Ideally you’ll never be in the situation in the first place, but let’s say a grenade is being lobbed at your face — what should you do? An anonymous US Infantry veteran schools us. Hint: unless you’re Captain America, don’t try to throw it back.
Presumably if you’re in a place where grenades are getting thrown at you, you’re in the military. If not, well, the same advice applies anyway.
The generally accepted fragmentation radius for a frag grenade is 9-10.5m, and the fuse length will be between 3-5 seconds. So usually running isn’t going to be an option for you. If you can take cover, do so. If not, hit the deck and get as low as possible, as the majority of the fragmentation will go upwards. Beyond that, there’s not a whole lot to be done.
But there are some frequently asked follow-up questions.
Head first, sideways, or feet first?
Head first. Your Kevlar helmet is specifically designed to stop shrapnel and your plate carrier generally is going to only protect you in three spots — straight on from the front, straight on from the back, and over the shoulders (with shoulder pads, which most troops deploy with these days).
By presenting a minimal cross-section to the grenade, you’re minimising the fragments that can hit you, and by presenting your most armoured front to the grenade, you’re protecting yourself from what fragments do hit you. Feet first is a bad idea — you don’t have any significant protection there, and it’s a great way to get your femoral artery severed.
Leg and intestinal wounds are both incredibly painful, and incredibly dangerous in the field. Sideways is even worse; your plate carrier won’t have any protection under the arms, and you’re maximizing the frontage of your body that is exposed to the blast.
Pick it up and throw it back? Not a chance.
There’s no way you have enough time. Assuming a 4 second fuse length, two of which are spent in flight, you have just two seconds to notice the grenade, react, reach down, pick it up, plant your feet, lift up, and throw it far enough that you’re clear of the blast radius. Not going to happen except in the ultra-rarest of situations. Plus, while you’re faffing about with that, whoever threw the grenade at you is still putting fire down on your position.
Cover your helmet?
I’ve seen some ill-advised suggestions to cover it with your helmet. Below are the remains of Medal of Honour winner Jason Dunham’s helmet. While securing an insurgent he noticed that the insurgent dropped a grenade at his feet. He covered the grenade with his helmet and his own body. Dunham died of his wounds. As you can see, the Kevlar threads are clearly visible, and the helmet, though ripped apart, is still in large chunks.
Because the helmet covered the grenade, it collected the full force of ALL of the shrapnel (even that which would have otherwise been directed away from him). If the grenade had been on the ground next to him, this helmet would have been largely intact but he still would likely have been killed.
What this illustrates is how important minimising exposure, and maximizing cover are when dealing with a grenade. Every bit of your body out of the potential blast cone, every bit of shrapnel that goes in a different direction from you, each little bit of that maximizes your chances of survival.
Back in 2003, when I was in Iraq, we were executing a cordon and search operation in Baghdad. There was one particular house that we had a pretty good idea had some insurgents in it. I was outside, just down the block, when a team from our Bravo company went in to clear the house.
They took fire immediately on entering the door, and someone from upstairs threw a Russian RGD-style grenade down the stairs. It clunked down to the bottom as everyone freaked out and dove for cover… and it didn’t explode. I think they eventually managed to finish clearing that building by climbing over from the next roof; nobody wanted to walk up the stairs with unexploded ordnance sitting on them and insurgents the next floor up.
Grenades are scary. Don’t mess with them. The real world is not Call of Duty, and you can’t just press “G” to throw them back, and you can’t outrun them. Just remember to get down, behind something if possible.
Images: Wikimedia Commons
About the author: Quora User, US Army Infantry, RSTA (Reconnaissance, Surveillance, Target Acquisition), OIF I/II Veteran
What is the best thing to do when a grenade is thrown at you? originally appeared on Quora.
This answer has been lightly edited for grammar and clarity.