Shooting WW1 German Grenades in the Air with a Trench Shotgun: Myth or Truth?

Two popular YouTube gun channels TAOFLEDERMAUS and C&Rsenal teamed up to prove or bust a myth! There is a popular belief that the trench shotguns issued to US troops during the WW1 were not only used for their main purpose of providing a huge firepower when fighting inside the trenches but also were used to shoot down the incoming German “Stielhandgranate” hand grenades (a.k.a. the potato masher grenades).

The Remington Model 10 trench shotgun that Mae of C&Rsenal uses in the video below, was primarily issued with 00 buckshot ammunition, which is not the best choice to shoot flying objects. Birdshot would be better for hitting them. However, not only it has to hit the grenade but also carry enough power to stop it or make it explode in the air.

So, in a nutshell, it is possible, but not with 100% reliability and consistency.

I think it is a less likely scenario that the enemy is at the distance of throwing a hand grenade and you have nothing else to do but skeet shooting grenades. Could it take place? Sure! But I don’t think it was too common. I assume the more common reaction of a soldier seeing a grenade flying in his direction is to find a cover rather than taking the chance of shooting it down.



Hrachya H

Being a lifelong firearms enthusiast, Hrachya always enjoys studying design, technology and history of guns and ammunition. His knowledge of Russian allows him to translate and make Russian/Soviet/Combloc small arms related information available for the English speaking audience.
Should you need to contact him, feel free to shoot him a message at TFBHrachyaH@gmail.com


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  • Roguewriter

    C&Rsenal is one of the most amazing educational channels out there on firearms. They don’t get anywhere near enough love.

    • valorius

      I find that channel to be boring as hell.

      • Jeff Heeszel

        I don’t like asparugus

      • Paul White

        Your opinion and you’re welcome to it, but I liked it. Binge watched it while recovering from a back injury (3 days in bed, another week with restrictions, blech!). Not the most lively presentation but the information is interesting and he goes in depth

        • valorius

          It’s like Forgotten weapons or inrange, but without the personality.

          • Paul White

            He’s a more subdued personality but goes into far more depth than Forgotten Weapons; I actually kinda prefer them tbh

          • Ian McCollum has a talent for adapting his immense amount of reading and learning into entertaining simple summaries. But if you’re interested in history (I mean well into amateur territory, reading books yourself, acquainted with scientific rigour etc.) – that’s what Othais and May do. They just set a different goal – to make an in-depth historical programme that would approach the levels of a proper published paper. Of course it’s a little boring, the same way a thick monography on a single battle or a rifle is boring.

          • valorius

            I have no problem with the technical content or data- it’s just delivered in a fashion that is to me at least, boring.

    • Othais

      Nah.

  • Tassiebush

    I think I recall hearing that carrier pigeons were shot to frustrate enemy communication so perhaps something along the lines of bird shot was made available. Having said that I’m not sure any sane person would load a shotgun with it instead of buckshot within grenade range of the opposing trench.

    • IIRC, pigeon communications were common enough in some areas that designated Wehrmacht soldiers were issued SxS shotguns. I think Simpson Limited has a few for sale. Can’t speak to WW1 but it’s very plausible.

      • Tassiebush

        That’s interesting. Yeah I think they were definitely using pigeons and it’s only logical they would have tried countermeasures. Thinking about the sheer scale of the war and it’s duration a huge number of things were likely tried and happened regardless of whether they were optimal. There was so much development too and logistical catching up. At Gallipoli for example our guys made bombs from jam tins with hand lit fuzes because there were no grenades supplied to them. I’m pretty sure I’ve read of a shell or mortar bomb being caught by hand “safely” by a soldier too. It could be a tall story but the way a football is caught with our version of football would have made the ability to catch something like that fairly possible and there were some very primitive mortars at the time.

      • Vince

        pigeons and runners were the primary means of communications used by troops on the move in WW1. This was true of both sides. One famous incident occurred in the Battle of the Argonne when a Battalion of the US 77th Division was cut off and surrounded. When the Battalion came under artillery fire from allied troops three attempts were made to communicate the problem and get the fire stopped. The first two carrier pigeons were shot out of the air so a third pigeon was launched. This pigeon also came under heavy fire. Despite wounds to the breast, having one leg mostly severed, being blinded in one eye and being knocked to the ground once, the pigeon managed to get airborne again and deliver its message. The fire was lifted. After heroric efforts by army medics the pigeons life was saved and she became the Divisions mascot and was name Cher Ami. Cher Ami would die a year latter of her wounds but her story would be taught to US school children all the way up until the 1960’s.

        • carlcasino

          Last sentence tells it all. Back when History was taught as it happened , not revised as the Progressives WISH it had occurred.

          • Vince

            A very sad truth!

