I am standing perhaps twenty yards in front of an unbelievably well-abused refrigerator holding an M1 Garand, pondering the life choices which have led up to this moment. It is a warm spring day in central Texas, and some friends and I have gathered on the ranch of my buddy Jon. We have already shot the appliance in question to pieces, tearing the doors off and perforating all remaining surfaces. The sole contents of this refrigerator are now a single can of beans, and a three-pound charge of explosive. The explosive we are using is referred to as TanneriteTM, a genericised trademark for an explosive target which has boomed in popularity in recent years.

As far as explosives go, this one is both rather boring and something of an oddity. You can purchase both name-brand TanneriteTM and the various more-or-less identical competitors at many sporting goods stores in the United States, which hasn't been the case for most explosives for longer than I have been alive. It is a binary explosive, meaning that two components must be mixed for it to work. It consists of ammonium nitrate and powdered aluminum. In the same way that Ammonium Nitrate-Fuel Oil mixes are abbreviated ANFO, TanneriteTM is also referred to as ANAL. From what I understand, it remains legal to sell because it is sold unmixed, so you aren't buying explosives per se, but the ingredients. Mixing them and blowing them up on your land is legal, but transporting or storing the mixed explosive is not. All of the preceding is merely how I have been led to understand the legal situation, I am not a lawyer. The chemical characteristics are fairly boring, as it is a very stable explosive.

It is sold as an explosive target, to be used in the following way: the user opens the large plastic jar which contains the prills of ammonium nitrate, and tears the little foil pouch of aluminum powder open. The aluminum is poured into the ammonium nitrate, and the jar is closed and then shaken or turned to mix the powders. Most products of this nature have a label on the side of the jar printed on high-visibility orange paper, to serve as the point of aim. The mixed jar is then placed at a safe distance, and fired upon with a rifle. Most pistol cartridges do not have sufficient energy to actually set the mixture off. The bullet impact causes the explosive to explode, and fun is had by all. As far as I know, ANAL explosives have yet to be used in terrorism, at least in the US. Apparently they are common in IEDs in other parts of the world where more powerful explosives are in short supply, though these are usually set off with a high-explosive booster charge. 

All of this is background to the fact that I am standing twenty yards in front of a metal box with three pounds of low explosive in it. Admittedly, the doors have been torn off of it, and the can of beans has been placed below and to one side of the charge, but in retrospect, this still wasn't as safe as it could have been. Further behind me are the smarter people at the ranch, a few of whom are recording the events about to transpire with smartphones. I brace the rifle with the sling, take aim, and fire. I hit the charge on the first try.

There is a fireball about six feet in diameter, and the refrigerator departs this Earth amid the loudest noise I have yet heard in my life. There are a few seconds of exuberant celebration, complete with hip-thrusting and shouted profanity, until we all notice that we have started a small grass fire. After putting that out with water dredged from a stock tank using an empty 40mm grenade ammo can, we examine the area. The largest piece of the refrigerator found was a square foot of sheet metal, about fifty yards to my left. The beans were embedded six inches into the dirt. Everyone lived, and nobody was hurt. Next time, I think I'll stand further away.


Here's a photo I uploaded of the event.

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