What happens if you drop a grenade down a tanks gun barrel?

Assuming it’s a regular fragmentation grenade and not an anti-tank grenade (although I don’t think one would fit) you managed to drop down a main battle tanks gun barrel, how much damage would it cause? Would it blow up the tank, kill the crew, render the main gun inoperable, do bugger all?

Would some tanks be more vulnerable to others - would WWII tanks have a problem but an M1A2 Abrams shrug it off?

Inspired by recent happenings in a popular show about dead people walking around where an M60 Patton is destroyed using this technique.

Well, I can see three cases:

  1. Breech closed, not loaded.
  2. Breech open
  3. Breech closed, loaded.

Case 1, the grenade would go off, bunch of bits of grenade out the muzzle, might scratch up the bore a bit (The M1A2 has a smoothbore cannon, not a rifled gun.). The overpressure of a normal firing is much greater than what a hand grenade would generate.

Case 2, if the grenade made it to the inside of the tank, it would pretty much shred the crew, but would not get out of the tank (penetrate the armor). From the outside of the tank you would not be able to see anything amiss

Case 3 is a bit trickier. If the load was a sabot (APFSDS round), it would probably resemble case 1. The sabot itself is essentially a very heavy, inert dart. It’s also hard and dense. If the load was HC (HE) , the grenade might set off the charge, which would usually tear up the gun and probably kill the crew. Might be some damage visible from the outside, maybe somebody can chime in here on that one.

I don’t know if a fragmentation grenade would cause any major damage, perhaps render the gun inoperable.
I do know that thermite grenades were used for this purpose (disabling artillery) during WW2.
And apparently, they still are.

The crew would have shot the attacker with the secondary armament long before he got anyway near them.

I think it’s entirely possible, just not survivable. :eek:
I can definitely envision a lone enemy soldier accomplishing this by lying concealed until a tank got close enough. Surviving after putting the grenade into the cannon barrel? Probably not.

Case 1, Breech closed, unloaded. The comment so far ?

Well with no load , the grenade can go down to the firing pin area. The cartridge normally contains the pressure and mess. The grenade going off would put stuff (shrapnel ) into the firing pin mechanism… this could be quite a job to get going again…

The grenade wouldn’t set off the charge because, as you note, the overpressure of a normal firing is much greater than what a hand grenade would generate. If a grenade were able to set off the charge then the act of firing would also set it off.

Tank shells have a primer and detonator system. The primer goes off from the shock of firing the shell. This then arms the detonator in the shell, which then goes off when it hits something hard.

Dropping a grenade down the barrel would probably mimic the normal firing pressure, setting off the primer and arming the detonator. If nobody noticed, then any attempt to fire the shell would then cause it to explode in the breech. If the crew heard the grenade detonating and figured out what it was, they could presumably just (carefully) lift the shell out of the breech and load another one and carry on as normal.

IOW, a grenade will only cause trouble if the breech is open, or the crew are deaf and stupid.

Does that mean I should toss 2 grenades down?

Toledo Jim’s case 2 seems to be the only situation in which the sequence in the show works. If it helps, in the show…

[spoiler]As far as I can tell, they only have one member of the actual trained tank crew left (or at least there’s only one still surviving that we see on screen before the tank drives around and blows stuff up) so I’d fanwank that the other members of the tank crew (what does an M60 need, 4 people?) are civilians who were shown what to do recently and haven’t really received any training. So maybe they left the breech open when they shouldn’t have, allowing Daryl to have his moment of awesome.

Armored vehicles are surprisingly useless against zombies - between the Bradley in season 1 and the M60 here, the zombie apocalypse has not been kind to the idea that tons of mobile armor protect you. ;)[/spoiler]

In response to the statement,

“… between the Bradley in season 1 and the M60 here, the zombie apocalypse has not been kind to the idea that tons of mobile armor protect you.”

I haven’t (and probably won’t) watched the show alluded to in the OP, BUT… one would think that a ~50 ton - ~70 ton tank would effectively grind a zombie into a paste! :wink:

That’s ‘Hokeywoo…’, I mean Hollywood, for you… :stuck_out_tongue:

There’s a youtube video of a Syrian rebel dropping a grenade down the barrel of a T-72 tank. It goes up like a blowtorch.

Could the grenade if it lands in the crew area set off other munitions?
FWIW I saw a tank explode in front of me once in a convoy. An unused round had been returned to the rack (against SOP) and somehow it went off. One of the crew survived but lost both legs and 1 arm.
Ft. Sill OK, around summer of 1980.

Here is a video from Syria that shows the results of the OP in real life.

Possibly NSFW due to violence


I am taking this one at face value because it seems to be what it says it is.


A tank only “needs” one person to drive it.
If it wants to fire the main gun, it typically requires a gunner to fire it and a loader to reload (I think some modern tanks have automated the loader).
The commander sits up top in the commander’s cupula where he gives orders and IIRC, can also drive some tanks or fire a secondary machinegun.

Some tanks like the Israeli Merkava or American M1 Abrams are built with an emphasis on crew survivability. One feature is to have the ammo stored behind armored doors. If the rounds were to “cook off”, the explosion would be vented away from the crew through special blast plates.
As the Syria video shows, throwing a grenade down the barrel of a tank can destroy it. Possibly the breach was open or a high explosive round was chambered. Also, it’s a T-72 and the Russians didn’t really care about comfort of safety for their crews.

In the TV show mentioned in the OP, the tank is shown driving and firing the main gun (no secondary armament is fired)… so a minimum of 3 people?

Based on the intense and sustained flame in the video, would that have been a thermite grenade?

Secondary fires/explosions from the munitions that were stored in the tank (for use by the tank crew); this is a pretty common event for a tank kill.

In what circumstances would the breech be open vs closed?

I started a similar thread some time ago re a lucky shot going down the barrel when the breech was open:


The beech would be open when loading a round to be fired or removing the casing from a fired round.