Manufacturing explosives is extremely dangerous. Homemade explosives are far more sensitive and unpredictable than commercially available ones. One must approach the preparation and handling of explosives with great care. Here is a list of some equipment you must have to make these operations as safe as possible.
Goggles – Eye protection is a must. Not only are most of the chemicals potentially damaging, but the risk of accidental fire and/or explosion is very real. Most hardware stores sell safety goggles.
Gloves – Be sure to use rubber gloves when handling and mixing explosives especially when working with acids and oxidizers. Consider a pair of welder’s gloves when handling particularly sensitive compounds such as flash powder.
Apron – An apron will give you some protection against chemical splashes and fires.
Fire Extinguisher – This is an absolute must for obvious reasons.
Respirator – Get a good quality respirator as most of the dusts and chemical fumes you will be exposed to are quite toxic. Be sure to select a cartridge type respirator and not one of those cheap paper masks.
Improvised Low Explosives:
Potassium Nitrate Production
Improvised Black Powder
"Red or White" Propellant
Notes on Commercially Available Low Explosives
Potassium Chlorate Production
Sodium Chlorate Production
Sodium Chlorate and Sugar or Aluminum Explosive
AN-FO and AN-AL
Nitric Acid/Nitrobenzene Explosive
Improvised Plastic Explosives
Potassium or Sodium Nitrate and Litharge
Picric Acid Production
Improvised Low Explosives:
Low explosives are simple combinations of two or more ingredients, one of which will be an oxidizer and another a fuel. I have included a few low explosive mixtures here, chosen on the basis of ease of manufacture (none of these require anything more than mixing of the ingredients) and availability of ingredients.
Low Explosive Mixtures (measurements are by weight)
1 part potassium chlorate or sodium chlorate
1 part sugar
4 parts potassium Perchlorate
1 part aluminum powder
1 part sulfur
7 parts potassium Perchlorate
5 parts aluminum powder
6 parts potassium nitrate
3 parts aluminum powder
1 part sulfur
4 parts potassium nitrate
1 part aluminum powder
1 part sulfur
2 parts potassium chlorate
1 part aluminum powder
1 part sulfur
5 parts potassium nitrate
2 parts aluminum powder
3 parts sulfur
3 parts potassium permanganate
2 parts aluminum powder
4 parts finely powdered ammonium nitrate
1 part charcoal
Potassium Nitrate Production:
Potassium nitrate (saltpeter) can usually be found on the civilian market. It is used as a fertilizer supplement, a diuretic and for stump removal. If you can't obtain any it can be extracted from nitrate bearing soil. The yield ranges from .1 to 10% by weight, depending on the fertility of the soil.
Nitrate bearing earth or other soil containing old decayed materials, about 3-1/2 (13-1/2 liters) gallons vegetable or animal matter.
Manure piles which have been left to sit for several months.
Earth from old burial grounds.
Decayed stone or mortal buildings.
Fine wood ashes, about 1/2 cup totally burned whitish wood ash powder.
Bucket or similar container about 5 gallons (19 liters) in volume (plastic, metal, or wood)
2 pieces of finely woven cloth, each slightly larger than bottom of bucket
Shallow pan or dish, at least as large as bottom of bucket
Shallow heat resistant container (ceramic, metal, etc.)
Water - 1-1/3 gallons (6-3/4liters)
Alcohol about 1 gallon (4 liters) ( rubbing alcohol, etc.)
Heat source (fire, electric heater, etc.)
Note: Only the ratios of the ingredients are important. Thus, for twice as much potassium nitrate, double quantities used.
1. Punch holes in bottom of bucket. Spread one piece of cloth over holes inside of bucket.
2. Place wood ashes on cloth and spread to make a layer about the thickness of the cloth. Place second piece of cloth on top of ashes.
3. Place dirt in bucket.
4. Place bucket over shallow container..
5. Boil water and pour it over earth in bucket a little at a time. Allow water to run through holes in bucket into shallow container. Be sure water pours through all of the earth. Allow drained liquid to cool and settle for 1 to 2 hours.
Note: Do not pour all water at once, since this may cause stoppage.
6. Carefully drain off liquid into heat resistant container. Discard any sludge remaining in bottom of the shallow container.
7. Boil mixture over hot fire for at least 2 hours. Small grains of salt will begin to appear in the solution. Scoop these out as they form, using a strainer.
8. When liquid has boiled down to approximately half its original volume, remove from fire and let sit. After half an hour add an equal volume of alcohol. When mixture is poured through paper, small white crystals will collect on top of it.
9. To purify the potassium nitrate, re-dissolve the dry crystals in the smallest possible amount of boiled water. Remove any salt crystals that appear (step 7); pour through an improvised filter made of several pieces of paper and evaporate or gently heat the concentrated solution to dryness.
10. Spread crystals on flat surface and allow to dry. The potassium nitrate crystals are now ready for use.
Improvised Black Powder-
Black Powder can be prepared in a simple, safe manner. It may be used as pipe-bomb filler or gun powder.
Potassium nitrate, granulated, 3 cups (3/4 liter)
Wood charcoal, powdered, 2 cups (1/2 liter)
Sulfur, powdered, 1/2 cup (1/8 liter)
Alcohol, 5 pints (2-1/2 liters) (whiskey, rubbing alcohol, etc.)
Water, 3 cups (3/4 liter)
2 Buckets - each 2 gallon (7-1/2 liters) capacity, at least one of which is heat resistant (metal, ceramic, etc.)
Flat window screening, at least 1 foot (30 cm) square
Large wooden stick
Cloth, at least 2 feet (60 cm) square
Note: The above amounts will yield two pounds (900 grams) of black powder. However, only the ratios of the amounts of ingredients are important. Thus, for twice as much black powder, double all quantities used.
1. Place alcohol in one of the buckets.
2. Place potassium nitrate, charcoal, and sulfur in the heat resistant bucket. Add 1 cup water and mix thoroughly with wooden stick until all ingredients are dissolved.
3. Add remaining water (2 cups) to mixture. Place bucket on heat source and stir until small bubbles begin to form.
Caution: Do not boil mixture. Be sure all mixture stays wet. If any is dry, as on sides of pan, it may ignite.
