Two Saturdays ago, starting at approximately mid-evening, Madison County Sheriff's Office dispatch was flooded with calls about a loud “boom.” Residents were concerned about the boom which some said shook their houses. According to several residents, it rattled the nerves of many residents in the area. Calls came in from all across Madisonville, and even toward North Zulch. Rumors were rampant – a gas explosion, gun shots and even an earthquake.
Law enforcement officials were unsure at the source of the noise. That was until the first of last week. Fingers are now pointing toward the binary explosive target called Tannerite.
According to Madison County Sheriff's Office Investigator Larry Shiver, “We are pretty sure that the explosion that people heard originated out in the county was an individual who had put together a charge that was over four pounds while target-shooting.” Tannerite is the trademarked name for ammonium nitrate and aluminum powder. When mixed together, these two substances become explosive. “It caused a considerable amount of noise and explosion,” Shiver said. Tannertite is an official name brand of shot indicator targets.
As explained by Madisonville Police Officer Jonathan Lawrenz, “Tannerite is basically an exploding target. It is used for people who shoot long distances so they know they hit their target.” Shiver said that there was an individual shooting at Tannerite, rumored to have been close to “four pounds. And that is enough to rattle windows and be loud enough to make people wonder.” Through careful investigation, based on past incidents similar to the reports that the MCSO received regarding the noise, Shiver said, “We are pretty sure that was the cause. It is not illegal to have the Tannerite or use it, though there are some ordinances, like noise pollution, disturbing the peace, that can be put into place, and I am looking to see if there are any others.”
According to the the Tannerite web page, 'the substance is unique because it remains stable until the moment it's hit with a bullet. Even after mixing, Tannerite won't go off just from being jostled around, dropped, thrown, or exposed to heat or flame. The only way to make it explode is to shoot it, using a high-power rifle, generally .223-caliber or higher.'
The ammonium nitrate/aluminum combination is sold - under Tannerite and other brand names - in almost any sporting goods store, as well as on the Internet. It's marketed for target-shooting, and mostly comes in one- to two-pound containers. There's no limit to how much a person can buy. Tannerite, Shiver explained, “when shot with a high-power rifle produces a water vapor and a thunderous boom.”
Hence pointing toward the noise heard in Madison County last weekend.
Shiver and Lawrenz both said that the more pounds used, the louder the noise the target can make and the more possibility for an 'after-shock' type of effect. located, there is a process that needs to be followed.