Airsoft – The Roles: Grenadier
You’re bunkered down behind a window, good concealment and cover; you pop up and spin off a few shots. Your feeling good, when all of a sudden you hear a “WOOSH” and BBs start falling out of nowhere on you. “HIT!” You’ve just met a Grenadier.
What exactly is an Airsoft Grenadier?
Well, historical definition lists them as: A grenadier (derived from the word grenade) was originally a specialized soldier, first established as a distinct role in the mid to late 17th century, for the throwing of grenades and sometimes assault operations. At this time grenadiers were chosen from the strongest and largest soldiers. By the nineteenth century, the throwing of grenades was no longer relevant, but grenadiers were still chosen for being the most physically powerful soldiers and would lead assaults in the field of battle.
Grenadiers would also often lead the storming of beaches in siege warfare, although this role was more usually fulfilled by all-arm units of volunteers called “forlorn hopes”, and might also be fulfilled by “sappers” or “pioneers”. Full Companies of grenadiers would lead assaults throwing their grenades in front of them towards the enemy position.
Grenadiers became a stand-alone position during the Vietnam War with the development of the M79 “Blop” gun. It fired a single 40mm Grenade. The M79 was designed to bridge the gap between the maximum throwing range of a grenade and the minimum distance of mortar fire. It also allowed the use of various rounds, notably high explosive, buckshot, flechette, smoke grenades and parachute flares.
Modern US squads have continued the concept of the grenadier armed with an M203 grenade launcher attached to an M16. 40MM ammunition for the M203 airsoft grenadiers typically carry the M203 attached to their weapon system, or the stand-alone M79, and even the 40mm Grenade Revolver with capability of firing Six Grenades in a rotating revolver system.
In airsoft, the grenades utilized are often referred to as “Shower Shells.” Varying in the ability to fire an amount of BBs from 48 to over 200 in one shot. These shells utilize varying gases as well, with “Green Gas” being the most common. Recently, a surge in CO2 Shells has also become common on the field.
Common Gas Grenade Shell
With the limitations of the shells ability to fire BBs at a distance, grenadiers must be able to adapt to their environment and know their weapons systems well. Some common tactics utilized by grenadiers in the fields often involve ambush techniques and banking shots.
Banking shots are often a controversial way of making a hit with a grenade shell, as it requires the grenadier to literally bounce the BBs off of a hard surface into the target area. Basically, a ricochet. And if that style of hit is not allowed or followed on a field it will not count.
Ambush tactics utilized by a Grenadier can be a devastatingly effective method. Grenadiers should be placed in the center of the squad conducting the ambush, waiting until the enemy squad has moved into what’s known as the “Kill Zone.” When the enemy squads middle section is in the kill zone the grenadier will fire, raining his BB shot down onto their position. An effective Grenadier can take out half the squad in one shot.
If the grenadier has more than one shell available, continue to lob shots into the kill zone until a cease-fire is called. Grenadiers should get used to judging wind and firing at angles for the best effective range of their weapon. Grenade shells are not a direct fire weapon like the rifle they are usually attached to, but can be a direct fire. They are typically fired at an angle, to get the best range out of the shot.
Grenade shells fire multiple BBs at a constant FPS, typically around 300 feet per second. As these BBs fire from a short barrel area, and enter the air, they have the same effect as a shotgun shell, spreading and often bouncing off each other in air as they fall towards their target. Bearing this in mind, a grenadier must know their weapons range and effectiveness in varying winds and angles.
Firing a Grenade shell
In many situations a grenade shell and launcher would be an ideal weapon system to utilize in a MOUT environment. The problem with this is, at close range it can be rather dangerous to loose over 50 BBs point blank. Many CQB / MOUT Fields will not allow grenade shells to be used indoors but rather, allowing them to be fired into the building from a window. When firing or using the grenade shell, the person firing it needs to easily gauge the distance of which they are firing.
The Grenade Shell has an effective shot range of just about 100ft. Just under the standard AEG rifle range, depending on gas type and what size of BBs you utilize. Keeping that in mind, this can be adjusted for greater distance by elevating the barrel of the grenade launcher up at angle. But remember, elevating too high will actually reduce the distance you are able to fire. Many types of airsoft grenade shells can fire everything from BBs to baby powder. Baby Powder and flour can be utilized to create a smoke field allowing rapid movement under concealment.
Airsoft Grenadier: The Role
Airsoft grenadiers are not a front line assault troop. They are a support position and should be utilized as such. Especially if they are a true grenadier utilizing a M79, Six Shot Revolver, or even the M203 systems. To successfully be a grenadier you need a lot of grenade shells. Six to ten would be ideal, to be fully capable of skirmishing with a stand-alone grenade shell system.
Also have some airsoft hand grenades and other types of Airsoft explosive devices such as airsoft claymores, baby powder mines, and etc. Balance that with a good side arm and vest system to carry your gear and you’re set for the role of Airsoft Grenadier.
Remember, sometimes just the sight of your launcher system will cause a squad to back up. Learn your weapon’s capabilities, utilize it safely and effectively on the field and stick to it. There are very few true airsoft grenadiers on the field due to the limitations of the airsoft grenade shell/launcher system, but it can be one of the most promising and rewarding roles to play in a skirmish or operation.
Written by Lex
Many thanks to Ashleigh Wright for the photos