Hand grenades, seen in many a movie with a tough as nails soldier yanking the pin with his teeth, have followed a fairly traditional pattern since they were first hurled on the battlefield centuries ago. In the earliest days, they were detonated by fuses lit by flame. Eventually, mechanical chemical elements took over, enhancing safety and reliability in war.
However, like any piece of military technology somewhere there is a designer who thinks, 'I can make it better and more deadly.' Well in the case of the SRCM 35/38, the Italian hand grenade of World War II, engineers wanted a grenade that couldn't be hurled back on their users.
The designers ended up creating a compact, deadly and odd hand grenade nicknamed the Red Devil.
In the SCRM 35 Italian ordnance designers created a compact grenade that was designed to explode on impact, but it also gained a reputation for being spectacularly dangerous. The Red Devil earned its nickname for two reasons- the Italian ordnance color code for High Explosive was red and when Allies found the grenades unexploded, they sometimes had the habit of going off after the fact.
The Red Devil was activated by yanking on a rubber tab that freed a safety ring. Once hurled into the air, a safety cap partially encasing the brightly painted aluminum body, disengaged and partially armed the grenade.A small chain inside the cap acted as a second safety, pulling away and preparing the grenade from detonation.
Unlike almost all other grenades of the 20th century, the Red Devil did not used a timed chemical reaction to ignite the explosive filler. The grenade, once its safety disengaged, would explode on impact.
The Red Devil had a small shutter built into the case. Only when the grenade struck a surface with sufficient force would the shutter move, allowing a striker inside the grenade to ignite the explosive filler.The Red Devil was designed to explode, sending shrapnel out, no matter how the grenade landed.
While the safeties proved reliable, there was always problems with the grenade remaining unexploded. In North Africa, British forces during World War II would find these red painted hand grenade undetonated. And, on occasion, when the grenade was picked back up the striker would engage and detonate.
Versions of the grenade would remain in Italian service through the 1950s.