Rifle Grenades & Launchers in Post-War Germany
ABOVE: A member of the “BGS” (Bundesgrenzschutz = federal border police) armed with a G 1. Note the early training rifle grenade Modell 1957 with metal fins.
Shortly after the end of World War II, the aims of the former allies in the fight against the German Reich came to light. The political interests of Russia differed significantly from the ideas of the Western nations. To be prepared for future conflicts, 12 states joined together on April 4, 1949, and established NATO. The freedom and security of the members would be guaranteed through deterrence, military buildup and permanent preparedness.
The post-war German Army, now called Bundeswehr, received their initial supply of weapons, vehicles and equipment mainly from U.S. stocks. These included, among other rifles, M1 Garand, M1 and M2 carbines, Thompson M1A1 submachine guns, M1918 BAR & M1919 machine guns and bazookas. In July of 1956, with the transfer of 9,572 border police officials to Bundeswehr, numerous weapons and equipment of the former Wehrmacht were added to the stock—for example, about 9,000 Karabiner 98k and more than 900 MG42 machine guns. The Italian submachine gun—Moschetto Automatico Beretta modello 38/49—once manufactured under German occupation, was now officially introduced as the MP1.
In the face of the strong armored forces of the Warsaw Pact countries, it was necessary to build up an effective anti-tank defense. In addition to light rocket launchers such as the bazooka, the infantrymen were again equipped with rifle grenades.
1. The Rifle Grenade EX DM 10
For practice purposes with the U.S. rifle caliber 30 M1—as the M1 Garand was officially named—the rifle grenade EX DM 10 was used. “DM” means Deutsches Modell (German model) and corresponds to the U.S. M11A4 practice rifle grenade. Launched and undamaged grenades could be reused; when unscrewing the shaft a damaged stabilisator part could be removed by pulling it forward and being replaced by a new one. The EX DM 10 was launched from the U.S. M7A3 rifle grenade launcher. A hinged clamp locked the launcher behind the bayonet lug of the M1 rifle. Then a collapsible sheet metal sight had to be placed onto the rifle grenade launcher and a small spring-clip at the front end of the launcher tube held the grenade in place by friction.
2. THE ANTI-TANK RIFLE GRENADE ENERGA (DM 12)
The first introduced hollow-charge rifle grenade was the Panzerabwehr gewehrgranate 75mm (Bris) Energa Modell 1957 (anti-tank rifle grenade), developed and manufactured by the Belgian company Mecar. It could be launched from the Karabiner 98k as well as the G1 (FN rifle) by means of a spigot-type rifle grenade launcher and a launching cartridge. The sighting device was an adjustable sheet-metal sight fixed to the stabilizer fins. A clamp integrated in the sight holds the launching cartridge during transport. The first service regulation was issued on August 12, 1958.
An improved Modell 1958 of the Energa had an aluminum sleeve inserted into the tail section and therefore could be fired from the G1 rifle without using a rifle grenade launcher. The grenade was just slid onto the flash hider.
The grenade body is made of light metal and houses the explosive charge. The charge is hollowed conically and lined with a sheet of copper. The tail section made of tubular steel is screwed into the grenade body. Two different types of stabilizer fins were used—the early ones were made of solid metal while the later ones were made of plastic and additionally protected by a plastic fin-ring. The later grenades also had a tail that was closed by a special plug, holding both the sight and the launching cartridge inside the tail section during transport, therefore preventing them from getting lost.
The anti-tank rifle grenade is armed with a sensitive impact fuse on its top, which causes a rapid detonation. The fuse came either screwed onto the grenade and protected by a removable plastic cover or packaged separately from the grenade in a plastic bag. It was constructed that way so that it still worked perfectly, even at a small angle of incidence of about 25 degrees.
The launching cartridge is made of brass and filled with 2.2 grams (later 2.35 grams) of NC flake powder. It is fitted with a primer containing a special “corrosion-preventing” charge. The top of the cartridge is crimped and sealed with wax.
Label and color repeatedly changed over time. For example, after the renaming of the grenade in Gewehrgranate Hohlladung DM 12, it got the new inscription 75 GGR DM12 HEAT. The training grenade was also assigned a DM-number and it was painted blue as was usual for training ammunition. Its inscription was now 75 GGR DM 18 ÜB (ÜB=Übung, meaning training).
The Rifle Grenade Launcher for the Karabiner 98k
The rifle grenade launcher is pushed onto the barrel from the front. A recess fits over the front sight base while a fork-shaped projection at the rear-end slides over the bayonet lug. With two clamps, tightened by wing screws, the launcher is fastened to the barrel of the carbine. The launcher tube has a bore diameter of 10 millimeters. So when shooting service ammunition with bullets, the rifle grenade launcher can remain on the weapon. The launcher does not fit on carbines equipped with a front sight hood. The annular grooves at the exterior side of the launcher tube should take debris, thus reducing the frictional resistance of the grenade.
The collapsible sheet metal sight is permanently fixed to the launcher body by two pivots. The shooter has to aim at the target via one of the crossbars of the sight to the head of the grenade.
A special brush was used for cleaning the launcher tube before and after shooting. During transport, the brush had to be stored inside the tube, and was only put in the carrying pouch as long as the launcher was attached to the rifle.
The Rifle Grenade Launcher for the Gewehr G1 (FN-Gewehr)
The rifle grenade launcher consists of a light metal tube that is pushed over the flash hider of the FN rifle from the front. It is fixed by means of a locking lever placed at its rectangular-shaped rear end. Annular grooves at the exterior side of the launcher tube should take debris to reduce the frictional resistance of the grenade. The launcher tube has a bore diameter of 10 millimeters. When shooting service ammunition with bullets, the rifle grenade launcher can remain on the weapon. The collapsible sheet metal sight is permanently fixed to the launcher body by two pivots. The distance markings for 25, 50, 75 and 100 meters are stamped in the metal and filled with white color.
A retaining spring holds the grenade in its place so that in certain cases it also can be shot downwards without sliding off the launcher.
The gas-operated FN rifle is fitted with a gas regulator located at the front end of the gas cylinder below the front sight base. Before launching a grenade, the gas port has to be blocked by turning the regulator clockwise (in the direction of the rifle). In this position, the letter “A” plus the milled notch in the front side of the regulator will point downwards to the barrel. Additionally the letters “Gr” will point upwards to the front sight (only present on C-series FN rifles). An incorrect position of the regulator will cause short shots, because a part of the gas pressure is diverted from the barrel into the gas cylinder instead of propelling the grenade.
3. THE ANTI-TANK RIFLE GRENADE HISPANO (DM 22)
After the introduction of the new G3 rifle as the standard assault rifle of the Bundeswehr in 1959, the German company Diehl from Nuremburg began the development work on a successor for the Energa rifle grenade. The first live-firing tests of the Hispano grenade were carried out in 1964. Instead of using a usual impact fuse, new paths were gone. The grenade body consists of two metal “contact jackets” (Kontakt hauben) one above the other. On impact, the outer jacket will be dented until touching the inner jacket, thus closing an electric circuit and setting off the grenade. Accidents can happen if a damaged and already dented grenade is fired. But, even standard training is not harmless—the hard recoil consistently causes injuries from bruises to broken thumbs if the rifle is not held correctly. A target of 300 millimeters of armor can be penetrated by a rectangular angle of impact.
When introduced in the Bundeswehr, the grenade was named GGR DM 22 HEAT and the training grenade ÜBGGR DM 28 ÜB. Sometimes training grenades were modified by armorers to EX-grenades by drilling holes in the rubber body and painting them green. These grenades were only used for preliminary practicing.