Safety: Give the FOOM Plenty of Room

You’ve probably seen, and maybe used, Tannerite, a binary explosive that’s permissible to use in reasonable quantities and with reasonable safety precautions. It’s not a terribly high explosive, but it’s not trivial either: it’s based on ammonium nitrate, like many of the things terrorist bomb-makers like to use, and it’s shock-sensitive, so it can be set off with a hit from a bullet. Those two in combination should make you respect it, at least. And as this video shows, when you add unreasonable quantities (3 lb. packed in a sheet-steel lawnmower) and unreasonable distances (a foot over 14 yards, by police measurement), you’d be lucky to escape, like this young man, David Pressley, did, with a Life Flight ride and a lifelong disability.

Yes, he did blow his leg clean off. (Technically, it was traumatically amputated by shrapnel from the lawnmower. He can now tell people he lost his leg in a lawnmower accident, which is literally true). Tannerite comes with a whole bunch of safety precautions written right on the packaging that lots of guys know too much to bother reading. You know, men and instructions.

Zug.

As the nice news lady points out in the video, one of those advisories says give a standoff of 100 meters (or maybe just yards) per pound of the stuff. (Another tells you not to pack metallic stuff with it). So this yout’ gave the FOOM roughly 260 yards too little room. He’s damned lucky the mower-turned-shrapnel didn’t strike him in the cranium or neck instead of below the knee. He’s damned lucky he didn’t lose both legs. He probably doesn’t feel lucky, right now, with months of rehab ahead just to learn to walk again, but he is.

He was with two friends, who fortunately were not injured seriously in the blast. One of them secured a tourniquet around his stump, and they bundled him into a vehicle and ran him from the track they were on back out to a road, where EMS met them. (More info at USA Today).

To a former professional user of HE, some of the experiments we see people doing on YouTube, and the lackadaisical attitudes that sometimes accompany them, are chilling. We don’t mean to insult or demean Pressley, who’s got enough troubles right now; just to encourage everybody to have fun, but take care while you’re doing it.

The video also mentions that Tannerite blasts are a major cause of neighbor complaints. While more and more people shoot, most people don’t shoot. The majority of them seem to be fully supportive of our rights, so the least we can do is exercise some restraint and good neighborliness as to when and where we FOOM the place up. (Pressley seems to have been well out in the country, in a wooded area. Good for noise control, not so good for medical response. Everything in life is a trade-off, as any engineer can tell you).

The ATF has also been threatening for years to go after people that acquire, store or use “too much” Tannerite without an explosives license.  (ATF in 2012 via AmmoLand. ATF current explanation of the law on binary explosives). You may recall that they went after the people behind the juvenile YouTube channel FPSRussia on that score. But a little over a year ago, ATF also posted a prescient safety advisory from the interagency National Explosives Task Force on their Facebook channel. Had Pressley followed the four “nevers” in that list, he’d still be standing on his own two feet.

FBIAwarenessBothIn response to the Safety Advisory, Dan J. Tanner, the head of Tannerite Sports, told guns.com that “there has never been an injury by shooting Tannerite as recommended on all written and published literature and instructions.” Tannerite’s recommendations are found online, and, likewise, following them would have allowed Pressley to have his YouTube notoriety without having quite so much of it as he has right now.

Finally, it may occur to people that actual terrorists might try to use this stuff. It has certainly occurred to both ATF and FBI explosives investigators (the FBI has usurped a lot of ATF’s former bomb authority in recent years). If you are a retailer, you should probably have the attached joint Tannerite/FBI developed advisory (right) hanging up where your clerks can see it. Hat tip, Herschel Smith at The Captain’s Quarters.

16 thoughts on “Safety: Give the FOOM Plenty of Room

  1. Toastrider

    I sometimes wondered about the large distances used in Boomershoot. I no longer wonder.

  2. Chris W.

    I have a buddy that loves to shoot this stuff way too close. Last time I was with him shooting (almost 2 years ago now) he set it up about 20 feet away (only a pound…only) and was getting ready to shoot it when I stopped him, but he was insistent, so I went behind his truck until he was done. No damage that time, but sometime later he was out with another friend and blew up a toilet that sent shrapnel into his friends’ thigh a couple of mm from the artery (according to the ER Doc). He had also parked his jeep sideways and it blew through both the rear windows! Is it obvious yet as to why I don’t go shooting with him anymore?

  3. LSWCHP

    Stupid games, stupid prizes. Energetic materials should never be underestimated. I’ve spent some time around HE and ANFO and I’m gobsmacked at this blokes actions. Not at all surprised at the results though. Sheesh…

  4. Jim Scrummy

    Stupid is as stupid is. He’s lucky to be alive along with his friends, and not pushing up daisies.

  5. LSWCHP

    I can’t stop thinking about the stupidity of this.

    A bit of Googling shows that a typical 81mm mortar bomb will contain about 700 grams of HE. Three pound is amost exactly 1400 grams, so with the Tannerite packed into a metal object the dude was standing a few yards away from the rough equivalent of two mortar bursts. He’s so lucky not to be dead.

    1. Tierlieb

      I am afraid the math does not work out like that. Tannerite has a Relative Effectiveness (RE) of about 0.55 (“kinda sorta lame” to use a technical term), while a 81mm mortar IED will probably be based on something involving RDX as main component plus some fun stuff, and RDX has roughly three times the RE (RDX itself is 1.6).

      And that is just comparing the explosives. Of course a bomb is better suited to exploding than a lawn mover. And then the power of anything exploding in an open space gets reduced by the cube of the distance, so “a few” and 14 yards make a huge difference, as anyone who ever had to go through hand grenade training might attest to.

      Still, lucky guy. RTFM and all that.

      What I liked to hear about was that one of his friends used a tourniquet. At least that allegedly “tactical” accessory has proven its worth.

      1. Hognose Post author

        Yep, Tannerite is not really HE. Some of the stuff Hadji brews in kitchens, like TATP, is. But all of them need to be respected.

        The problem with random shrap whether it’s off a lawnmower or of an indifferently designed (i.e. WWII and earlier) grenade, is that:
        – all the pieces start with the velocity of the explosive;
        – what happens after that depends on aerodynamics and density.

        A dense, low-drag piece of steel can go a long way. Experiments with cast grenades like Mills bombs and US MK.2s led to the discovery that the middle of the ‘nade is blown to flinders and produces susprisingly limited shrapnel, but the fuze boss and end cap can go 200 yards! Hence the preformed frag material in a matrix in modern grenades.

  6. Torres

    A problem for people that play with explosives without the benefit of military training and service is they tend to learn the concept of safe standoff distance the hard way.

    Just like this guy…

  7. Ray

    My former neighbor (he moved) LOVED this stuff. He was retired USN w/20+ years in submarines. I just assumed he was tired of peace and quiet. I never complained, after all I have a 100yd rifle range on my place.

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