Target shooting and shooting ranges are statistically increasingly popular hobbies, and it is common for gun ranges to offer customers extra programs like Tannerite shooting or ladies’ nights with incentivized prices and deals. Tannerite can take target practice to a new level. Its explosive impact appeals to many shooters, but the material can (unsurprisingly) be very dangerous as well. It is very powerful, and misuse could lead to a host of problems for shooters. Tannerite can cause injury, fires, death, and lead to arrest. It can even be a tool in terrorist attacks. In fact, the New York City bombing that took place last fall was caused by a binary explosive. Although the material doesn’t go off without a shot, investigators found Tannerite residue on the bomb.
What is Tannerite?
Tannerite is a binary explosive that is sometimes used in long range shooting. Tannerite is a mixture of ammonium nitrate and aluminum powder, both ingredients you can buy legally. Some people even make their own “tannerite”, mixing the compounds on their own. It creates a loud “boom!” noise after being hit. The material was patented and invented by Daniel J. Tanner.
How Do Shooters Use Tannerite?
Shooters usually fire at least 100 yards away from Tannerite, since it is designed for long range shooting. To make sure the Tannerite releases the desired effect, you must use high-velocity bullets. The Tannerite site has a list of bullets you can use for targets.
The Appeal of Tannerite Shooting
For thrill seekers looking for new exciting things to do, Tannerite holds a significant appeal. According to a study done by Dr. Zald of Vanderbilt, dopamine is responsible for risky behaviors. People with fewer dopamine inhibitors are more likely to take risks, which helps explain the rush people feel when they bungee jump, skydive, or blow things up. Tannerite shooting is nothing short of exciting; blowing up a target will definitely give someone that dose of dopamine.
Laws Regarding Tannerite Shooting
While Tannerite is legal to make and buy, it is an explosive. In fact, there have been attempts to either ban or regulate its use federally and in different states.
- Federal Law: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives does not ban the use of Tannerite at this current time, meaning that it’s still legal under federal law. However, there are still some restrictions. One can mix the compounds for personal use, but anyone selling the mixture has to have a special license. To clarify, this doesn’t include the sale of kits that keep the compounds separate. Mixed compounds are under federal regulations regarding storing and transporting explosives, but you have to have a special ATF license to store or transport explosives.
- Rocky Mountain Region: The U.S. Forest service issued a ban on binary explosives in national forest lands, due to Tannerite igniting 16 wildfires. This ban acts on five states in this region including Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota.
- Other National Parks and Forests: The USFS and BLM have been working on bans in other states. Some only ban the use of Tannerite during fire seasons.
- Maryland: This was the first state to successfully ban the sale and use of Tannerite. Senate Bill 421 expanded the definition of “explosives” to include the two compounds mixed to make Tannerite. If caught using tannerite in Maryland, a shooter can receive fines or up to 5 years in prison. In this case, a person would be guilty of a misdemeanor.
- Louisiana: HB 160 bans binary explosives that mix more than 5 lbs of the compounds. Originally the bill would outlaw all explosive targets but instead limits the use of Tannerite.
- Indiana: Senator Jim Merritt drafted a bill to limit the sale of Tannerite. It would make Tannerite illegal to sell to persons under 18, and watched at all times. The bill is still under review.
- Utah: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a ban on Tannerite in public lands. It will remain in effect until further notice.
- Washington: Unauthorized targets include binary explosive targets under legislature WAC 332-52-145. In light of this, shooters can’t use tannerite in Washington state.
Accidents Involving Tannerite
A man recently lost his leg while shooting a Tannerite target. David Pressley shot a semiautomatic rifle at a lawn mower full of the explosive in March 2016. He moved closer to the target to shoot it, since the first few shots didn’t detonate the Tannerite. After the explosion, pieces of the bomb and metal ricocheted from the lawn mower. One of the shards cut off Pressley’s leg. In this case, he used more than the recommended amount of tannerite.
Another man in Oklahoma killed his 8-year-old cousin after a Tannerite explosion. On February 8th 2015, 22-year-old Brandon Martin shot at a stove full of the mixture. Fragments hit Jonathan Pelan after the explosion, and he died later from his injuries. Martin’s arrest was initially processed on a manslaughter charge, but instead, he received a second-degree murder charge.
In 2014, a Montana wildfire started after a Tannerite explosion. Witnesses said they heard a loud boom before seeing the flames. The incident displaced two mountain lion cubs and burned 50 acres of land, costing $94,000 to suppress.
Proper Ways to Shoot Tannerite
Those who still wish to shoot Tannerite must be aware of the risks and how to shoot safely with the material. Misuse of Tannerite could lead to death, so treat it like the dangerous substance it is.
- Don’t use more than the recommended amounts
- Keep children away from shooting areas
- Only use Tannerite outside or at ranges that offer this option
- Don’t use Tannerite near neighbors
- Shoot at least 100 yards away from a target with Tannerite
- Don’t put Tannerite targets on metal objects
For more information on how to safely use Tannerite, check out the safety information on the Tannerite website.
Rory Bagley is an avid hunter and shooter, and an expert archer. He enjoys researching and writing about practices that better the sport of hunting in safe, responsible, and conservational manners.