Forest Service bans exploding targets in Rocky Mountain Region

The U.S. Forest Service announced today that the agency has banned exploding targets on National Forest system lands in the Rocky Mountain Region. In October when we first wrote about these devices that explode when shot with a rifle, we listed 24 wildfires we found with a quick internet search that were started by shooters using the targets in 2012.

Exploding targets have become popular in the last year with shooters who get a thrill from seeing the explosion when their bullet hits its mark. The devices are sometimes called “binary exploding targets”, since they are completely inert until two powders are mixed by the target shooter. After they are combined, the compound is illegal to transport and is classified as an explosive by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and is subject to the regulatory requirements in 27 CFR, Part 555.

In June a man attending a bachelor-bachelorette party in Minnesota was killed by an exploding target. After someone shot the device, shrapnel struck 47-year-old Jeffery Taylor in the abdomen causing his death.

The new ban affects national forest system lands in the states of Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, Colorado, and Kansas. Under the Order prohibiting the devices, anyone using them can face a fine of up to $5,000 and imprisonment of not more than 6 months. The Order is effective for one year and expires August 2, 2014.

The U.S. Forest Service has previously banned exploding targets on national forests in Washington, Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas according to Forest Service spokeswoman Sarah Levy.

The Bureau of Land Management bans them during certain times on their land in some states — not only the use but the possession of the devices.

“The Bureau of Land Management is working on a Fire Prevention Order that will ban exploding targets on BLM lands in Colorado as well,” said John Bierk, State Staff Ranger for BLM Colorado/Eastern States.

They are also banned or soon will be when new legislation takes effect on state lands, at least under some conditions, in Washington, Utah, Oregon, and Idaho.

Exploding targets have started at least 16 wildfires since 2012 on Forest Service lands in 8 western states causing the federal government to spend approximately $33.6 million in suppression costs. The U.S. Forest Service provided the table below which lists seven fires started by exploding targets in the Rocky Mountain Region during that time period. The fires burned a total of 1,187 acres in the Region and cost $2.9 million to suppress.

Fires caused by exploding targets

“Exploding targets pose a very real safety threat to visitors and our employees” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.

“We have seen a significant increase in the use of exploding targets on National Forest lands within the Region” said U.S. Forest Service Regional Special Agent in Charge Laura Mark. “Our objective is to educate the public on the dangers associated with the use of these targets in vegetation that can ignite a fire, as well as the safety risk they pose to the public, our employees and first responders. In addition to the seven fires caused by exploding targets on national forests in the Region since 2012, explosives ordinance demolition experts have had to respond on three occasions this year to safely dispose of unused targets that had been mixed but not yet used.”

Thanks go out to Rick

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

6 thoughts on “Forest Service bans exploding targets in Rocky Mountain Region”

  1. Mr, Gabbert,
    I am researching the reactive/exploding target debate. I found your blog and the information therein to be the best so far.
    As we know, folks are using a number of marketed and homebrew exploding targets. When it comes to fires created by “exploding targets” it would be nice to know the exact type of exploding target that caused the fire in each case. More to the point, what percentage of fires are being caused by homebrew targets (propane bottles, gas cans, marketed targets with additional homebrew ingredients added), as opposed to marketed targets themselves? Also, which of the marketed targets (i.e.Tannerite, Star, etc.) are more prone to producing flame when shot?

    1. Rick, to me, it does not matter which are worse than others. It is my understanding than any exploding target is at best, dangerous to personnel. And even one of the most popular commercially-made versions is shown in a video to produce flames while exploding. It appears that you are trying to find a loophole so that exploding targets can continue to be used, either by everyone or yourself.

      1. Mr. Gabbert,
        Thank-you for your reply.
        Rest assured that I am only researching the debate and I am not a consumer of any exploding target. However, there are many “dangers to personnel” in this world and we cannot regulate, and enforce regulation on every little thing that is deemed unsafe. Firearms are dangerous, but we educate and apply restrictions when necessary. However, we don’t outright legislate their disuse on public lands.
        I am not trying to find a “loophole” (a word with connotations that imply some sort of sneakiness), what I am trying to do is to determine if there is a safe and happy medium to using a reactive target like Tannerite. I am also trying to determine if regulators are using a legal commodity like Tannerite as a scapegoat in order to promote another agenda. I am as transparent as they come.
        Either pointing me in the right direction or providing me the requested data so that I may understand the number of fires caused by commercial targets as opposed to indiscriminate homebrew targets would be much appreciated. I assume you have this information as you appear to be an authority on the subject.

  2. FWIW-the Galuchie fire was caused by a shooter using a propane tank as his “exploding target”.

    1. Mike, I guess it would not hurt to include in the list of states in the Rocky Mountain Region the one where the Regional Office is located. (Fixed it)


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