Army Smoke Grenade: Top 10 Cool Facts

It was during World War II when the United States military found that using smoke grenades could be useful in a variety of situations during battles and skirmishes. Army personnel found smoke grenades to be extremely useful during the Vietnam War.

Smoke grenades are still in use by the Army, but some changes have been made.

In today’s post, we will look at the top 10 cool facts about the Army smoke grenade.

#1: Types

Over the years, there have been various types of smoke grenades. There are essentially only 2 types used by today’s Army.

  • M1 Frangible Grenade – This was like a Molotov Cocktail. It was a small glass bottle that had a mixture of sulfur trioxide and chlorosulfuric acid which would create a heavy smoke when it was broken and mixed with air. After 1944, you could not find these smoke grenades.
  • M8 – This was a smoke grenade that would incinerate after so many seconds after thrown. It was filled with hexachloroethane which was found to be highly toxic and is no longer used. It produced a thick, white smoke.
  • M83 – The Army still wanted the white smoke, so the M83 was developed using the same principles of the M8 but instead used the safer Terephthalic Acid as the agent. The M83 is still in use.
  • M15 – The M15 was nearly the same as the M8 but with rounded edges making it easier to throw.
  • M34 – The M34 was the M15 modified to be fired from a rifle-mounted grenade launcher.
  • M16 – This was essentially a M15 but with a colored dye. The original dyes came in red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, and black.
  • M18 – This is the most common smoke grenade and still used. It comes in one of 4 colors: yellow, green, red, and violet. It has been made using the safer Terephthalic Acid as the filler.

#2: Can Start A Fire

If thrown in dry areas of brush, the heat from the chemical reaction can start a fire.

#3: Uses For The M18 & M83

There are 3 primary uses for the M18 smoke grenade. They are:

  • Signal device for ground to ground or ground to air
  • A target or landing zone marker
  • Or for screening unit movements

The M83 is used primarily for screening and ground to air signal.

#4: Why The Change From The M16

The Army changed to the M18 because it burned longer.

#5: Will Remain Hot Even After Smoke Is Gone

It is not advisable to pick up a smoke grenade cartridge immediately after burning. It can remain extremely hot for up to 1 hour after.

Other posts you may enjoy:

  1. The M67 Fragmentation Grenade: An Overview
  2. M320 Grenade Launcher Overview
  3. The MK19 Grenade Launcher: An Overview
  4. Roy Benavidez: Vietnam War Hero
  5. The Letter Home From Vietnam: A Lesson For Those Serving In War

#6: Quite Simple In Design

The design of a smoke grenade is really quite simple. It has emission holes on the top and bottom that will release the smoke. When the pin is pulled and trigger released, the ignition will light a starter mixture that is easily flammable. This will start the filler mixture that contains the smoke.

#7: Certain Colors Burn Hotter

Tests were performed and it was found that the green and violet smoke grenades burn hotter than the red and yellow grenades.

#8: Toxicity Studies

No matter what smoke there is, there is going to be some toxicity. The Army has worked hard to cut that toxicity down to a minimum.

Instead of using sulfur, the new M18 smoke grenades use sugar as the fuel and magnesium carbonate as the coolant instead of sodium bicarbonate.

No matter what, personnel should make every attempt possible to breathe as little of the smoke as possible.

Several of the links in the reference section are related to toxicity tests if you would like to know more.

#9: Ground To Air

When ground forces would throw target marker or unit marker smoke grenade for air support, the air support would have to report the color. This would keep enemy forces from using manipulative techniques to use the color against us.

#10: Where To Learn All About Grenade Use

Army manual 3-23.30 is all about hand grenades. You can find and download that manual in reference #9 below.

Final Thoughts

Those Army smoke grenades have saved many lives and been a heavily used tool in war.

The Army is always at work developing better as newer weapons have been developed to see through the smoke. So now they use a multi-spectrum component that erases infrared capabilities.

Let’s here your thoughts. What have been your experiences with smoke grenades?

Just post all comments and questions below. Thank you.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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