One of the handier tools in the infantryman’s kit is the M18A1 Claymore mine. The Claymore is primarily a defensive weapon, used to provide close in defense of a position such as a Forward Operating Base.
The M18A1 is a command detonated, directional mine. Unlike most land mines that are buried, then set off by either being stepped on or by tripwires, the Claymore is usually set off by an electrical blasting cap controlled by our troops. The Claymore isn’t buried, but is emplaced on the surface of the ground. It is called a directional mine, because when it is detonated, it sprays a pattern of 700 ball bearings in a fan shaped pattern.
Like most things in the Army, it’s fairly simple to operate. Some directions are more important than others. For instance, see where it says “Front Towards Enemy?” Yeah, might be a good idea to follow that one. The Claymore can actually be aimed with a fair degree of precision. The fan of fragments is fairly tightly defined, so when emplacing a Claymore, great care is taken to make sure that the mine is aimed at the most likely location of enemy troops.
Watch this video closely. When the mine explodes, you’ll see the smoke from the explosion, but you’ll also see dust kicked up by the fragments hitting the hillside in the background.
Most of the world has a ban in place on landmines. But because the Claymore is used as a command detonated weapon, it is exempt from the ban. It is issued as ammunition. Normally, if a unit doesn’t fire its Claymores, it will collect them for reuse when they leave a position.
There are fairly few places in Iraq where troops can use Claymores without the risk of decimating innocent civilians. Afghanistan is a different matter. The Forward Operating Bases in many remote locations can easily profit from the defensive firepower of Claymores, without the risk of killing non-combatants. The Claymore is effective out to about 100m, and dangerous out to about 250m.
Another use for the Claymore is offensive. When an infantry unit is setting up an ambush, they will try to cover the killzone with Claymores. Since you want to initiate your ambush with the most devastating weapon, many units use the Claymores to initiate the ambush.
One more video, to give you a better idea just how awesome a Claymore can be.