Consumer Fireworks

Consumer fireworks differ from commercial fireworks in that they have a much lower level of pyrotechnic charge. Also, buying consumer fireworks is far easier, with fewer restrictions and with many more vendors from whom to choose than if you”re purchasing their more powerful commercial counterparts.

The Classic Consumer Firework: The Firecracker

The most basic consumer fireworks would have to be the ubiquitous firecracker. These are the simplest and probably the oldest fireworks on earth, invented long ago, probably in China.

Firecrackers consist of a simple paper tube of several layers. The layering gives the paper much additional strength. A small bit of flash powder is stuffed into the firecracker”s middle and the tube is sealed at both ends. When the fuse is lit, it burns down and ignites the flash powder inside. Immediately, the flash powder creates volumes of hot gas. The tube manages to contain this billowing gas until the pressure blasts it open with a loud crack.

But firecrackers are only one kind of consumer firework. There are many more, including:

  • the flying spinner (helicopter): When ignited, the flying spinner spins and lifts off like a helicopter. It explodes and ejects stars and lady fingers and deploys a parachute that lets it drops softly to the ground.
  • fountains: They sit on the ground and emit lots of colorful sparks.
  • mines: They produce upward, fan-shaped blasts of color and effects.
  • parachutes: They blast a parachute tube high into the air then burst at the highest point, ejecting stars and colors as they drift downward. Parachutes are made for either day or night displays and come in single and multiple blast versions.
  • rockets and missiles: Thousands of years ago, the Chinese learned that an open-ended firecracker will propel itself, rather than explode. Rocket and missile type fireworks burst into the air, emitting multi-colored streams and whizzing whistles as they do.
  • roman candles: A more complex consumer firework, they”re composed of a single tube that fires multiple shots, one at a time, out of the mouth of the tube.
  • smoke devices: Smoke balls and bombs make for great daytime fun. And they come in different colors!
  • snakes and strobes: When set on fire, snakes emit a long column of brittle carbon ash that looks like a snake emerging from the earth. Strobes emit bright and sometimes disorienting flashes of light.
  • snaps and party poppers: Not really fireworks, these “trick noisemakers” are perfect for small children. Pull them and they pop.
  • sparklers: Sparklers are just metal wires coated in a metallic pyro composition. The slow-burning mixture is very bright and gives off thousands of tiny sparks. Newer, more powerful versions are called morning glories.
  • wheels: Attached to a vertical support (usually by nails), they spin very fast and emit a show of sparks, crackles and whistles.

Life is NOT a Bowl of Cherry Bombs

One more word must be said about the fabled “cherry bomb” of old. These large firecrackers are actually made from a much more formidable pyrotechnic charge. In fact, these babies are truly “big blasters” with each one packing some 7 grams of powder, about 140 times the legal limit. They are forbidden in most jurisdictions.

In truth, cherry bombs are actually military-type weaponsthey”re called M-80s by the armyand, as such, should NOT by any means be considered as “consumer fireworks,” least of all by children.