-ambush, each rifleman should have a rifle-grenade fitted. For the first salvo the rifle-grenades should be fired along with the unit’s machine guns, grenade-launchers and mortars. This will maximize disruption and confusion of the ambushed unit.
• Rifle-grenades are useful for attacking machine gun nests or other static crew-served weapons. Rifle-grenades may be fired over the top of wire positioned to defeat rocket attack. During the First World War rifle-grenadiers would “hunt” machine guns. Rifle-grenades were also used against machine gun positions in the Second World War.
• Armoured forces rely on their supply columns. Destroying such supply columns is a priority mission for troops operating in a quasi-guerrilla role. Since supply vehicles are generally unarmoured, attacking them with rifle-grenades conserves the supply of more powerful anti-tank weapons.
• During urban combat, a unit may have no option but to attempt to clear a building from the lower stories up. Rather than attempt to throw hand-grenades up stairwells, rifle-grenades may be fired upwards instead.
Many rifle grenade designs currently offered use bullet trap or bullet through features allowing them to be fired by standard ball rounds. Grenades that need to be launched by an unbulleted grenade-launching cartridge may still be encountered, particularly for riot munitions where live rounds travelling downrange are undesirable.
When using a grenade-launching-cartridge-fired grenade many modern rifles require the gas-port of the barrel to be closed before firing, which necessitates that the bolt be manually operated. This is mainly a requirement for weapons with a gas-regulator that vents to atmosphere, such as the FAL. If the regulator is not closed or isolated the greater inertia of the grenade causes most of the propellant gas to be vented. Some weapons have a closed-position on the regulator while others offer more foolproof and convenient designs. The Italian AR70s, for example, have a lever that lies along the top of the barrel and prevents a grenade being fitted unless it is raised. Raising the lever shuts the gas-port and also obstructs the rifles normal sights, reminding the shooter to lower the lever when he has finished launching grenades.
As far as I’m aware the firing of bullet-trap or bullet-through grenades would not need the operation of the gas cut-off but this may not be true for all rifle/grenade combinations.
Rifles with a closed gas system or that do not use gas operation may not require a gas cut-off when using grenade-cartridge-launched grenades. These include the M16, HK G3 and HK33 and bolt-action rifles. As an interesting side-note during the 1950s the German Army issued a requirement for an SMG that could launch anti-tank grenades. At least one prototype included a bolt-locking device so the full force of the grenade-launching 9mm cartridge was used to propel the grenade. Just like a mechanism with a gas cut-off, the bolt would then need to be manually operated.
The idea for a combined rifle/hand grenade was proposed by Mike Sparks. On this page I expand on the idea and suggest some of the features that such a grenade might have.
I think that the most practical approach to produce a rifle/hand grenade is not to adapt a hand grenade to rifle-launch but to adapt a rifle grenade design to hand-throwing. A weapon like the FN Herstal Bullet-Thru® Telgren is similar in size to a hand grenade in its untelescoped state (40 x 190mm). All that is really needed is a pin, safety lever and new fusing mechanism. Since the fuse will need to be changed a multi-option model can be fitted, as will be described later.
I feel a good basis for the rifle/hand grenade would be FN Herstal Bullet-Thru® rifle grenade, which used to be called the Telgren. This has a pull-out tail section that contains the firing pin. When in the travelling configuration with the tail retracted, the firing pin is not in line with the detonator in the grenade head. To fire the grenade the tail section must be pulled out and the grenade placed over the rifle muzzle. The grenade is a bullet-through design so there is no need to load a blank/grenade-launching cartridge since it can be launched by ball, AP or tracer rounds. When fired a spring retracts the tail of the grenade back into the body but also rotates it so the firing pin is brought into alignment with the detonator. Arming distance is between 5 and 10m. Launch velocity is 85m/s with a 7.62x51mm weapon, 65m/s with a 5.56x45mm. Range is 400m with a 7.62x51mm and 300m with 5.56mm. Each grenade weighs 320gm (11¼oz). Recoil for a 5.56mm is < 45J and < 60J for 7.62mm.
A rifle/hand grenade would be very similar but have an electronic fuse and a separate firing system for hand-throwing. Electronic grenade fusing systems have been in use for some time, one of the best know companies using these being the British company HALLEY & WELLER.
This hand-throwing fuse system would operate by the familiar safety-lever and pin system, although the lever will be a non-ejecting trigger bar rather than a fly-off lever. This trigger bar or the tail might also mount a folding ladder sight that can be used when the grenade is muzzle-launched. The hand-throwing system will only work when the tail is contracted into the grenade head.
When the tail is pulled out for rifle-launch the hand-throwing fuse will be physically separated from the detonation circuit in the grenade head. If the safety pin is pulled while the tail is extended there will be no effect other than the safety bar partially releasing. The grenade will arm when rifle-fired regardless of whether the safety pin is in place or not.
If the grenade was readied for rifle-firing but was not used, the tail can be collapsed back into the head to return it to hand-throwing/travelling configuration. If the pin was pulled while the tail was out then retracting the tail will not reactivate the hand-throwing fuse system. To rearm the hand-throwing system the safety lever must be fully depressed and a safety pin reinserted. Alternately, if the safety lever has been released it will physically block the tail being fully contracted back into the grenade body. The ignition system for hand-throwing will only work if it is in contact with the detonation circuit in the head, which only occurs if the tail is fully contracted. The tail cannot be fully contracted unless the safety lever is pinned down.
