It’s a beautiful day. The air is crisp, the sun is shining, the birds are singing and you’re running and gunning across an airsoft field, pressing forwards towards your objective.
Unfortunately, your opponents have taken to huddling behind some cover and, despite your team’s best efforts, are protecting themselves pretty effectively.
It’s going to be hard to draw them out into my sights, you think to yourself as precious seconds tick by, if only I had something that could scatter them.
Experienced airsofters know, and those new to the game are certain to find out, that sometimes your primary isn’t enough to do a job properly.
There are times when it doesn’t pay to personally get close to a target and a sudden application of dynamic force, in this case in the form of a broad spray of BBs or pyrotechnic effect, may be called for.
Enter the airsoft grenade.
Whether being used to clear a room, scatter foes, provide cover, or simply to make opponents think twice about letting their guard down, airsoft grenades can be a very useful (and sometimes essentially) addition to any airsoft game, particularly when it comes to CQB.
Plus, they are a lot of fun to use.
Once the exclusive domain of backyard (and perhaps half-mad) airsoft tinkerers, airsoft players interested in bringing a little more bang to the party can now find airsoft grenades produced by a variety of reliable companies, in a variety of forms and capable of providing a variety of in-game functions.
Because airsoft grenades can be a little more complicated to use than most airsoft accessories, even being slightly dangerous at times, it pays to get to know how they work, how to use them properly and, perhaps critically, when to use them.
How do airsoft grenades work?
There are a few types of airsoft grenades and, consequently, they can work in many different ways.
That said, the principle behind how they work is actually fairly simple.
Every grenade has a core, a particular internal mechanism of action that will be triggered and cause a reaction.
In the case of airsoft grenades, this can be anything from releasing compressed gas that sprays BBs to some kind of small explosive charge that makes a loud bang.
Attached to this core is an ignition system, such as a fuse, that when triggered sets off the grenade’s core mechanism of action, usually after a delay that will give users some time to throw the grenade or otherwise escape its blast safely (typically 3-4 seconds or so).
To activate the ignition, grenades use some kind of trigger. Generally, these act more like safeties in that the grenade becomes live when the trigger is removed, such as when a pin is pulled away.
Common Grenade Mechanisms in Airsoft
There are several different kinds of grenades out in the airsoft market, each with different in-game uses and with different mechanisms of action that produce different results.
Airsoft pyrotechnics & pyrotechnic grenades
Airsoft pyrotechnic grenades contain a delay fuse with some type of activatable internal content, such as smoke (usually a potassium chlorate mixture) or even a small explosive charge,
When their ignition is triggered, a fuse is ignited that then burns down before activating the primary internal content of the device and causing it to do whatever it is it is supposed to do, whether that is act as a disorienting flashbang, release smoke or blow out BBs or peas as a frag.
This two stage system, with a fuse activating the internal content. provides a delay and gives users a couple seconds to throw the device or otherwise get out of the way.
As these grenades are pyrotechnic, they are quite exciting to use and watch and are likely the most common and sought after airsoft grenade types out there.
That said, as these airsoft pyrotechnic devices contain explosives, even if they are much like firecrackers, they generally face more restrictions than other airsoft grenade types either in terms of field rules or in terms of restrictions on their sale.
Compressed Gas Grenades
With gas powered or gas filled airsoft grenades, the core of the unit is filled with compressed gas, usually as a replaceable cartridge core.
When the ignition mechanism is triggered, either by spoon or wire pull, the compressed gas is rapidly released.
This gas will then do one of two things, depending on the airsoft grenade type. Either it will violently fracture the replaceable plastic outer body of the device, causing a very loud bang and a noticeable pressure wave.
Alternately the gas will be channelled through to an inner chamber containing projectiles (BBs or dried peas, for example) that are then explosively ejected, producing a little less noise but far more amusing results.
Blank Firing Grenades
Operating much like gas grenades. blank firing grenades operate much as their name would imply – at the core of these airsoft grenades is a replaceable blank round, usually like those designed for a 9mm pistol but sometimes larger, such as a blank rifle or shotgun round.
When the mechanism is activated, after some delay, a firing pin strikes the blank’s primer and sets off the grenade.
Much like a pyro airsoft grenade, these tend to make a fair amount of noise (sounding something like a weaker gunshot). But, because they use real blank rounds as a core, they tend to be far more restricted than other airsoft grenades and are typically only available to those 18 or over, if at all.
