Grenade catapults comeback

Grenade catapults are having a comeback in Syria:

link1      link2     link3
(No photos embedded because Reuters has more
lawyers than me for copyright disputes.)

That's an old idea. Arabs seem to have a weakness for re-enacting the First World War (luckily they don't get the proportions right).
Such grenade catapults are quite cumbersome and thus useful only in rather static tactical situations, a.k.a. trench wars when Europeans do it.

Here's a collection of quick search results showing devices used in 1915 - 1918, when hand grenades were in ample supply and tactical situations mostly static:

video (catapult at 0:33 and later)

Isn't it fascinating how the future of warfare is at times its past, not some hyped gold-plated truck with electronics gadgets that gets ultimately cancelled prior to its production run?

These examples all show Entente devices from the Western front, but that's only because my search keywords were in English. I remember photographic evidence of such devices with German troops as well.

Such catapults are not silent; they can be heard over useful distances at least sometimes. This is the same as with bows, which are not entirely silent either (a concern mostly for aesthetic reasons and for hunting; simple longbows with a feather on the string are quite silent, ancient glued compound recurve bows were rather noisy).

Later on rifle grenades were supposed to replace such devices, and were obviously less cumbersome and thus suitable for more mobile tactical actions as well. Nowadays grenade launcher weapons (oversized pistols) of ~40 mm calibre have largely replaced rifle grenades, but it's no perfect substitute. Rifle grenades keep some of their fascination and utility. Technically speaking, their ability to use fin-stabilised supercalibre projectiles is superior for shaped charge warheads and their fixed weight penalty on the soldier is zero (since they're only munition, requiring no extra weapon unless you want a fancy rifle-mounted sight).



  1. A WW1 grenade catapult was a sophisticated piece of kit, with sights and controlled variable launch angles and power.
    Those in Syria have no such control.

    Launch angle, bearing and velocity are all entirely uncontrolled with any certainty. Great for, well, suitable for, terror bombing civillian districts, but the chance of actually killing an entrenched soldier must be approaching nil.

    1. I disagree.
      Such devices depend a lot on the user's experience; many commando mortar or grenade launcher users become astonishingly accurate after the first ~hundred shots.

      Furthermore, the longer draw makes minor deviations less consequential and the rubber strings used in the modern catapult may well be superior.

      Finally, it's an ages-old practice to use observed fire and correct the next shot based on the previous one's error. So all these guys need to be able of its to observe the fall of shot and to have the feeling for the weapon.
      They're probably just trying to shoot over a wall into a defended compound anyway.

    2. Yeah time spent with a water balloon catapult when I was a kid tells me otherwise. I probably had a 10-meter circular error probable out to 300 yards or so with my one-man, foot-drawn launcher catapult, basically a full-body slingshot.

      I've always thought something like this, maybe with electronically armed grenades, would make a great kit. Like a poor-mans/backpack-able mortar kit.

    3. Jeff, I suppose you didn't make sure all projectiles had the same weight.
      1/30 is actually a surprisingly good dispersion.

      The poor man's mortar kit ARE mortars (really just tubes with a fixed firing pin!) or rifle grenades.

  2. "What is that which hath been? it is that which is, and what is that which hath been done? it is that which is done, and there is not an entirely new thing under the sun."

    Ecclesiastes 1:9