County officials said they would look into the matter. They’re still in the exploratory phase.
“It’s kind of new ground,” said Chief Deputy Jeff Haynes of the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office.
The explosions apparently stem from target shooting indicators that explode when struck with a bullet.
“It’s legal,” Sorrells said. “You can buy’em legally.”
There are various brands of the product. Tannerite is a popular one. In Clyde, John Hemingway sells the H2 Targets brand in his gun shop, WNC CARRY.
“Basically, it’s a two-part binary chemical,” Hemingway explained: “When you shoot it with a high-impact rifle, a .223 or larger, a big boom is what you’re going to hear.”
Ron Jackson is one of the Clyde residents who wrote commissioners. He says the blasts are particularly pronounced near his property.
“The concussion of the blast just hit me in the back, just like ‘kaboom,’” Jackson said, standing in his yard.
Both Jackson and his wife compare the explosions to blasts of dynamite. They describe a physical experience.
“You can feel it in your body,” Jackson said.
Harold Haskins, another nearby resident, also wrote the county. He approached the source of the explosions, another neighbor and distant relative to his girlfriend.
“His exact words were, ‘Look, this is my damn land and I’ll do anything on my land that I want to do,’” Haskins said.
The sheriff’s office also visited this property, the residence of Robert Lowe. They were responding to Jackson’s call.
“Upon arrival I observed two of Lowe’s rifles lying on the ground next to him in his yard, along with several Tannerite exploding target packages,” the deputy relayed in the incident report. “Lowe advised that he had shot his rifles at the exploding targets a total of 4 times in the last hour or so.”
According to the incident report, Lowe mentioned he and Jackson had had prior property disputes. The deputy checked out a rifle range on the property — the proper backstops were in place — and advised Lowe of the county’s noise ordinance.
The fact that there doesn’t seem to be anything illegal about shooting exploding targets given the appropriate venue doesn’t ease Jackson’s concerns.
“You can probably hear the darn things to Canton,” he said. “It’s legal to own a shotgun, but you don’t stick it in someone’s face.”
While binary target indicators may be legal in North Carolina, that’s not the case in some other states. Maryland recently passed a law requiring an explosives license to use products such as Tannerite. This month, similar legislation is working its way through the Louisiana state house.
Standing inside his gun shop in Clyde, Hemingway calls up a YouTube video of people shooting exploding targets. They’ve placed them in old cars and appliances.
“Look at that damage that did, you see IEDs that don’t do that much damage,” Hemingway said, following a video of an explosion twisting a car frame. “Now, here’s one, somebody shooting an old refrigerator.”
This is not how binary targets are intended to be used. They are meant to positively alert long-distance target shooters that they have hit their mark.
“A lot of people use it incorrectly,” Hemingway said. “They’ll put Duck Tape around it and put it in a microwave or something and then blow that up. Then you have another problem — shrapnel.”
There’s nothing to indicate that the explosions in Clyde were the result of exploding targets being used improperly. Lowe could not be reached for comment.
Chief Deputy Haynes said that the sheriff’s office is still exploring how best to deal with exploding targets. And the county attorney is looking into the possibility that existing ordinances may apply in some fashion to the products. Whatever the findings, they will be presented to county commissioners at a future meeting.
Jackson plans on attending that meeting.
“I think everybody in this entire cove will be there,” he said.