4. Remove bucket from heat and pour mixture into alcohol while stirring vigorously.
5. Let alcohol mixture stand about 5 minutes. Strain mixture through cloth to obtain black powder. Discard liquid. Wrap cloth around black powder and squeeze to remove all excess liquid.
6. Place screening over dry bucket. Place workable amount of damp powder on screen and granulate by rubbing solid through screen.
Note: If granulated particles appear to stick together and change shape, recombine entire batch of powder and repeat steps 5 and 6.
7. Spread granulated black powder on flat dry surface so that a layer about ½ inch (1-1/4 cm) is formed. Allow to dry. Use radiator, or direct sunlight. This should be dried as quickly as possible, preferably in one hour. The longer the drying period, the less effective the black powder.
Caution: Remove from heat as soon as granules are dry. Black powder is now ready for use.
"Red or White Powder" Propellant
"Red or White Powder" Propellant may be prepared in a simple, safe manner. The formulation describes below will result in approximately 2-1/2 pounds of powder. This is a small arms propellant and should only be used to reload ammunition for weapons with1/2" or less bore diameter, but not pistols. This propellant also makes an excellent pipe-bomb filler.
Heat source (Kitchen stove or open fire)
2 gallon metal bucket
Measuring cup (8 ounces)
Wooden spoon or rubber spatula
Metal sheet or aluminum foil (at least 18 in. sq.)
Flat window screen (at least 1 ft. sq.)
Potassium nitrate (granulated) 2-1/3 cups
White sugar (granulated) 2 cups
Powdered ferric oxide (rust) 1.8 cup (This can be obtained from steel filings + water)
Clear water, 3-1/2 cups
1. Place the sugar, potassium nitrate, and water in the bucket. Heat with a low flame, stirring occasionally until the sugar and potassium nitrate dissolve.
2. If available, add the ferric oxide (rust) to the solution. Increase the flame under the mixture until it boils gently.
NOTE: The mixture will retain the rust coloration.
3. Stir and scrape the bucket sides occasionally until the mixture is reduced to one quarter of its original volume, then stir continuously.
4. As the water evaporates, the mixture will become thicker until it reaches the consistency of cooked breakfast cereal or homemade fudge. At this stage of thickness, remove the bucket from the heat source, and spread the mass on the metal sheet.
5. While the material cools, score it with the spoon or spatula in criss-crossed furrows about 1 inch apart.
6. Allow the material to air dry, preferably in the sun. As it dries, rescore it occasionally (about every 20 minutes) to allow air-drying.
7. When the material has dried to a point where it is moist and soft but not sticky to the touch, place a small spoonful on the screen. Rub the material back and forth against the screen mesh with spoon or other flat object until the material is granulated into small worm-like particles.
8. After granulation, return the material into direct sunlight to dry completely
Notes on commercially available low explosives:
Black Powder: This is the oldest known explosive and is still used today in muzzle-loading firearms. I have provided a recipe for this very simple compound, however commercial black powder is usually more powerful and more reliable than the homemade variety. Most gun stores stock commercial black powder. It comes in various grain sizes graded from largest to smallest as, Fg, FFg, FFFg, FFFFg, FFFFFg. Naturally FFFFg is the best choice as an explosive filler but any grade will do in a pinch. Pyrodex is a substitute for black powder which produces less fouling in firearms but is interchangeable with black powder as an explosive filler. Black powder is sensitive to shock, spark and friction. It must be dried before use if it becomes wet.
Smokeless Powder: This is the propellant used in modern firearms. It is available commercially to those who reload their own cartridges and shells. Smokeless powder comes in two basic forms… single-base (SBSP), which is composed of nitrocellulose (guncotton) along with various stabilizers, and double-base (DBSP), which is of the same basic composition but also contains a small amount of nitroglycerin to increase its power. SBSP is used in most center-fire rifle cartridges and is less powerful than DBSP which is used in most pistol and shotgun ammunition. Smokeless powder is less sensitive to shock, spark and friction than black powder. It also must be dry to function.
Match Heads: Match heads are a very simple and universally available low-explosive filler. They require no mixing and can be obtained without any paper trail or suspicion. This type of filler is, however, less powerful than many of the other fillers mentioned and therefore must be tightly confined to produce a good blast. A box of 50 matchbooks usually sells for around a dollar or so at a convenience store but much less from a wholesale depot which services bars and restaurants. Be certain to only use paper matches and not the wooden, "strike-anywhere" type as these are extremely sensitive to friction and shock. Match heads should be cut off from their paper stems with a pair of sharp scissors. You will find that you must use up quite a few books of matches to produce enough filler for an average sized pipe bomb. Once cut, match heads can be stored safely for long periods in an airtight container. This type of filler will not function when wet and is very difficult to dry out completely.
Potassium Chlorate Production:
Potassium chlorate is an easily produced chemical, which is useful in the production of both low and high explosives. The simplest method of production is conversion from calcium hypochlorite (HTH swimming pool chlorinator) HTH is about 65-percent calcium hypochlorite and is commercially available wherever swimming pool supplies are sold. There are a number of different pool chlorinators available but calcium hypochlorite is the only one we are interested in.
The HTH is converted into potassium chlorate by adding a potassium donor, which may be either potassium carbonate (potash), potassium chloride (salt substitute) or potassium sulfate (often used as a garden fertilizer). In the reaction which occurs, the calcium in the HTH will convert into either the carbonate, chloride or sulfate, depending on what was used as the donor. All of these calcium compounds are insoluble in water and will drop out of the solution in step 3.
- In a large Pyrex or enameled steel pan, place 454 grams (a 1-pound bag) of HTH and 84 grams of the potassium donor.
- Add boiling water, using just enough to dissolve the powders completely.
- Place the pan on a heat source and boil until it reaches a specific gravity of 1.3 (full charge in a battery hygrometer). A chalk-like substance will form and drop out of the liquid.
- Filter the liquid while it is still hot. Discard the solids in the filter. This is the calcium compound mentioned earlier.
- Allow the solution to cool to room temperature. As it cools, crystals of potassium chlorate will precipitate from the solution and can be filtered out.
- Return the liquid to the heat source and repeat steps 3 to 5 twice more to recover more chlorate crystals.
- Combine all recovered crystals and dissolve them in a minimum amount of boiling water. Filter and allow to cool. This will remove most of the calcium and sodium contaminants.
- Powder the crystals very finely and allow them to dry on newspaper. Once dry the potassium chlorate will be ready to use.
