AllOutdoor Review: Firebird Detonating Targets – Confirm Hits with a Bang

   09.13.22

AllOutdoor Review: Firebird Detonating Targets – Confirm Hits with a Bang

Among presenters at the 2022 Lucid Optics Ballistic Summit at NRA Whittington Center in New Mexico was Dan Meeker, inventor and owner of Firebird brand detonating targets. Attendees at this media event got to experience these fun little devices firsthand. While Firebird is not a new product, it has undergone recent changes to make them even more enjoyable and environmentally responsible.

Meeker is quick to specify that these targets are not the same as Tannerite or any binary explosive target, in a few ways. The explosive compound is pre-combined and set into the holder, which resembles a small, plastic snuff can. So there’s no mixing involved. In addition, he has gone through extensive federal product testing and scrutiny to confirm that the product cannot be used to make any improvised explosive device. Unlike binary explosive targets that have to be mixed and used in a certain length of time, Firebirds will not expire and become inert in storage.

Firebird

The targets have a peel and stick backing that makes it easy to stick them on pretty much any sort of target backer, though results vary based on backing material. They are small and lightweight, with the smaller being 50 mm diameter, 8 mm thick, and the larger disk 65 mm across x 7 mm thick. There’s also an infrared version which is reflective under night vision devices and slightly reflective to bright flashlights. In terms of backing material for Firebirds, cardboard is not so dramatic but still explosive, while steel, as we discovered at the conference, delivers a satisfying combo of light, smoke, and audible report. Meeker suggests adhering a Firebird to clay pigeons downrange on a breezy day, four to five feet off the ground, for maximal effect. He also advised that plywood makes a great backer, but to be aware that the Firebird’s detonation will blow a small hole in it. Hits to the rim will work to detonate the target, but the burn is more gradual. Center hits create a good spectacle and boom factor.

Firebird
Smoke cloud on the right is dissipating, while a fresh detonation happens on the left.

Another advantage of these targets is a biodegradable shell. Official status for this is pending, but Meeker states that what’s left over after these targets’ explosive action will harmlessly degrade into natural surroundings. It’s not advised to use them on indoor ranges, however, due to not only their own smoke but the unsettling of particulate matter downrange.

With the dramatic backdrop of NRA Whittington Center, writers got to try out the targets using projectiles ranging in size from 22 LR to 6.5 Creedmoor, including slower-moving but powerful .25 and .45 caliber rounds fired from Airforce brand airguns. Though we couldn’t try them at distances greater than 100 yards due to fire risk, there’s no reason why they wouldn’t work when placed beyond that distance. When working alone to check zero, these targets could make confirmation a lot easier than walking out to check paper or even steel that’s taken enough hits to wear the telltale paint off. In addition to that helpful trait, Meeker said he’s had great success at winning the interest of young shooters with the help of Firebird targets. The instant reward of smoke and, in dimly-lit conditions, a bit of fire, along with an auditory explosion, closely simulates the instant-reward system that video games offer for accurate hits. Thus, these targets can even serve as a generational bridge for an American sporting tradition.

Firebird
Pro Airgun shooter Ton Jones takes aim on a Firebird at the Lucid Optics Ballistic Summit.

Placing the targets on steel plates was very simple. Doing so with Meeker’s supervision, I stacked double Firebirds on a single target for bigger effect–doing so comes with the obligation to exceed the 50-foot minimum distance and to insure a wide berth of non-flammable material around the target, however. He carried a small microfiber cloth along for re-setting targets, to wipe of the carbon left behind from the last explosions, which can impair their ability to stick tight to steel. Meeker said Firebirds are especially fun when attached to clay pigeons for in-flight pyrotechnics.

Safety is built in with these targets in another way. Each puck has a QR code on it that immediately takes the viewer to Firebird’s safety page. Should these products be found by someone who doesn’t know what they are, it creates a direct line to knowledge.

Firebird

Of course, basic safety guidelines should be followed when using these targets. Firing should be done from a distance of no less than 50 feet. And the immediate target area should be free of dry grass, pine needles, or other material that could catch fire. Always attach them by the adhesive backing, never by nailing or other means.

Firebird targets are sold in packets of ten for $16.95 for 50mm or $19.95 for 65mm. Direct order is available. Distribution to retailers in Texas and surrounding states is good, with nationwide retail sporting goods stores on the horizon for over-the-counter sales. If you’d like to get sme for free, a pack of 50BIO Firebirds is included with the purchase of a new HK rimfire from select dealers.  If you’re looking for a fun way to pass range time or spice up some practical training, Firebirds are sure to make the experience explosively memorable.

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Eve Flanigan is a defensive shooting and armed security practitioner/instructor who lives in the American Southwest. She is the author of "Ready to Defend: Tips for Living the Armed Lifestyle," and is a contributor to numerous gun-related blogs and print publications.

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