About M-80s

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I created this page because of the alarming number of emails I have received over the years regarding the subject.  Occasionally I get an email along the lines of "tell me how to make M-80's", "why don't you have M-80 instructions on your site?", and "how can I make a bomb using kitchen materials?".  The answer is simple:  I didn't "forget" to put instructions for M-80s and "powerful fireworks" on my website.  I never intend on putting such information on my website.  I chose NOT to put that information on this website.  Why?  M-80s are very dangerous, and very illegal.  

M-80s were invented by the military (hence the M) earlier last century to simulate gunfire/grenades during training missions.  Soon they became extremely popular with the public, and were sold as large firecrackers.  They were powerful devices capable of blowing a human hand to pieces, and needless to say, caused many thousands of injuries over the years.  This inspired congress to pass the Child Protection Act in 1966, which made M-80s and cherry bombs illegal to manufacture in the United States (companies were given until 1976 to sell off the rest of their M-80s).  Unfortunately, many people today still don't believe that the devices are dangerous, and continue to manufacture/sell/buy M-80s despite the severe criminal penalties that could await anyone caught doing so.  Another assumption people make is that M-80s have some relation to dynamite; as the terms "quarter-stick" or "M-80 half-stick" are widely used to describe the power of such explosives.  Anyone who thinks so has no idea what they're talking about.  The compositions used in M-80s and cherry bombs are completely different than those used in dynamite, and the two can't even be compared.  M-80s cannot be compared with high explosives!

"But the guy down at the reservation was selling M-80s and tennis-ball bombs!  That *must* make them legal!"  Think again.  They are illegal everywhere in the United States.  EVERYWHERE.  No exceptions.  Just because you find someone selling these things does not make them legal.  Not even on Indian reservations.  Putting flash powder into a tennis ball (or other object), inserting a fuse, and selling it for 20 bucks is a very easy way to make money for people who have nothing better to do, which is why they continue to be sold.  The legal consequences of selling or possessing these devices can be severe.  Anyone caught doing so can face prison time and devastating fines.

As mentioned before, M-80s, cherry bombs, silver salutes, and other such devices are extremely dangerous.  The number of emails I get and the horrible injury stories I hear regarding these things just shows how ignorant people are of the dangers of M-80s/Cherry Bombs and what they can do to you.  Unlike fireworks, which must adhere to strict safety guidelines (like the amount of pyrotechnic composition they can contain), M-80s and Cherry Bombs are NOT manufactured with your safety in mind.  Consumer fireworks, by law, can contain no more than 500 grams of pyrotechnic composition.  Firecrackers can contain no more than 50 milligrams of flash powder per cracker.  On the other hand, M-80s contain up to 3 grams of flash powder - sixty times the legal limit.  These devices are powerful enough to blow a hole the size of a fist in thick  plywood - even if it's only sitting on top of the wood (see the pictures below)!  The damage they can inflict on the human body is even worse - I've seen many disgusting, disturbing emergency room photographs showing a bloody, blackened stump of what used to be a human hand or foot.  Usually this happens when someone tries to light the fuse (which is usually only an inch long) and throw the device, only to have an unexpectedly fast burn rate cause it to blow up in their hand.  Is this how you would want to spend the 4th of July?  Losing a hand, arm, or even dying from playing around with M-80s?  The potential "fun" or "entertainment" M-80s and Cherry Bombs may provide is vastly outweighed by how incredibly dangerous they are.  

In 2001, someone brought an M-80 type device to my firework show and set it off on one of my firework launch platforms.  It was 3/4" plywood.  It wasn't under the wood, it was just sitting on it.  Here are front and back pictures of wood.  The picture on the right is the top of the wood; the left one shows the bottom. 

  Also, injuries caused by M-80s, Cherry Bombs, and other illegal explosives just add fuel to the ongoing fight to ban consumer fireworks in the United States.  For more info on this, see my Fireworks Injury Statistics Page.  It discusses how anti-firework organizations as well as the media are quick to report on any M-80 injury as a "firework injury", even though they're not fireworks, and lump the statistics together with those of legal fireworks in attempt to make legal fireworks sound far more dangerous than they really are and thus unsuitable for consumer use.  As long as you abstain from using M-80s and Cherry Bombs, there's no possibility of you getting hurt by them and being added to the list of "fireworks" injuries.

Though M-80s, Cherry bombs, and silver salutes are now illegal in the U.S., manufacturers of legal (1.4G) fireworks continue to name their products things such as "M-80 Firecrackers", "M-8000s", etc., in an attempt to lure buyers into thinking the devices are more powerful than they really are, or have some connection to real M-80s.  But they don't - the name is just a marketing gimmick.  They're not even close to being as powerful as real M-80s.  You may be asking, "how can I tell if a firework is real, or has been illegally made?". 

The first step is to be aware of what they look like.  M-80s are approximately and inch and a half long, a half inch in diameter, with a red casing and a stiff, short fuse coming out of the side.  Silver Salutes are basically the same, except they're silver in color.  Cherry Bombs are about an inch in diameter and can easily be mistaken for a consumer "smoke ball".  Their outer surface is uneven and rough.  Another key factor in determining if something is legal is whether or not it has a manufacturer's label.  M-80s and other explosive devices have absolutely no warning label, manufacturer's name, or product number (because they weren't made in factories).  Consumer fireworks are required by federal law to have "FIREWORKS UN0336" (the UN hazard category for consumer fireworks) printed somewhere on the device, which is proof to you that it was made in a factory and has been tested and approved for your use. 

If you want to celebrate the 4th of July or some other occasion, I strongly urge you to go to do so by buying safe, legal consumer fireworks.  There are thousands of different fireworks out there that are quite impressive and spectacular, and far surpass the amount of "fun" you can get by blowing something up with an M-80.  




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All of the information, images, and diagrams on Pyro Universe are copyright 2001-2007 by Colin Bradley, unless otherwise noted.  They are the sole property of Colin Bradley and may not be sold, reproduced, or distributed in any form without permission from the owner.  This includes inserting any information or images from this site into another web page.  Information on this site can be used for reports, research papers, or other school projects, as long as the author is given proper credit by mentioning Pyro Universe in the bibliography (click here to learn how).

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The information on this site is for educational purposes only.  The diagrams and procedures on this web site are simply to show the viewer how fireworks function and how they should be used properly.   Viewers are cautioned that they must form their own opinion as to the application of anything found on this web site.  Fireworks are hazardous devices that must be handled with care and used with common sense to avoid injury.  The author of Pyro Universe does not advocate the use of fireworks for illegal, unsafe, disruptive, or destructive purposes.  By reading the pages of Pyro Universe, you acknowledge that the author takes no responsibility for personal injuries, damage, or legal trouble caused by fireworks or the application of any of the materials presented at this site.  The reader is solely responsible for observing his/her local laws before using fireworks or applying the information presented at this site.