If HTH is unavailable, common household bleach can also be used to produce potassium chlorate, which can be extracted through a process called fractional crystallization. The procedure is similar to that above.
- In a large Pyrex or enameled steel pan, place one gallon of bleach and begin heating it to a low boil.
- Once boiling add 63 grams of potassium chloride (salt substitute)
- Check the solution being boiled with a hydrometer, and boil until you get a reading of 1.3. If using a battery hydrometer, boil until you read a FULL charge.
- Remove the solution from the heat source and allow it to cool in a refrigerator until it falls to between room temperature and 0 degrees Celsius.
- Crystals will form at this point, filter them out and save them.
- Boil the remaining solution again and cool as before. Filter and save the crystals.
- Take the crystals that have been saved, and mix them with distilled water in the following proportions: 56 grams per 100 milliliters distilled water. Heat this solution until it boils and allow it to cool. Filter the solution and save the crystals that form upon cooling. These crystals should be relatively pure potassium chlorate.
- Powder the crystals very finely and allow them to dry on newspaper. Once dry the potassium chlorate is ready to use.
Notes: Try using a very fine stainless steel reusable coffee filter, a fiberglass cloth pad or an EEC canister filter in these operations. A regular paper coffee filter may not stand up to the hot liquids.
Sodium Chlorate Production:
Sodium chlorate is a strong oxidizer used in the manufacture of explosives. It can be used in place of potassium chlorate in low and high-explosive mixtures.
2 carbon or lead rods (1 in. Dry cell batteries (2-1/2" diameter x 5 in. long) diameter x 7" long)
2 wires, 16 gauge (3/64" diameter approx.), 6' long, insulated
1 gallon glass jar, wide mouth (5" diameter x 6" high approx.)
Large flat pan or tray
1. Mix 1/2 cup of salt into the one gallon glass jar with 3 liters (3 quarts) of water.
2. Add 2 teaspoons of sulfuric acid to the solution and stir vigorously for 5 minutes.
3. Strip about 4 inches of insulation from both ends of the 2 wires.
4. With knife and sticks shape 2 strips of wood 1" x 1/8" x 1-1/2". Tie the wood strips to the lead or carbon rods so that they are 1-1/2 inches apart.
5. Connect the rods to the battery in a motor vehicle with the insulated wire.
6. Submerge 4-1/2" of the rods into the saltwater solution.
7. With gear in neutral position, start the vehicle engine. Depress the accelerator approximately 1/5 of its full travel.
8. Run the engine with the accelerator in this position for 2 hours; then shut it down 2 hours.
9. Repeat this cycle for a total of 64 hours while maintaining the level of the acid-salt water solution in the glass jar.
CAUTION: This arrangement employs voltages which may be dangerous to personnel.
Do not touch bare wire leads while engine is running.
10. Shut off the engine. Remove the rods from the glass jar and disconnect wire leads from the battery.
11. Filter the solution through the heavy cloth into a flat pan or tray, leaving the sediment at the bottom of the glass jar.
12. Allow the water in the filtered solution to evaporate at room temperature (approx. 16 hours). The residue is approximately 60% or more sodium chlorate which is pure enough to be used as an explosive ingredient.
Using the potassium chlorate produced with one of the earlier described methods you can produce a primitive type of plastic explosive. I have included two variations for the fabrication of potassium chlorate high explosives, both of which are tried and true. These recipes are at least fifty years old.
9 parts potassium chlorate or sodium chlorate
1 part Vaseline
9 parts potassium chlorate or sodium chlorate
1 part wax
Notes on chlorate explosive production:
Whichever formula is used and addition of 10% by weight of hydrocarbon fuel will assist in balanced combustion. If homemade chlorates are used , blocks of explosive should be made up only as needed. This is due to the possibility of sodium or calcium contaminants remaining in the crystals, which makes their storage life uncertain. Commercial chlorates do not present this problem and explosives made from them will remain reliable even after long storage.
The chlorate must be finely powdered to the consistency of flour in order to ensure positive detonation. The hydrocarbon fuel must be evenly distributed throughout the chlorate powder. The completed mixture must be pressed in a block or stick press to the proper density of 1.3 grams/cc if potassium chlorate is used or 1.5 grams/cc if sodium chlorate is used. It is important to do this pressing properly if optimum performance is to be obtained from the explosive. Although the potassium chlorate/Vaseline mixture is touted as a plastic explosive, it is still wise to do this.
A block or stick press, such as is covered in the Improvised Plastic Explosives section, will be required. You may need to improvise a hydraulic addition to the press. A pan heater may also be built to make this task much easier.
The framework of the pan heater is made up from scrap wood to whatever size is required. The pan rests on the rim and has the bottom painted black to absorb the heat from the bulb. A rheostat or power control may be used to vary the heat.
1. Place the fuel in a heated pan on a double boiler and allow it to liquefy.
2. Place finely ground chlorate in the heater pan. Spread it out in an even layer and let it heat for several minutes to drive off any acquired moisture.
3. Pour the melted fuel as evenly as possible over that crystals. The heat from the pan should cause the fuel to distribute itself throughout the chlorate, but a little stirring with a spatula may be necessary.
4. Remove the pan from the heater and allow the mixture to cool somewhat. Rub the soft chlorate through a piece of screen to form granules.
5. Place granules in the press and process as covered in the plastic explosives section. NOTE: If sticks are being made, they could be pressed and packaged in thin PVC tubes. The ends may be sealed with PVC end caps or dipped in wax. The extra rigidity afforded by the tubes seems to increase the reliability of detonation.
This compound has long been a favorite of the IRA. Composed of a simple mixture of 10 parts sodium chlorate and 1 part nitrobenzene, it is comparatively cheap, easy to make, and cap sensitive. They prefer to use it in their large car and culvert bombs, as it offers substantial increases in power over AN-FO and is just as easy to make. It is roughly equivalent to 50% nitroglycerine dynamite. Sometimes detonating cord is laced through the mixture in an effort to boost its velocity of detonation.
