When a shell explodes, it isn’t usually the explosion part that gets you. It’s the shapnel. Shrapnel takes its name from Henry Shrapnel, an English artillery officer who invented a bursting shell designed to produce a huge number of deadly fragments.
Many times, pieces of shrapnel are small and loose their speed and energy at relatively short ranges, as little as 5 meters. Sometimes though, you get bigger pieces. They go a little further. For instance:
Flashback to 1989. I’m new to my unit in Germany. We are on the range at Grafenwoehr. I’m wating my turn to shoot and talking with the CO and the First Sergeant, the usual “getting to know you” stuff. We hear a buzz and a “thunk”. Close. REAL Close. A chunk of shrapnel about 11/2″ by 6″ smacked into the ground about four feet away. Just so you know, shrapnel isn’t supposed to be landing here. It’s a major no-no. My CO absentmindedly bent over to pick it up. The First Sergeant and I were too slow to stop him. It burnt the hell out of his hand.
Turns out that one of the artillery units firing that day had made some sort of error, either in plotting where they were shooting, or in putting too much or too little powder behind the shell. All I know is that the closest I ever came from getting killed by shrapnel was by our own side.