Reactive Targets Failures
First I took an empty plastic milk jug and put about a tablespoon of gasoline in it. Then I put an explosive target on the outside. Then I got back about 35 yards and shot the exploding target with my 30.06. The theory being that the explosive target would ignite the gasoline vapor inside the milk jug resulting in a big boom and fireball. Well, it sort of worked. I was disappointed. As the animated GIF below shows, the explosive target was much more impressive than the gasoline portion of the fireball. Heavy sigh.
Another thing I tried was a mixture of ammonium nitrate, aluminum powder, and Bullseye powder. This was from Ragnar Benson's book, New and Improved C-4 Better-Than-Ever Recipes for Half the Money and Double the Fun. It didn't work. At least not when I tried to detonate it with rifle fire. I even tried putting an exploding target in the mixture and trying to get it to go off that way.
After some months had past I realized (sometimes I'm just a little slow I guess) that the exploding targets you buy in the gun shops or mail order are patented and the patent has all the information I need to build my own. Also, when I looked up the patent (patent number 4498677) I found out the patent had expired. No need to pay royalties if I built my own! And it turns out the recipe is what is commonly known as "flash powder".
I purchased all the chemicals, but from reading ATF - Explosives Law and Regulations from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, Department of the Treasury ATF P5400.7 (6/90) (also known as "The Orange Book") it appeared I needed to get a license to manufacture explosives before I mixed up the chemicals. I sent in the application and after a few weeks I got a call from an ATF agent. He wasn't going to give me the license -- because I didn't need it for what I wanted to do! He said that as long as I was doing it for private recreational purposes that they didn't care. As long as I wasn't selling it and I wasn't transporting it across state lines they didn't have a problem with it. This didn't take into account State laws, but in Idaho I'm okay. In nearby Washington State this is apparently considered so much fun that it's illegal. I told him about wanting to host a shooting event with it and that the club would be charging money for people to attend. Also, with a license it will be much easier to obtain certain chemicals. He agreed to give me the license and he talked me into something I hadn't planned on, a storage facility for the finished product in case we ever some left over for some reason.
The most disturbing aspect was all the cautions he gave me. He told me they lose more people each year from flash powder accidents than anything else. He asked if I was married or had kids... He told me of someone that wrote a paper on the safe handling of flash powder, sold videos to the industry on how to handle it safely. Then a few years ago he blew himself up with it. I decided I would make flash powder my last resort.