Common Ignition System Triggers
Spoon handle / fly off lever
One of the more realistic actions in airsoft grenades, spoon handles give airsofters the feeling of using a classic fragmentation grenade.
Rather than being an ignition system per se, spoon handles are more like an ignition prevention or safety mechanism for a grenade that would otherwise activate.
In other words, they’re the only thing standing between you and the grenade going off.
Players hold the grenade and spoon firmly, pull the safety pin and release the spoon (ideally chucking the grenade soon after). This, in turn, activates a firing pin or hammer that triggers the grenade in some manner, such as by piercing a CO2 canister.
All told, these are pretty simple and easy to use and kind of fun, and can provide an old-school feeling to an airsoft game.
Spoon handles either come as part of an airsoft grenade or, in some cases, can be added to existing grenades, with a spoon kit that screws into the normal delay.
Split Pin Pull
Split pin pulls work much the same as a spoon handle only, well, minus the spoon.
The split pin acts as a safety mechanism, and once pulled the firing mechanism or hammer triggers the grenade.
There’s a lot less to go wrong with these airsoft grenades in game, and they are simple and easy to use if not really as much fun as a spoon handle.
Although, due to their very similar action, they can usually be adapted if you have a spoon handle kit.
Striker caps are pretty simple devices and are probably the more common type of ignition for airsoft grenades on the market.
Due to their simplicity and low-cost of production, essentially striker caps work work a lot like a match.
Users lift or unscrew the top of the grenade, which has some kind of rough paper (usually an emory board) glued to the top of it.
Beneath the cap and on top of the grenade itself is a sort of fuse, which can be lit by quickly running the top over it, striking it like a match.
The fuse burns down and then sets off the grenade.
Seen more on smoke and gas grenades, as the name might imply the way wire pull triggers work is that users pull on the cord (which is acting as a safety) firmly with an attached loop.
Once pulled out, kicks off a chemical reaction that either sets off the grenade immediately, such as in the case of a smoke grenade, or triggers a delayed fused that then sets off the grenade after a while.
Simple and effective, these are very similar to pin based grenades with the added flexibility of some wire, which can make them easier to handle and pull and can allow airsofters to start thinking creatively about boobytraps.
On the downside however, if the wire snaps in the device it can no longer be used and the whole thing is essentially money down the drain.
Types of airsoft grenades
Foam airsoft grenades
Made of foam or rubber (or both), these grenades are inert dummy grenades with no mechanism of action.
Essentially users can throw these grenades and if they land within a certain distance of other players, they are out.
These can be a great idea if your field bans airsoft grenades, if you’re playing with somewhat honest players and competent refs, and for throwing practice.
Projectile airsoft grenades
Projectile grenades work by violently expelling some kind of airsoft-friendly projectile, usually dried peas but also BBs in some cases, around a radius of a few feet or a few meters.
These essentially allow airsofters to simulate the effect of a fragmentation grenade and can be highly practical in competitive play.
Most commonly projectile airsoft grenades are used to help clear a room, take out a group of clustered opponents, motivating stubborn opponents to move out of cover or otherwise help cause mayhem on the airsoft field.
Airsoft smoke grenade
Airsoft smoke grenades use an ignition system to activate a chemical core that then produces smoke, which is then emitted from the grenade in large quantities and even in different colors.
Much as in real life use, smoke grenades are most commonly used in airsoft to provide sudden cover for an assault (or a retreat), providing a relatively thick smokescreen to occlude other players’ line of sight making it harder for them to hit you.
Smoke grenades can also be used to disorient other players by suddenly blocking their vision and disrupting their movement.
Keep in mind, however, that airsoft smoke grenades can be a double edged sword – users will also be prevented from seeing properly or comfortably entering an area.
Hot vs Cold burning smoke grenades
Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of smoke grenades on the market, which are referred to as hot and cold burning smoke grenades.
Hot burn smoke grenades require ignition from a lighttable fuse and can emit sparks and flame alongside their smoke.
This can present a fire risk and so these are usually banned in most airsoft fields.
Cool burn smoke grenades
Cold burn smoke grenades, on the other hand, use a chemical reaction rather than a flame to get started, and as a result don’t emit open flame or sparks, making them less of a fire hazard and more usable in airsoft.
It’s important to note that cool burn or cold burn does not mean that the grenade itself does not get hot or remove the risk of burning.
