Exploding targets are cause of some mysterious loud booms

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Friday, Jan. 16, 2015

AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WRDW) -- After several calls to our newsroom about loud and mysterious "booms," we decided to find out what's causing all the noise.

At least one answer is a little cannister called an exploding target, commonly known as tannerite. Even though it looks small, it packs a punch.

The first explosion, however, happened when our phones blew up, so to speak. We got call after call with questions about perhaps the most well-known mystery in the two-state region. The Facebook comments were endless.

The sound told everybody something was happening, but nobody knew exactly what.

"It will aggravate somebody, getting their house shook," an expert user told News 12. "It's a binary substance, which means, according to the ATF, it's not explosive until you mix them."

It's loud, it's legal, and for people with plenty of land, it's growing in popularity.

"There's no law, there's no specific licensing or license that you have to have to purchase or possess these exploding targets," Aiken County Sgt. Jason Feemster said.

News 12 wanted to see it in action. First, we started with a four pound target.

"You can hear this one for, depending on the geography of where you're shooting and how clear a day it is, probably a couple miles easily," the demostrator told News 12.

All you have to do is pour, shake, and set it about fifty yards away.

"Just make sure all the white pellets get coated in the gray aluminum powder," he advised.

After a countdown, the trigger was pulled and the target exploded. Even fifty yards away, we could feel the blast on our legs.

It was a pretty big boom, but for people miles away to hear it, we knew we'd have to make a bigger one. The next target was a ten pounder.

Once again, we mixed, shook, and put distance between us and the target, this time at least 120 yards. When we were sure the target and both cameras were in position, we waited for another countdown.

"On the count of 3-2-1," the shooter announced.

Then, a second massive explosion rattled the area, with debris clouding high into the air. Our Go Pro camera caught the explosion up close.

Not long after, the calls started.

"My neighbors that are almost a mile away, it knocked some pictures off the walls before," he admitted.

As for what was left, not much. Both cinderblocks were turned to dust and the wooden plank on top was splintered.

During the demonstration, we were at least 15 miles outside of any city on private country land, where the closest neighbor was at least a quarter mile away. All the neighbors were alerted before we started these demonstrations.

The targets themselves are actually very safe. The cannister it comes in acts as the target you shoot. No matter if you shake it, drop it, or throw it against the wall, it will not detonate until it is shot. The key is to follow the directions and don't mix more than you should. Any target more than 50 pounds becomes illegal.