Many years ago, I used to teach SWAT to police and security agencies, and I even co-authored a book SWAT Battle Tactics with my late friend, American Kenpo Karate Grand Master John McSweeney. The book, published by Paladin Press, is in need of a serious re-write, as there was some material added in the manuscript after I approved the galley copy. Still, the basic material is strong and one can build a SWAT team using the basics.
When conducting SWAT training, I would often booby trap a house/building or an area where the team would be entering using various types of traps, including smoke grenades, military-grade smoke grenades. They were very expensive back then, and they still are. However, there was no question or debating when someone tripped a smoke grenade booby trap; the high volume of smoke told the story.
As many long-time readers will recall, I served an apprenticeship with the late Col. Rex Applegate. I worked for the good colonel for three years, and during that time he taught me all manner of military and law enforcement techniques, as well as handgun firing. In particular, he taught me point shooting, and Paladin Press sells my DVD entitled Tactical Point Shooting, which has rock solid information in it. One thing many people didn’t know about Applegate was that he was an expert in riot control methods. His book Riot Control Methods And Materials is still in print. Many big city police departments would do themselves a favor if they purchased the book, with all the riots that recently took place after Donald Trump won the presidential election.
I happen to know a little bit about riot control, as I served in the Illinois National Guard in Chicago, IL in the early 1970s, and we had more than our share of call-outs for riots. One piece of kit that was always used was tear gas grenades as well as smoke grenades. Most rioters didn’t know the difference between the two at the onset. When they saw smoke, they would run and disperse! Applegate also served as a general in the Mexican Army shortly after WW2; in this role, he was one of the original 12 staff of instructors at the OSS– the forerunner to today’s CIA. Without giving away any secrets, at least not too many, Applegate worked as a sale rep for Remington Firearms in Mexico, and he also trained the Mexican military in riot control techniques. One such covert technique was to have either tear gas or smoke grenades in the front pockets of baggy trousers, and he would walk through a crowd of rioters and release these grenades through a hole in his pocket. The grenades would fall to the ground, and no one knew where they came from. Then, Applegate would fade into the background.
Military-grade smoke grenades are very expensive and extremely hard to come by, especially for civilians. Of course, there are less expensive smoke grenades that you have to ignite by lighting a fuse, which is more than a little bothersome, and they don’t put out a lot of smoke. The good folks at U.S. Tactical Supply in Albany, OR are always on the lookout for cutting-edge professional equipment and gear. There is no junk at this store, and they are some of the nicest people you’ll ever deal with, too. They alerted me to their newest piece of kit– Enola Gaye smoke grenades, and they were kind enough to have one of their employees actually deliver them to my home, because I’ve just been buried in work.
Now, what use would you possibly have for professional-grade smoke grenades, you might ask? Well, several uses come to mind. First off, a quality smoke grenade can be carried in your Bug Out Bag or your hiking or backpacking bag. In the event you get lost, and don’t say it won’t ever happen to you, you can pop one of these smoke grenades to alert a search and rescue team to your location. In my neck of Oregon, we have dense forests where you can easily get lost, and it is even harder for someone to pin point your location. A quality smoke grenade will sure let them know where you are.
In a survival situation, you might want to cover your escape and evasion with smoke. Dense smoke can confuse your pursuers as well as give you a chance to put some distance between you and them. If things go terribly wrong and you some how find yourself engaged in a firefight (and you want to avoid this if at all possible), some heavy smoke can cover your strategic retreat, too. One can also use smoke grenades in firearms training, believe it or not; I’ve done it in the past. It makes your students become more positive of their target, before pulling the trigger. If you can’t make out your target, you keep your finger off the trigger. It’s as simple as that.
Let’s take a closer look at the various smoke grenades that US Tactical Supply is selling. Go to their website for complete information. There are two large smoke grenades, and two smaller grenades, and there are several different sub-categories. Some grenades emit the smoke extremely fast and for a shorter period of time, while some emit smoke a little slower over a longer period of time. In my testing of the large and smaller smoke grenades, I was impressed with the huge volume of smoke the smaller grenades put out; I was very impressed.
The two larger smoke grenades, the EG18X and the EG18, are similar; however, the EG18X has a faster burn time of 50-60 seconds, so it emits a lot of smoke quickly. The EG18 burns for 90-120 seconds, so the smoke is emitted slower. Both come in eight different colors: black, green, white, purple, blue, yellow, red, and orange.
