Saturday, July 04, 2009

Bang For Your Buck

In Friday's WSJ, Stephanie Simon writes on the ultimate big bang that amateur fireworks enthusiasts have pursued for years. For when it comes to illegal 'works, the M-80 is the Holy Grail:

The famously potent M-80 has been banned for amateur use since 1966, classified by the federal government as a dangerous explosive. Every year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission stages a gruesome public demonstration in which M-80s and other fireworks obliterate melons and blow the heads off mannequins.

That has hardly diminished their appeal.

In fact, I imagine that seeing such explosive displays would tend to enhance their appeal.

Developed by the U.S. military a century ago to simulate artillery fire, the M-80 doesn’t send up fizzy sparkles or wash the sky in color.

Instead, it makes noise: a brain-rattling, ear-scorching, gut-slamming ka-BOOM that makes an ordinary firecracker sound like a kazoo tweet.

By law, a firecracker sold for on-the-ground consumer use can contain no more than 50 mg of explosives. An M-80 has at least 3,000 mg. (Contrary to urban legend, that is not equivalent to a quarter-stick of dynamite, which typically contains at least 20,000 mg.)

In all our years of fireworks forays, JB and I were never able to lay our hands on the coveted explosive prize. However, I do recall at least one occasion when we were able to witness an M-80 in action (and on the streets of St. Paul no less). And yes, it was real and it was spectacular.

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