Tannerite, which is typically used as an explosive target for firearms practice, has been making the news for all of the wrong reasons lately.
In New Hampshire, a family used 80-pounds of Tannerite for a gender reveal party. The result was a massive explosion that cracked the foundations of surrounding homes.
Let’s take a closer look at what Tannerite is and why it’s increasingly the source of litigation.
What is Tannerite?
Tannerite is the brand name of an explosive made from ammonium nitrate, ammonium perchlorate, and powdered aluminum (ingredients that aren’t explosive on their own, but are explosive when combined).
Generic mixtures of ammonium nitrate and powdered aluminum are also typically referred to as “Tannerite,” the way the brand name “Band-Aid” is used to refer to all types of adhesive bandages.
Tannerite is intended to be used for target practice because it produces a loud bang and puff of smoke when struck with a bullet traveling at least 2,000 feet per second. However, when large amounts of the chemicals are combined, the result is a powerful explosion.
Over the last few years, people have begun using Tannerite for purposes other than target practice, including:
- Commercial blasting
- Product testing
- Special effects
- Gender reveal parties (Tannerite sells a “Boom Box” product for this specific purpose)
Is Tannerite legal?
Tannerite is legal and largely unregulated.
Tannerite is sold as a “mixing kit,” requiring the purchaser to mix the components of Tannerite together. Because the components are not explosive on their own, Tannerite is not considered an “explosive” as sold and, therefore, it’s not regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF).
"It comes with an oxidizer," said Sgt. Jeff Dade, of the New Hampshire State Police Bomb Squad. "The fuel is in a separate packet, and you mix it, and once mixed, you would place it somewhere safely out in a range where you would then shoot it."
There is a minor exception to the lack of regulation.
For certain prohibited persons, it’s illegal to possess explosive materials, including the individual components that make Tannerite. Prohibited persons include any person who:
- Is under indictment or has been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than 1 year
- Is a fugitive from justice
- Is an unlawful user of, or addicted to, any controlled substance
- Has been adjudicated as a “mental defective” or has been committed to a mental institution
- Is a non-citizen, or “alien” (with some exceptions)
- Has been discharged from the armed forces under dishonorable conditions
- Has renounced their United States citizenship
Several states have proposed legislation to regulate the sale and distribution of Tannerite, including New York and Indiana. Thus far, Maryland and California are the only states to have successfully passed laws prohibiting Tannerite (and other explosive materials) from being purchased, used, or carried without an explosives license.
Tannerite accidents and lawsuits
Tannerite and other companies that sell exploding targets have been sued on a number of occasions.
Here’s a look at a couple of representative lawsuits:
The District Attorney’s office for San Diego County and Riverside County sued Tannerite and the sides eventually reached a settlement.
Under the terms of the settlement, Tannerite is required to clearly state that its targets require a permit to possess in California because they’re considered “explosive and destructive devices.” The settlement also stipulated that the 2 San Diego residents who started the wildfire receive $50,000 reimbursement for the funds they paid to the BLM.
Jason yelled “fire in the hole” and pulled the trigger. The H2 inside the refrigerator immediately exploded. The explosion, given the quantity of H2 and the enclosed, unvented metal space in which it occurred, blew shrapnel across the yard. A piece of metal sliced through Jennifer Plank-Greer’s hand, cutting the bone and leaving four of her fingers dangling by the remaining skin.
Jennifer filed a lawsuit in the U.S District Court for the Northern District of Ohio alleging that H2 Targets' products were defective in design and that both the manufacturer and distributor failed to provide adequate instructions and warnings.
"It's a dangerous product and frankly, the foreseeable risks of this product far outweigh any benefit you could ever get from it," said Jennifer’s attorney. "The fact that someone was not fatally injured in this explosion is a miracle, really."
The sides ultimately settled the case.
Do you have a Tannerite explosion claim?
To file a lawsuit against Tannerite (or a similar company), you’ll need to prove that the product was defective in some way. There are 3 types of defects that can be cause for a product liability case:
- Manufacturing defect. A defectively manufactured product is one that—though properly designed—left the manufacturer in a condition other than intended.
