Good morning, boys and girls. For today’s lesson, we’re going to be discussing grenades. There are five common types of grenade – fragmentation, smoke, riot control, incendiary, and concussion – but for our purposes, we’re going to focus on smoke grenades.

The smoke grenade is a fairly simple device. A sheet steel cylinder contains the igniter and 250 to 350 grams of the smoke mixture, which usually consists of potassium chlorate, lactose, and dye. Alternatively, there is a bursting smoke grenade containing white phosphorous, which catches fire in the air, burning with yellow flame and producing a lot of phosphorous pentoxide (which manifests as white smoke). The bursting grenade also serves as an incendiary device.

The smoke from the former type of grenade is red, green, yellow, white or violet; in both cases, smoke grenades are used in ground-to-ground or ground-to-air signaling, targeting, and screening maneuvers. Holes in the top and bottom of the grenade cylinder (usually four and one, respectively) emit smoke, which is generated for upwards of one minute in military-grade smoke grenades. The white smoke grenade (called the M8 HC) produces hydrochloric fumes, necessitating the use of gas masks if used in confined quarters.

The entire grenade weighs in at around 20 ounces, and can be thrown about thirty meters by the average soldier. As with most weaponry requiring some type of ignition, there is a danger of fire if the grenades are used in dry areas, and even light winds can cause the smoke from grenades to disperse too quickly to be effective.

For situations requiring the ignition of the smoke grenade without the use of the fuse, the following combat-only procedure should be followed:

  • Remove the tape from the bottom of the grenade, exposing the smoke mixture
  • Unscrew the fuse from the top of the grenade
  • Ignite the starter with open flame
  • Throw the grenade immediately to prevent burns

In the US military, there are three primary types of smoke grenade:

All three use an M201A1 fuse assembly.