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The M18A1 Claymore mine is a directional fragmentation anti-personnel mine. It is designed to kill by projecting a lethal hail of steel balls within a 60-degree cone in front of itself.

It seems setting off an M18A1 attached to one's unprotected chest would kill or seriously injure one. There's a "secondary missile hazard" area with a radius of approximately 100 meters from the device and a "concussion area" 16 meters around the device. Note that, while troops in the "secondary missile hazard" area are advised to take cover, no troops are allowed in the "concussion area" whatsoever. This implies that being that close to a detonating Claymore will, if not kill an unprotected person, certainly render them "combat ineffective"/heavily injured.

From https://armypubs.army.mil/epubs/DR_pubs/DR_a/pdf/web/tc3_22x23.pdf, page 12.

However, what if said person was wearing a bomb suit?

A bomb suit is armor designed to withstand pressure and fragmentation effects generated by an explosive device's detonation. Presumably, such a suit of armor - designed to protect its wearer from explosions at close to point-blank range - will at least partially mitigate the effects of a point-blank M18A1 blast wave.

So, here's the question: how safe would it be to wear a bomb suit with an M18A1 Claymore mine attached to the chest (front facing away, of course), and then detonate said Claymore?

How is this related to worldbuilding? Well, in my setting, there's something exceptionally dangerous that's really good at hiding, and it's often capable of reaching point-blank range long before humans can actually see it. As such, having an immediate defense against it is a top priority.

Moreover, bomb suits are already relatively common in this particular part of the setting, as it's under sporadic artillery barrage.

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    $\begingroup$ As written this looks like a question about a real world scenario and not a question about building a fictional world. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Feb 15 at 3:51
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    $\begingroup$ Public Safety Bomb Suit Standard-0117.01 - 1.25 pounds of center-detonated C4 in a cardboard tube held at arms length is 'safe', otherwise it doesn't meet the standard. Claymores have 1.5 pounds with metal all over the place and it's strapped to your chest. Do not expect to collect from the insurance company. $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Feb 15 at 10:02
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    $\begingroup$ Real World Example: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_axe_murder_incident Quote: "Several of the commandos also had M18 Claymore mines strapped to their chests with the firing mechanism in their hands, and were shouting at the North Koreans to cross the bridge." There isn't a mention of them having any protection, but the incident was resolved without the use of the claymores. $\endgroup$ Feb 15 at 16:35
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidRouse There's no way that wouldn't have killed them. $\endgroup$
    – KEY_ABRADE
    Feb 15 at 17:28
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    $\begingroup$ The question is very simple: Wearing a mine on your chest is not safe. Knowingly detonating a weapon while wearing a protective suit is not safe. The suit itself has warnings that can answer how much damage will be sustained, but it will not be “zero” The answer ios “no.” End. $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Feb 15 at 23:11

8 Answers 8

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Not survivable

Imagine you removed the plastic body and ball bearings from a Claymore, so that all that is remaining is a layer of about 700 g of explosive. The quantity of explosive is several times more than that required to cut a line through a typical (unloaded) I-beam / rolled steel joist. At a minimum it would blow through the chestplate of the EOD suit and the ribcage, heart, lungs and spine. Possibly a really good EOD suit would have a strong enough back plate to keep the remnants of the body in basically the one spot, but I wouldn't count on it.

That's just worrying about it cutting through the material of the EOD suit, without even considering:

  • the overpressure from a detonation occurring only a few centimetres away from the heart of the person wearing the suit
  • the wearer's arms being either vaporised or torn off and flung into the next local government area, depending on their exact positions at the moment of detonation
  • the wearer being blasted through the air with an unsurvivable G-load. Hollywood shows people being unrealistically thrown through the air by hand grenades going off, but this is an order of magnitude more explosive mass than a grenade filler in direct contact with a relatively durable (thanks to the EOD suit) body.

People definitely have survived being within the 16 m exclusion zone all around a Claymore, but the closest I am aware of (from reliable second-hand accounts) is about 5m away below the lip of a concrete wall. Even that close a soldier is likely to be disoriented by the blast, although an EOD suit's blast dampening qualities would help. (No need to respond with lots of competing war stories, just acknowledging that inside 16 m is not an automatic death zone.)

Finally, I suggest you need to consider what a Claymore will achieve that an alternative weapon system will not. If the fragmentation from hundreds of ball bearings is important then the monster(?) - which is somehow immune to the artillery barrage mentioned - only needs to avoid a tiny danger zone directly in front of the chest of the wearer. This means that the wearer needs to, while wearing a very heavy suit of armour, aim by moving their entire body.

