Taser X26 & electric Blasting Caps

Taser X26 & electric Blasting Caps

Whether the 44 year old Florida resident had a bomb in his backpack or not, would a Taser in the hands of an Air Marshal have made a difference? If the US citizen was not transporting an explosive device, then yes, the end results would have been different. But what would have been the climax if he had an improvised explosive device in that piece of portable luggage.

I set out on a search for information about any testing that had been conducted on Tasers and their ability or inability to detonate commonly available explosives. In my search, I interviewed several Explosive Ordnance Disposal experts who work for a federal law enforcement agency. What I soon learned was both exciting and frightening.

First a primer on explosives and what is commonly available to someone who is so inclined to use it. As per the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, theft of commercial explosives is more common than you’d think. Highway construction sites are a favorite target for explosives thieves. As per one Special Agent, those on-site storage containers are easily compromised. Most often stolen are Electric Blasting Caps, Detonating Cord (referred to as DET-Cord) and Explosive Boosters. The current technology for explosives used to move huge mountains of rock and dirt is Water-Gel.
Looking like red or white thin balloons assembled end to end, it resembles sausage links. I am told that Water-Gel is referred to as bullet-insensitive where as Dynamite is bullet sensitive. That means if someone shot and hit Water-Gel, it would not explode, whereas dynamite would. As powerful as it is, it is hardly ever stolen.

There exists a black market for Blasting Caps, DET-Cord and Boosters. From White Supremacists to outlaw motorcycle gangs, explosives are constantly being acquired and stored away for some future apocalyptic event. Not so much for ANFO. ANFO stands for AMMONIUM NITRATE – FUEL OIL. This is what was packed into the rental van that destroyed the federal building in Oklahoma City. Ammonium Nitrate is nothing more than highly refined (prilled) fertilizer. The fuel oil refers to nitro methane. When mixed in proper proportions, an explosion using ANFO creates a massive amount of pushing energy. The problem with ANFO is that a match will not detonate it. Even a Blasting Cap fails in that task. That’s were a Booster is used. Made from a Blasting Cap sensitive material (High Explosive), once detonated in the center of a pile, the shockwave produced from a soda can sized Booster will set off a ton of AN-FO. Bomb Techs refer to such devices as “Horse Shit & Diesel Fuel bombs”. Water-Gel has 10 times the pushing power than ANFO, pound for pound and takes up 1/10th the storage space.

I remember seeing a Taser training program (Version 6) where the claim was made that a Taser would not set off a Blasting Cap. I asked the experts and discovered that such a statement was not true for all caps. I learned that electrically ignited Blasting Caps would indeed ignite. Referred to as Electric Caps or E-Caps, they require a high voltage capacitor discharge to pop. As the most stolen item, Electric Blasting Caps would be the most often encountered in a man-portable improvised explosive device. I have been told that as few as six Boosters would split a modern jet in half. Such a package would conceivably fit and be carried in a backpack. I needed to have what I learned verified.

Federal Air Marshals carry Sig-Sauer semi-auto pistols. The .40 caliber cartridge is more powerful than the 9mm and the projectiles in these cartridges are specifically designed for maximum terminal devastation. The Marshals are rigorously trained in shot placement for instantaneous nervous system shut-down. There is no graduating from the academy if “one-shot kill” skills are not achieved. Personally, I like that idea. Someone reaching into a backpack to push the button on a detonator needs to be terminated in less than a second. No “Police, don’t move” or “Hands up”, Air Marshals must score far better than your average Police Officer. An 80% passing grade for firearms proficiency would never fly at the federal academy where 100% is the minimum. Constant retraining and refreshers throughout the year makes them second only to US clandestine military teams as far as shooting skills go.

Can an X26 fired into a backpack full of Boosters and a few Electric Blasting Caps cause it to explode? As I have learned, the answer is yes.

One specialist who is a member of the International Association of Bomb Techs & Investigators said that it would not be a very wise move for the Department of Homeland Security to authorize Air Marshals to be armed with Tasers. The decision to blow his cover, expose himself to the terrorist and fire the kill-shot can not be muddled by decisions as to threat seriousness and appropriate response level. That split second taken to decide which weapon is needed in response to the perceived threat is all that is needed for a determined individual to detonate and unleash his explosive carnage. Such individuals have no fear of dying so verbal commands and implied threats of forthcoming Taser’ing would be no deterrent whatsoever.

One large explosives distributor located in the mid-west has conducted their own investigation. Their extensive testing of X26 / Blasting Cap ignition likelihood shows that a zero-delay or instant delay Electric Blasting Cap can and will happen. At the request of their local metropolitan police bomb squad, they set up a gym bag with a booster and a cap. When a remotely triggered X26 was cycled and the current passed through the cap, it and the bag disappeared in a cloud of nylon, flame and dust.

No, a Taser should never be brought to a Bomb fight!