Who doesn’t like a big boom? Everyone that enjoys shooting likes to feel the power and hear to roar of their firearm. The 4th of July celebrations would not be the same without the enormous expenditure of small explosives in the form of fireworks. Movies and television shows love to add in dramatic explosions and gun fire to increase ratings.
However, there is one area of explosives that I feel we should investigate on the side of officer safety and safety in general. That is the increasingly popular use of Tannerite, a binary explosive compound.
Tannerite and Other Binary Explosives
Tannerite is a binary explosive compound, marketed as an entertainment product. Once the compounds are mixed, the user can shoot the container to cause a small to large explosion, depending on the amount of Tannerite used. Now I have to admit, it does sound fun to blow up a watermelon, or simply detonate a small package of Tannerite. It’s not very often you get a chance to blow things up. As with any type of explosives, extreme caution should be used.
Tannerite offers two books on its website in reference to explosives. One is “Fireworks and Flashbangs“, and the other is “Explosives and Blasting“. The later is a much more detailed book on using, storing, and transporting explosives. It is recommended that a user be at least 100 yards away from the blast point for every (1) pound of Tannerite detonated. As you will see, most of the persons in the Tannerite videos have extremely violated this safety distance.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Anyone considering using Tannerite or other binary explosives should conduct an exhaustive review of applicable Federal, State, and Local laws prior to purchase, mixing, and use. In addition, they should become very familiar with safe handling practices, and proper stand-off distances when detonating the explosives. If an officer or civilian comes across a substance they believe or know to be explosive, the best course of action is to secure the area around the explosive and call for the services of trained Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) units. This could include law enforcement resources, including Federal or State, and in some cases Fire Departments with proper Hazardous Materials Response units.
BINARY EXPLOSIVES are pre-packaged products consisting of two separate components, usually an oxidizer like ammonium nitrate and a fuel such as aluminum or another metal.
Perhaps the most infamous binary explosive is ANFO (ammonium nitrate fuel oil), which was used to destroy the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in April, 1995. Other forms of Binary Explosives include:
- Oxyliquit (liquid oxygen/combustible powder)
- Kinestik (ammonium nitrate/nitromethane),
- FIXOR (nitroethane/physical sensitizer).
With the increasingly popular Tannerite brand of binary explosives, law enforcement officers will need to familiarize themselves with the products, packaging, and safety measures to take if confronted with these products. In addition, officers should be mindful of these products when dealing with known violent felons, drug dealers, anti-government sympathizers, and during any search warrants where the potential for booby traps could be encountered. More on that later.
Dangers From Tannerite Misuse
As with most good things, someone is going to push the limits and take the good thing to a realm far away from the intended good use. Such is the case with Tannerite. If you like small explosions, then you’ll really like the big explosion! That seems to be the calling card of several buffoons who have recorded their activities for posterity.
If you have hundreds of acres of private property, and you follow the safety precautions, then I suppose have a good time. Unfortunately, most people using Tannerite do not have hundreds of acres and are not following the safety precautions. Some may say, “fine, they’ll be Darwin Award contestants”, but what about the innocent bystanders caught in these fools destructive paths. What about true criminals who see a way to further their evil intent with explosives?
Now I don’t expect to see a bunch of bank vault doors blown off with this stuff, but I could see criminals defending their drug houses with a few well-placed containers outside. If a rival gang or robbers show up, a shot from a secure location could really scare off the attackers or even inflict injuries/death. I could also see Tannerite being rigged with a primer or cartridge and then buried in a shallow path leading up to more sophisticated drug operations. As a trespasser or law enforcement officer approaches, one wrong step discharges the primer/cartridge into the Tannerite with serious injury/death as a result.
Famous YouTube poster FPS Russia has produced some very interesting videos on firearms and tactics. Though most of his videos tend to focus on his overly thick Russian accent, some of his videos do a decent job highlighting firearms that most of us will never shoot. However, his ill-conceived video using Tannerite to destroy a truck nearly cost him his life. It has been posted that FPS Russia used around 20-pounds of Tannerite for his video.
Unfortunately, FPS Russia just doesn’t seem to comprehend safety as a standard operating procedure, as he also decided to blow up another truck with a military LAW rocket (which may have been why the BATFE came knocking on his door).