CO-OP sugar is based on a late 19th century commercial explosive called Rack-a-Rock, which was used extensively in that period along with a number of other potassium chlorate based explosives. A few are listed here:
3-4 parts potassium chlorate
1 part nitrobenzene
3-4 parts potassium chlorate
1 part nitrobenzene
1-3% sulfur (added after the other two parts are combined, usually by dusting the outside of the cartridges)
8 parts potassium chlorate
1 part turpentine
Another mixture of this type is 9 parts chlorate and 1 part kerosene. Either sodium or potassium chlorates may be used, but the potassium chlorate compound will be slightly more powerful. SC is more hygroscopic, however, and so must be protected from moisture prior to the "soak", but then again it costs only about half of what PC does.
SC may be found in "Solidox" oxygen pellets used in the home welder of the same name. They consist of about 80-90% SC and 10-20% catalyst and fiberglass binder. The crushed pellets, soaked in various flammable liquids, have turned up in a number of improvised explosive devices over the past few years. In fact, a fairly good explosive can be made by simply soaking the required amount of nitrobenzene into the uncrushed pellets. Theoretically, most liquid hydrocarbon oils, such as gasoline or diesel, should work in this type of explosive.
The primary problem is volatility. If the explosive is sealed in an airtight container, as CO-OP sugar usually is, this ceases to really matter. Due to the toxicity of the nitrobenzene, this is a good idea anyway. Never allow this liquid to touch your skin and don’t inhale its vapors.
The level of power of the various mixtures will have to be determined by experimentation. No hard data exists on this factor.
Sodium Chlorate and Sugar or Aluminum Explosive
An explosive munition can be made from sodium chlorate combined with granular sugar, or aluminum powder. This explosive can be detonated with a #8 commercial blasting cap or improvised detonator.
Wooden rod or stick
Bottle or jar
Steel pipe (threaded at one end), end cap and tape
Measuring container (cup, quart, etc.)
Pour 3 parts sodium chlorate and 1part aluminum powder or 2 parts granular sugar, into a bottle or jar.
Mix ingredients well by stirring with the wooden rod or stick.
How To Use:
- Coat the blasting cap, inside of pipe and end cap with melted wax.
- Thread end cap onto pipe.
- Pour mixture into pipe.
- Insert and tape blasting cap just beneath surface of mixture.
Note: Confining the open end of the pipe will add to the effectiveness of the explosive.
Ammonium Nitrate Explosives AN-FO and AN-AL:
Ammonium Nitrate is arguably the single most important chemical in improvised explosives production. It may be manipulated in various ways not only to form explosives but also to be converted into various other chemicals useful in this work. Even if it weren’t so easy to procure (it is widely available as a chemical fertilizer), it would still be an invaluable material.
The most basic AN explosive is called AN-FO (Ammonium Nitrate/fuel oil). AN fertilizer comes in the form of prills (pellets) that can be mixed in a proportion of 96% AN and 4% fuel oil to form AN-FO. The only problem with AN-FO is that it requires a booster of about 1 LB of TNT or its equivalent to detonate. It is best if the booster is in the form of a short, squat cylinder, like a food can, rather than a stick.
AN-FO has been in commercial use as a blasting agent since the 1950s and remains in very widespread use. It has found most covert use in car and truck bombs (i.e. Oklahoma City) where it is used in very large quantities. A cement mixer should be used to prepare large quantities of this explosive. The AN is poured into the mixer with the required amount of fuel oil (100lbs AN per gallon of fuel oil if powdered AN is used, or ½ gallon if prills are used). Tumble the mixture for 20-30 minutes, or until a homogenous mixture is obtained. AN and moisture react to quickly rust metal, be sure to wash any metal equipment well after exposure to AN.
Powdered AN in this mixture will yield greater power however this will probably be limited to very small quantities as the time it would take to grind hundreds of pounds of AN into powder would be prohibitive. If a box of commercial laundry detergent is added to the mix (1 LB per 100 lbs. of AN), the performance of the explosive can be substantially increased (as much as 30%). 2 lbs. of aluminum powder will increase power even more.
Pour the mixture into charge containers, add the booster charges and seal. The larger the booster the better. A 55-gallon charge container will require about a 10 LB booster for positive function. If possible, place the booster as near to the center of the charge as possible. A good, strong booster can accelerate the detonation speed of the main charge substantially; a weak booster can reduce it.
Another high explosive made from ammonium nitrate is AN-AL (ammonium nitrate/aluminum powder). This is a very simple compound requiring only mixing of 4 parts finely powdered AN with 1 part aluminum powder and resulting in a very powerful explosive. The AN must be powdered and then all moisture driven out of it in an oven at low temperature before mixing with the aluminum powder and the finished explosive must be protected from moisture. This explosive should be not be stored for very long and should probably be used up soon after production. Even the smallest amount of moisture in the AN will cause it to react with the aluminum to produce hydrogen gas. This can and has caused explosions in canisters of this type of explosive. AN-AL is more cap sensitive than AN-FO but a booster should still be used to guarantee ignition.
Nitric Acid/Nitrobenzene ("HELLHOFFITE") Explosive
An explosive munition can be made from nitrobenzene and nitric acid. It is a simple explosive to prepare. Just pour the nitrobenzene into the acid and stir.
Nitric acid field grade or 90% concentrated (specific gravity of 1.48) nitrobenzene
Acid resistant measuring containers (glass).
Acid resistant mixing rod
#8 Blasting cap or improvised equivalent.
Steel pipe, end cap and tape
Bottle or jar
Note: Prepare mixture just before use. Do not store this explosive.
Pour 1 part nitrobenzene to 2 parts nitric acid into bottle or jar.
Mix ingredients well by stirring with acid resistant rod.
Caution: Nitric acid will burn skin and destroy clothing. If any is spilled, wash off immediately with a large amount of water. Nitrobenzene is toxic; do not inhale fumes.
How To Use:
Coat blasting cap, inside of pipe and end cap with melted wax.
Thread end cap onto pipe.
Pour mixture into pipe.
Insert and tape blasting cap just beneath surface of mixture.
Note: Confining the open end of the pipe will add to the effectiveness of the explosive.
An acid type explosive can be made from nitric acid and white paper or cotton cloth. This explosive can be detonated with a #8 blasting cap or an improvised equivalent.
Nitric acid 90% concentrated (specific gravity of 1.48)
White unprinted, unsized paper, paper towels, napkins
Clean white cotton cloth
Acid resistant container
Heavy-walled glass container
#8 Blasting cap
Put on gloves.
Spread out a layer of paper or cloth on aluminum foil and sprinkle with nitric acid until thoroughly soaked.
