That was interesting

I’m at Boomershoot Mecca today and among other things I started work on a Boomerite experiment.

The hypothesis being tested was that water from the Ethylene Glycol (it’s part of the manufacturing process) was degrading the mix over time. “Doc Brown” from work, as well as others, suggested I use a desiccant to remove the water. Ammonium Nitrate is a desiccant and I have tons of that laying around, would that work? Doc Brown said, “Tons? TONS!” I had a hard time getting him to stop obsessing over the quantity and focus on my question but ultimately he insisted that silica gel might be better. Because it probably won’t react with the Ethylene Glycol. He wasn’t sure what would happen with the AN. “But we mix the AN with the EG all the time now. I just want to grind it up some of it first, then mix it with the EG, rather than use it in prill form like we do now. He kept repeating “Tons!” and I had to change the subject.

Today I got to start the experiment.

I thought I had a bunch of silica gel laying around but it turns out it was Desiccite 25. Oh well, I’ll work with whatever I have. I cut open the bag and spread the content on a electric frying pan set at about 230 F. It was amazing the amount of water than condensed on the lid covering just half of the pan. After about 45 minutes no more water was condensing and I put the contents in a zip lock bag.

I put a couple of cups of AN prills in the blender and ground that into a fine powder then put it in the frying pan at about 200 F for about five minutes. No condensation so I put it in a zip lock bag as well.

I put about 3/4 of an inch of the two chemicals in the bottom of some paper cups and poured EG over the chemicals. I mixed the EG and the chemicals, put lids on them, and let them set for an hour.

While those were setting I made two batch of Boomerite. One was the original mix with no attempt to dry the EG. In the second batch I put 3/4 cup of the powdered AN in the bottom of the mixing bowl and put I the usual amount, 45 mL, of EG and mixed it into something which looked like a slushy. I then added 1500 grams prilled AN, mixed for a five seconds, added 400 grams of Potassium Chlorate, mixed for 30 seconds, add the mystery ingredient, and mixed for another 30 seconds. I called this mix Powdered Ammonium Nitrate Mix.

I then used the EG I poured off of the two paper cups I had set aside and mixed as usual.

All Boomerite was put in 3” boxes and closed up using heat shrink bags. The shrink was done using the electric skillet set at 225F.

That gave me four different batches of Boomerite:

  • OM: Original Mix
  • DD: Dried with Desiccite 25
  • DAN: Dried with Ammonium Nitrate
  • PANM: Powdered Ammonium Nitrate Mix

A couple hours later stored at a temperature of about 80F I tested them with CCI Stinger ammo from 25 yards away.


The original mix failed to go boom from 25 yards while the other three mixes detonated with solid hits. I moved to 15 yards and then the OM target detonated as well.

That was interesting. It was a sample size of one for the OM, but it appears that all three of the other mixes were more sensitive after two hours than the OM. That’s a good sign as long, as brother Doug pointed out, I don’t end up creating a contact explosive.

I’ll do the ~1 day storage detonation test tomorrow morning and report sometime after I get home tomorrow night.

It appears we may be filling in some of the columns on the spreadsheet.


10 thoughts on “That was interesting

  1. Wow. Hope you’re still alive tomorrow night. I don’t know much about explosives but isn’t ammonium nitrate the stuff McVeigh used to blow up a building?

    • Yes, in part. It’s also what we’ve been using the make targets with for closing on two decades, now. Way to concern troll.

        • The link to the recipe is automatically inserted the first time I use the word Boomerite in a post.

          While Rolf was perhaps a little bit quick to show some irritation you certainly have had dozens of opportunities, including in this post, to know we use Ammonium Nitrate as the main ingredient in our mix.

  2. It’s also a very common fertilizer (hence why it was easily available for McVeigh). If you were fertilizing the lower 40 for growing corn, you’d be putting down just short of 10 tons of the stuff. It can act as a low-order explosive by itself, but it needs to be mixed with a fuel (people generally use heating oil or diesel) to produce a really notable bang. (Although if you have a few _million_ pounds of AN lying around, you can still achieve a notable bang without mixing it up with anything else – see the Texas City disaster of ’47.)

    In terms of dangerous substances lying around farms, I’d personally be more worried about a tank of anhydrous ammonia than a few tons of AN.

    • ANFO is probably the most commonly used explosive in the world. I know that’s what most open pit hard rock mining operations use….

  3. joe:

    are you a chemist? just askin’?

    remember alfred nobel’s brother? hardly anyone does, as he incinerated himself working on nitro glycerin before alfred worked out the process successfully.

    just sayin’.

    john jay

    • It helps to keep in mind that there are many explosives, and they have very different properties. They differ in how easy it is to make them explode, what sort of precautions are needed in making them, what precautions are needed in storing them, and so on. Brother Nobel’s experience with nitroglycerin has absolutely nothing to do with the care and feeding of ammonium nitrate.
      Just like with any other subject that involves hazards, you have to study the subject and apply the lessons. That is true for handling guns, or cars, or parachutes, or explosives.

  4. So what you are saying, in part, is that you have another mixing crew recruit for next year, right?

  5. Pingback: That was odd | The View From North Central Idaho

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