Detonating Explosives With Rifle Fire

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Imagine their surprise. On 27 April 1941, two battalions of crack German parachutists descended on a critical British-held bridge crossing Greece's Corinth Canal. Linking the Greek mainland to the Peloponnesian Peninsula, seizure of this vital structure would allow quick passage for Panzer units and the overrunning of withdrawing British forces.

It seemed a perfectly executed textbook operation, with the Nazi paras simultaneously storming both canal banks, overwhelming antiaircraft guns and security troops, then occupying the bridge itself before it could be demolished. German engineers instantly disconnected the detonator, and all seemed secure.

But none of the attackers noticed a British rifleman working his way to high ground, where he steadied his .303 Enfield and took careful aim at one of the yet intact dynamite charges. No one heard his shot, for it was masked by the louder roar of tons of explosives and the thundering crash of girders and concrete hundreds of feet into the canal. Yes, just imagine their surprise.

It has only been since World War II that explosives were made shockproof and became impervious to rifle fire. Prior to that, many explosives, and dynamite especially, contained enough unstable nitroglycerin to constitute a shock danger.

During World War II, the Allies perfected several powerful but shockproof explosives, among them plastic explosive and RDX. Also known as cyclonite, RDX is now the primary ingredient in so-called military dynamite, but it's diluted to generate the same blast effect and velocity as the true dynamite it replaced so that old blasting formulas remained constant.

The bottom line is that current military dynamite, unlike that used on the Corinth Canal bridge, cannot be detonated with rifle fire. So what's a clever sniper to do?

Much inexpensive civilian dynamite has stayed true to the original recipe and contains

40- to 60-percent nitroglycerin, and this will go up readily when a high-powered rifle bullet crashes into it. The clever sniper's challenge, therefore, is to scrounge civilian dynamite for long-range mayhem.

This same civilian dynamite can become your special long-range detonator for touching off otherwise stable, shockproof military explosives. Just layer your susceptible, civilian dynamite over the shockproof explosive, making a target for your fire. When the former goes up, its blast will sympathetically detonate the latter.

Test your scrounged dynamite live-fire to confirm that it's unstable enough to explode, especially at extreme long range where your bullet is losing velocity and energy.

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