Caution: Acid will burn skin and destroy clothing. If any is spilled, wash it away with a large quantity of water. Do not inhale fumes.
Place another layer of paper or cloth on top of the acid-soaked sheet and repeat step 2 above. Repeat as often as necessary.
Roll up the aluminum foil containing the acid-soaked sheets and insert the roll into the acid resistant container.
Coat blasting cap with melted wax.
Insert the blasting cap in the center of the rolled sheets. Allow at least 5 minutes before detonating the explosive. Do not store this explosive.
Military grade C-4 (composition #4) detonates at a velocity of about 26,400fps which is a whopping 7,400fps faster that commercial 60% dynamite, which is the most powerful explosive made available for civilian use. C-4 is the preferred explosive for military demolitions work, it is capable of cutting steel and shattering rock and concrete. It is cap sensitive and stands up to environmental conditions very well.
Military grade C-4 is very difficult to obtain. Military supplies of this explosive are generally well guarded and kept track of. Any operative who is a member of the military should make every effort to obtain this explosive as well as other explosives and weapons for our movement. Of course, the operative should be cautious not to get caught in these efforts… you're more valuable as an infiltrator within the military than as a petty thief.
Black market sources of C-4 exist but the price will be high. Motorcycle gangs and other organized crime groups seem to be able to obtain C-4 from time to time for use in their mindless turfwars.
Finally the operative may choose to make C-4 by following the directions outlined here. This explosive is extremely dangerous, the process for making it is dangerous and manufacturing or possessing it is illegal. The power and versatility of C-4 may not be worth the risks involved in making it. I considered not providing instructions for manufacturing C-4 in this manual, but upon second thought, I realized that instructions are out there and those of you who feel that you must have it will attempt to make it regardless of what my opinion is. I have, therefore, provided the safest instructions possible for producing homemade C-4.
Ammonium Nitrate fertilizer 34-0-0
Denatured Ethyl Alcohol
Ammonium Nitrate fertilizer has been dealt with in the section on AN-FO and AN-AL. Nitromethane (CH3NO2) is used as a solvent and more commonly as a fuel additive for drag-racers, remote-control model airplane engines, go-carts and various other high speed engines. The operative should have no trouble obtaining a few gallons of this stuff from the local dragstrip or street racing hangout. A few phone calls should track this stuff down but you may have to pay outrageous chemical supply house prices. Avoid using the small bottles of Nitromethane which are available at hobby stores, these contain only 15%-20% Nitromethane and will not work consistently.
The first step is to dry the ammonium nitrate and keep it dry. In conditions of high humidity, this will be a difficult task. Fill a 1-pound coffee can with ammonium nitrate and place it in an oven at 150*F for three hours. An accurate thermometer is essential for this work as the AN will melt and liquefy at 170*F and will explode at 400*F. Once the heating cycle is complete, remove the coffee can and put it in two sealed plastic bags. After about two weeks the AN will have re-absorbed too much moisture and the process will have to be repeated.
Place about 430 grams of the dried AN into an oven-proof dish. Pour denatured ethyl alcohol over the AN and stir for about 3 minutes. The alcohol will turn a brownish color. Strain the alcohol off and dump the AN back into the dish and heat gently at below 150*F until all the alcohol is evaporated.
Next, using a mortar and pestle or an electric coffee grinder, grind the AN into talcum powder consistency. It is essential to grind the AN very finely. As soon as the grinding is done it will be necessary to pack the powder into an airtight container. The AN is very deliquescent (moisture-absorbent) at this point so an airtight container is absolutely essential.
The safest way to complete the process is to combine the AN and Nitromethane at the blast sight, about 20 minutes prior to use. This may not be possible, of course, but bear in mind that the sooner the C-4 is used after final mixing, the better.
Mix 80 milliliters of Nitromethane into the 430 grams of AN. The ratio should be approximately 1/3rd Nitromethane by volume or 2 parts Nitromethane to 5 parts AN by weight. Because of the inconsistencies of civilian market AN and Nitromethane, some trial and error tweaking of the formula may be necessary. Wait about 20 minutes for the Nitromethane to be soaked into the AN. The mixture should have a thick porridge-like consistency (Too much Nitromethane added to the mixture will make it too thin to fire). At this point, the material will be cap sensitive but not shock sensitive. The C-4 will have a shelf life of about 2 weeks maximum, after that it will start to become less sensitive to cap detonation.
The finished product is soft and pliable. It can be put in a plastic bag and molded to fit into or around just about anything. Packing the C-4 into a rigid container will cause it to detonate with a bit more power. Adding about 5%, by weight (about 20 grams), of powdered aluminum to the AN and Nitromethane mixture will increase power further still.
Lets look at the procedure step by step;
Use fresh, pure Ammonium Nitrate.
Dry the AN in an oven at low heat ( less than 150*F ) for at least 3 hours.
Wash the AN in alcohol until the alcohol turns muddy brown.
Dump the AN into a metal container and dry thoroughly over low heat ( Less than 150*F ).
Grind the AN as fine as talcum powder.
Pack a premeasured amount in a rigid airtight container.
Pour in 1/3rd Nitromethane by volume.
Wait twenty minutes.
Detonate with #6 - #8 blasting cap or improvised equivalent.
Sheet explosives are very powerful and versatile. They can be shaped to fit into the most unlikely places and are essential for producing letter bombs.
1. Explosive - Both RDX and PETN are suitable, but the latter is preferred, as it is easier to detonate.
2. Binder - The binder consists of a solid rubber-like material dissolved or suspended in a solvent. The amount to be used is based on the solid's content. This may be determined most simply by weighing out a 10-gram sample and allowing it to harden fully. It is then weighed to determine how much of the weight in solvent was lost. The amount needed is calculated based on this loss. Many different materials are suitable as binders.
A. Rubber Molding Compound - Available from hobby shop and hardware. This usually consists of the molding compound and a catalyst. Follow the directions on the label for mixing.
B. Liquid Latex - Commonly used in stage makeup, it is probably the best due to its use of nontoxic, non-reactive solvents. It is quite expensive, however. Small amounts sell in theatrical supply houses for about $3-$5 per 2-ounce bottle.
