Exploding Targets Legal to Own, Illegal to Use

BAR HARBOR — The exploding rifle targets known by the trade name Tannerite may be legal to buy and sell, but the minute they are prepared for use they become illegal under Maine explosives laws, state fire marshal Joe Thomas said this week.

The targets have been in the news here since police, a fire marshal and a United States Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent paid a visit to a Kitteridge Brook Road man who was disturbing neighbors with the devices last month.

The two materials, ammonium nitrate and aluminum powder, that make up the binary explosive targets, are “legal in every way,” Marshal Thomas said. Tannerite-type targets are very stable, even when catalyzed, and must be hit with a bullet from a high-powered rifle to be activated.

But as soon as the catalyst is mixed with the material, the targets are considered explosives, and are regulated as such. In Maine, a person may not use, possess or store explosives without proper permits. The state fire marshal supervises explosives under fire service laws.

Marshal Thomas supports a bill that he said is being introduced into the current Maine legislature that would exempt binary exploding targets from explosive law much in the same way that black powder has been exempted since 1999. The intent is to allow the explosive for target shooting, he said.

The popularity of the exploding targets has risen in recent years, as products have become more available, Marshal Thomas said. His office has received many calls from sporting good shop owners wondering how to handle the sale of Tannerite-type targets.

Until an exemption for the binary exploding targets is passed, the fire marshal’s office will continue to enforce the law as it is written, Marshal Thomas said.

All proposed bills for the current Maine legislature are due in by Jan. 18. A list of proposed titles will be published at that time.

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Robert Levin

Robert Levin

Former reporter Robert Levin covered the people, businesses, governmental and nonprofit agencies of Bar Harbor. [email protected]