Anatomy of a Binary Exploding Rifle Target

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It’s been the best of times and the worst of times for Tannerite lately. They recently enjoyed the victory of having their patent re-issued. Happy times in western Oregon. Until, that is, the US Forest Service issued an order banning Tannerite and similar products on federal lands in Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas Nebraska and South Dakota. While Tannerite – the real McCoy – claims theirs is the only formula that won’t start a fire (MythBuster proven!), the Forest Service isn’t discriminating enough to really care. Oh, and the FBI thinks it’s a great terrorist tool, too. No word as to whether the people at Presto are under similar scrutiny for potential abuse of their food preparation products. Anyway, if you’re curious about the whole Tannerite story, they’re anxious to get the word out . . .

Pleasant Hills, OR (August 9, 2013) – Long-range target shooters are perennially challenged. With a squinted eye, spendy spotting scope or long anxious walk down the firing range, they discover either punctured paper and a bull’s-eye or an unharmed target. An earthly poof of dust, of course, nulls the need to examine the target – um, that’d be called a swing and miss.

Dan Tanner wasn’t satisfied with the paper or the poof. With a clever mind and dogged persistence, the Oregonian and Arkansas native set off to create a target that would clearly (and audibly) reveal long distance rifle hits. Tanner sought out to produce something that triggered the senses of sight and sound but without any byproduct risk of it causing a fire.

So he developed the first binary rifle target. And with a background in mixing elements and catalyzing reactions, it was natural to stir-in a geological “ite” and concoct the name Tannerite®, the brand.

It’s good to be first. But along with being an inventor, a pioneer, comes the eventual blow of being copied. Far less ingenious sorts bust out the smoke and mirrors in hopes of capitalizing on innovation with only profit margins in mind. Consumers, ultimately, become the casualty.

Because this dreaded down spiraling process is underway, it’s prudent to describe, in detail, the original exploding target, Tannerite®. We surely can’t guarantee what other ingredients the competition blends in, but we can say with certainty what goes into the first and safest binary exploding targets, Tannerite®.

THE ANATOMY LESSON

Before discussing the anatomy of a binary exploding target, we should examine explosives and propellants in general.  Virtually all explosives and propellants such as black powder and smokeless powders are comprised of two components; an oxidizer and a fuel.

In many explosives such as nitroglycerin, TNT, RDX, and HMX, the oxidizer and fuel are part of the same molecule. These one-part systems are extensively used for civilian and military applications. The second class of explosives and propellants are those in which the oxidizer and fuel are different chemicals that must be mixed to form an explosive composition. Examples of these include black powder, binary exploding rifle targets, and variety of ammonium nitrate-containing formulations used in commercial blasting.

Binary exploding rifle targets intended for use with high powered center-fire rifles were invented and patented by Daniel J. Tanner of Pleasant Hill, Oregon. These targets employ ammonium nitrate for the oxidizer. Ammonium nitrate is a very interesting chemical as it contains both an oxidizer (the nitrate component) and a fuel (the ammonia component) in the same compound. Fortunately, it is extremely difficult to initiate the reaction (explosion) of these two components which gives ammonium nitrate the stability to be used in a variety of industrial applications.

Binary exploding rifle targets take advantage of the ability of aluminum to make ammonium nitrate more sensitive to detonation. In the case of these targets, the aluminum can be considered a catalyst which provides a lower-energy pathway to initiate a detonation. The energy required to detonate is low enough to be useful as a shot indicator, but high enough to safely handle the mixed composition. This is the basis for Tannerite® brand binary exploding rifle targets.

Detonation of the target is initiated by impact of a bullet fired from a center fire rifle. The bullet should be approximately 40 grains or larger travelling at 2000 ft/sec or higher. Note that a pointed bullet will be a better initiator than a blunt bullet since the energy provided is concentrated to a very small area. The bullet impact provides sufficient energy to initiate a reaction between aluminum and ammonium nitrate that results in detonation of the composition. This detonation is a very energetic process and binary targets should be treated with respect. Be sure that all observers are over 100 yards away from the target and that no foreign objects are in close proximity to the target that could serve as a source of shrapnel.

