Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Blow yer ';ead orf, why don't you?

I love a bang as much as the next man but municipal fireworks on St.Patrick's night is as near as we get to such things in Ireland. Obviously it's a lot more 'exciting' in Syria, with complete strangers raining bombs down on towns until they look like Coventry or Dresden in the 1940s. I was waxing lyrical about allowing smart young people to blow things up, the better to understand how dangerous they can be; rather than watching the SloMo guys do an oil-fire BLEVE for you at one remove from reality.  Two removes from reality, playing violent video-games is just for saddos.  Explosives are dangerous, and I've seen the damage they can do, but that's not to say that we should forbid kids to try things out for themselves.

I did say ". . .allowing smart young people . . ." because they can be counted on to think things through.  If they fail, then it's like the Darwin Awards: sad but the race is fitter. We should, however, do something to protect the less able: those who can't read the label for example. Last month in Georgia (the US state, not the country) a young chap blew off his leg by loading a ride-on mower with 3lb = 1.4kg of Tannerite and then shooting at it until it exploded. The manufacturers caution against using more than 0.5lb and then only from a sensible distance - which gets bigger as the quantity of explosive increases. The gossoon from Georgia was only 10m (and closing) when the stuff did what it says on the tin.  YoungTurks, the leftie TV channel used the incident to label all gun owners, and especially the National Rifle Association NRA, as mad, bad and dangerous to know. If you're not from the rural Republican core of middle USA, chances are you won't have heard of Tannerite.

But, if you know much about the violent history of WWI, you will have heard of Ammonal, which is the base on which Tannerite is a development. In 1916, Ammonal didn't say anything on the tin because it was a top secret wheeze by the British but the name betrayed its table of contents - Ammonium and Aluminium. In particular, it consists of ammonium nitrate as an oxidant and particles of aluminium as fuel; a bit of milled charcoal is usually added as well. Anyone who thinks that aluminium doesn't burn should check out HMS Sir Galahad during the Falkland'sWar. Amatol is similar but has a proportion of  TNT [prev] for added 'brisance'.  Ammonium nitrate is used as a fertiliser and aluminium is cheap enough to produce.  More to the point both compounds are quite stable and the mixture can be dropped from a great height and not go off.  It can also be shipped across the country and sold to anyone with <$100.

Ammonal was first used in anger [or cold-blooded malice] on 1st July 1916 as the opening act of the Battle of the Somme. The bang went up nicely, the earth moved and people died but the explosion wasn't properly integrated into a coherent attack and the Somme developed into a costly and drawn out debacle that killed 20,000 British soldiers on that day alone. Nevertheless, large explosions under enemy lines before an attack became part of the unholy writ of war.  The British used the next 11 months to snake mines out from Ypres towards and under the German front line on the Messines Ridge. They then loaded each of 26 tunnel-ends with between 9 and 15 tonnes of Ammonal (something like 500 tonnes in all) and in the small hours of 7th June 1917 sent the whole thing, and 10,000 German soldiers, sky high.  They didn't detonate the four mines at the South end of the ridge because the ground above had been captured and two other mines were beyond reach because the service tunnel had [been] collapsed.  After the war, the British army went home and left those time-bombs in place.  One took a lightning strike in 1955, which made a big bang, a big hole and killed a cow.

That was then, Tannerite is now. The Tannerite company is serving their community: We will do anything with in our power to assist in making any transaction with you fast, affordable and righteous. Righteous?  That's a funny word to use in your marketing. Sorry Canucks: "We Can Not ship to CANADA Unless you have an Explosive Importation Permit from Canada National Resources" And I daresay that restriction applies to Ukraine, Brazil and Japan.  But you can order your binary rifle targets from Tannerite Inc.  Try the 6-pack starter box for $35? Binary rifle targets? You have to mix the two ingredients yourself.  A mixing bowl for the recommended 0.5lb dose; a large bucket if you want to do something spectacular.  Binary rifle targets? You can't set ammonal off by kicking it, or even blasting it with a shot-gun. No, it needs to take a high-velocity round to overcome the energy of activation and make the explosion take hold. Binary rifle targets? The product is marketed so that you can determine if your rifle has hit the target even when it's on the other side of the valley.  Only bad-boys put large quantities together to scale up.

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