Tannerite, bombs and terrorism

As most people already know, Tannerite, a binary explosive, appears to have been used in some of the bombs that exploded in New Jersey and/or New York last weekend.  That’s unusual.  Tannerite was developed for use in exploding targets for shooters.  I’ve shot at it myself, with the expected results.  It’s very popular at events such as Boomershoot and the Knob Creek Machine-gun Shoot.  Here’s a video clip from the famous night-time shoot at Knob Creek, involving lots of machine-guns and targets of Tannerite and gasoline.

Boys and their toys indeed!  Frankly, I’m not particularly interested in shooting at exploding targets.  It can be fun, but I’d rather concentrate on marksmanship and improving my techniques and tactics.  YMMV, of course;  and the attendance at Knob Creek, Boomershoot and such events proves that for many, it’s a fun pastime.

Despite being intended for use in exploding targets, if used in large quantities, Tannerite can be very dangerous.  To illustrate, here’s an old barn being demolished with over 160 pounds of the stuff packed into a tote.  The shooter and his friends are obviously having a lot of fun with it, but that shouldn’t obscure the risks of getting too close to a bang like that.

If confined in a pressure cooker, as was apparently done in the terrorist bombs last weekend, the explosive power of Tannerite is magnified, making it more dangerous.

Many responsible firearms owners have been warning for years that the casual, unrestricted, unsupervised use of Tannerite (such as in the barn explosion above, and in many other video clips on YouTube) was basically an open invitation to see it misused for at least criminal mischief, if not terrorism.  Those warnings appear to have come true.  I now expect to see pressure to at least restrict the availability of Tannerite and similar substances on security grounds, if not ban its sale altogether.  I’m not surprised by that.  It’s a toy that can be deadly dangerous, and its use in a society threatened by terrorism is at least questionable.

There are bound to be shooters who regard this as an assault on their Second Amendment rights and freedoms.  I don’t see it as such – after all, Tannerite’s not an ‘arm’ in the meaning of the Amendment, as far as I know – but there are lots of shooters who like making loud bangs and lots of smoke and flame.  I expect there to be a lot of verbiage slung around about this over the next few months.  I can only hope that sanity will prevail – on all sides.  The reality of terrorism demands it.



  1. The foundation of the criminal justice system in western civilization is based on the concept of "skin in the game," that societally undesirable action potentially begets punishment, and the degree of that potential punishment performs as a deterrent.

    When the actors do not regard potential punishment as deterrent, when action is driven by what is considered a higher standard than the societal standards, and in fact, the maximum potential punishment is accepted as a reward, the operational premise of the system fails.

    It then becomes time for the ubiquitous and much revered "Plan B." Logic would dictate that Plan B involve intelligence, monitoring and research as a prophylactic measure to prevent societally undesirable actions.

    Which is where we are today, and which will result in not only dismal failure – the actors are orders of magnitude more flexible and inventive than the bureaucracy administering whatever prophylactic measures are devised – but also the destruction of the societal foundation(s) such prophylactic measures are intended to protect. In other words, American can kiss their Constitution goodbye.

    There is, of course, always a "Plan C," which is, as of now, judged too draconian and harsh to be seriously considered. It remains to be seen whether The Last Man Standing will consider it so.

  2. Finally, the terrorists use something the fedgov can try banning. It won't affect future acts of terrorism, as bombs are easy to make. But it will increase the government's power by that much more, and take away the concept of freedom by that increment.

    How about, instead of banning the devices and materials used, we ban the people predisposed to do evil? At the very least, we could stop importing more of them into our country.

    I, for one, will be sad to see tannerite go. I enjoy the videos from boomershoot. Shooting at paper for precision is nice, but doesn't have the visceral enjoyment of causing a small explosion hundreds of yards away through the practical use of marksmanship.

  3. Peter, I think you are off track with this post.

    I can substitute the words "vehicle" and "driver" in your post, almost without edits, and get the same conclusion- must be banned.

