My early years

Over in Kim duToit’s forum someone asked about when people learned about firearms and things related.  I told the following story and figured it would of interest here as well.  It’s slightly modified here for lack of some of the context in the forum and to correct a few spelling and grammar errors I found…

Back on the farm we used 1/2 stick of dynamite as the booster charge for the ammonium nitrate we had mixed with diesel.  I wish we had video of all the stumps we launched into the air.  There were hundreds of them.  I got to help with that when I was about 10 years old.   Dad let me shoot the .22 about then too.  My brothers and I shared a BB gun we got when I was about 12.  I went through the “killed a bird and never shot a living thing again” learning experience too.  It was ammonium triodide, an extremely sensitive contact explosive (a feather touching it or even sound will detonate it), that I almost blew up the school with.  The first batch lasted a week as my buddies and I played with tiny samples.  The second batch was much larger and I had the test tube leaning in the corner of my locker with the freshly combined iodine and ammonia with just a stopper loosely sitting on the top (gas is evolved in the process and it needed an escape).  When I came back to the locker it had tipped over and the sludge was about 1/4 inch deep all over the top shelf of the locker and running down the sides.  It was still wet and safe but it was drying out and would soon be explosive to the touch.  I ran to the chemistry teacher while my buddy kept others out of that section of the hallway.  I confessed to the teacher and he helped me clean up the mess without blowing anything up or telling the principal or my parents.  I didn’t tell my parents about it until 30 years later.  My brother and I use oxygen acetylene in plastic jugs and garbage sacks with dynamite fuse to ignite it.  Our biggest explosion shook the house 1/4 mile away and when we got back to the house Mom asked, “Did you hear that sonic boom a few minutes ago?”  We immediately affirmed an experience very similar to hers.

Then there was black powder we made and used in the “cannons” we made out of galvanized pipe.  The hand-loaded paraffin bullet I shot in the old .32-20 that hung on my bedroom wall out the bedroom window in the middle of the night at a stray dog.   All the experiments we did with firecrackers to see what they would do to various things.  Lots of Estes rockets with ‘special’ payloads.  The homemade 4th of July rocket that detonated about 2′ off the ground–fender height of Mom and Dad’s car.  We used the battery in the car for ignition of the rocket engine and it was too close to the launch pad to escape the consequences of the failed launch.

In college (fall of ’73) my interest in women overwhelmed my interest in firearms and pyrotechnics until after Clinton was elected President.  From there you can probably figure out my history from the web.

One thought on “My early years

  1. Remind me to tell you my ammonium triiodide story sometime in a less than public location.

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