EDIT: In response to a few comments, adding some very non-technical, oversimplified information about how military explosives are sometimes used. Research online further if you are interested in the subject, try not to end up on any watchlists and obviously do not try this at home (yours or anyone else's).

  1. While a "shaped charge" is any explosive that is in a particular shape, most often this is used to refer to charges shaped to take advantage of the Munroe Effect, especially for armour piercing use. This type of charge is used in low velocity anti-armour weapons, including mines and in both prepared and some improvised demolition charges. For demolitions required to make a long cut instead of a single hole, linear charges ("hayricks") can be used in place of inverted cones. These charges need to be placed with some separation from the target in order for the penetrator to have room to form, as per the linked article. This can be achieved relatively easily by putting "legs" on a charge designed to fire vertically down, but can be difficult or impractical to achieve when trying to set charges on the side of or underneath some targets.
  2. Due to the difficulty and/or time required for placing shaped charges, hasty demolitions will often use bulk explosives placed directly in contact with the target. There are tables that say how much explosive is required to confidently penetrate various types of targets, my recollection of these is that the quantity in a Claymore is overkill for penetrating a steel beam it is in contact with. In this situation the explosives must be directly in contact with the target surface, even a small air gap will massively reduce the penetration due to air transmitting the shock wave much worse than a solid medium. This explains how an EOD suit (although maybe not its occupant) can be rated to survive a significant charge at a distance of as little as one metre, where there is no chance of survival with it strapped to the chest.
  3. The Claymore is a shaped charge, but only in terms of the explosive being shaped to scatter ball bearings in a particular arc. It is not an armour-piercing shaped charge and the only effect its shape has in this situation is that the curve probably lets it make slightly better contact with the contoured chestpiece of an EOD suit than a flat slab would.
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    $\begingroup$ Note that surviving within the 16m exclusion zone is not the same thing as walking away unharmed... $\endgroup$ Feb 15 at 14:59
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    $\begingroup$ I was under the impression that when explosives were used for cutting, they were typically shaped charges, that were made much more effective at their intended purpose by the Munroe effect. Leaving aside human survivability (which seems pretty conclusively answered), would that quantity of unshaped explosive suffice for cutting through steel I-beam? $\endgroup$
    – James_pic
    Feb 16 at 11:16
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    $\begingroup$ @James_pic see edit for information that is hopefully enough to satisfy your curiosity and keep us both off watchlists $\endgroup$ Feb 16 at 15:02
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    $\begingroup$ TLDR: "Hell, no." $\endgroup$
    – fectin
    Feb 16 at 23:57
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    $\begingroup$ Even if the front plate of the suit survived intact it'd be blown backward at such force by the blast that it'd take your entire rib cage and everything in your chest cavity (lungs, heart, etc.) with it for several meters at least. Indeed not survivable $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Feb 17 at 7:50
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KerrAvon's answer is good. It is not survivable and I don't see point in arguing that - the amount of explosive is just too extreme for such a close range.

But I just want to point out that you don't need that much. Do you want to damage the monster sufficiently to slow it down, or just turn it into a mist?

To just damage the monster sufficiently a mere 5-50g would be plenty. Absolutely no need to go for >500g.

If monster bites or punches or slashes or whatever with a physical contact, and is smart enough to avoid all traps (unlikely, but lets consider), but dumb enough to attack an armored person, then just use what tanks use - an active armor. When something hits the suit hard enough - suit responds by exploding that specific cell.

If monster is in direct contact, 5g will destroy that part of the monster's body, be it a claw or a tooth, and will somewhat protect the wearer, by distributing the hit on a wider area than a claw would hit. And it will be actually safe for the wearer, with some training it won't even cause shock and the person will able to continue their mission. Like attack the monster with something, or spray it with glowing paint.

If monster is more like a demon than an animal, and blowing off one of the claw won't scare it away, 50g of explosives will blow off a whole limb and damage lungs and shock for a long time. For cases when the creature is not limited by the surviving instinct this might be useful. But it will for sure make the wearer non responsive for a long time, and damage to the health is extreme. This person can survive, with loss of hearing, internal bleeding, a few fractures. But they have some chance of survivng, especially with medical help. And if there are more people than monsters, and mission is important enough, then probably it makes sense.

