Mysterious Chesterfield "booms" linked to exploding targets

Published: Apr. 9, 2014 at 3:13 AM EDT
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CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - Several mysterious booms heard in Chesterfield and the Tri-Cities were likely caused by exploding targets, which can be bought over-the-counter.

Click here to watch video of the blasts:

Exploding targets are sold at sporting goods stores, usually in half-pound or pound jars. However, bulk exploding targets are available online.

Justin Watkins, 28, fired off 20 pounds of exploding targets Saturday afternoon. Watkins says he and many neighbors in the area shoot off the loud targets in the woods. Exploding targets are perfectly legal, if used properly.

"We spent close to $100 on just 20 pounds of (exploding targets)," said Watkins.

Neighbors were certainly shocked by Saturday's blast and the series of explosions heard intermittently over the last few weeks.

"It was like an explosion and it startled us. It shook the house, and we weren't sure what it was," said Beth Wilson, who was rattled after the big boom on Saturday.

Chesterfield police received up to 20 calls after Saturday's explosion, heard around the county and beyond, which investigators now confirm was from 20 pounds of exploding targets.

"Surprising. I mean if it startles people, you would think (police would) stop it," questioned Travis Wilson of Chesterfield.

It's illegal to hunt with a high powered rifle in Chesterfield county. However, rifles can shoot at exploding targets. Regardless, shooters must follow all the rules of firing weapons outdoors, like staying far away from homes and highways, and not firing over night.

Bob Moates Sports Shop owner Richard Hill sells half-pound jars of the target mix. Hill says exploding targets are safe when used properly.

"Exploding targets are a lot easier to handle than black power. It's one of those things you can mix, drop on the floor. It's not going to go off," said Hill.

Exploding targets aren't explosive until its "chemicals" are mixed. It must then be detonated by a high-powered firearm. The exploding target should not be stored or left standing for long periods of time after it's combined and becomes active.

Watkins points out that he's just one of many neighbors who aim for a bigger blast using these types of targets.

"Compared to all the people who are involved and doing it, I'm just one person. This stuff is nationwide," continued Watkins. "(After a blast) everybody gets on social media and calls the cops, and it's obvious that (exploding targets) made that noise."

"It was just very unnerving not knowing what it was. But if (exploding target practice) truly is what it is, at least we know," added Beth Wilson.

Even though exploding targets are legal, they can still be dangerous. The warning label states that users could lose a limb, or even their lives.

Chesterfield police have investigated the booms, and report no noise ordinances have been violated. However, officers can't attribute all the explosions heard over the last few weeks to exploding target practice.

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