The Northern Region of the U.S. Forest Service has banned exploding targets on public land under its jurisdiction, saying the targets have caused 16 wildfires across the West over the past two years at a cost of $33 million to taxpayers.

Regional Forester Faye Krueger announced the ban Tuesday, citing concerns over public safety and the wildfire threat. It covers all national forests in Montana, Idaho, North Dakota and the South Dakota grasslands.

“I don’t see where someone can argue against visitor or recreational shooting safety,” said Phil Sammon, a spokesman for the Northern Region. “That’s the primary concern here, as well as a safeguard to our natural resource.”

The targets are popular among long-range shooters and can be legally purchased on the market. They consist of two separate compounds, including ammonium nitrate and aluminum powder, that become explosive when mixed.

While the powders are legal in their separate packets, they’re classified as an explosive by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives once mixed. The targets explode when struck by a high-impact device, such as a bullet.

“You can mix them with any quantity you want, and they make a pretty large fireball when struck,” said Sammon. “They can also throw out debris at high speeds.”

Other Forest Service regions have already enacted the ban, including the Pacific Northwest Region and the Rocky Mountain Region.

“National forest system lands are ideal for a wide range of recreational activities that include hunting and sport shooting,” said Krueger. “But we must also ensure that recreational users are safe in their pursuits, and that we eliminate the risk of wildfires from exploding targets.”

Law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, have long feared that the ammonium nitrate and aluminum powder could be abused by terrorist and homegrown extremists. YouTube videos show people using as little as 20 pounds of the material blowing up trailers, washing machines and a car.

Sammon said the Northern Region closure goes into effect immediately. Those who violate the order face a $5,000 fine and six months in prison.

Reporter Martin Kidston can be reached at 523-5260, or at

(6) comments


Exploding targets are fun but it is difficult to find a place that allows them. All pistol and rifle ranges forbid them, the national forest people forbid them, so where can you use them. Well, that is the intent, that is the agenda. You can have them, but you cannot use them. Very clever of the leftists. However, there is one proviso here. In dry conditions, the devices can cause fires, that is true.

sofaking tired of the GOP
sofaking tired of the GOP

Is there anything bad in the universe that isn't "leftists" fault? Not sure why I'm even bothering you never stick around when your baseless rants are shot down. "there is one proviso (nice spelling BTW) here. In dry conditions, the devices can cause fires" - ummm do ya think? 16 fires and 33 mil to the tax payer in only 2 years. BTW ever heard of private property? You should look into it sometime.
"where can you use them. Well, that is the intent, that is the agenda" yes pistol and rifle ranges are run by leftists. Have you ever had a logical thought?


That's a darn shame. How will we teach our kids to appreciate nature if they cannot blow it up?

Frankly I find the explosions in the woods rather comforting. It reminds me of Fallujah.


From that cheap comment, I can guarantee you were not in Al Anbar (let alone Fallujah). I was and it was not a laughing matter. In fact, there is something seriously wrong with you to find anything funny about your comment. I lost over half a dozen friends there in 2004 and it was probably one of the most difficult times of my life, as well as those with me. You truly are insulting and a disgrace. At this very moment, I actually wish you were there.

Miss Muralist 12
Miss Muralist 12

I loves my guns and I'll be damned if some bureaucrat is gonna tell me I ain't allowed to shoot no exploding targets!


Oh, mannnnn! Big brother is in charge.

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