500g charge makes no sense at all, it is absolutely ridiculous. You can blow up a light transport with it, and harm the people inside. Or turn a monster into a pile of organic material.

Still, you will need to explain why traps don't work, and people are really good at making traps. Even if monster is transparent, it will give off IR. It will make sound as it walks, and some mines can detect the walk pattern of different entities to distinguish animals from a human for example. If monster flies, then sonars or radars will help. There is some sense if it is a short story and monsters appeared when people were unprepared, and people's weapon are not designed to detect monsters, that could explain it somewhat. But then making an active armor suit wont be on the table either.

I can see some point in it if there is lots of false targets. For example an alien city, that humans need to bring peace to, and some aliens are agressive, but others are not, and it is absolutely paramount to never attack peaceful aliens, but also be able to punish agressive aliens. That I think could explain why traps can't be used at all, but there is enough time to make active armor suite. And using smaller charges helps here too - large charge just can lead to too many casualties. Lots of false targets could also explain why ordinary weapon cant be used - stray bullet may kill a bystander. Or be useless if distance to the crowd is a few meters, and one alien from the crowd can jump to attack in a fraction of a second. An organic cave with lots of moving parts, like a large organism, could also make the use of traps almost impossible.

This could lead to development of a whole set of extremely short range weapons, tasers are common at this range, but it also could be short focus lazers, that quickly diverge the beam after a fraction of a meter of distance. Still, it can blind at much further range than it can burn, and that might be a disadvantage. Dumb but could be effective is exploding canister of a PU foam, especially with paint in it. Either it traps the monster, or allows to follow and find it. And suprisingly but plasmaguns. Plasma is very bad at pretty much everything as a weapon because it disperses so quickly, but if you want an extremely short range it is perfect. In just a meter it will turn to warm air, but before that it can cut any material on Earth. Basically I'm offering a plasma cutter, but on steroids. It can tick all the boxes, of being perfect weapon for such a case where you would want to use an exploding armor. It is short range, so it cant damage other targets, it is angry and cuts everything, it can work in impulse mode, it can have ridiculous power. As a bonus is doesnt harm its owner nearly as much.

One more point on exploding armor - you actually want to have 2 compartments of the explosive. This way you can 'direct' the explosion away from your body, towards the body you don't like. And more 'layers' - the more you can direct it away, making it a soft push for the one side, and rapid tear for the other side. Just want to point out that duct tape and grenades or mines won't work. It will have to be a very complex device, with sensors to activate faster than a human can react, with many layers of explosives. Otherwise other close range weapon are preferred.

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    $\begingroup$ If you really want fragmentation at short range, why not something like 20 very short shotgun barrels fitted to a chest plate on the bomb suit? Ripple fire to spread the recoil in time, or fire in groups of 4, rearming each time. $\endgroup$
    – Chris H
    Feb 15 at 12:33
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    $\begingroup$ Since this answer is talking about explosives and monsters, It would be worth mentioning that time somebody though it would be good idea to blow up a beached whale carcass with explosives. Worthy of a search. $\endgroup$ Feb 15 at 19:26
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    $\begingroup$ But you must not trip over and fall in such a suit :) $\endgroup$ Feb 16 at 12:13
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A bomb suit may protect a person from the effects of a nearby blast, and if sufficiently protective, may indeed allow the wearer to survive direct contact with the back-side of an exploding claymore mine on the chest.

However, bomb suits were designed to be effective at arm's length distance, for use by bomb disposal technicians. A suit effective against a contact range claymore mine would necessarily be much heavier than the amount of explosives would suggest. Bomb suits are also designed to preserve life in the event of a close-ranged blast, and only secondarily to preserve function.

While the experience would likely (but not certainly) be survivable, it is still highly likely to result in serious injury, and potentially loss of consciousness. Additionally, such heavy suits are extremely hot and cumbersome, and even with powered cooling, can only be worn for short periods, and do not allow significant exertion.

TL;DR:

It would probably be survivable but not safe, and the suit would be quite impractical for day to day tasks.