C. Rubber Cement - Another good choice and commonly available. There is some concern that residual acetic acid used as a solvent in this material may cause storage and reactivity problems. PETN is particular is very sensitive to acid contamination, so this is a valid concern.
The sheet should be pressed to a density of about 1.4 gm/cc.
Improvised Plastic Explosives
A reliable plastic explosive, suitable for all types of applications, can be improvised from a mixture of high-explosives and Vaseline. The preferred base explosives are RDX or PETN. This particular mix is based upon the original Composition C but would work equally well for the production of Semtex-type explosives. Simply use half RDX and half PETN, and substitute a vegetable oil for the Vaseline.
This process increases the density and consistency of the explosive and will improve its performance substantially. While a simple hand-kneaded mixture will explode it will not rival the performance of the commercially made variety.
Once its been rolled and folded several times, the PE should be pressed into blocks or cartridges for storage.
Since the density of an explosive has a direct bearing on its power, velocity and consistency of action, care should be taken when packaging to include this factor. Knock-apart molds should be built to the proper dimensions to hold the volume of explosive at its proper density. For example, for optimum power Comp C should be pressed to a density of about 1.6 grams per cubic centimeter, therefore if the packages were to contain 500 grams of explosive:
500 grams (explosive weight)
Divided by 1.6 (density -grams/cc)
= 312.5 cubic centimeters of volume, which translates into a block of about 50mm x 125mm
If the operative wants to be spared the calculations, it is simple to build a mockup mold of the approximate length and width required. This mold can be made out of just about anything, but it must be waterproof. Carefully measure a volume of water equal to the number of cc's required (1cc = 1ml). Mark the depth of the water and build the real mold to these dimensions.
Sticks can be made in a similar manner as block but are forced out of the tube by using a piece of dowel with the same inside diameter as the tube.
Plastic explosives made by this process are heat sensitive and will start to get runny and sticky at high temperatures. This does not make them unsafe but performance will be affected by the oozing of the petroleum binder.
The completed product is safe to store and should keep for very long periods of time, provided they are stored in a cool dry place.
Guncotton (GC) was the first militarily useful high explosive. It was used widely in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries both for demolitions and as a filler for torpedoes and naval mines. When used wet it was very safe and insensitive, yet easily detonated using a priming charge of dry GC. It fell out of use when TNT and picric acid became widely available, but wet GC slabs were used by the British army for demolition purposes until late in WWII.
While guncotton can be easily made by nitrating cotton with a mixture of nitric and sulfuric acids, the resulting material is often unstable due to the difficulties involved in removing all the trace acids. Cotton fibers are essentially tiny tubes that serve to trap the acids inside. Improperly purified GC can become extremely dangerous with age, often resulting in spontaneous explosion. When GC was first discovered in 1840, it aroused great interest as a replacement for gunpowder in blasting. After several factories in Europe exploded due to improper purification, it was discarded for the next 30 years until a reliable method of purification was discovered.
What follows is a simplified method for extracting guncotton from common single-based gunpowder, in which it is the primary component. The resulting material is of high power, exhibiting more power when dry than wet.
Dry GC may be compressed into pipe bombs or other ordinance for use as a low explosive and will be many times more powerful than the original powder it was made from. In fact, if conditions are right, compressed dry guncotton can make the transition from deflagration to detonation very quickly.
- Place 1 pound of single-base powder into a jar and cover with about twice as much acetone. The powder will dissolve until the entire mass is a thick syrup resembling cold molasses.
- Fill a blender about half full of cold water and pour one quarter of the jellied powder into it. Blend at high speed for several minutes. A course green material resembling fiberglass will float to the top. This is guncotton.
- If wet GC is the goal, pour the mass into a coffee filter and squeeze out as much water as possible. Spread the moist GC onto several layers of newspaper and allow to dry thoroughly. Use a heat lamp if available but be careful not to allow the GC to get too hot!
- Weigh the dried GC. A small percentage of the stabilizers and other chemicals in the powder may have been lost in the water/acetone wash. How much depends on the type of powder used. Distilled water should then be added at a ratio of 3 ounces water per 16 ounces of dry GC. The material can be pressed into bricks and stored in plastic bags. (A British 1lb –19 ounce actual weight – demolition slab was 6 x 3 x 11 ½" in size. It may also be pressed into jars and cans for storage.
- If dry GC is desired, drain off as much of the water from the blender as possible. Operate the blender on "grind" for several minutes, and use a plastic or wooden stirring rod to ensure that all of the GC is ground into a pulpy mass. The GC must be moist when ground. Dry guncotton is sensitive to shock and friction, so it would be extremely dangerous to perform this step on dry GC.
- Remove the pulpy mass from the blender and dry as above.
- When completely dry, the GC may be compressed into pellets or cartridges using an improvised hydraulic press. The pellets may be given a quick dip in acetone to waterproof them. The acetone converts the outer layer of the GC into a form of celluloid, which is impervious to moisture. This outer shell will be a bit on the brittle side, and care must be taken to prevent it from being chipped. If damaged, moisture may enter the pellet and render it insensitive to initiation by a blasting cap. If full sized cartridges are made, they may be enclosed inside a condom for their protection.
Notes: Dry GC is sensitive to impact, friction, and sparks. In its pure state it is about as sensitive to impact as mercury fulminate or lead azide. The reprocessed form is a bit less sensitive but still should be handled carefully. It will detonate when struck by a rifle bullet. Likewise, extreme care should be used when pressing it into pellets or cartridges. All compression should be done slowly and carefully, using wooden and plastic molds.
This is a fairly simple explosive mixture which can be detonated with a #6 blasting cap or an improvised equivalent. This explosive is roughly equivalent in power to 60% nitroglycerin dynamite. One significant drawback to this explosive is its uncertain storage life. It tends to swell and vent gas as it ages. The addition of a retardant and buffer package will extend storage life to at least a year.
Materials Required: (1 LB Charge)
Chemical: Amount (Grams) % of total
Ammonium Nitrate 250g 55%
Potassium Nitrate 45g 10%
Aluminum powder 68g 15%
Sugar 23g 5%
Guar Gum 11g 2.5%
Borax 4.5g 1%
Water 68g 15%
- Separately grind and sift all materials.
- Store in individual containers.
- Mix guar gum and potassium nitrate together.
- Place the AN into a mixing bowl. Heat the water to boiling and pour it into the AN, stirring until all the AN is dissolved.