The two smaller grenades the WP40 and Burst are only “smaller” in size. They both put out an incredible amount of smoke. The WP40 has a 90-120 second burn time and is available in the above eight colors. The Burst model has a burn time of 20-30 seconds for a massive amount of smoke, and it only comes in seven colors. There is no black smoke for some reason with this model.
I didn’t intentionally pick some of the worst weather to do some of my testing of the smaller smoke grenades; it just happened that way. We were having some freezing rain in our area. Actually, at my small homestead, it wasn’t freezing rain just yet. I elected to go to my usual shooting spot, which is about seven minutes away up on a small mountain of only about 3,000 feet in elevation. As I was approaching the peak, I noted all the trees were covered in a thick layer of ice. When I reached my regular shooting spot, everything was covered in ice. The freezing rain wasn’t just coming down hard; it was blowing almost sideways, too. When I popped two of the smaller grenades– the WP40 and the Burst– the smoke was dense and blowing completely sideways. Did I happen to mention how hard it was raining? The Enola Gaye smoke grenades are water resistant, and they both worked as advertised.
Inside of only a few minutes, my pickup truck windows were completely iced over so the testing ended. The next day, we had even worse weather. On top of the freezing rain we had the day before, we got snow. Then, on top of the snow, we got more freezing rain. It was horrible driving conditions, and I elected to do some testing in my own front yard early in the morning before there was any traffic out. There was none, and all the neighbors were still sleeping. I tested the two larger smokers– the EG18X and the EG18.
Something very curious took place in my testing, not with the smoke grenades themselves but with the weather. While both smoke grenades worked as they should have, we had an updraft in the front yard. I couldn’t feel it, but I sure saw it when I popped the smoke grenades. The smoke from both grenades rose directly upwards, and I mean straight up. It was rather interesting to watch. The smoke would normally just disperse and stay close to the ground but not in this case; it just rose straight upwards. I walked to where I tossed the grenades, but I couldn’t feel any updraft at all. It was strange!
US Tactical Supply ships the Enola Gaye smoke grenades in zip-lock plastic bags, and you would be wise to keep them in the bags; the grenades are water resistant, not water proof. The grenades are ignited by a pull ring, and it takes considerable effort to pull the ring and get the grenades going. You only have about two seconds before they start to smoke, so be sure of where you want to toss the grenades. They do burn hot, so do not hold them in your hand after pulling the ring to ignite them. The pull ring is located under a plastic cap that is easily removed. The body of the grenades is made out of some kind of rigid plastic. Additionally, these babies are manufactured in the United Kingdom, of all places.
I pulled out my A.L.I.C.E. gear. I’m old school and carry my combat gear on a pistol belt with suspenders and magazine pouches that hold three thirty-round AR-15 magazines. These ammo pouches have two pockets on the side for carrying anti-personnel grenades. I was hoping the large smoke grenades would fit in those pockets, but I had no such luck. However, while I’m old school, I also have some tactical assault vests, and the larger grenades easily fit into the magazine pockets. I have some old AR-15 magazine pouches with the divider ribbons that have ripped, and I can fit one of the larger smoke grenades inside or two of the smaller grenades, and it can be attached to my pistol belt.
Once again, I would advise that you store and carry the Enola Gaye smoke grenades in the zip-lock plastic bags they come in. As stated, they are water resistant, not water proof. We get a lot of rain on the west side of Oregon, and I wouldn’t want to need to use one of these smoke grenades only to find out they got wet and won’t ignite. So, be advised. If you are out backpacking/hiking, you would be well suited to carry a couple of the smaller smoke grenades in your pack in the event you need to signal for help. Remember, they do burn hot, and make sure when they are ignited that they are not on ground that would catch shrubs on fire. The last thing you need is a wild fire, if you are hoping to get rescued.
Now for the good news, the EG18S sells for only $14 (black is $15) and the EG18 sells for only $12. The smaller grenades are only $6 each. That is a deal. And, in my limited testing, I was more than a little impressed with the total volume of smoke the smaller grenades put out.
For the price, these smoke grenades are one heck of a buy. I plan on stocking-up on plenty of them in the very near future. You just never know when, you might need the cover of smoke for a hasty retreat or something like red smoke to signal rescuers who might be out searching for you. Get ‘em while you can!
– Senior Product Review Editor, Pat Cascio