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    $\begingroup$ A Claymore mine has 1.5 pounds of C4. That's only .25 lbs more than an EOD suit's test criteria, held at arms length with the detonator in the center. - ojp.gov/pdffiles1/nij/227357.pdf page 77 : "6.31.2.7 One explosive charge of C4 plastic explosive material is required. The C4 shall be packed into a cylindrical cardboard tube of appropriate dimensions for a length to diameter ratio of one. The test charge shall meet the following criteria: 1. Weight of 1.25 lbs ± 0.002 lbs (567 g ± 1 g) of C4 plastic explosive. 2. The detonator positioned in the charge center." $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Feb 15 at 9:52
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Your main concerns include getting your arms out of the way when it detonates; soldiers have this funny habit of carrying a gun in front of their chests, weird.

Next you just need to disperse the claymore concussion blast evenly across your torso instead of letting it punch you in the heart. A convex breastplate with ample cushion might do the trick but you'll need to scale back the C4 quite considerably.

Claymores are lethal up to 50 meters but your use-case is close combat defense so 1/50th of the power should be sufficient, no?

You never defined point-blank range so I am using this explanation:

In forensics and popular usage, point-blank range has come to mean extremely close range (i.e., target within about a meter (3 ft) of the muzzle at moment of discharge but not close enough to be an actual contact shot).

https://military-history.fandom.com/wiki/Point-blank_range

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How well protected is the creature this defense is designed to protect against? Also, how resilient?

Asking, because you can build your own claymore-mine-style device or not be limited to M18 Claymore. I would go along the lines of German SMi-35 or SMi-44, where much smaller explosive charge is explosively ejected from the armor to about 1m, making the whole operation sensible.

To be more precise in this specific scenario - even improvised device would be enough. I'm thinking 100-200 grams of C4 flattened using rolling pin and placed on a properly shaped piece of steel sheet of enough thickness, covered with small ball bearings (or anything that's available - nails, nuts, bolts, whatever) on the side that's "towards the enemy". 200g is slightly more than an explosive filler of M67 hand grenade, which has a range of about 15m. Should be enough for any creature.

Alternatively I'd use boom sticks - tubes that if pressed will ignite a shotgun shell. If the tubes are short enough, the dispersion of projectiles will be a very wide cone. Then again, because it will be pressure-activated it should be basically contact weapon and at range of zero even birdshot is very deadly... Upside it's quite easy to maintain and reload and is quite weather-proof, downside it's making a hedgehog out of the suit and requires some care when doing any activities...

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The video on this page at 4:14 shows the effects of an M18A1 claymore from 1 meter. Even the best bomb suit couldn't protect you from that amount of explosive power.

I'm sure there are many better alternatives for killing monsters that get right up close than a M18A1 claymore mine. Some sort of modified flamethrower could be a possibility.

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A claymore is basically a single-use cannon. Because it's single-use it's designed to be as light as possible. Because it's as light as possible it doesn't fully contain the blast of the explosive.

It would be possible to thicken it up a bit, at least in the critical places, such that more of the blast goes away from the user. Wouldn't even be hard...

But you'll still have recoil. 700 1/8" steel balls weigh about 1400 grains. A claymore throws them at an average of 3937fps. That's over 48000ft/lbs of energy...

Equal and opposite reactions means that, even if it doesn't disintegrate into shrapnel and poke holes in things, the user gets hit in the chest pretty darn hard. Like a mid-sized motorcycle crashing into them at 60mph kind of hard...

Now... The closing speed of jousting knights is between 50-80mph, and they weigh a heck of a lot more. So a properly designed armor plate definitely makes such things survivable. Build this into your suit and beef up the armor thickness in the middle of the chest plate a bit and you could probably make it survivable. The concussion is still going to do all kinds of bad things to the wearer though. Using it once or twice probably wouldn't cause any noticeable side-effects, but make it a regular thing and they'll probably start to suffer from tinnitus and strokes at the very least. And firing this thing is going to knock a person flat on his back every time.

But just strap a standard claymore to a standard EOD suit and set it off? No. The back plate of a standard claymore turns into shrapnel and it's too big and too close to not poke holes through the suit. Which will be quite bad for its occupant. Plus then they still get hit with all that recoil.

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AvonKerr and Surprised Seagull gave great answers.

But in case people are curious about specifics and don't want to look through the comments, an NIJ rated bomb suit has to withstand the detonation of 1.25 lbs (~567 grams) of C4 at a distance of 2 feet (~0.6 m). For reference, the Claymore mine has 680 grams of C4 filler, which is around 20% more than the test charge.

In addition, the intensity of an explosion pressure wave declines with the cube of the distance from the explosion. Someone standing 2 feet away experiences around 8x less blast pressure than if the explosive were strapped to them (which would definitely kill them).

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