Despite the simplicity of their construction, the Molotov Cocktail is one of the most effective weapons in guerilla warfare. The device consists of nothing more than a glass bottle filled with a flammable fluid and a wick that is used to light the fuel.
Components of a Molotov Cocktail
Any type of glass bottle can be used to make a Molotov Cocktail. The bottle should have walls with just enough thickness to ensure they break when striking the target.
The best flammable fluids include alcohol, kerosene, and gasoline. If drinking alcohol is used, it must be a high-proof variety to ensure there is enough flammable alcohol present in the mixture.
Gasoline works well but burns quickly. Other flammable liquids such as diesel fuel, methanol, turpentine, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and E85 can also be used. Still, gasoline is an easy fuel to find and the solution most commonly used in Molotov Cocktails. If gasoline is used, roofing tar or motor oil can be mixed with the gas to create a thicker solution that burns longer and adheres to the target. Other potential thickening agents include baking soda, tar, strips of tire tubing, blood, XPS foam, egg whites, rubber cement, and even dish soap. Some additives have the added advantage of creating thick, black smoke (e.g. motor oil).
Another option is to create a solution similar to that used in napalm. To do this, melt Styrofoam in acetone to create a thick, pudding-like solution. Then mix this with equal parts of gasoline. The resulting mixture burns well and also adheres to the target.
The ideal solution (perfected by the Finns) would consist of gasoline, kerosene, tar, and potassium chlorate. Of course, it’s likely difficult to find all these components in a war zone and gasoline works almost as well.
The wick is used to light the fuel without harming the thrower. A rag or other natural fabric material (avoid synthetic materials if possible) can be cut into strips and attached to the bottle using tape.
How to make a Molotov Cocktail
Fill the bottle about 3/4 full of fuel. Insert the wick so about half of the wick extends into the bottle, enough to dip into the liquid inside. When you light the wick, the flame does not travel down the wick and immediately ignite the mixture. Instead, the wick burns slowly, allowing the thrower to hold the bottle without it exploding in their hand. When the bottle is thrown and breaks, the burning wick ignites the rest of the fuel as it spreads.
You only need about a finger’s length of wick protruding from the bottle. Next, stuff more material around the wick so it is held tightly in the bottle’s neck. Wrap the neck of the bottle with a rag and tape it. This rag provides a grip to hold onto when you light the wick and throw the bottle. It also catches fire and produces an extended burn.
Here are the steps repeated:
- Fill a glass bottle about 3/4 full of fuel
- Insert wick far enough to dip into the fuel solution
- Leave a finger-length of wick protruding from the bottle
- Stuff more material inside the mouth bottle
- Wrap bottle with a rage and tape
Throwing a Molotov Cocktail
To use the Molotov Cocktail, approach the target until you reach throwing distance. Quickly turn the bottle over so that fuel settles around the mouth of the bottle and slightly soaks the material. Turn the bottle back upright, light the wick, and throw.
Of course, a Molotov Cocktail is not intended to be thrown at a person but rather, thrown at or onto a hard surface sufficient to break the glass bottle. This could be for instance, the hard metal surface of an armored vehicle or solid asphalt around the target.
Special cases and considerations
Rather than using a small rag around the neck of the bottle, some have tied heavier material around the neck, such as a curtain or light blanket. Some believe this may be more effective on vehicles such as tanks. The material can get caught in the cogs or tracks and produce a longer burn.
Lighting the Molotov Cocktail can be a dangerous moment. It may help to have a partner that lights the wick for the thrower. Be attuned to wind conditions too, which could frustratingly snuff out a match or lighter before the wick catches fire, leaving the thrower in a vulnerable position.
When choosing a target, don’t focus entirely on the flame that is produced. Remember that the liquid will penetrate spaces and carry fire into those voids. For instance, a good target for a tank would be air intakes, grills, or other openings that the flammable solution could seep into. However, modern tanks are built to withstand chemical (even biological) attacks. You may have to simply attempt to disable the armored vehicle and force the crew to open the hatch.
Remember too, you don’t have to position yourself and wait for a random target to fall into place. It may help to put up obstacles that can funnel vehicles into a “kill zone”, a position where the Molotov Cocktail (or several cocktails at once) can be thrown onto the vehicle.
Special note about legality of Molotov cocktails
Lest you think it fun to create a Molotov cocktail for grins, understand that in the United States, Molotov cocktails are considered “destructive devices” under the National Firearms Act and regulated by the ATF. Possession of one is illegal.