- Add the Guar gum and potassium nitrate mixture to the dissolved ammonium nitrate and stir briefly.
- Add the aluminum and sugar. Stir until mixed evenly.
- Dissolve the borax in a couple of tablespoons of water and stir into the mix. Continue stirring until a smooth mixture is obtained.
- Pour the mixture into a mould or charge container and store in a warm spot to gel. The explosive is now ready to use.
Note: The Guar gum may be replaced with starch or gelatin, if necessary, but guar gum produces better gels. It is available at some health food stores.
When the boiling water is added to the AN, the operative will notice that the solution will become very cold. This endothermic reaction is the same as that harnessed in instant ice packs. These ice packs are a source of high-purity (and also high cost) ammonium nitrate.
Make this explosive in a well ventilated area or, at least, under the exhaust fan of a stove. Unlike many other explosives, its manufacture does not emit noxious fumes, but it does produce a horrible ammonia odor similar to cat urine.
Seal this explosive up in jars, cans or sealed plastic wrappings. If tin cans are used as containers the insides must be coated with a plastic sealer. The AN in the gel can react with the tin coating on the can to produce sensitive explosive compounds that are dangerous.
As mentioned earlier, the addition of three chemicals will greatly enhance the storage life of the explosive. The retardant, which reduces gas formation, is urea, a common garden chemical. It is used in a percentage of 0.5%, or 2.25 grams per 1lb charge. The buffer is made by mixing 100 grams of monobasic potassium phosphate with 1 gram of powdered lye. Place the chemicals in a jar and shake for several minutes to mix them completely. 1.5 grams of this mixture or 0.3% of the total charge weight, will be needed. These chemicals are added after all the others have been mixed and before warming.
Potassium or Sodium Nitrate and Litharge (Lead Monoxide)
Potassium or sodium nitrate is needed to prepare DDNP and Litharge is required for the preparation of lead picrate
Potassium (or sodium) nitrate
Methyl (wood) alcohol
Iron pipe with end cap
Iron rod or screwdriver
2 glass jars, wide mouth
1. Mix 12 grams of lead and 4 grams of potassium or sodium nitrate in a jar. Place the mixture in the iron pipe.
2. Heat iron pipe in a bed of hot coals or with blow torch for 30 minutes to 1 hour. (Mixture will change to a yellow color.)
3. Remove the iron pipe from the heat source and allow to cool. Chip out the yellow material formed in the iron pipe and place the chips in the glass jar.
4. Add 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) of methyl alcohol to the chips.
5. Heat the glass jar containing the mixture in a hot water bath for approximately 2 minutes (heat until there is a noticeable reaction between chips and alcohol; solution will turn darker.
6. Filter the mixture through a paper towel into the other glass jar. The material left on the paper towel is lead monoxide.
7. Remove the lead monoxide and wash it twice through a paper towel using ½ cup (120 milliliters) of hot water each time. Air dry before using.
8. Place the jar with the liquid (from Step 6) in a hot water bath (as in Step 5) and heat until the alcohol has evaporated. The powder remaining in the jar after evaporation is potassium or sodium nitrate.
NOTE: Nitrate has a strong tendency to absorb water from the atmosphere and should be stored in a closed container.
Nitric acid is used in the preparation of many explosives, incendiary mixtures, and acid delay timers. It may be prepared by distilling a mixture of potassium nitrate and concentrated sulfuric acid.
Potassium nitrate (2 parts by Drug Store volume)
Sulfuric acid (1 Motor vehicle batteries part by volume)
2 bottles or ceramic jugs (narrow necks are preferable)
Pot or frying pan
Paper or rags
IMPORTANT: If sulfuric acid is obtained from a motor vehicle battery, concentrate it by boiling it until white fumes appear. DO NOT INHALE FUMES.
NOTE: The amount of nitric acid produced is the same as the amount of potassium nitrate. Thus, for 2 tablespoons of nitric acid, use 2 tablespoons of potassium nitrate and 1 tablespoons of concentrated sulfuric acid.
1. Place dry potassium nitrate in bottle or jug. Add sulfuric acid. Do not fill bottle more than 1/4 full. Mix until paste is formed.
2. Wrap paper or rags around necks of 2 bottles. Securely tape necks of bottles together. Be sure bottles are flush against each other and that there are no air spaces.
CAUTION: Sulfuric acid will burn skin and destroy clothing. If any is spilled, wash it away with a large quantity of water. Fumes are also dangerous and should not be inhaled.
3. Support bottles on rocks or cans so that empty bottle is slightly lower than bottle containing paste so that nitric acid that is formed in receiving bottle will not run into other bottle.
4. Build fire in pot or frying pan.
5. Gently heat bottle containing mixture by moving fire in and out. As red fumes begin to appear periodically pour cool water over empty receiving bottle. Nitric acid will begin to form in the receiving bottle.
CAUTION: Do not overheat or wet bottle containing mixture or it may shatter. As an added precaution, place bottle to be heated in heat resistant container filled with sand or gravel. Heat this outer container to produce nitric acid.
6. Continue the above process until no more red fumes are formed. If the nitric acid formed in the receiving bottle is not clear (cloudy) pour it into cleaned bottle and repeat Steps
Note: Nitric acid should be kept away from all combustibles and should be kept in a sealed ceramic or glass container.
Picric Acid Production:
Picric acid can be used as a booster explosive in, a high explosive charge, or as an intermediate to preparing lead picrate or DDNP. This is by far the simplest method for picric acid production but, unless the ingredients can be obtained cheaply or stolen, it may be too expensive for large scale production. Using this method 1 LB of picric acid will cost about $40, not much to pay for a small bomb but if a really large device is considered the price will become out of hand. This method will produce about ¼ LB of picric acid per batch.
Concentrated sulfuric acid
This procedure should be conducted in a well ventilated area, outdoors if possible.
- Crush 500 aspirin tablets into a fine powder, use a mortar and pestle or better yet a small coffee grinder. When obtaining aspirin always choose the cheapest, generic brand not just because of the cost but also because these cheaper types don’t contain the fillers and coatings that will have to be filtered out before use.
- Pour the powdered aspirin into a gallon glass jar containing 2 liters of sulfuric acid.
- Place the jar in a simmering hot water bath and heat for 15 minutes.