Or how about the Georgia firearm owner that had the bright idea to set up a shooting exercise in a very narrow pathway in the woods. It appears he is initially shooting at targets on the trees and had intended to finish with a grand finale by shooting (3) pounds of Tannerite placed in an old riding lawnmower. Since he had moved to around 20-30 yards from the target the resulting explosion sent a piece of shrapnel in his direction severing one of his legs. It’s amazing his cameraman was not just as injured in the explosion. This would be the equivalent of (6) 1/2 pound containers shown above.
Many have commented on YouTube and other internet sites about just how lucky FPS Russia is, and how he should likely be dead already from his foolish misadventures. The shooter from Georgia wasn’t so lucky and will be permanently disabled for the rest of his life.
Tannerite and Law Enforcement
It is not like law enforcement has not had to be concerned about explosives before. Cops have had to be careful with everything from gasoline, flammable liquids, TNT, meth labs, and much more. As the threat of terrorism has risen, there have been more types of explosives officers have had to become aware of. Anything from personal IEDs to vehicle born IED’s.
Tannerite came on the market at first as a novelty item, fairly contained within the fringe element in the firearms world. However, with the vast number of YouTube and other videos hitting the airwaves, the interest and popularity in Tannerite have, well … literally exploded!
I’ve seen videos of just the Tannerite containers exploding, to household appliances, and vehicles. Perhaps one of the most practical uses of Tannerite has been used in the eradication of wild hogs. Bait stations are set up with a Tannerite charge. When groups of hogs arrive, one shot can kill a group all at once. Considering the devastating effect of wild hogs on the environment and surrounding wildlife, most State Wildlife agencies have ordered a “kill on sight”, so the more efficient use of a container of Tannerite could not only be legal but beneficial.
So it is quite possible that more law enforcement officers will confront Tannerite and those using these binary explosives during recreation or other uses. Officers need to become very familiar with their local laws concerning the use of Tannerite or other types of explosives. This includes the transportation and storage of these products. ANFO can be rendered safe by being soaked in water, but if it is mixed and stored in hard containers that may be more difficult to accomplish. This is where an EOD Team or Fire Department Hazardous Materials Team should take over responsibility for clean-up.
Alone, each component is relatively harmless. Even when they’re mixed binary explosives require a heat source or explosive action to create the explosion, but are much less stable than when separated. The video below shows a different kind of binary explosive than Tannerite, but see how just a single drop of the binary explosive can be extremely destructive.
BATFE Regulations on Binary Explosives
Binary explosives are pre-packaged products consisting of two separate components, usually an oxidizer like ammonium nitrate and a fuel such as aluminum or another metal. These components typically are not listed separately on the List of Explosive Materials and do not meet the definition of “Explosives” in 27 CFR 555.11. Therefore, ATF does not regulate the sale and distribution of these component chemicals, even when sold together in binary “kits.” However, when the binary components are combined, the resulting mixture is an explosive material subject to the regulatory requirements found in 27 CFR, Part 555.
As long as the use of Tannerite is for personal recreation, without any transportation or storage of the mixed components, the user is not regulated by Federal Statutes. Despite this allowance in Federal law, there will almost certainly be State and Local regulations to their use.
Click here to read the BATFE guidelines on Binary Explosives.
- Storage – Once mixed, binary explosives must be stored in appropriate storage magazines.
- Manufacturing – Mixing the components of the binary explosives constitutes manufacturing. If this is done for commercial purposes, even for videos on YouTube or other paying websites, the user must obtain a Federal Explosives License.
- Transporting – Transporting mixed binary explosives on public roadways must comply with the Safe Explosives Act, which requires the possession of a Federal Explosives License.
The use of Tannerite could be a very enjoyable recreational activity in the right circumstances, right location, and under the proper safety considerations. There are also some very legitimate practical uses for binary explosives.
Law enforcement officers should be keenly aware of the popularity of Tannerite and familiarize themselves with the potential threats these substances could create. In addition, officers need to familiarize themselves with the laws surrounding binary explosives so if you get called to someone using the explosives you are well-educated on what can and cannot be done.
Just like other protected activities, like shooting firearms, sometimes the role of law enforcement is simply to educate those who feel a law violation is occurring that the activity is lawful. In other situations, officers may have to intervene in unlawful uses of binary explosives, and understanding the law and the dangers will go a long way in making the incident safer.