Factors Affecting Target Performance

The major factors affecting binary exploding rifle target performance include the purity of the components, the particle size of the components, the ratio of oxidizer to catalyst, and the uniformity of the mixed composition – Tannerite® brand target formulation is precise in all instances. Changes in any of the aforementioned factors will affect the chemical pathway taken during detonation which can result in fires, increased energy required for detonation, and sound amplitude variations. In addition, the stability of the mixed composition could be compromised.  A properly formulated and mixed binary rifle target will provide a loud report; will consistently detonate on bullet impact; will not start fires; and will be safe to handle. The use of impure ammonium nitrate or aluminum, wide variability in ammonium nitrate and aluminum particle sizes, the wrong ratio of aluminum to ammonium nitrate, and poor mixing can lead to targets that may start fires, may be less safe to handle, and have erratic performance. Again, the Tannerite® brand target formulation is precise.

Safety Essentials When Using Binary Targets

Given the above discussions, we recommend the following guidelines for a safe and fun experience with binary targets.

1. Treat all binary targets with respect. Misuse of binary targets could result in serious injuries or death.

2. To ensure a homogeneous composition, be sure to use a mixing container – Tannerite® comes complete with a mixing container.

3. Place ½ and 1 lb targets down range at least 100 yards before shooting. Place 2 lb targets 200 yards down range before shooting.

4. Do not shoot targets larger than 2 lbs.

5. Remember that the legal use of these targets is as a shot indicator only.

6. Mix the targets at the range and shoot them immediately. Do not transport, store, or sell the mixed composition unless you have the appropriate explosives endorsements.

7. Always wear shooting glasses and hearing protection when shooting.

8. Be sure to use in a remote area only and respect the adjoining property owner’s right to tranquility.

9. While Tannerite® brand binary rifle targets will not start fires; many knock-off brands of binary exploding rifle targets are poorly formulated and use lower quality materials that may start fires.

  1. Never place these targets on any surface that could produce shrapnel or within another object.

A Plea for Common Sense

Given the popularity of binary exploding targets, there are a huge number of shooters using these targets in a safe and fun manner. There are, however, users doing unwise things with these targets. Please be sure to use these targets as a shot indicator only and away from populated areas. Continued misuse of these targets may result in restrictions on their use. The future of these targets is in your hands, so please use them properly.

The Tannerite® Advantage

We would like to point out that Tannerite® brand binary exploding rifle targets are the original and the best available. They are properly formulated, use only the highest quality explosives grade ammonium nitrate and pyrotechnic grade aluminum powder, and will not start fires. The safety of the mixed composition has been demonstrated by Myth Busters, and is the best selling binary rifle target on the market.

comments

  1. avatar Powers says:

    Love this stuff.

  2. avatar Russ Bixby says:

    Unrelated post:

    Has anyone else noticed that Mark Heller, Dan Baum, Mr. Collion Noir, Fate of Destinee et cetera would appear to be on vacation, leaving Mark Kresser as the sole “XXX reads TTAG” face?

    Odd, that.

  3. avatar Mark N. says:

    According to http://www.gofundme.com/3td4yw:

    “I would like to thank all of you for taking the time to read our story in this desperate plea for help. For our family and friends that know us, you’d know that we would not be asking for help unless it was absolutely necessary. This is one of those unfortunate situations that can happen to anybody. Mario and I have been together over 9 years and have faced some difficult situations but this by far the hardest thing that we have ever dealt with. Currently Mario is facing 3 felony charges CA penal code 452C, 18710, 18720 from an incident that happened Memorial weekend 2012. Here is the short version of the story. We bought a commercially available binary target that can be purchased at retailers such as Bass Pro Shop and Calbelas as well as gun shows and sporting good stores. The most popular brand is Tannerite, http://WWW.Tannerite.com Tannerite brands itself as an exploding target for shooting sports that produces a “cloud of water vapor” and “will not cause a fire”. Memorial day weekend 2012 we took a family trip with other veterans and their families for a weekend of camping, hiking, shooting and fishing to our friends 250 acres of private land in Cabazon (the desert). On the list of activities was shooting the Tannerite. A fire broke out and “3 acres of annual brush was burned”. We called 911 and thought we did everything right. Originally Mario received a misdemeanor fire citation, however in September we arrived at court to find out the Riverside County DA turned the citation into 3 Separate felony charges. This product is still available throughout CA and not regulated by the AFTE ( http://www.atf.gov binary explosives). To date, we have spent $60,000 of our own money to get these charges dropped. These absurd charges have put our family into financial hardship. Riverside county DA wants to send Mario to jail over this and make him a felon and we should not be ok with that. Mario served this country for 7 years and is a disabled COMBAT Marine yet he is being thrown the book to be made case law for the state of California. We need your help! I am asking everyone to help defend our freedoms and rights by donating to our court costs. The denomination is whatever you are comfortable with $10 or $10,000 , but if only 300 of our friends donate $100 then we will easily meet our goal. This money will be applied towards our court costs (Trial set for Aug 20th) which are estimated $45,000. We thank you all of you for your help.”

