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Licensing Requirements

What are the firework laws in my state?

State fireworks laws usually fall into one of four general categories: none, sparklers only, safe & sane or all. Furthermore, individual states may not allow certain devices for whatever reason. See this page for information on each state's laws.

What are the firework laws in my town?

I don't know. If you want to find out, contact either your city clerk or fire marshal and ask them for information. In most cases, city governments will have a printed information packet stating all of your state local fireworks ordinances, including what types of devices can be bought/sold, and when.

Do I need a license to purchase 1.3G (display) fireworks?

YES! In the United States of America, at a minimum, you must have a BATFE type 54, 55 or 60 permit to purchase ANY and ALL 1.3g items. This is in addition to any State and Local requirements for purchasing 1.3g items!

For State requirements, visit your State Fire Marshal online or you can check each individual State laws at this page.

CPSC, BATFE, NFPA, DOT: What are these?

CPSC = Consumer Product Safety Commission

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death from more than 15,000 types of consumer products under the agency's jurisdiction. Deaths, injuries and property damage from consumer product incidents cost the nation more than $700 billion annually. The CPSC is committed to protecting consumers and families from products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical, or mechanical hazard or can injure children. The CPSC's work to ensure the safety of consumer products - such as toys, cribs, power tools, cigarette lighters, and household chemicals - contributed significantly to the 30 percent decline in the rate of deaths and injuries associated with consumer products over the past 30 years.

For more information, visit http://www.cpsc.gov.

BATFE = Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives - Department of the Treasury

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is a principal law enforcement agency within the United States Department of Justice dedicated to preventing terrorism, reducing violent crime, and protecting our Nation. The men and women of ATF perform the dual responsibilities of enforcing Federal criminal laws and regulating the firearms and explosives industries. We are committed to working directly, and through partnerships, to investigate and reduce crime involving firearms and explosives, acts of arson, and illegal trafficking of alcohol and tobacco products.

From a 1.3g perspective, BATFE is the Federal authority that is in charge of the regulation of acquisition, storage and disposition of 1.3g display fireworks. The BATFE regulates the acquisition though the use of the permitting process. How to obtain a BATFE permit, different types of permits and costs associated can be found at the Federal Firearms License Center.

For more information, visit: http://www.atf.gov.

For BATFE permit/license information visit: http://www.atf.gov/firearms/fflc/index.htm.

For a free copy of the BATFE Orange Book online, visit: http://www.atf.gov/explarson/fedexplolaw/index.htm.

NFPA = National Fire Protection Association

The industry organization/board that is made up of members from the BATFE, several State Fire Marshal offices, Fire Services members, Fireworks Industry members (from APA and PGI), military service branches and the Insurance industry. The goal of NFPA where it pertains to fireworks is to create a code book (code 1123) of how to setup, display and tear down a fireworks shoot. This code is recognized by most insurance companies as the "guideline" for discharging a fireworks display. Also, the NFPA 1123 code is recognized by the courts as the code to follow when discharging a display in a public environment (whether it be a 1.4g or a 1.3g displays).

For more information, visit http://www.nfpa.org.

DOT = United States Department of Transportation

The Department of Transportation was established by an act of Congress on October 15, 1966, the Department’s first official day of operation was April 1, 1967. The mission of the Department is to:

Serve the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient transportation system that meets our vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future.

The DOT is the Federal authority responsible for regulating the commercial movement of all goods in the United States. Especially the transportation of any 1.4g and/or 1.3g hazardous material in commerce on public roads.

For more information, visit http://www.dot.gov/.

For specific CDL (Commercial Drivers License) requirements, please visit your State's Secretary of State/DMV website.

What is an ATF permit, and how do I get one?

In order to purchase 1.3g legally, you must be BATFE permitted to do so. There are three "flavors" of permitting: Type 54, Type 55 and Type 60. Here's a brief description of each type of Permit:

  • Type 54 - Good for 3 years and an unlimited amount of 1.3g purchases at any licensed distributor in the U.S. Costs $100 dollars to obtain, $50 dollars to renew.
  • Type 55 - Good for 1 year and 1 purchase at a any licensed distributor in the U.S. Costs $75 dollar per purchase.
  • Type 60 - Good for 1 year and 6 purchases at any licensed distributor in your State, exclusively. Costs $25 per year.

These are the types of Federal permits and you must have in order to make at least one purchase of 1.3g, legally. In order to get any one of these you must apply for a permit using the ATF Form 5400.13/5400.16 (part of a packet of information obtainable from the FFLC - Federal Firearms Licensing Center). Prerequisites for a permit from BATFE are:

  • Must not be a fugitive from justice
  • An unlawful user of or addicted to illegal drugs or substances
  • Under indictment or information in any court for a felony or any crime for which the judge could imprison you for more then one consecutive year
  • Must not be an alien in the United States
  • Presently appealing a conviction of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year
  • Never been convicted in any court of a felony resulting in imprisonment for a term exceeding one or more consecutive year
  • Never been adjudicated mentally defective or committed to a mental institution
  • Never been discharged from the Armed Forces under a dishonorable conditions
  • Never renounced his or her citizenship
  • Must demonstrate the ability to store any unused product (must have an explosive magazine or letter of contingency storage)

The last one is usually the GOTCHA! For 1.3g, you must demonstrate to BATFE that you can legally store the explosive material. They don't take your word for it as far as using all of your product the night of the shoot.

