The Rifle Grenade Part Three (or German Grenades of the Great War Part Eight) – The Karabingranate M17

The Germans’ response to the French Viven-Bessière grenade we looked at last time was the Karabingranate M17, introduced in 1917. 

It worked on the same principle, if not in exactly the same way, as the French grenade, from which it was, essentially, copied,…

…the bullet designed to pass right the way through the hole in the centre.

Slightly larger, with a diameter of six centimetres compared to the five of the VB,…

…the Karabingranate was launched from a cup attached to the end of a Mauser rifle, again similar to the VB, but rather than hitting a striker, as in the French grenade, the bullet would ignite a small button-like protrusion, highlighted in red on the diagram.  This would then set off the fuse’s delay as the bullet’s combustion gasses fired the grenade,…

…and if we take the grenade apart and look inside the cap,…

…here’s the hole from which the striker once protruded.

The cap is separated from the grenade’s body by a thin metal seal,…

…which, on removing, shows some sort of presumably waterproof padding attached by two staples (right).

Unlike the French VB grenade, this grenade was not prefragmented inside, or at least certainly not always, as you can see in the shot above.  I should mention here that some other sources say, and even the diagram suggests, that the M17 did have internal fragmentation grooves, so perhaps there were the usual manufacturing variations, although this would seem slightly more than a manufacturing difference to me.

The M17 would have been filled with around an ounce and a quarter of tolite (basically TNT – trinitrotoluene by any other name), and again like the VB, its small size meant it was easier to transport in quantity than other rifle grenades, and as firing caused no harm to the rifle’s barrel, ten men firing M17s could saturate an area with grenades in double-quick time.

And that’s about it for rifle grenades.  Curious creatures, really, with a relatively short history – these are the four (from top left, German, French, Italian & Austrian) I have shown you over the weeks – although one without which no account of trench warfare would complete.

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