    1. avatar Matt in FL says:

      So she says “We bought a commercially available binary target that can be purchased at retailers…” and “The most popular brand is Tannerite…”

      Did they buy actual Tannerite, or another brand? If it was another brand, then they shouldn’t be dragging Tannerite’s name into it, should they?

      1. avatar Dena Woerner says:

        Tannerite® Sports has reached out to Mario Caycedo. Although Tannerite® brand targets were not used or involved during the incident, the company has been in communication with Caycedo’s attorney as recent as eight days ago. We have been providing expert legal consulting and technical information to his so he can be properly represented.

        The Riverside, CA District Attorney is in error in blaming Tannerite® because our a Tannerite® brand target was not involved in the incident.

        1. avatar De~Pistola says:

          Thanks Dena,
          It’s good to see Tannerite stepping up to the plate for this guy, even though it was not necessarily their product, it is the same type of product and it is good to see the manufactures of this stuff vouching for it. They want to outlaw this, and this stuff is really fun to shoot if done properly and I would hate to see a case like this passing through the courts as a loss for a safe and fun product. God knows the last thing we need is more regulation and every fight lost gives the other side of this argument fuel for there fire. We need more companies like Tannerite around..

    2. avatar Jason Ward says:

      I am also a disabled veteran and I think you and your family for your service to our country, and I’m very sorry that your family is having to go through this. Is the issue that the product is illegal in California or is the issue the fire itself? I have seen Tannerite while mixed and used properly start fires myself and know that this can happen, my thoughts and prayers are with a fellow wounded warrior, The family supporting him and I must say I am absolutely amazed and impressed that the company is helping with legal aid.

  4. avatar I_Like_Pie says:

    We banned it out our range because no-sense hoons were shooting it at 7:00 on a Sunday morning. I like to shoot the stuff too, but I would have paid money to have these people with such poor judgement banned from our property.

  5. avatar Mark N. says:

    This from Fox news:

    Exploding targets are popular at gun ranges, but not with federal law enforcement authorities who say the unregulated product not only has caused devastating forest fires but can also be a cheap source of bomb-making materials for extremists.

    Selling for as little as $5 and packaged under names such as Shockwave, Sureshot, White Lightning, Zombie Boom, Blue Thunder and the original brand, Tannerite, the targets, or ETs, include an oxidizer — usually ammonium nitrate, and a fuel, typically aluminum flakes. The compounds are sold separated and remain inert until they are mixed. Once made volatile, they create an explosion that the U.S. Forest Service says can ignite vegetation.

    “In the past year alone, at least 16 wildfires on national forests have been associated with exploding targets, causing millions of dollars in suppression costs while threatening the safety and well-being of surrounding communities,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.

    An order issued Monday by the agency bans the targets in forests and grasslands in Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota. Violators could face a fine of up to $5,000 and be sent prison for up to six months. But perhaps just as worrisome as the potential for starting fires is the targets’ potential for yielding bomb-making ingredients.

    “…the FBI has identified multiple incidents where criminals and extremists have explored the possibility of employing the binary explosive mixture obtained from ETs as a means to commit criminal and terrorist acts,” stated a report released earlier this year by the FBI’s Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center.

    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/08/06/fbi-warns-exploding-targets-could-be-used-for-ieds/#ixzz2bWgtVhLo

    1. avatar RegT says:

      Mark the Limey beat me to it when he indicated the FBI’s less-than-ethical attempt to tie these binary explosives into terrorist activity. To creatively play with language the way the FBI apparently likes to, we could take their own words and – simply leaving out a few (and adding nothing they did not write themselves) come up with this statement: “…the FBI has explored the possibility of employing the binary explosive mixture obtained from ETs as a means to commit criminal and terrorist acts,” Themselves, or their Confidential Informants. perhaps?

      It is common knowledge that the FBI is fond of preparing everything necessary to commit a criminal or even a terrorist act and then try to talk an individual into going along with it. These “stings” are common in FBI behavior and have resulted in some arrests that might never have happened if they did not encourage the individual by making it as easy as possible. It makes one wonder how many times they have tried to entice some half-wit, wanna-be young black kid or jihadi from the inner city to take some binary explosive and develop a weapon out of it. Those of us familiar with these binary _TARGETS_ understand they are essentially useless for any other purpose than making a loud noise and a quantity of water vapor.

