You Have the Right to Remain Stupid

Tannerite; exploding lawnmower

A Walton County, Georgia, man who apparently wanted to make a name for himself with a “Hey, watch this!” video has succeeded, generating more than 2 million YouTube hits in just four days. The only downside is that he blew his leg off below the knee.

In the video (below)—and you have to wonder about the wisdom of whoever was close enough to be filming it—David Pressley, 32, moves closer to an old riding lawnmower packed with 3 pounds of Tannerite as he shoots it with a rifle from a distance of about 25 yards. Tannerite is an explosive mixture of ammonium nitrate and aluminum powder that detonates when struck by a bullet traveling at 2,000 fps or faster. It is advertised as “non-incendiary,” according to the product’s website, which says that it releases “a large water vapor cloud along with a loud report which is used as a shot indicator.”

Non-incendiary is very different from non-explosive.

In the video, Pressley fires five shots at the lawnmower without effect, takes a few steps forward, and fires four more times. On the eighth or ninth round, he connects. Both Pressley and the cameraman go down as blood spatters the frame. Pressley can be heard yelling, “I blew my leg off!” Another voice says, “Call an ambulance!” Pressley was eventually airlifted to a local hospital. His leg was amputated below the knee.

Experts advise keeping a distance of 100 yards for every pound of Tannerite used. The product is not to be used in metal containers, due to the risks posed by shrapnel. The Tannerite website says that because the two ingredients aren’t explosive until mixed, the product is legal to purchase and ship in all states except Maryland and Tennessee.

Legal is very different from smart.

"[Tannerite] has become extremely popular in the last couple of years, and is sold in many outdoor supply stores such as Cabela's, Bass Pro Shops, Gander Mountain, and others," battalion chief Craig League with Walton County Fire Rescue told the Loganville Local News. "One of the drawbacks with Tannerite is that the more of the product that you mix together and shoot, the bigger and louder the explosion. This makes it quite dangerous for amateur use."

“To my knowledge, this is the first injury that we have encountered in Walton County from the use of exploding targets,” he added.

The stuff does make a hell of a bang. Another video on YouTube shows a guy demolishing his barn with 164 pounds of the stuff packed into a Rubbermaid tub. He was 101 yards away. He was lucky.