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Imperial German Kugelhandgranate, WWI

1914 Trench Photo At the close of the 19th century, after on and off use spanning hundreds of years, the hand grenade had yet to achieve any lasting significance as a tool of warfare. Although effective enough at times and despite continued interest and experimentation, its value to an army's complement of weaponry was comparatively low. It remained a relatively obscure weapon.     (See 19th Century Grenades)

During the 1904 Russo-Japanese War there was massive and effective use of grenades in the defense of entrenched camps. Noted by both the French and Germans, they reintroduced the hand grenade in quantity to their infantry's inventory of armaments at the outbreak of WWI. Still, grenades were of little tactical value in open combat involving movement of massed infantry. However, by the end of 1914 when the face of the battlefield changed to siege warfare from the trenches, the hand grenade became (and remains) an indispensable weapon for close combat where direct observation or contact with the enemy is not possible.

Photo:  "Les Grenades Allemandes de la Grande Guerre",  Patrice Delhomme

The Kugelhandgranate is made of cast iron with large external segments. It held an explosive charge of 70% black powder reinforced with baryta nitrate and potassium perchlorate. Fragments could pierce two centimeters of pine board at ten meters.
The 1 kilo (2.2lbs) "Kugel" could be thrown about 15 meters, or using a catapult, out to 300m .
It was transported loaded and closed with a zinc alloy plug.

There are three principle models of the German Kugelhandgranate, shown above.
They are identified in Patrice Delhomme's book as follows-(left to right):

Kugelhandgranate Model 1913 Aa
This Ältere Art ("Old Model") is easily identified by the large frag segments. Recovered grenades show minor variations to the pattern. The friction delay fuze is initiated by pulling the twisted priming wire. The soldier used a wrist lanyard with a snap hook to help do this. (Visible in the photo at the top of the page.)

Kugelhandgranate Model 1913 Na
As demand rapidly grew, the grenade body was simplified for faster production, resulting in the Mle.1913 Neuere Art ("New Model"). This transitional type was produced in limited quantities.
Kugels are typically painted black, but it is interesting to note the original light green paint showing on the grenade in the center.

Kugelhandgranate Model 1915 Na
This design, further simplified, was quickly adopted as the successor to the Mle. 1913 and was produced in vast numbers. With this grenade a new fuze, the Model 1915 igniter was developed. It had a cast and formed zinc alloy body with a twisted wire pull, formed into a small loop to be pulled with the index finger, thus eliminating the need for the leather wrist lanyard.


Mle.1913 Variations

Mle.1915 variations
Here are some observed variations of the Kugel.
At far left is the Model 1913 Aa documented in Delhomme's book.
Next is a slightly different style with a wider center frag band. Center-right appears to be something in between the Mle.1913 Aa and Na models. At far-right is a variation of the Mle.1913 Na.

The Model 1913 presented difficulties to cast properly, due to the deep and angular grooves. These are likely modifications made by various manufacturers to increase yields, which ultimately resulted in the Model 1915.   (Anyone have better identification data?)

Belt Carrier

Belt Carrier

An interesting accessory for the Kugelhandgranate is this special belt carrier device. The grenade was held inside the metal frame using a leather strap. The fuze pull was attached to the frame via a chain with a hook.
The whole thing was removed from the belt, the leather strap unhooked and the grenade pulled sharply from the carrier to initiate the delay train. The carrier would be then be discarded.
While this does make carrying the Kugel easier, it probably created more problems than it solved as two hands just doesn't seem enough to effectively manipulate it. Evidently it wasn't used in great numbers.


The Kugel were issued with a succession of different fuzes. Two are seen in the above photos, the Mle.1913 Bronze friction igniter and the Mle.1915 Zinc alloy friction igniter.    (See Eierhandgranate Model 1917)