Fact file: M26 fragmentation hand grenade


A hand grenade is an anti-personnel weapon that explodes a short time after release. The wikipedia speculates the term grenade probably comes from the shape of the pomegranate fruit, which is also called grenade in French.

The first grenades appeared during the Byzantine Empire, not long after the reign of Leo III (717-741). Byzantine soldiers learned that Greek fire, a Byzantine invention of the previous century, could not only be thrown by flamethrowers at the enemy, but also in stone and ceramic jars. Later, glass containers were employed. The use of Greek fire, or rather variants thereof, spread to Muslim armies in the Near East, from where it reached China by the 10th century.

In China during the Song Dynasty (960–1279AD), weapons known as Zhen Tian Lei were created when Chinese soldiers packed gunpowder into ceramic or metal containers.

The first cast iron bombshells and grenades did not appear in Europe until 1467. Within a couple centuries of this, the Chinese had discovered the explosive potential of packing hollowed cannonball shells with gunpowder.

In 1643, it is possible that “Grenados” were thrown amongst the Welsh at Holt Bridge during the English Civil War. The word “grenade” originated in the Glorious Revolution (1688), where cricket ball-sized iron spheres packed with gunpowder and fitted with slow-burning wicks were first used against the Jacobites in the battles of Killiecrankie and Glen Shiel. These grenades were not very effective (probably because a direct hit would be necessary for the grenade to have effect) and, as a result, saw little use.

However, trench warfare favoured the grenade. In a letter to his sister, Colonel Hugh Robert Hibbert, described an improvised grenade employed during the Crimea War (1854-1856): “We have a new invention to annoy our friends in their pits. It consists in filling empty soda water bottles full of powder, old twisted nails and any other sharp or cutting thing we can find at the time, sticking a bit of tow in for a fuse then lighting it and throwing it quickly into our neighbours pit where it bursts, to their great annoyance. You may imagine their rage at seeing a soda water bottle come tumbling into a hole full of men with a little fuse burning away as proud as a real shell exploding and burying itself into soft parts of the flesh.”

The M26, in use since the 1960s, has proven to be a durable, dependable weapon and remains in widespread service world wide.


Defensive fragmentation hand grenade.



Associated project names:


Denel Rheinmetall Munitions,originally a US design.


0.425kg, 0.465kg (fuzed).


0.113m (height), 0.060m (diameter).

Body material:



0.16kg TNT/RDX.


4.5 second delay.


About 1000 fragments out to 10m, lethal radius – for 50% casualties – 5m. Danger area: 25m on soft ground, 300m on hard ground.


The M26 has proven to be a durable, dependable weapon and remains in widespread service world wide.