At the end of Suicide Squad:

Harley Quinn cuts out Enchantress' heart. Rick Flag asks Killer Croc to throw a military-grade explosive into Enchantress' weapon and Deadshot shoots it, forcing it to explode.

According to IMDB Goof's, it states,

Military-grade explosives do not explode when shot at; the (sic) require a blasting cap to be set off. This is a safety feature of such materials.

However, it is observed that shooting a grenade or fuel tank causes it to explode. Is this not possible with the explosive used in this scenario?

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    You added a spoiler tag for a scientific fact, but not when describing the end of the movie?
    – Lindsey D
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 17:08
  • 8
    There is an excellent Mythbusters Episode (#175) where they do all sorts of fun stuff to C4, including setting it on fire, shooting it with various types of ammo (incendiary, tracer), dumping thermite on it, stomping on it...
    – Kevin L
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 20:18
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    Define "Military-grade explosives". If you're talking about Tannerite, then yes. The verbiage you're after is impact sensitivity. Primary explosives do, secondary explosives do not.
    – Mazura
    Commented Jan 6, 2017 at 0:03
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    "Military grade" is not that useful of a classification: primary and secondary does describe how explosives behave.
    – Nick T
    Commented Jan 6, 2017 at 0:03
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    "it is observed that shooting a grenade or fuel tank causes it to explode". No, that is wrong too. Mythbusters did an episode of that where they shot at grenades and found that they did not explode when shot at, even if you manage to break them apart violently. The only thing that happens is that the explosive is dispersed. Fuel tanks... same thing. You need to aerosolise, or boil, or in any other manner vapourise fuel in order to make it explode.
    – MichaelK
    Commented Jan 6, 2017 at 12:04

4 Answers 4



Military Grade explosives are incredibly safe and are designed to only explode when required.

Take C4 (or Composition-4 to give it its correct name) - Wikipedia

C-4 is very stable and insensitive to most physical shocks. C-4 cannot be detonated by a gunshot or by dropping it onto a hard surface. It does not explode when set on fire or exposed to microwave radiation. Detonation can only be initiated by a combination of extreme heat and a shockwave, such as when a detonator inserted into it is fired.

Shooting Gas Tanks

This was covered at Skeptics Stack Exchange where the answer was a pretty resounding... NO.

  • 25
    There's a great urban legend around the safety of C4 in the military. It goes like this: One day an EOD instructor is giving a presentation on C4. He says that, contrary to what you see in movies, it is very stable. You can squeeze it, stomp on it, hell, you could even chew on it, and it won't explode. He passes a small bit around the class to examine and continues on with his presentation. He's interrupted by a soldier in the back of the class that vomits, collapses, and begins to have seizures. Turns out the guy decided to test out the chewing part and didn't know that C4 is poisonous.
    – Kevin
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 19:20
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    @Kevin I'm sure I read somewhere that soldiers will occasionally eat very small bits of C4 to avoid unpleasant duties
    – Lexi
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 19:49
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    A gas tank CAN, erm, flare if given the right conditions: fuel/air mixture, ignition source via maybe an incendiary round. But the tank would have to be larger than a automotive tank, and as automotive tanks are specifically designed not to explode..............I do really wish the motion picture industry would get a little bit real on that point. Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 20:53
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    Also Fuel tank != gas tank. Liquid petroleum gas is highly difficult to ignite. Propane tanks are another story.
    – cde
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 22:56
  • I may have been hasty in my first comment. I believe they threw a hand grenade which is nothing like c4...
    – cde
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 22:59

'Military Grade' does not really define what the explosive is made of, and that is what determines how it detonates. Some explosives require fire, some impact, some a chemical reaction, etc. Many nitrogen based explosives can explode with physical force. I've seen nitrogen triiodide explode at the touch of a feather. TNT is also know to explode if not handled properly. Bullets themselves have a primer that is impact based which ignites the gunpowder.

If a bomb has an impact based detonator, or uses an impact based explosive, then yes, shooting it would detonate it. 'Military Grade' doesn't specify what it is.

  • 4
    +1. But I will add that a military grade bomb or munition will have a military grade fuze (also spelled fuse). These fuzes are intelligent enough to have safety features like achieving a set spin rate before arming itself (there are other features as well). The charge on this type of munition is pretty stable, and will only go high order (detonate) when its fuze fires off.
    – John
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 16:46
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    "how else?" - they use altimeters
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 18:47


But only certain ones. In Mythbusters Episode 216, they detonate a hand grenade with a .308 rifle.


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    The rifle shot probably detonated the blasting cap which then detonated the grenade...but a good answer.
    – Paulie_D
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 20:19
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    @Paulie_D - Possibly, but the grenade detonated as soon as the round hit the outside of the grenade, and before it reached the cap. Perhaps the shock proceeded it to the cap, but that's hard to say. Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 20:20
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    OTOH, let's just call a blasting cap, "military-grade explosives." :) Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 20:21
  • @DonBranson But blasting caps are also industrial. So....yeah. Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 20:54
  • @NZKshatriya - Okay, so C4 and blasting caps also have commercial/industrial use. Not sure what you're saying. Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 20:58

Explosives that detonate with combustion or shock can be set off with firearms......Thought difficult. Sensitive explosives like TNT are indeed possible. Modern military explosives use RDX or plastic explosives that are notoriously difficult to set off. This makes them safer. They can only detonate with a high speed detonation wave (primer caps)

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