They still get hot, especially around the exit port, the cold simply refers to the ignition method.
Airsoft flashbangs or sound grenades
Flashbangs (or sound grenades) are designed primarily to stun and disorient opponents by producing a loud bang or with combination of a sudden bang and a flash of intense light.
They thus overload an opponent’s hearing with intense sound and/or overload the photoreceptors in their eyes and cause temporary flash blindness.
If you’re playing a CQB or other type of indoor game that requires a good deal of violence of action, flashbangs or sound grenades may be a solid choice.
Although they can be used in any kind of airsoft game, they are most effective in closed areas where their effects are amplified by enclosure, and are a great tool for room clearing or when launching a surprise attack on a group of clustered opponents.
Grenade body styles
Generally speaking, there are two basic shapes that airsoft grenades come in – a spherical shape (ball/pineapple) and a cylindrical one.
Airsoft round/pineapple grenades
A very classic and easily identifiable style, most projectile grenades in airsoft are round, which makes them compact and easy to carry in a vest or rig.
It also makes them a bit more aerodynamic compared to a thrown cylinder.
In the airsoft world, the difference between a smooth and grooved (or “pineapple”) style of grenade is largely aesthetic, as the grenade bodies themselves are not really intended to fragment and cause injury unlike their real world equivalents.
Airsoft cylindrical grenades and stick grenades
For the most part the era of the classic stick grenade, the WW2 era Stielhandgranate, with its iconic wooden handle has long ended.
Bulky and heavy, users found they could carry far fewer with them than the smaller, ball-shaped grenades used by the Allies.
Still, the stick grenade did have its fans, being quite easy to grip and throw or roll and there are some replicas, favored by milsim enthusiasts, still for sale in the airsoft world.
For the most part, however, the cylindrical grenade style ;;ives on in the airsoft world with smoke, sound and flashbangs, which traditionally come in this shape.
One time use vs reusable airsoft grenades
Generally speaking, airsoft grenades can either be one-time use or reusable.
Disposable airsoft grenades
One-time use airsoft grenades, as the name implies, essentially violently self-destruct when activated and their remnants are then thrown out after the fact.
These types of airsoft grenades are:
- usually cheaper to buy
- pretty simple to use as they are fire and forget
- are enclosed and sealed systems
- offer features (smoke, flashbang) that aren’t usually offered with reuseable grenades
- And generally come in bulk packages
On the downside, if disposable airsoft grenades go wrong they essentially become an expensive paperweight – they can’t be taken apart again and repaired.
Also, in the long run they can be more wasteful and expensive, particularly for the enthusiastic grenadier, as they will need to buy new ones pretty frequently.
Reusable airsoft grenades
In contrast to one-time use grenades (and obviously real life grenades), quite a few airsoft manufacturers sell reusable airsoft grenades.
These have a replaceable core that sits in the center of a fairly sturdy, reusable frame (including a reusable trigger).
Once activated, the core mechanism does what it does, often damaging the device’s disposable exterior in the process.
After use, users can take the frame, swap a new core in, hook everything back up, replace the exterior skin and reuse the grenade.
Rinse and repeat.
Reusable grenades can be more useful and even less expensive in the long run (if you love grenades).
They also can be repaired in case a component suddenly and unexpectedly fails.
That said, not all types of grenades can be made to be reusable, so users looking for certain functionality will be out of luck.
Certain types of triggers and fuses (striker caps, for example) can be a lot of fun to use in the field but are hard or impossible to make reusable.
Similarly, users will have to keep track of the reusable components as parts can be expensive to replace if they get lost in play (lost pins and spoons, for example).
How are airsoft grenades most effectively used in-game?
In addition to being cool to have and to watch, in an airsoft game (as in real life) grenades can serve a variety of functions that can help a player on their path to victory.
Projectile airsoft grenades in particular can be an effective tool for quickly dealing with large numbers of opponents who are gathered in close quarters, such as those clustered in a room or in a stack.
These devices will fling peas or BBs more or less in every direction for a few feet and, if used correctly, can take out several opponents or even an entire squad in one go.
Confuse and disorient opponents
Flashbangs and, to a lesser extent smoke grenades, can be very disorienting and confusing to those who are on the receiving end of them, especially in CQB.
With their vision, hearing and even balance temporarily compromised, opponents can be come easy pickings when clearing a room or during an assault.