      Nonetheless, The FBI – along with their old pals the Southern Poverty Law Center (a far-Left organization determined to convince Federal law enforcement that those of us who are veterans and support the Constitution are deranged domestic terrorists) – continues to attempt to define those of us who enjoy the shooting sports as a threat. Many thanks are due to the Tannerite folks for keeping things straight with the BATFE so that we law-abiding shooters can continue to use these fun targets for their original – and stated – purpose.

  6. avatar Mark N. says:

    Posted by a senior member Tincon of CalGuns on that forum:
    “Tannerite is illegal in this state, period. I understand it is for sale everywhere, it was prominently displayed in a gun shop I was in this morning. It’s still illegal, by which I mean the most reasonable interpretation of the penal statutes would appear to prohibit it, and successful prosecutions are occurring.

    The fact that Dan Tanner is still promoting and selling the stuff here in CA, and falsely claiming it is legal, and further falsely claiming that Tannerite will provide suitable legal help to buyers, is flat out reprehensible. They know what is going on here, and they don’t care. It’s disgusting. Don’t buy it, and tell people you know not to buy it. It just isn’t worth it.”

    1. avatar Felix says:

      Tincon is a well-known self-proclaimed expert on calguns. District Attorneys with an axe to grind can certainly cause a lot of grief for Tannerite users and I avoid it for just that reason, but it is not definitively illegal in California.

      1. avatar Dena Woerner says:

        Tannerite(r) is not illegal in the state of California. Tannerite(r) brand of binary exploding rifel targets does not cause fires. I would like to urge users to pay attention our plea for common sense when using our targets. Tannerite(r) brand targets are only legally to be used as a shot indicator.

        A Plea for Common Sense

        Given the popularity of binary exploding targets, there are a huge number of shooters using these targets in a safe and fun manner. There are, however, users doing unwise things with these targets. Please be sure to use these targets as a shot indicator only and away from populated areas. Continued misuse of these targets may result in restrictions on their use. The future of these targets is in your hands, so please use them properly.

    2. avatar Dena Woerner says:

      Tannerite(r) exploding targets are not illegal in California.

    3. avatar Dan says:

      Please, show us all of these ‘successful convictions’. You can’t because it’s not true. The closest thing to a conviction was Mario making a private deal with the DA before the “Fundme.com” above…. where they apparently try to fleece people into thinking it was Tannerite. Then what became of the funds that people sent him? More to it than meets the eye.

    4. avatar David says:

      Dan tanner is the only Ceo in the country that I know of that will actually give out his personal cell and talk one on one with a person Tannerite is the safe and effective people that The bitch about the noise I want to infringe on the rights of the people that are using this need to quit being so close minded grab a bottle and go out to the range once you shoot it you will be hooked it’s an awesome feeling and it makes a lot of noise but it doesn’t harm anybody

  7. avatar Wyatt says:

    I love this stuff, but it’s demonstrably disruptive to scenery. I’ve used some licensed “rimfire” size targets by another company, and its incredibly easy to leave a pockmarked battlefield where a pretty meadow once was.

    Yeah, forests are big, and there can be a lot of forests, but I can see why the Forest Service hates this stuff – you can’t pick up craters like you could with litter. Responsible use IMO calls for private land or ranges who OK it. If you do shoot on public land, rig or buy stands or stakes to keep from destroying the terrain.

    1. avatar Matt in FL says:

      Yeah, it’ll definitely blow holes in the ground. Whenever we’ve used it, we’ve had it on a stand of some kind (often just a section of trunk from a felled tree).

  8. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    This stuff is awesome. It has a very nice deep boom. Love the feel of it at 100 yards. Very fun.

  9. avatar Out_Fang_Thief says:

    A brief search of Youtube of people using Tannerite in ways that are not intended, with 35lbs, and 50lbs of Tannerite, I can see why the Feds are slightly concerned. 50lbs of Tannerite demolishes a car fairly completely, and 35lbs destroys a beaver dam leaving nothing recognizable of the dam left. When properly used, Tannerite is a good, and relatively safe, effective product. As with any product, deliberate misuse by individuals can lead to mayhem, injury, and death. From what I have just seen, the fact that it doesn’t catch fire is not the problem. TNT, RDX, and other such products aren’t used because they do or don’t start fires, they’re used because they’re good at blowing things up. Tannerite in a large enough quantity is good at that too.