If you know what type of permit you want and you meet the prerequisites, your ready to contact the FFLC and get an application packet mailed out to you. To submit your packet, you will need to fill out the already mentioned 5400.13/5400.16 form, submit 2 FD-258 finger print cards that MUST be filled out by an officer of the law and a 2x2 color photo along with your application fee. Once you pass the background check, after about 80 or so days a local BATFE field agent will be dispatched to perform an interview with you. The field agent will go over the application you filled out, ensure you are mentally stable and cover some orange book information (specifically the procedure to report lost or stolen explosive material). After your field interview, you'll get your permit, employee possessor and responsible persons document in the mail and then your ready to address the State and Local license/permitting.


Mortar Tubes & Racks

What kind of material can I use for mortars?

There are two major types of materials that can safely be used for launching shells: HDPE and fiberglass.

HDPE (high-density polyethylene) is a very dense pipe made from a flexible polymer. Though a small piece of it may seem rock-hard, it is actually very bendable in larger lengths, making it ideal for use as underground piping because it can withstand the shifting of the earth. This also makes it very safe to use with fireworks, because if a shell were to explode in the tube, the HDPE would absorb much of the shock. Though the tube would likely become severely distorted (and useless thereafter), it would not create shrapnel. In addition to being safe, these tubes are also very durable - if cared for, they can last for decades. More and more shell kits are now being sold with HDPE mortars rather than cardboard ones (which are only good for a few shots).

Fiberglass tubes are made from a fiberglass-reinforced epoxy resin. Like HDPE, it appears to be stiff, but is actually somewhat flexible. In the event of a burst charge explosion, fiberglass tubes absorb much of the shock while directing the blast upwards and out of the tube like a mine. Fiberglass tubes are used extensively in the display fireworks industry, and can be found in some shell kits.

Cardboard tubes can also be used. Most small shell kits come with a cardboard tube, but it should not be used to fire more shells than the kit contained. Thicker cardboard tubes are also available from some dealers. One way of chemically hardening cardboard tubes can be found here.

Which diameter/length should my mortars be?

Diameter

The inside diameter of the tube needs to be somewhat larger than the outside diameter of your reloadable shells, but not too much. Too small, and the mortar might get stuck in the tube: too large, and the mortar may not lift to a safe height before the burst charge fires. Most reloadable shells are ~1.75" outside diameter. There are also reloadable shells that are ~1.5" and smaller.

For HDPE tubes

  • 2"IPS-SDR11 has an ID of ~1.9", and is fine for all ~1.75" shells. This is the size most commonly used, if you only have the budget for a few mortars, get them in this size. Generally, you do not want to use this size for ~1.5" and smaller shells.
  • 2"IPS-SDR9 has an ID of ~1.8", and will work for most 1.75" shells. However, there are some which are know to usually not fit, such as some canister shells. For those shells that do fit, using SDR9 mortars will provide louder lift and higher breaks than if fired from SDR11. SDR9 can be used for ~1.5" shells, but is not recommended for smaller shells.
  • It is important to note that the outside diameter of shells is not tightly controlled. Neither is the inside diameter of most HDPE tubing. Expect some performance variation as a result.
  • 2"IPS and 2"DIPS are not the same size, do not interchange them. (Most HDPE is sold in IPS sizes, so this should not be a common problem.)
  • SDR and DR ratings are effectively the same thing, it is OK to use pipe that does not have the "S".
  • For a table of "Typical Sizes and Dimensions" of HDPE Pipe, click here: http://www.isco-pipe.com/pdf/ips.pdf
Fiberglass

Fiberglass mortars for consumer shells are typically ~1.88", and suitable for all ~1.75" shells. Some vendors have smaller sizes available, but they aren't common to find. (Please note that, unlike HDPE, a 2" fiberglass mortar is really 2" inside diameter and too large for consumer shells.)

Cardboard/Paper

When buying any cardboard or paper tubes for use as mortars, make sure they are designed for that purpose. Reputable on line vendors, such as Pyro Direct and others, specialize in pyro-specific products, and will make sure you get the right tubes.

Given the longevity, availability, and affordability of HDPE and Fiberglass tubes, they are probably a better choice than cardboard/paper tubes for ~1.75" shells. However, for all ~1.5" shells, cardboard/paper tubes are more readily available and probably a better choice.

Length

The following information applies to all mortars, regardless of material:

Aerial Shells

An overall length of 12" is sufficient for most shells. Some users report higher breaks with 15" mortars, but there are no guarantees. The fuses on many shells are not long enough to reach the top of a 15" tube, so you would need to add a short piece of visco to the fuse in order to be able to light it safely. Longer mortars, ~15" or so, are generally recommended for multi-break shells.

Mines

Mortars for mines should be 6-10" long. Shorter mortars result in lower and "fatter" spreads of the stars and material, longer mortars result in taller and skinnier spreads of stars. Shorter than 6", and the mine may be too wide and low for safety. Many mines have shorter fuses than aerials, so they won't be able to reach the top of a mortar tube longer than 10".

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