On the right is a crude representation of what a rifle/hand grenade might look like:
An electronic grenade fuse is not only more reliable and consistent, it can also have several fusing options. These may include:
For ease of use these options can be selected using just two tumbler or slider-type controls: one to select or switch off the Impact mode, the other to set the Time/Self Destruct delay option. The Impact dial would have the options Impact, Impact + ½ and Off. The time dial has options such as 4 sec, 7 sec and Instant (0). Booby trap setting would be the controls set to Off, 0, easily remembered due to the two Os in booby.
As well as the general-purpose fragmentation rifle/hand grenade there are likely to be several other types. A smoke/incendiary rifle/hand grenade containing white or red phosphorous would be very useful. There may also be requirements for a non-incendiary screening-smoke grenade containing something like HC or TA composition.
Another potentially useful rifle/hand grenade would be a flash-bang/stun grenade that can be either hand-thrown or rifle-projected. In the latter mode it would be useful in deterring mobs.
Another consideration is that the rifle/hand grenade should also be compatible with 7.62x51mm and 6.6mm rifles and 9mm and .45 submachine guns.
A practice version of the grenade in rifle-launched configuration should be built that can be launched by blank rounds but has the same trajectory as the live grenade propelled by a ball-round. Training could be an up-dated version of the medieval game of Rover: essentially golf using a longbow. The soldier would move over a course of rural and urban terrain with targets at varying ranges and elevations, and be required to hit each with a practice grenade.
The variant above is inspired by the MN30 rifle-launching attachment of the V40 mini-grenade (Holland). Unlike my previous design this is non-telescoping and has a total length of about 7" (185mm) and calibre of 40mm. Weight will be about 300-400gm so can probably be hand-thrown 35-40m. Effects will be similar to an M67.
The safety lever is on the tail, allowing it to be thrown like a compact stick grenade. In rifle-mode the barrel of the rifle passes through a hole in the safety lever, preventing the lever from operating even if the pin is removed. The non-ejecting lever can also be used as a pressure-release trigger for booby trap applications.
Stabilization is by weight distribution and a compact cogwheel type tail, copied from the MN30.
The sides of the head are fitted with 3 wire petals that form a self-righting mechanism to place the grenade in a vertical position just before detonation and send the cylindrical pattern of fragments in a roughly level orientation. The petals deploy just after impact and before detonation or just before timed detonation. A simpler design would omit this feature.
Rifle/hand grenades would also be used in the High Angle Grenade Launcher and could be adapted for launching from Recoilless Grenade Launchers or 3BT Grenade launcher. For launch from the MBIL/RLGL the grenade is fitted with a rocket that has a post that inserts into the grenade’s extended tail. For the 3BT the grenade is attached by a sear pin to a post on a cartridge case. Once sufficient chamber pressure is reached the pin breaks and the grenade is launched.
The family of rifle/hand grenades might be complimented by the Quarter-Kilo hand grenades and certain designs of rifle-launch-only grenades. These might include a paraflare illumination grenade and a HEAT-frag grenade for use against light vehicles and personnel.
An alternative to the latter might be a EFP (Explosively Formed Penetrator) grenade. This technology has begun to be offered for RPG-7 rounds. The rocket warhead detonates about 30m after launch and creates a slug of metal moving at around 2,800m/s. Due to its short time of flight the projectile has a very high hit probability and is not effected by countermeasures such as RPG-cages/slat armour. EFP offers the infantryman considerable capability against helicopters. This technology has been used for some artillery-delivered sub-munitions but to the best of my knowledge hasn’t been tried with rifle-grenades. One Russian EFP round for the RPG-7 has a detachable, segmented splitter ring assembly. If the round is fired with this in place the slug of metal is shattered into a shower of fragments for anti-personnel use. In effect this converts the round into a Flying Claymore.
Alongside the designs suggested above a number of large-calibre rifle-grenades similar to the Energa and Norinco Type-67 should be made available. These grenades typically are 70mm to 75mm in calibre and weigh between 1½ and 1¾ lbs. Fired by a rifle round, they have a launch velocity of 42-75m/s, a direct-fire-range of up to 75-100m and a high-trajectory range exceeding 250m. Penetration for the South African copy of the Energa is given as 375mm of RHA, nearly 15". The Rhodesians often issued Energa grenades to the point man of a patrol, giving him RPG-level firepower during an encounter without the problems of back-blast and the added weight of a launcher.
Such grenades have obvious applications for anti-tank ambushes in urban terrain where engagement range is often less than 100m. Destructive capability is similar to an M72 but the grenades are lighter and can be launched without back-blast or from confined spaces.
Many of the more recent designs incorporate some from of rocket assistance or booster charge to increase range. An interesting possibility is to instead use such technology to reduce the time of flight of the round during short-range engagements and therefore increase the chances of a hit. Being able to launch the round with a standard ball round rather than a grenade-launching cartridge would be desirable and it is possible that an EFP warhead could be used.
These rifle-grenade ideas should be combined with the DGLconcept to create under-barrel or stand-alone launchers.
Another form of rifle-grenade that should see wider use is the Israeli IMI ARG/AP-50. This is a form of rifle-grenade that does not leave the muzzle but instead projects a cloud of flechettes. These have proved very useful for firing through chain-link fences erected to protect a position from RPGs. The 53mm calibre round weighs 640gms and fires 160 flechettes in a 10° arc with a range of 50m. Such a weapon would be useful for any situation where the enemy was likely to be encountered at close range. Carlton Meyer coined the phrase rifle-claymore for a weapon of this type.
Other ideas about grenades can be found on these pages:
By the Author of the Scrapboard :
Attack, Avoid, Survive: Essential Principles of Self Defence
Available in Handy A5 and US Trade Formats.
Crash Combat Second Edition with additional content.
Epub edition Second Edition with additional content.
Crash Combat Third Edition
Epub edition Third Edition.