- Remove the jar from the bath and stir it vigorously to make sure that all the aspirin has dissolved. The solution will gradually turn black
- Add 300 grams of potassium nitrate to the acid in three 100 gram portions. Stir vigorously between additions. The solution will turn a dark yellow-orange color.
- Allow the solution to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Slowly pour the solution into a bucket containing about 2 gallons of cold water. Wear gloves, goggles and an apron throughout this procedure as the fumes and crystals produced are toxic.
- Yellowish crystals will form and should be filtered out and collected, this is picric acid.
Note: When the potassium nitrate is added to the acid/aspirin solution, the reaction will generate a great deal of red nitrogen dioxide gas. This gas is very toxic and must be vented away from the work area, this is really best done in an open air environment. The appearance of the dreaded "red gas" is a major danger signal when making most other explosives, such as nitroglycerine, but is perfectly normal for this one. The venting of this gas in a residential area will definitely attract the attention of law enforcement.
An excellent explosive can be made from picric acid by mixing 88 parts with 12 parts wax, using the same process covered in the chlorate explosives section. The grained explosive is then pressed into cartridges. It is easily detonated with a #8 blasting cap or a homemade equivalent. In this form the explosive is much less sensitive to shock, less reactive with metals and less toxic to handle than the pure material.
Mercury Fulminate is used as a primary explosive in the fabrication of detonators. It is to be used with a booster explosive such as picric acid or RDX.
Nitric Acid. 90% conc. (1.48 Specific gravity)
Ethyl (grain) alcohol (90%)
Filtering material Paper towels
Teaspoon measure (1/4, 1/2, and 1 teaspoon capacity) - aluminum, stainless steel or wax-coated
Clean wooden stick
1. Dilute 5 teaspoons of nitric acid with 2-1/2 teaspoons of clean water in a glass container by adding the acid to the water.
2. Dissolve 1/8 teaspoon of mercury in the diluted nitric acid. This will yield dark red fumes.
NOTE: It may be necessary to add water, one drop at a time, to the mercury-acid solution in order to start reaction.
CAUTION: Acid will burn skin and destroy clothing. If any is spilled, wash it away with a large quantity of water. Do not inhale fumes.
3. Warm 10 teaspoons of the alcohol in a container until the alcohol feels warm to the inside of the wrist.
4. Pour the metal-acid solution into the warm alcohol. Reaction should start in less than 5 minutes. Dense white fumes will be given off during reaction. As time lapses, the fumes will become less dense. Allow 10 to 15 minutes to complete reaction. Fulminate will settle to bottom.
CAUTION: This reaction generates large quantities of toxic, flammable fumes.
The process must be conducted outdoors or in a well ventilated area, away from sparks or open flames. Do not inhale fumes.
5. Filter the solution through a paper towel into a container. Crystals may stick to the side of the container. If so, tilt and squirt water down the sides of the container until all the material collects on the filter paper.
6. Wash the crystals with 6 teaspoons of ethyl alcohol.
7. Allow these mercury fulminate crystals to air dry.
CAUTION: Handle dry explosive with great care. Do not scrape or handle it roughly. Keep away from sparks or open flames. Store in cool, dry place.
DDNP is a primary explosive used in the fabrication of detonators It is to be used with a booster explosive such as picric acid.
Picric acid Flowers of sulfur
Lye (sodium hydroxide)
Sulfuric acid, diluted Motor vehicle batteries
Potassium or sodium nitrate
2 glass cups, heat resistant,(Pyrex)
Stirring rod (glass or wood)
1. In one of the glass cups, mix 1/2 gram of lye with 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) of warm water.
2. Dissolve 1 teaspoon (3 grams) of picric acid in the water-lye solution. Store until ready for step 5.
3. Place 1/4 teaspoon (1 milliliter) of water in the other glass cup. Add 1/2 teaspoon (2-1/2 grams) of sulfur and 1/3 teaspoon (2-1/2 grams) of lye to the water.
4. Boil solution over heat source until color turns dark red. Remove and allow solution to cool.
5. In three portions, add this sulfur-lye solution to the picric acid-lye solution (Step 2); stir while pouring. Allow mixture to cool.
6. Filter the mixture through paper towel into a container. Small red particles will collect on the paper. Discard the liquid in the container.
7. Dissolve the red particles in 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) of boiling water.
8. Remove and filter the mixture through a paper towel as in step 6. Discard the particles left on the paper.
9. Using an eyedropper, slowly add the sulfuric acid to the filtered solution until it turns orange-brown.
10. Add 1/2 teaspoon (2-1/2 grams) more of sulfuric acid to the solution. Allow the solution to cool to room temperature.
11. In a separate container, dissolve 1/4 teaspoon (1,8 grams) of potassium or sodium nitrate in 1/3 cup (80 milliliters) of water.
12. Add this solution in one portion, while stirring, to the orange-brown solution.
Allow the mixture to stand for 10 minutes. The mixture will turn light brown.
CAUTION: At this point the mixture is a primary explosive. Keep away from flame.
13. Filter the mixture through a paper towel. Wash the particles left on the paper with 4 teaspoons (20 milliliters) of water.
14. Allow the particles to dry (approx. 16 hours).
CAUTION: Explosive is shock and flame sensitive. Store explosive in a capped container.
NOTE: The drying time can be reduced to 2 hours if a hot (not boiling) water bath is used.
Lead picrate is used as a primary explosive in the fabrication of detonators
Litharge (lead monoxide)
Wood alcohol (methanol)
Wooden or plastic rod
Dish or saucer (china or glass)
Heat source (optional)
1. Weigh 2 grams each of picric acid and lead monoxide. Place each in a separate container.
2. Place 2 teaspoons (10 milliliters) of the alcohol in a dish. Add the picric acid to the alcohol and stir with the wooden or plastic rod.
3. Add the lead monoxide to the mixture while stirring.
CAUTION: At this point the solution is a primary explosive. Keep away from flame.
4. Continue stirring the mixture until the alcohol has evaporated. The mixture will suddenly thicken.
5. Stir mixture occasionally (to stop lumps from forming) until a powder is formed. A few lumps will remain.
CAUTION: Be very careful of dry material forming on the inside of the container.
6. Spread this powdered mixture, the lead picrate, in a flat pan to air dry.
NOTE: If possible, dry the mixture in a hot, not boiling, water bath for a period of 2 hours.
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