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The Danger of Homemade and Illegal Devices

Fireworks are a serious business, and homemade fireworks are no joke, as all fireworks enthusiasts know.  Illegal explosives are not safe; they have not been tested for compliance with federal standards and generally contain a dangerous amount of pyrotechnic composition. 

Phantom Fireworks® recommends the fireworks user follows stringent safety rules when using Phantom products (see Fireworks University - Safety Tips), and we strongly advise our customers never to alter their consumer fireworks products in any fashion. 

The fireworks products you purchase from Phantom Fireworks®  have gone through rigorous testing to insure that the products meet the manufacturing and performance safety standards enforced by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).  If you alter or modify the products in any way, you lose all that protection, and you are then dealing with illegal explosives.

Pyrotechnics Guild International

If you have an interest in making any type of explosive item, we strongly recommend that you be in touch with your state Fire Marshal and an organization such as the Pyrotechnics Guild International, Inc. (PGI).  The PGI is the premier organization for amateur fireworks enthusiasts interested in making explosives.  The PGI's objectives, among others, are to "promote the safe and sane display and use of pyrotechnics" and to "channel the creative energies of talented people into the design, production, and display of high quality pyrotechnics by example of the membership and through the sharing of knowledge."  You can check out the PGI at

Illegal Explosives

Illegal explosives have been outlawed by federal law since 1966.  The laws against such dangerous devices are enforced by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF), and the mere possession of such items can result in your being federally prosecuted with substantial monetary penalties and jail time attached to a conviction.  In addition to the criminal aspect of possession of such items, they are very dangerous, and you could subject yourself and those around you to severe injury if you use these items. 

For instance, one of the standards enforced by the CPSC is called the "fuse burn time" standard.  The fuses on the fireworks products must burn a minimum of three (3) seconds and a maximum of nine (9) seconds.  Imagine the recipe for disaster that presents itself when you have an illegal explosive like an M-80 or Cherry Bomb with much more pyrotechnic charge than is permitted by law coupled with a fuse that doesn't burn the minimum three (3) seconds.  You may be presented with a situation that will not allow you enough time to light the illegal explosive and get it away from you.  That is how people get fingers blown off and sustain even worse injuries.

Illegal explosives are not fireworks.  They can contain hundreds times more pyrotechnic loading than the legal firecrackers.  For instance, by definition and federal law, a legal firecracker can contain no more than 50 milligrams of pyrotechnic composition.  A full-dose aspirin typically contains 325 mg. of composition.  By comparison, the pyrotechnic composition in a legal firecracker is actually less than one sixth (1/6) the size of a full dose aspirin. 

Compare this to an illegal explosive like what is commonly referred to as a M-80, which contains approximately 7 grams of powder; about 140 times the legal limit.  M-100s contain about 20 grams of powder; about 400 times the legal limit.  Other unsafe items include cherry bombs and sparkler bombs.  Some of these items are comparable to a quarter to a whole stick of dynamite.  These products are not fireworks and are classified as illegal explosives. 

Illegal explosives are easy to recognize, because they will be somewhat primitive in their appearance and will have no labeling or warnings on them at all.  Warning labels are required on all fireworks products by federal law.  If you become aware of any person selling or using these illegal explosives, please call the ATF Hot Line to report this illegal activity at: 1-888-ATF-BOMB.

Examples of Illegal Explosives

  • M-80 Cherry Bombs

  • M-100 Ash Can

  • M-250 Quarter Stick

  • M-1000 Half Stick

Fireworks Safety

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