      • nonobaddog

        Many pigeons aren’t all that reliable, they should have used their cell phones.

    • phuzz

      Also; pigeon for supper.

  • Bullphrog855

    Honestly, you’ll know before you even take aim if it’s coming at you and if it isn’t what, do you have to lose by trying.

    I could easily see this happening.

    • Phillip Cooper

      Concur.

      This sort of video is akin to Mythbusters after they jumped the shark.

      “Coming up on Mythbusters, could a sniper really crawl within range of enemy lines over 3 days and lay in wait for one shot?” (later in the show: BUSTED!) for example.

      Somewhere, Gunny Hathcock is spinning in his grave.

    • Paul White

      They didn’t say it never happened, they said they doubted it was a common practice or regularly happened and I can believe that.

  • Major Tom

    It always amuses me when factual accounts of actual wars are taken as myths anymore.

    Next thing you’ll tell me is Sergeant Alvin York DIDN’T capture 138 Germans after shooting up a bunch of em by himself. (Many of which using his trusty 1911.)

    • loopydupe

      Someone’s idea of what is a myth is can become warped into “Well, it wouldn’t have been entirely practical to have planned to do that regularly.” if they get a bit too excited about doubting things.

      • Nimrod

        I think the real question is what the airspeed of an unladen swallow is and whether or not is can carry a coconut? Some say an African swallow, others say a European.

      • Paul White

        wasn’t that exactly their conclusion though? Not “this never happened and was impossible” but “unlikely to be common practice or happen regularly”

    • Othais

      Awesome, I could not find a first hand account in the research. Share the source so I can make a correction!

  • B-Sabre

    I would point out that making the grenade explode in mid-air is probably NOT the intended effect. The best result is to rupture the metal grenade head (which was relatively thin sheet metal on the stick grenades), reducing the effectiveness of the explosion. You could also separate the grenade head from the igniter, or even just divert it from landing in your own trench….

    • carlcasino

      I would equate this to standing on Station 8 without the benefit of preparation and calling for the bird. It take practice, practice, practice at a known trajectory to become 90% successful. Then hitting the handle to deflect? Shooting a bullet with a bullet using the most sophisticated software available at a relatively slow target is only 50%. I will elect to bury as much of my self as possible. when I was 19, I was invisible and bullet proof, age shows how stupid that outlook is.

  • Nicks87

    Great video. I had never heard that myth before had to look it up.

  • Rodford Smith

    I have read that at least some units made a point of issuing the trench shotguns to trap shooters and professional bird hunters.

  • TDog

    Grenades weren’t the main issue. Trench mortars were.

  • Full Name

    Mae is a badass.

    • valorius

      Meh

  • ExMachina1

    Anyone who shoots clays can tell you that an incomplete break can sometimes result in a large fragment(s) of the target suddenly coming straight at you. In the case of a stick grenade, a partial “kill” of an off-target grenade could actually result in turning it into an on-target grenade.

    • James Earl Jones

      Just remember that clays and grenades don’t fly the same way though. You’re talking about taking a well balanced spinning object as opposed to an unbalanced spinning object.

  • valorius

    I wonder if you shot down 5 grenades if you got credit for being an ace.

  • Triplanetary

    The C&Rsenal designated shooter has shot some of the stoutest recoiling guns around, a skilled shooter to watch and emulate. Their episodes are very dense with information, almost academic very much against current trend toward Idiocracy.

  • elvis

    Someone needs to learn how grenades and explosives work before talking about them on the internet.

  • jonp

    Good test. May is a good shot and I think it did prove that it was possible for men who grew up shooting partridge and ducks but shows the limitations of buck. Sure better than nothing.

  • Colonel K

    I think they’ve invented a new sport shooting contest – Hit That Grenade!

  • tarnishedcopper

    In the mid 1980’s as a rookie cop, I was sent to a house where there was a live grenade. The Fire Department was hastily leaving as I arrived. This little old lady probably 85-90 years old was cleaning out her house to move. She told me that out on the back porch was a live grenade. She showed me to a wooden footlocker under a twin-sized bed. I removed the bed by taking it apart and after looking at the footlocker carefully for booby traps, carefully opened it.

    Inside I found a moth-eaten WWI uniform, helmet, photos and certificates, medals, all from her deceased husband’s service in WWI. Carefully I removed each piece of it until I go to the bottom and saw this Weird-looking tin with a wooden handle.

    I called the station and was given the phone number to the local ATF agent. When I told him that it was WWI and German, he gave me the 800 number for the ATF Bomb Squad in Chicago.

    I called them after telling the agent what I had I heard him yell ” Hey one of you old farts pick-up the phone!” I head them flipping pages in a book and they told me what to do and what NOT to do with it. They rolled out and picked it up, took it to a closed landfill and destroyed it. It WAS still alive and went off with a good boom.