The Chemistry of Our Shoot
Conventional (as opposed to nuclear) explosives are composed of chemicals in a high energy state. Think of a large round rock on the top of a steep hill with a flat top and a small rise at the edges. If you push the rock up and over the edge to start it down the hill it will release a lot of energy as it rolls down the steep hillside. The same with the explosives. You give them a little bit of energy to get them started and they give back a lot. In the case of a supersonic rifle bullet the energy to start the reaction is the shock wave which heats the air between the particles of the explosive mixture.
The main component of Boomershoot explosives is ammonium nitrate. This is a white solid in the form of small spheres used to fertilize the local crops. The atoms of a molecule of this substance are arranged in a configuration that stores a lot of energy. If the bonds between the atoms are broken the atoms rearrange themselves into a different configuration to form different substances and release heat. Those new substances are water vapor, nitrogen, and oxygen. Notice that a solid turned into a gas mixture. The gases are hot because of the release of heat during the conversion. These hot gases take up a LOT more volume at normal pressures than the original solid. They therefore expand rapidly and create the explosion. The excess oxygen in the reaction can be used to burn a fuel such as diesel. The addition of the fuel produces still more heat and gases (carbon dioxide and water vapor in the case of diesel). Potassium chlorate (also used in matches) is used in the Boomershoot targets to make the mixture more sensitive to impact. It breaks down into potassium chloride (a salt) and oxygen and also puts out heat in the process.
The Boomershoot explosive is considered a "high explosive" which basically means it can be detonated without confinement and that the speed with which the chemical reaction propagates is "very fast". A "low explosive" requires confinement to build up pressure and burst the containment vessel -- resulting in an explosion. The speed of the low explosive chemical reaction as it propagates through the substance is much slower than with high explosives and can be thought of as rapid burning.
Email: Joe Huffman