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Sandia's second crack at fuel-air stun grenade

New flash-bang safe, fireproof, says Sandia National Laboratories.


It took 20 years, but here it is--again: the new and improved flash-bang grenade.

Sandia National Laboratories, which created the original Mk 141 flash-bang two decades ago, is having a second go at marketing a "fuel air" version of an old SWAT standby that it says is far safer for law enforcement and the military.

Traditional flash-bangs are basically big fire crackers--the "flash powder," a mixture of aluminum and potassium perchlorate dust, explodes quickly when ignited and produces an intensely bright light along with its huge bang. The body or canister is generally a steel tube with holes positioned to allow the blast and flash to be emitted without producing shrapnel (PDF).

Traditional stun grenade

The new device, which works differently, is basically a fuel-air bomb. A gas generator spews out a cloud of aluminum powder that, when ignited, causes a small-scale dust explosion. Think: exploding grain silo. All of this occurs outside the canister, making it safer for all concerned, according to Sandia. Apparently, it also resolves the flammability factor; flash-bangs have been known to ignite flammable materials, as was the case in the Iranian Embassy Siege in London.

But the flake aluminum used here, while creating a flash comparable to looking directly into the sun for 60 milliseconds, causes no permanent damage to vision. In addition, the flake aluminum poses no appreciable burning hazard because it cools to the ambient temperature quickly.

Stun grenades or flash-bangs--the official nomenclature is "Noise and Flash Diversionary Devices" are non-lethal weapons generally tossed through a window or door by law enforcement to temporarily distract or disorient crooks or crazies in hostage rescue, forced-entry, or crowd-control situations.

Sandia has licensed the device to Defense Technology Corporation of America, of Casper, Wyo., the second company to try to bring the product to market (PDF). It may be that discerning agencies are holding out for the "Multisensory Grenade," which promises pepper irritant, indelible paint to mark-up the miscreants, and a stink bomb or teargas feature.