    People have been killing their enemies with whatever was at hand since the beginning of time, starting with Cane and Able, if you are inclined that way.

    I saw the mention of Tannerite in the reporting and I thought, "Oh no, here's an easy target." I'll note that the same article also said 'black powder residue' for some bombs. Now we've got two things to ban.

    The 'it's fun, but not really essential, and bad people will misuse it' argument can be and often is applied to guns.

    Giving the slightest support to any ban in reaction to these attacks is to put both feet on the slippery slope.

    Our narrative (as responsible gun owners and 2A supporters) needs to be the opposite. Bad people will do bad things with whatever they can find. Banning 'things' is not a solution.


  4. If, as I have heard, Tannerite is made from aluminium oxide and ammonium nitrate, then how could you conclusively prove the presence of Tannerite in an ANFO bomb in an aluminium pressure cooker after the bang?

  5. Making tannerite function as a high explosive may not be impossible but it's a virtual certainty that the average person no matter how skilled cannot make this happen. It would require specialized equipment etc. Equipment that would be better used in making a REAL bomb. What most likely happened is trace elements of aluminum and nitrates were found and since banning tannerite is something MANY bureaucrats would like simply because they want us TOTALLY disarmed they now have an opportunity to do so. They will LIE about this, the millions of useful idiots in America will bleat ban it and the quislings in Congress will happily comply….for our own good of course. Never underestimate what evil people are willing to do and capable of.

  6. "[Guns are] toy[s] that can be deadly dangerous, and [their] use in a society threatened by terrorism is at least questionable." You are sounding like a progressive hack Peter.

  7. I apologize for my rudeness. I enjoy reading your blog and books and your viewpoint on this issue was very disappointing to me. Anyway forget I said anything.

  8. @Ender: Apology accepted.

    I can understand your disappointment. It's a very frustrating situation for all of us. We have to deal with the reality – and I emphasize REALITY – that Tannerite is an explosive. The sheeple just need to hear that word, and they panic; and politicians know that a legal explosive is a 'soft target' when it comes to banning or controlling something. They can make a noise about "Look! We're doing something!" when in fact, banning Tannerite won't slow down a terrorist any longer than it takes for him to buy a five-gallon gasoline container at Walmart and fill it up at the nearest gas station. That's reality . . . but politicians and the sheeple public don't want to know that. They want to cocoon themselves in the touchy-feely emotion of satisfaction that they're actually doing something worthwhile, even if they're not.

    That's why I said that the use of Tannerite and similar explosives is "at least questionable" in a society under threat by terrorists. It may not be logical, it may not be terribly rational, but it IS reality. Facts don't play much of a role in such situations, and those of us who try to live by facts have little or no chance of persuading politicians to act rationally.


  9. Let's keep the tannerite and start the forcible repatriation of the explodey denizens from Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the like. We don't want or need them here and they add nothing but strife and misery to this nation. It'll either be done now in a safe and civilized manner or it'll be done later without any civilized constraints. They should've NEVER been allowed to come here in the first place. Who in the hell looked at any of the above countries and said "wow we need some of that here!".

  10. ^^^this^^^

    "It'll either be done now in a safe and civilized manner or it'll be done later without any civilized constraints."

    ^^^ Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure it will be the latter situation that will occur, as too many people are too PC to make such a hard call. We'll lose a good portion of a city first, and then it will be open season on anyone who even looks like they might be from the M.E.

    As another blog mentioned, it would require a higher order explosive to set off Tannerite. Why would a terrorist build a bomb with a lessor amount of "boom"? Why not build the entire thing with the better explosive? Something is wrong here.

  11. @Will: Don't forget that the lesser explosive might be used as a means to flush people from where they are and get them to run away from the bang – right into the blast radius of a more lethal bomb. That's a tried and tested terrorist tactic. I saw it in South Africa in the 1980's, and it's well-known in other areas too. Tannerite might be very useful for such 'fright bombs', leaving the heavier, more powerful stuff for the killing ground.

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