Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
M-80s are illegal explosives that are often improperly classified as fireworks. They were originally developed in the early 20th century by the US military to simulate gunfire, but were soon being manufactured and sold to the public as large firecrackers. M-80s were typically made from a small red tube approximately one and a half inches long and half an inch in diameter, with a stiff fuse coming out of the side. They contained approximately 2-3 grams of flash powder, one of the most powerful pyrotechnic compositions.
M-80s were extremely dangerous, particularly because of their short fuse (which was usually no more than an inch long). Their use by the general public resulted in countless tragic injuries, such as the loss fingers or even entire hands. As a result, M-80s were outlawed as part of the Child Protection Act of 1966, which made it illegal to sell, possess, or use M-80s anywhere within the United States. In 1976, the federal regulations were rewritten specifying a limit of 50 milligrams of flash powder for any firework sold to the public in the United States, which is still in effect today.
In spite of the 50 milligram limit, firecrackers are often sold with names such as "M-80", "M-100", or "M-1000", but it is only a marketing tactic. Such firecrackers are legal, and are not "real" M-80s.
True M-80s, however, (and other "M" explosives) continue to be manufactured, bought, and sold on the black market in the United States, and cause hundreds of injuries each year. Because they do not adhere to the stringent safety guidelines set forth by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (such as testing and amount of pyrotechnic content), M-80s are NOT classified as consumer fireworks. Despite this, injuries caused by M-80s are considered to be "fireworks" injuries.
"¼ stick of dynamite"
M-80s are NOT "quarter sticks" of dynamite, despite the popular expression. Not only do M-80s contain a fraction of the amount of compostion in dynamite, but they are two different explosives: the main ingrediant in dynamite is nitroglycerine, a high explosive far more powerful than the flash powder in an M-80.
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