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.