If a field and the refs allow it, many airsoft grenades can be turned into an improvised boobytrap with a little string or twine, something like an airsofters’ take on a classic guerrilla tactic.
Set properly, opponents will stumble across the string, pulling on the airsoft grenades trigger and releasing a loud noise, smoke or even a hail of peas or BBs on themselves.
This either eliminates them outright or makes them easy prey for an opportunistic and patient sniper or marksman.
In this way, an airsoft grenade can be used as a more versatile alternative to more specialized airsoft landmines and claymores.
If during an assault or a sudden retreat, particularly in an outdoor game, a player finds themselves without natural cover, smoke grenades can be an effective way of creating an impromptu and temporary visual occlusion that prevents opponents from seeing them and, in theory, hitting them.
Dissuade others from using cover
Airsoft grenades can be a great way of getting stubborn opponents out from under cover and into your sights.
If a player finds that their opponent or opponents have dug themselves into cover, lobbing a well timed Flashbang or projectile grenade into their midst can quickly make them reconsider their chosen location and bring them out into the open.
Bringing airsoft grenades into a game can change the psychology of it pretty quickly, sowing paranoia and fear in opposing players as they move through the field.
Players will need to constantly be on guard for incoming and possibly explosive balls of fun when they least expect it, causing them to become overly cautious and hopefully make mistakes.
Safety and airsoft grenades: how not to get thrown out of a game
Since many airsoft grenades involve charges and even small explosives and bring with them the danger of an unintentional fire and injury, many airsoft fields have very strict rules when it comes to their use.
These vary depending on the field operators in question, but typically they do have a few rules in common:
Agree on their use beforehand
Don’t be that guy who pulls out a flashbang and chucks it at unsuspecting players.
You will probably get banned, beaten up or even arrested (maybe all three – who knows?).
When playing with others always agree upon what is acceptable to use in game. Play nicely.
Don’t throw grenades directly at people
Grenades can be relatively heavy, get hot to the touch and, like a firecracker, can actually be dangerous when going off in close proximity to a living target.
All this makes hitting someone with one quite dangerous and something of a stupid idea that will get you thrown out, banned (or worse) very quickly.
There is no reason to throw an airsoft grenade at someone as they are designed to cover a fairly wide area and will hit all targets within a few feet or meters.
Don’t throw blind
While we all are familiar with movies that depict a hero casually lobbing a grenade over a wall or around a corner, when not at war and actively trying to kill people (such as in airsoft) this can actually be quite a dumb and dangerous idea.
Not being able to see what you’re throwing at increases the possibility of hitting someone and injuring an opponent or ref, damaging the property you’re playing in or even having the grenade rebound and come back at you (which you would probably deserve anyway).
Make sure to throw grenades underhanded (softball style)
Again, while it is very cinematic to haul back and lob a grenade like a baseball, most places have a rule limiting airsoft grenade users to underhand throws only.
Underhanded throwing provides more accuracy and reduces the power of the throw significantly, limiting the amount of uncontrollable bounce if they hit a wall (or injury if they hit someone).
Keep away from dry brush, scrub and other flammable objects
Airsoft grenades, particularly smoke and flashbangs, can and will heat up.
If thrown into dry or otherwise combustible areas they can cause a fire to break out, so players need to be extra careful during dry and hot weather as to where they are deploying their grenades.
Pros and cons of airsoft grenades
Airsoft grenades have a of practical, in-game benefits:
They are actually useful
Airsoft grenades, like their real life counterparts, are useful for engaging enemies hiding behind cover without exposing yourself as much to their fire, for disorienting and scattering clustered opponents, and for forcing stubborn opponents into the open.
As such, compared to some other airsoft accessories, they aren’t just tacticool, they can actually serve an important purpose in-game.
They can be very cool
Let’s face it, grenades are cool and airsoft grenades can have a variety of cool effects, from producing loud bangs, to jettisoning clouds of colored smoke to sending out a hail of BBs .
Can add to the realism of game play
In real life, police units and the military make use of grenades across a variety of tactical situations.
Many airsoft games, whether open field or CBQ, can feel more realistic with airsoft grenades as a loadout option.
Lot of variety and options to choose from depending on need
Much like airsoft guns themselves, there are a ton of airsoft grenades out there to examine and try out, with different effects and purposes.
They can suit different in-game needs and be a lot of fun to browse through, collect and experiment with.
