Most mysteries have a logical explanation, and the bothersome “booms” that kept 911 dispatchers busy during the December holiday season was no exception.
Authorities say it is likely the thunderous noises were made by recreational shooters blasting away at targets filled with tannerite – a legal, but rather noisy – explosive available through mail order sites or in stores.
“It’s something, as I’ve read, that’s gotten more and more popular,” said Pam Tucker, emergency services division director in Columbia County, where so many “boom” complaints were received in December that the reported locations were plotted on a map.
“Everybody who hears it describes it in the same way,” Tucker said. “When it goes off, it sounds like it’s really near your house and the windows shake a little bit.”
I decided to try the stuff out myself and ordered a case of one-pound targets from eBay.
Although the trademarked name is “Tannerite,” the canisters are also referred to as “binary exploding targets” that arrive as separately packaged “fuel” and “oxidizer” that must be mixed to make them “live.”
According to the product paperwork, the targets are stable even after the chemicals are mixed, and can be detonated only by a high-velocity centerfire bullet of .223 caliber or larger.
“Tannerite is not flammable (it is an oxygen robber and will extinguish fire),” the instructions said. “When the bullet penetrates the black powder, the molecules separate and cause a molecular breakdown which in turn causes a sonic boom and water vapor to appear in the air.”
Did it perform as promised? You betcha.
We chose a bolt-action .243 my sons use for deer hunting, and a venue deep in the rural wilds of Screven County, where we hoped no one would be offended by loud booms.
We mixed the targets as directed and placed them against a 15-foot-tall mound of sawdust left behind by loggers. Shooting from the recommended distance of 100 yards, the 4-inch targets exploded dramatically.
In terms of decibels, I can say it was substantially louder and deeper than any rifle fire I’ve witnessed, and perhaps close to the thunderbooms you might hear at a fireworks display.
We didn’t start any fires or get arrested, but I can see there might be temptation to mix larger quantities of tannerite for larger targets and more spectacular explosions. We refrained from any such nonsense.
Reading the fine print on the product instruction sheet, it explicitly directed that you not add any new chemicals or make any changes to the composition. “We will assume no liability for acts of stupidity or unlawful use,” it said.
The product, it added, is safe, legal and fun. “Please don’t ruin it for everyone else.”
QUAIL UNLIMITED FOLDS: The conservation group once based in Edgefield announced last week it has ceased its operations and thrown its support toward another organization, Quail Forever, an affiliate of Pheasants Forever.
The announcement came from former QU President Bill Bowles, who spearheaded the group’s recovery efforts after it relocated to Albany, Ga., in the wake of financial woes in its found town of Edgefield.
“Our great staff and our great Board of Directors have stood the test and they have given their very best effort. However, the entire Board of Directors and I have made the difficult decision to cease Quail Unlimited operations and go out of business effective immediately.”
In the near future, he continued, members will receive a letter from Quail Forever. explaining exciting news and opportunities. “We hope you will support them in these efforts.”
NEW EDISTO PIER: A new, larger and more accessible aluminum fishing pier has replaced the old wooden fishing pier at Steamboat Landing on Edisto Island, S.C., thanks to funding from the Saltwater Recreational License through a grant from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.
The pier is owned and maintained by Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission, which demolished the old pier. The new structure will provide better angler access and require less maintenance.
As the spring fishing season gets underway, anglers at the new pier can expect to catch trout, red drum, flounder, croaker and blue crab. A grand opening ceremony was held at the new pier on Friday.