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In The Walking Dead, S4E8: Too Far Gone, Daryl takes a grenade and tosses it down the barrel of a tank. After a few seconds when you hear it bouncing around, some people abandon the cockpit and then it explodes.

Would that actually happen? It seems like a pretty flawed design if something hostile could make its way in and do that. Obviously it's a completely different machine, but in a semi-automatic pistol, for example, a foreign thing would never be able to make its way completely through the barrel because a round is already loaded in the chamber.

So is this just cinematic drama?

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    I have no idea which side these guys are on. I just hope that I'm never on the other side. – Valorum Oct 13 '14 at 21:32
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    @asteri I VTC'd, then retracted; Reason: I at first thought that an out-of-world explanation to an in-world situation should not be on-topic here, but after thinking about it, the in-world is supposedly exactly the same as ours, except with Zombies/Walkers/Undead etc., therefore, any real-world explanation will hold true in-world when it comes to tanks etc... – Möoz Oct 13 '14 at 22:00
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    I VTC'd and retracted. It's not a good fit but there was a readily available answer and the question was prompted by a science fiction show. – Valorum Oct 13 '14 at 22:20
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    Just because there's an answer doesn't make it on-topic! This is a classic scientific explanation question. – curiousdannii Oct 14 '14 at 12:34
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    @mooz There is one other difference between this world and ours. The show exists in a parallel universe where zombies never existed in thier pop-culture. – Firebat Oct 14 '14 at 14:17
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Yes. It's perfectly possible...

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    Wow... I... I just... no part of me ever thought something like this would be filmed and on YouTube. Haha. Well played, sir. – asteri Oct 13 '14 at 21:31
  • I guess the round in the tank has to be manually loaded or something...? – asteri Oct 13 '14 at 21:32
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    @asteri - Not a clue. If had to guess, the first grenade cleared the breech and the second one rolled right into the tank – Valorum Oct 13 '14 at 21:33
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    i think typically theres a guy in their opening the chamber and reloading the tank (at least in Indian Jones and the last crusade they did) haha and even in the grenade technically doesn't go inside of the actually cockpit the grenade will still roll down the shaft and be "inside" of the tank and blow up. – Himarm Oct 13 '14 at 21:35
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    This scene coming soon to a city near you... – Chris B. Behrens Oct 14 '14 at 13:44
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Yeah, it's possible.

However, if the barrel is empty and the breach is closed, the breach should be sturdy enough to contain the explosion and direct it back up the barrel (grenades don't actually hold much explosive - most of the damage is from the shrapnel. This how "throwing yourself on a grenade" has saved lives).

Now, there's two other ways this could go - and that's where things get more interesting:

  1. The breach is closed and the barrel is loaded. The exploding grenade will likely cook off the charge used to fire the shell. The shell will then foul on the grenade's shrapnel, and could explode in the barrel. Even so, with the shell fouling, there will be an overpressure from the charge cooking off, and this could cause failure in the barrel or breach.

  2. The breach happens to be open while reloading (most likely in this scenario, as the tank crew might not even notice the grenade being posted if it didn't drop out of the breach into the compartment). The grenade goes off, and there are lots of shells and cartridges in there waiting to be loaded. Secondary explosions occur, and boom - off goes the turret.

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