- Design defect. A product is defectively designed if it fails to perform as safely as a reasonable person would expect, even when used as intended (or at least in a manner that was reasonably foreseeable). In other words, the product is “unreasonably dangerous” as is.
- Failure to warn. Manufacturers have a duty to warn users of the dangers that can be reasonably anticipated and that are inherent in their products.
The most common defenses raised by Tannerite and other companies that sell similar products are:
- The real cause of the harm was a substantial modification (for example, the plaintiff added additional explosive materials).
- The real cause of the harm was a misuse of the product (for example, the plaintiff used Tannerite to blow up a refrigerator).
A Day says
On Sunday, Father’s Day at around 2pm and while relaxing and enjoying the holiday, our home was hit by a sound wave blast that caused the floors to heave and walls sway. Since we do not have many close by neighbors we were quickly able to determine the direction of the blast. Upon investigation by local law enforcement it was determined the neighbor had used this substance and had caused the blast. We examined all our windows to determine if there was cracked glass but none was found, luckily. The shock from this substance was overwhelming creating an anxiety attack by all in our home. I had never heard of this stuff and was only able to gain information by doing a google search. My question is, why on earth is this legal for use in a residential setting by anyone?
Kay Smith says
My 4th of July 2021 was totally ruined by neighbors exploding tannerite nearly a dozen times. My nerves were shattered, I had to vacate my home and I became increasingly irritated at the logic in passing laws allowing such dangerous substances to be sold. The apathy toward public safety and potential for death or injury is unconscionable. People can be drinking or be on drugs while detonating tannerite, so it could never be safely monitored or controlled. The shear potential for terroristic events can never be underestimated. While the “Tannerite” company has faced lawsuits, I feel that not enough has been done to stop the sale of it altogether.
People could be drinking or doing drugs while operating a vehicle too. Should we stop selling cars? You can’t fix stupid and it doesn’t matter what it is. Someone stupid will always do stupid stuff. Should we stop selling tide pods too?
Joe M says
To whom it may be concerned
The explosive TANNARITE is a Dangerous Explosive and should not be allowed for recreational purposive. It is very annoying. and dangerous for people with health conditions. I believe it should be outlawed as it is in many states. I belong to the NRA and think they should also do something about it. If it is illegal to use firecrackers in my state of Michigan, this is many times more dangerous.
It’s not against the law to use fireworks in Michigan it’s been legal for over 10 years
Is setting off 9 lbs. of tannerite considered a bomb
Jeremiah Lucifer says
It’s clearly label as a shooting target, just like a paper target, tin can, skeet so on and so forth.
Now see it helps you to get on target and shoot, see what I’m talking about?
Just like Skeet except it’s a stationary target, if you hit it it’s like a sheet plate falling apart.
That’s the way I understand it to read in the instructions provided.
Sonic Boom says
I didn’t realize we as a nation have a new problem concerning explosions. The use of Tannerite should be regulated by the Bureau of A.T.F.. In the wrong hands, we as a nation are training future terrorists. Come on America, step up your game before innocent lives and property is lost.
Eddie Hascal says
I think the angle we need to take on this is that it is already illegal to purchase or possess or set off explosives at home, without a proper license or permit, according to what I have read online. Now why does that law exist? Because private people have no training in how to safely use explosive, nor is there typically adequate space, like empty square miles of land, to set off a bomb without injuring or frightening, or at least disturbing those nearby. It seem to follow then that this same law should apply to “Tannerite” style substances, where the ingredients for a bomb are provided for the expressed purpose of being mixed and exploded. There is not difference, except that it’s more safely handled and transported in its unmixed state, but just as dangerous when mixed. So it should be considered an explosive, just like 2 part epoxy is considered an adhesive. It’s still ultimately an explosive in the hands of an unlicensed, untrained private person with no need for it and no safe environment in which to use it. Maybe it should be more of a zoning thing. Let it be a free country – if you own 30,000 acres in Colorado and want to blow part of it sky high, maybe that’s ok. But I don’t think you should allowed to set off a bomb when you have neighbors next door who’s walls are shaking as a result. Our HOA has very permissive covenants, and we still have general catch-all rules about not creating a disturbance to each other.