Smoke grenades have been used for centuries by various militaries around the world for both providing temporary concealment and for signalling. Before the modern, wire-pull or pin release canisters, armies used devices wrapped in paper and ignited with a torch or sparks. They used clay pots and other containers to create smoke screens to blind the enemy and hide their movement.

The original smoke bombs or smoke screens were white or gray. Today, there are a variety of colors available to the prepared and well-equipped unit. White might be the most common color but, yellow, red, blue, green and even violet are often used in the field.

Smoke Grenade 1

Enhanced professional photography with colored smoke. (Courtesy: Shutter Bombs)

Everyday Uses For Smoke Grenades.

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So, you say you are not in the Army and don’t need to screen troop movements or create temporary cover. That’s fine. You may still have some use for a smoke grenade. Let’s take a look at a few common or everyday uses for colored smoke.

Photography/Videography Effects

The first use, that is most common, is photography and videography. Professionals and amateurs who desire to make their video productions or photographs stand out have been using colored smoke in single colors and mixed colors to good effect. The proper use of smoke in photos and videos provides strong contrast and depth to otherwise flat images.

Celebrations and Events

Modern smoke bombs or grenades do not produce the fire hazard that traditional Chinese fireworks do. Therefore, they are often a better option when celebrating a special occasion or marking an event. You are a grown up, I don’t need to tell you when to use color smoke grenades. However, in a situation where highly flammable fireworks would be a “no-no”, smoke might be a good option for you.

Paul Shutter Bombs

Author testing our a standard red smoke grenade from Shutter Bombs

Smoke Grenades and Emergency/Rescue Signalling

Nearly every summer, as if on cue, we start getting stories about lost hikers and backpackers. Some of the stories are scary, mother and daughter lost in the woods for four days found alive, hungry and dehydrated.

Other stories are more tragic, such as the most recent news story about a woman who went for a one day hike but went missing. Her body was recovered a week later. This was likely a needless tragedy.

People get lost backpacking and hiking every year. When that occurs, emergency services personnel will be looking for them. However, there are often thousands of acres of area to search and thick trees and vegetation make it difficult for people in airplanes and helicopters to spot someone as relatively small as a human in the forest.

The use of colored smoke can make the rescue team’s job infinitely easier. Keeping in mind, you want to use smoke that will stand out amongst green trees and foliage. Red, yellow, orange or violent are good choices. No rescue pilot is going to ignore bright red or orange smoke coming out of the forest.

Shutter Bomb Smoke Grenade

Wire-pull smoke grenades come in several styles from Shutter Bombs.

Shutter Bombs Colored Smoke Grenades

I recently discovered Shutter Bombs, a company that sells a variety of brightly colored smoke in various sizes and configurations. Shutter Bomb smoke grenades are pull-wire activated so you don’t need matches. The bodies are plastic covered cardboard so they are not at all heavy to carry. Also, they are a ‘cool’ smoke and they generate very little heat. This makes them a low fire hazard.

The best thing about the company is that their products are available to the average citizen, photographer, backpacker or hiker. Their prices are also very reasonable for what you are getting. Individual units will set you back between $12 and $20 depending on which size you choose. I have used their products and been impressed by the value for the cost and their spot on customer service.

If I were setting up a hiking pack, I would definitely put a couple of their Original WP40 smoke grenades in red, orange, or purple in a zip-lock bag in there. The cost of a couple of smoke grenades will be less than $25 and they will weigh less than a pound. That’s some pretty inexpensive insurance if you asked me.

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Paul G. Markel has worn many hats during his lifetime. He has been a U.S. Marine, Police Officer, Professional Bodyguard, and Small Arms and Tactics Instructor. Mr. Markel has been writing professionally for law enforcement and firearms periodicals for nearly twenty years with hundreds and hundreds of articles in print. Paul is a regular guest on nationally syndicated radio talk shows and subject matter expert in firearms training and use of force. Mr. Markel has been teaching safe and effective firearms handling to students young and old for decades and has worked actively with the 4-H Shooting Sports program. Paul holds numerous instructor certifications in multiple disciplines and a Bachelor’s degree in conflict resolution; nonetheless, he is and will remain a dedicated Student of the Gun.