The M18A1 Claymore Anti-Personnel Mine: An Overview

In today’s post, we are going to take a close look at a weapon that is used by the United States Army. The M18A1 Claymore Anti-Personnel Mine has been used by the military since early in the Vietnam War. We will provide an overview of this weapon that has helped save many of the lives of U.S. service people. We will research the history, the design of the Claymore mine, the usage of it, and other tidbits of information on the M18A1.

History Of The Claymore Mine

The first work towards this idea came during World War II. German scientists discovered the basic principal of how they could direct an explosive blast in a certain direction. It was never fully designed, but the basic idea was now in the minds of others.

When the Korean war started, there were attacks by Chinese that was sweeping numbers of troops that overwhelmed full platoons of Soldiers. No matter how many were killed, the Chinese forces kept coming. It was determined by both Canadian and United States forces that a weapon must be designed to counter these mass attacks.

The Canadians first developed a land mine that would use the basic idea of the German design by spraying steel towards the enemy. Using 5 pounds of Composition B explosive (a mixture of TNT and RDX), the Canadians formed it into a sausage like design putting the steel in the mixture. It didn’t work very well, as it only sprayed for 30 yards at the most, and it was extremely heavy to carry in the jungles of Korea.

It was around 1952 when an employee of a Canadian Corporation by the name of Norman MacLeod designed the basic idea of what would become the M18 Claymore Mine. The Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey started manufacturing the Claymore mines. It was used in low numbers in Vietnam at this point, but it was effective.

Aerojet proceeded to better the design of the M18 and in late 1956 to early 1957, the M18A1 became a reality.

M18A1 Claymore Mine Design

The design is essentially so simple, a person may say, “why didn’t I think of that?” The fact is: there is a plethora of scientific research in this seemingly simple design. Testing was done over and over to perfect this device for maximum effectiveness, and also the safety factor of those who handled it.

The basic design of the M18A1 Claymore Mine is a green plastic case that is curved, The front of the case says: Front Toward Enemy. A layer of C4 explosive is formed in the back of the mine and soft steel balls are put in front of this explosive. These balls are soft because when the explosion occurs, they form into bullet-like projectiles. Legs are attached to the outer plastic shell which can be folded down for placement. It also comes with a toggle switch that is attached to wire who are also attached to a blasting cap assembly that is easily hooked into the mine. The wire is 100 feet long so the person who will fire the mine is a safe distance from it. There are also sites to properly set the Claymore mine at a proper level for maximum kill.

When a M18A1 Claymore Mine is properly set up, it will fire out at about 7 feet high in a wide arc of 60 degrees, spreading the steel to about 160 feet wide by 160 feet out. One Claymore can damage a large amount of Soldiers who are attacking in masses.

The M18A1 Claymore Mine weighs approximately 3 1/2 pounds which makes it easier to carry than the original mines made by the Canadians.

The Uses Of The M18A1

The primary usage of the Claymore mine is for defensive purposes. When a platoon or unit is stationed, to prevent mass attacks, Claymore mines can be placed in prime locations around the camp. If a sweeping amount of troops moves upon the unit, simply setting these mines off will damper their attempt. In many cases, several mines can all be strung together and when the toggle switch is pressed, all will be fired with one switch instead of many. This will allow one Soldier to be the activator instead of taking many.

There are cases where the M18A1 has been used in offensive measures. It can be used as an ambush tool, and it is also known to be quite effective against non-armored vehicles. Many other worldwide forces use Claymore mines or replicas of them. Using a tripwire type of system to set M18A1 Claymore Mines has been used, but it is a seldom type of use because of safety factors for friendly troops.

Since its development, the M18A1 has been used in all of these wars and battles:

  • Vietnam

  • Iraq

  • The Gulf War

  • Bosnia

  • Afghanistan

  • And many others

More Information

All of the guidelines for military usage of M18A1 Claymore Mines is under FM 23-23. This document covers everything from proper deployment to training and safety. You can find that complete document here.

There is a common lie that has been told among Soldiers and others about the explosive substance that is used in Claymore Mines being edible. Yes you can eat it, but it is not a very good idea. It is not nutritious, and it has chemicals that are harmful to you within it.

Design Advancements

Testing has began just this year on a smaller version of the M18A1. This device is called the Mini Multi Purpose Infantry Munition (M-MPIM). This mine weighs only 2 pounds but carries the same spread of kill range in distance. The width will be down to 75 feet, but the safety factor for those who handle these devices is much greater. It is the size of an average smartphone and has areas to attach cameras or lasers.

Final Thoughts

The development of the M18A1 saved many lives. Many United States enemies had discovered that mass attacks of Soldiers who had no fear of death worked, until Claymore mines were set in place to stop them.

What are your experiences with the M18A1? We would like to hear your opinions, so please tell us what you think in the comment section below. I will leave you now with a demonstration of the M18A1.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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