Ancient Japanese iron kaginawa climbing hook
A chain grapnel – used to recover a cable from the seabed

A grappling hook or grapnel is a device that typically has multiple hooks (known as claws or flukes) attached to a rope or cable; it is thrown, dropped, sunk, projected, or fastened directly by hand to where at least one hook may catch and hold on to objects. Generally, grappling hooks are used to temporarily secure one end of a rope. They may also be used to dredge for submerged objects.

The device was invented by the Romans in approximately 260 BC.[1][2] The grappling hook was originally used in naval warfare to catch ship rigging so that it could be boarded.[3]


A common design has a central shaft with a hole ("eye") at the shaft base to attach the rope, and three or four equally spaced hooks at the end, arranged so that at least one is likely to catch on some protuberance of the target. Some modern designs feature folding hooks to resist unwanted attachment. Most grappling hooks are thrown by hand, but some used in rescue work are propelled by compressed air (e.g., the Plumett AL-52), line thrower, mortar, or a rocket.



A hook being used for demining

Grappling hooks are used by combat engineers to breach tactical obstacles. When used as such, the grappling hook is launched in front of an obstacle and dragged backwards to detonate tripwire-fused land mines, and can be hooked on wire obstacles and pulled to set off booby traps on the wire. The rifle-launched grapnel (LGH), a single-use grappling hook placed on the end of an M4/M16 rifle, is used for this purpose.[4][5] A crossbow-launched version has been produced.[6] A grapnel can clear up to 99% of the trip-wires in a single pass.[7] During WW2 British and German ships towed grappling hooks in the hope of snagging or damaging enemy submarines,[8] a tactic also employed by the Japanese.[9] Grappling hooks were used by soldiers at the D-Day landings to aid in climbing the cliffs at the Normandy beaches. Some were rocket-propelled and launched from mortars.[10][11]


Grapnel anchor

As well as the grapnel anchor, grapnels are used in the removal and repair of subsea cables. Large cable layer ships drag huge grapnels across the seabed until they snag a cable.[12]

In popular culture

Grappling hooks, grapple guns, and their many variants have been a staple in many video games.[13]

See also


  1. ^ "The Roman Navy and the Grappling Hook". Patent Pending. Retrieved 14 September 2019.
  2. ^ "Naval Warfare". Britannica. Retrieved 14 September 2019.
  3. ^ "Boarding Hooks". The Pirate King. Retrieved 14 September 2019.
  4. ^ "The Launch Grapnel Hook (LGH)" (PDF). Infantry Magazine. Vol. 89, no. 3. September–December 1999. pp. 4–5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 January 2017.
  5. ^ "US5448937.pdf" (PDF).
  6. ^ "SAA International, Ltd". 15 July 2011. Archived from the original on 15 July 2011.
  7. ^ Field Manual 3–34.2 Combined Arms Breaching Operations. 31 August 2000. Para. C-57 and Table C-2
  8. ^ "A Brief History of Anti-Submarine Warfare". Globe Composite. Retrieved 14 September 2019.
  9. ^ McDonald, Craig R. (2007). The USS Puffer in World War II: A History of the Submarine and Its Wartime Crew. McFarland. p. 68. ISBN 9780786432097.
  10. ^ Ladd, James (1 January 1979). Commandos and Rangers of World War II. p. 241. ISBN 9781131235172.
  11. ^ "Rudder's Rangers and the Boys of Pointe du Hoc: The U.S. Army Rangers' Mission in the Early Morning Hours of 6 June 1944". US Army Historical Foundation. 17 October 2016. Retrieved 22 April 2023. Rocket-fired, grapnel-equipped ropes eventually become the primary tool of choice when ascending the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc.
  12. ^ "Subsea Cables – Maintenance / Repair Operations". KIS-ORCA. 2013. Archived from the original on 16 March 2013.
  13. ^ "30 years ago, Bionic Commando proved video game grappling hooks are awesome". Games.Avclub. 20 July 2018. Retrieved 15 September 2019.