Many can be reused or are quite inexpensive to purchase
Compared to some other accessories, airsoft grenades aren’t all that expensive on the whole. Many can be picked up for less than $20, and many can be reused, providing better value over time.
It’s rare to be able to handle a device like this in real life
Much like the real steel vs airsoft gun debate itself, airsoft grenades can provide a lot of value simply by virtue of the fact that very few people have the opportunity to throw them in real life.
Some airsoft grenades can replicate a good deal of the experience of a real grenade in a safer, more controlled way.
Easily stored, lightweight and easy to use
For all their usefulness, airsoft grenades are pretty easy to hold and carry around in game. They’re compact, ergonomically designed and fairly lightweight as far as things go.
On the other hand, airsoft grenades do have some drawbacks as well.
Often have heavier restrictions
Some airsoft grenades, due to their mechanism of action and/or desired effect, can be restricted by both airsoft fields and the law itself, meaning, as cool as they are, they’re not always available for use.
They may annoy (or hurt) other players
Some users prefer to focus on airsoft tactics and shooting and don’t particularly appreciate people using or lobbing airsoft grenades at them.
In particular, especially with loud flashbangs and smoke grenades, they may become very angry and/or concerned about the effects airsoft grenades are having on their health and wellbeing.
As a result, users may find that other players refuse to play with them or file complaints with field operators and refs.
Unreliable models can be prone to failing at the worst time
Let’s face it, much like airsoft guns, not every manufacturer out there is known for their quality control.
As a result, there are airsoft grenades that simply don’t work when activated (or suffer from some other catastrophic failure), which in the best case scenario simply makes users look like idiots.
Improper handling can result in self-hits in game and harm in real life
Airsoft grenades can and do make use of pyrotechnics, gas canisters and chemicals that heat up when used.
Improper use can lead to injury and damage to the user’s surroundings.
Can be expensive in the long term
Using airsoft grenades can get addictive.
Some users may find that they enjoy setting them off even outside gameplay, much like firecrackers.
As a result, many airsofters find themselves buying new airsoft grenades and components fairly regularly, which can get costly.
Why shouldn’t I use a homemade airsoft grenade?
There are a variety of reasons that making your own airsoft grenade is a bad idea.
Firstly, they’re not always allowed on the field (or even legal in your area).
Owners tend to worry about damage to their property, other users and the potential for fire, and are not likely to trust your crafting skills.
Trying to use one on field may result in a permanent ban.
Secondly, authorities tend to take a rather dim view of people trying to build their own grenades, airsoft or no, and it may not exactly be legal to do in your area and violating these ordinances can lead to serious trouble.
Finally, as some types of grenades do use things like blanks, fuses and charges, these do require a good deal of knowledge to handle, let alone properly put together. A mistake in handling and assembly can result in catastrophic and potentially deadly consequences for the user and even those around them.
What to look for when picking an airsoft grenade
So if you have decided to pick up and try out an airsoft grenade, there are a few things to consider.
As discussed earlier, different airsoft grenades have different functions and uses in the field. Some emit covering smoke, some disorient and others are designed to eliminate opponents.
Before spending their hard earned money and loading up on airsoft grenades, users should consider their playstyle, the field they are playing in and what they intend to do with these grenades.
Airsoft grenades can vary quite a bit in weight, with some being quite lightweight and others weighing up to a pound (0.45 kg) or more.
Depending on their heft, airsoft grenades can add some unwanted drag when running and as a consequence users may have to carry fewer than intended.
As mentioned previously, airsoft grenades come as one-time use, which tend to be cheaper and easier to use, or as reusable devices, which can be rebuilt after use and even modified to a degree.
Each have their own pros, cons and cost considerations that users need to take into account before making a decision.
While it is tempting to go with the cheapest options out there, especially if you enjoy lobbing tons of grenades during a game, keep in mind that it is not uncommon for airsoft grenades to fail to operate, with this occurring in cheaper models far more often than higher quality ones.
With many different uses, makes and models available on the market, players need to think carefully and plan out their kit before making a purchase of airsoft grenades.
But whether helping clear a room, providing cover or giving clustered opponents a nice surprise, when properly deployed, airsoft grenades can be a valuable and highly effective accessory that can easily (and entertainingly) help turn the tide of a game in your favor.
Will Martin – Will has been into airsoft and paintball for well over 10 years, and has done it all – from upgrading and fixing gearboxes as a tech to building custom airsoft loadouts for his friends to supporting off those friends as a DM.