  10. avatar Pat Chiles says:

    I can’t believe the ATF hasn’t already come after this stuff.

    Several years ago we had a big court fight with ATF over regulating amateur rocketry propellant; they improperly classified it as “explosive” and placed all sorts of cumbersome (read: expensive) rules on purchase & storage. And when I say “improperly” I mean they went so far as to rig tests and fake data, which was eventually exposed in DC circuit court. We won after many years and several hundred thousand $$ in legal fees (and this from a pretty small national organization).

    Not saying I think they *should* go after it, I’m just surprised they *haven’t*. They must be too busy arming up the Sinaloas.

  11. avatar Jim R says:

    There’s too much stuff built up around here for me to be able to use this stuff. Even if there wasn’t, my range prohibits anything but paper targets.

  12. avatar jim says:

    I shot a gallon plastic jug of Cajun Chef hot sauce with a hollow-point .22-250 and made a bigger mess than any watermelon I’ve ever shot. Got busted by the BATFC (Bureau of Likker, Cigars, Guns and Capsaicin) for Tragic Waste of Condiments.

  13. avatar Mike the Limey says:

    “…the FBI has identified multiple incidents where criminals and extremists have explored the possibility of employing the binary explosive mixture obtained from ETs as a means to commit criminal and terrorist acts,”

    “Explored the possibility”.

    Conveniently leaving out the truth – that they then dismissed using them because it wasn’t feasible to do so.

  14. avatar jrflesch says:

    interesting way to use tannerite http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wp1orwzoYCY

  15. avatar Comrade X says:

    Just like with guns there is a lot of misinformation out there with Tannerite.

    Tannerite does not start fires, try it and you will find that out for your self. Flash bang targets can and they are not Tannerite as do all the other many copies of Tannerite.

    If Tannerite is to be found guilty of something let it be at least for something that is truthful. If someone misuses anything blame should always lie with the misuser IMHO.

    My understand that when the ATF does their regular review of Dan and his products; they spend three times the amount of time with their reviews and they always find him to be running a very legit operation.

  16. avatar Linda says:

    I don’t understand this at all. The need to explode something? The cost of this ‘fun’ event and the risks of flying plastic, scaring wildlife, using a high powered rifle that could kill someone, polluting the air, risking fires, ear damage, and the misuse that could harm or kill others in a terrorist attack. Why would our government allow this product to be sold? I see nothing productive or constructive in this and if children are allowed to witness parents doing this or are allowed to shot the rifles, it is giving them very poor examples of healthy behavior. I think this is just ridiculous. Is this something that people with the need for sensationalism, adrenaline pumping thrills, and manic episodes gravitate to? God help us all. Isn’t there something more constructive one could do that would benefit humanity than to blow things up?

    1. avatar Mike the Limey says:

      You plainly have no idea what is involved in shooting reactive targets, or what is either a good or bad influence on children.
      If you’re really worried about the latter, go protest against NAMBLA or PETA, or the rotten education system.

    2. Well Linda.
      We are sorry that you feel the way you do. We, and apparently most people in this great Nation, love proficiency and accuracy with our firearms…. a right that is so important that it is specifically guaranteed in this Country. If you don’t enjoy exercising your 2nd Amendment rights, that’s fine, but you have no business telling others that they should not. We suggest you try the product before passing judgment, or maybe you should move to an oppressed Country….whatever makes you feel warm and fuzzy and more self righteous at the moment.

      1. avatar Dustin says:

        AMEN!!!

    3. avatar Bryan says:

      I wonder how you feel about fire works? people like reactive targets for the same reason. they go bang!
      ever see a child at a fire works show? how ever i would like to see some sort of amonium nitrate buyer check. I have bought this stuff on line with not one question as to my age or my need of the product. I think all shooters should be able to get it but there are a lot of questionable persons that should not be able to get it (Boston)(Oklahoma)

  17. avatar weelman smith says:

    It is legal here in North Carolina people over here are smart enough to use the targets any brand on a plowed field of their own land sound is not disturbing the peace between 6am and 11pm no fires in plowed soil actually amonimum nitrate is fertilizer an helps the soil so I say pull the trigger and have some fun

    1. avatar Tannerite says:

      Of course it’s legal if used as prescribed.

  18. avatar weelman smith says:

    And Linda up there cannot say that she has not been and seen a fireworks display on holiday’s tthey go boom and are loud she just wants something to piss an moan about sounds like she needs to shoot one or get layer or something to enjoy life instead of bitch

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