You are probably aware of at least some of the more infamous books and websites out there that can tell you a lot about explosives. The Anarchist cookbook, anything by Kurt Saxon, and the infamous publishers at Paladin Press are just a few. Are explosives a necessary part of a survival plan? Probably not. Are explosives inherently dangerous? Yes. Are explosives fun to mess with? Well...yes.
A common use of explosives is anti personnel mines and demolition. One of the most effective anti-personnel mines is the Claymore. The claymore was invented during the Vietnam War and has since been distributed and copied throughout the world. It can be either tripwire detonated or command detonated.
A note on boobytraps and landmines. Landmines have been the subject of a growing international movement to ban their production and use. The reason is that landmines have a record of killing indiscriminately and can keep killing long after a conflict is over. This has become a major human rights issue in places where a failing political regime retaliates against the future by placing landmines that will kill for generations. Strangely, most civilized countries outside the US have condemned the use of anti-personnel landmines while the US has maintained stocks of them but is developing a new generation of landmines that are supposedly only command detonated.
If you chose to use explosives for whatever reason, remember that they are not nearly as discriminate as direct fire weapons, nor are they as predictable.
Making and handling explosives is dangerous. To make matters worse, there are many "experts" out there who give instructions and even have written books on the subject who are neither experienced nor qualified to deal with explosives. In some cases, like with the Anarchist Cookbook, you can be killed by following the instructions in the book. Some people maintain that the Anarchist Cookbook was published by the CIA as a from of booby trap itself. That is because certain instructions in the bomb making parts of the book are guaranteed to kill the bomb maker if they are followed to the letter. Other parts of the book leave out important safety measures when dealing with explosive chemicals.
The best advice I could give on the subject is to not deal with any explosives until you have seen someone else safely demonstrate them in person. Until then, you should assume that any explosive is either inert or unstable. I have friends who have tried some of the more commonly available "recipes" only to find out the end product is a bad smelling barely flammable goo.
Improvised and military explosives in general are difficult to ignite. Most military explosives are fine that way since they may be subject to abuse and nearby explosions. This is compounded with the fact that they are most commonly made from industrial waste materials and the purity of the chemicals is not always an issue.
Modern, high grade explosives are made from purer chemicals and can be a lot more sensitive, although I would generally feel safer handling commercially made explosives over improvised explosives.
While most commercial explosives are tightly regulated, many common ingredients of improvised explosives are not. The purchase and or transport of them is, however, monitored. One such chemical is nitro-methane. It is a common ingredient in improvised plastic explosive, dragster fuel and model airplane engine fuel. It is basically used as an octane booster for gasoline and a booster chemical for powder based explosives. The most common illegal use for the chemical is in the manufacture of methamphetamine and some narcotic "designer drugs". Don't be surprised if people have a lot of questions if you go to buy nitro-methane from your local chemical supply outlet. Most of the gray and black market nitromethane is bound for narcotic manufacture.
Another common ingredient in improvised explosives is ammonium nitrate. It is available as a fertilizer but is not as common as one might think. Even if you can get the stuff, it comes in pellets which are not very useful for small volume explosives. The "prill" must be ground into a powder to be properly mixed with other chemicals to form an explosive. The problem is that the powder itself is dangerous and can explode during the grinding process. The purchase of ammonium nitrate is also legal but heavily monitored. Do not expect to be able to drive up to the local feed store and buy bags of the 34-0-0 fertilizer without answering a few questions. Stores in urban areas are especially wise to the chemical's relationship to improvised explosives and will usually alert law enforcement if you try to order it.
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Standard military explosives are not in themselves readily suitable as anti-personnel weapons, but will be critical components of demolition based weapons like the ones seen here. The coffee can to the left is an improvised claymore while the device on the right is a command detonated anti-vehicle bomb that is designed to propel a wheel rotor at the target vehicle at close range. Weapons like this would normally be used to supplement the defensive perimeter of a base camp or in prepared ambushes to slow down pursuing forces during and organized retreat. Military doctrine now dictates that such devices be command detonated and not activated by booby trap methods.
The typical military cratering kit shown here is used to make roads and intersections impassible to normal wheeled vehicle traffic.
The amount of explosives you use will largely be determined by the type of soil you are trying to move.
The main charges are a low velocity explosive made to move dirt. The green and white bars are standard packs of C4 which is used to initiate the main charge and shatter surrounding rock milliseconds before the main shock wave pushes it away.
Cratering charges that have been rigged for blasting rock. Our training exercise was in a quarry where the rock was very hard and the craters were relatively small considering the seemingly excessive amount of C4 used here. A normal priming of a cratering charge would only involve two blocks of C4. While these bombs can be quite deadly, they are not normally used in the antipersonnel role.
This is a typical mine and wire obstacle that has been prepped for an explosive breaching operation.
Bangalore torpedoes have been shoved under the wire near the fence posts and blocks of C4 have been placed near the mines which are in the way of the desired path through the obstacle. The explosives have been rigged to go off in the same chain reaction. This will usually cause a sympathetic explosion of nearby mines and boobytraps.