Rationale for the stickiness of old German stick grenades

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by dav789dav, Dec 7, 2007.

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  1. You can't get more waltnerdy that this - I'm a civvy asking a question about weapon physics! - but here goes.

    AFAIK, the justification for the wooden handle of the old German "potato masher" grenade is that it increased its thrown range, because the handle acted as an extension to the arm and therefore provided extra impulse/moment (turning force). The Germans persisted with it through two world wars.

    However, to my mind, the reasoning is faulty. The argument for extra range certainly works for the stone-age spear thrower, the sling, and the cesta (basket "glove") of pelota, but only because the payloads (spear, shot, and ball, respectively) are separate from the throwing tool -- the arm's "extension" -- which launches it.

    However, the stick grenade's handle is of course part of the grenade, and so it seems to me that any extra impulse it provides simply goes into making the thrown grenade rotate more rather than increasing its range from the thrower. Besides, if range is measurably impoved by adding a handle, why not just add the grenade to the end of a pole throw it even further?!

    You may be losing the will to live at this point.
  2. The Germans did not play cricket or for that matter other games involving chucking things any distance. So give them a grenade with a handle and it was easier for them to control the direction of throw. For that matter it would have been easier for Brit' troops as well.

    But that would not be cricket would it?
  3. Imagine throwing a Brit-type grenade with the traditional bowling action and at the moment of release, your arm comes off - does the grenade suddenly convert its forward movement into rotation?
  4. Remember seeing a program on the genesis of the grenade.

    Broke grenades into 2 types.

    Offensive and Defensive grenade.

    Offensive - relied more on the blast effect of the explosive than the fragmentation of the grenade. Stick allowed them to be thrown further 30-40 meters.

    Defensive - relied on the fragmentation of the grenade to cause injuries, Mills pattern bombs had range of about 15 meters.
  5. Couple of things. The Germans weren't the only country to use stick grenades, Russkis had 'em too. From the mid-war period onwards the Germans introduced an egg shaped grenade.

    Both grenade types had an extra fragmentation sleeve that could be added and the HE rifle grenade round they had could also be used as a handgrenade.

    On another note, the stick grenade had its other uses.

    During the Narvik campaign of 1940 on one section of the front the lines between the Germans and Norwegians were so close they were within handgrenade range. This part of the front was in the mountains and the terrain was more or less just rock, no trees or bushes. So the resourceful Norwegians took to gathering up the handles of thrown German stick grenades to use as fuel for their fires so they could make their coffee.
  6. Thanks for the replies, soldier blokes:

    Whenever I’ve seen/read the reason for the handle, the experts do say that it can be thrown further – maybe it’s just lighter (provided the fragmentation sleeve isn’t added)? … with the bonus that the stick bit improves aim. If it didn’t kill the enemy though, the most a Landser could wish is that the sparks from the burning handle gave a nasty burn to any Norwegians.

    Another way of looking at my doubt about the handle improving range: suppose you have two grenades (stick and egg type) both weighing exactly the same, thrown exactly the same way, and therefore leaving the throwing hand at exactly the same speed (or momentum) and direction. The stick grenade may be a different shape and may tumble differently, but its speed/momentum towards the target is exactly the same at the egg grenade, and therefore it should go roughly the same distance. I.e. just because it has a longer, thinner shape doesn’t mean it goes further.

    Methinks the stick grenade would only go further than the egg grenade if the stick bit stayed in the hand, releasing the actual bangy bit on the end, i.e. the stick acted as a separate “grenade thrower” fixed to the hand, as with a spear thrower, pelota basket etc. The closest thing I can think of would be a one of those ball chuckers you can get for throwing balls a long way (e.g. for pet dogs).
  7. As said, I think it had other uses too. better range, more accuracy, and could use the handle to set up a tripwire mine too.
  8. Time for you to conduct an experiment then.

    Get two baked-bean tins, eat the beans, and add a suitable stick to one of them.

    Then fill them both with Plaster of Paris or similar, but varying the amounts to ensure they both weigh the same (you might have to drop a few bolts into the tin with no stick).

    Then hie thee to a field and conduct some throwing tests, swapping type after each throw to even out change in range caused by weather or fatigue.

    Report back here for more discussion with your results.
  9. Actually the British also had a stick grenade during WWI, the Number 1. It came with a whacking great bamboo handle and after a while of proving a bit awkward to manhandle in the confines of a trench was modified to the Number 1 Mark 2, same grenade, whacking great handle chopped down.
  10. it was also usefull for carrying,,sticking in jackboots-belts ect..
  11. OK, I know that it’s not actually scientific, but I have seen a documentary about WWI, in it they had a group of re-enactment guys threw the British Mills Bomb and then the German Stick Grenade.
    The stick grenades were thrown further.
    I am under the impression that the British adopted a grenade without a handle because almost everybody knew how to bowl (as in cricket) and therefore could deliver the grenade very accurately as opposed to be thrown further – but I may be wrong.
  12. Simple physics. "give me a large enough lever and I will move the world" (or words to that effect)

    The stick provided a lever, significantly improving the throwing distance. The Model 24 could be thrown approximately 30-40 yards, whereas the British Mills bomb could only be thrown about 15 yards.
  13. Because the weight of a stick grenade is at the end, the hand acts as an extra fulcrum giving added impetus to the throw. Hold it the other way round and it won't go as far. If you don't believe me, try it.
  14. Hello mongbwalu,

    go to your local pet shop and buy one of those balls on the end of a rope.
    Take it to your local park and try throwing it first with the ball in your hand and then with the end of the rope in your hand.
    You may be surprised to see that it goes a lot further when you hold the end of the rope.
    There is a limit to how fast you can move your arm.
    The rope (or stick in the case of a grenade) effectively extends the radius of your arm.
    Consequently,for a given movement of the arm,the grenade on the end of the stick travels a greater distance.
    Thus it has greater velocity.
    The product of velocity and mass gives momentum.
    Momentum versus aerodynamic drag determines how far the grenade goes.
    Hence a grenade with a stick can be thrown further.
    The stick also stabilises the grenade in the air,helping accuracy.
    Very long sticks were used to stabilise Congreave's artillery rockets and smaller versions are used on fireworks today for the same reason.

  15. Ah but the centre of gravity in the stick grenade would be further along. Therefore the momentum (weight x speed) would be higher as the speed would be faster the further along the centre of gravity is. Therefore assuming the grenade is released at the same point in the arc the stick grenade would travel further.