Bang-Snaps and Silver Fulminate

In a previous blog post, we talked about how silver metal can be chemically transformed into silver fulminate, which is such a ridiculously sensitive explosive that it can’t be mass produced (beyond a few milligrams) or transported). To put it lightly, stability is a lot to ask of silver fulminate. But, it does have a niche use as a common children’s toy: the bang-snap.

Surely you’ve seen bang-snaps around New Year’s or Independence Day or played with them as a kid. They’re the tiny teardrop-shaped paper firecrackers that pop like a cap gun when you toss them on the ground. That pop, or detonation, is made possible with silver fulminate.

The main ingredient in a bang-snap is gravel – about 200 milligrams of it. However, this gravel is impregnated with an extremely small amount (about .08 milligrams) of silver fulminate. The reason why bang-snaps don’t damage anything is because of the gravel. One bang-snap contains about 2500% more gravel than silver fulminate. This inert-to-explosive mass ratio buffers the violent detonation of the silver fulminate so much that it doesn’t damage anything.

Bang-snaps are a safe way to see silver fulminate’s sensitivity first-hand. Just rubbing one in-between your fingers is enough to set it off (it sparks a little, but won’t damage the skin). And that’s just .08 milligrams of the stuff. Now you know why chemistry labs keep the silver nitrate and ethanol far away from each other.

Manhattan Gold & Silver Update

We’re currently open from 9:30am – 4:00pm Monday-Friday.  Customers are now allowed to enter the exchange with a mask and witness melts as usual.

If you have any questions you can still contact us at 212-398-1454 and sign up for our newsletter for further announcements.

Most importantly, please stay safe! 

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