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.