Your fireworks buying guide for a great Independence Day.

Your fireworks buying guide for a great Independence Day.

Celebrate the destruction of brutish British colonial rule with the destruction of bulk Chinese explosives.

Your fireworks buying guide for a great Independence Day.

Independence Day is fast approaching, and with it comes the thrill of playing with fireworks. In most states, certain explosive fireworks are illegal, but if you have some property outside of town and your uncle's got a buddy on the local police force, who's gonna stop you?

Well, I am, for just a second. Remember that fireworks are not toys. Well, they are, but very dangerous toys nonetheless. Remember—regardless of the hysterical jokes to follow—never hold any explosive or burning object in your hand and never use fireworks indoors. These mannequins thought they could ignore safety rules, and you can see what happened to them:

If you're looking to really thrill the family with your homemade pyrotechnics, then you're going to need a little information about what blows up best before you get to blow it up. This handy guide will take you through the different types of fireworks you can buy in order of least-to-most fun to blow up.

Magic Snakes

LEGAL IN: Fucking everywhere because they suck.


IGNITION: These stupid little distractions are what fireworks shops sell in their permanent clearance section. Carbon snakes come in a box of 20 for a nickel. These little creeps start as sooty pucks and just get less fun from there. Igniting them is a huge pain. It cannot be done with a punk lighter, but instead needs a full open flame. If you can master the delicate timing needed to light a Magic Snake with a match, then get ready for a Freudian nightmare. Out of the hissing flames comes a ropey black monstrosity accompanied by the smell of burning sulfur. The Magic Snake really brings to life the experience of watching Satan take a shit. When the show is over, the snake immediately crumbles into ash and your dad's back patio is permanently stained.


VERDICT: Send these things back to hell.


LEGAL IN: In certain states, they are birthday candles.

IGNITION: A metal stick covered in potassium nitrate, the Sparkler is somehow the firework we feel the most comfortable handing to babies. The energetic crackle of the Sparkler inspires children to frolic and flail their arms, creating beautiful trails of light as the kids spin and dodge each other with heart-stopping precision. While sparklers are certainly inspiring and magical, be sure to have a bucket of water handy for disposal once the they finish spot-welding themselves.


VERDICT: Doesn't blow up, but at least it's not a magic snake.

Smoke bombs

LEGAL IN: Heavy metal shows and ninja fights.

IGNITION: Compact and colorful, the smoke bomb is an essential for any would-be pyromaniac prankster. These are as fun to light and throw as they are miserable to step on. And if that's not enough, they also get deceptively hot. Play it safe and cool by putting a smoke bomb in a bottle or can first. It'll be like you're summoning a genie, except he's running late. Smoke bombs are also one of the few fireworks that only work in the daytime.


VERDICT: Lots of fun, but still no explosion.


LEGAL IN: States with high concentrations of bullies.

IGNITION: Bang-bangs—also known as pop-pops, throw-bangs, and anything else you might call your grandfather—are tiny packages of self-striking gunpowder. Throw them at a hard surface like the ground or a little brother and they'll snap with a fierce alacrity.

VERDICT: Good to have handy for on-the-go mayhem.



LEGAL IN: Every state in this proud union.

IGNITION: Squeeze the trigger on a loaded firearm to launch a speeding bullet projectile and produce a loud report. Aim away from all people and creatures unless you want to kill them. Firearms are the original Independence Day fireworks display. They're as much fun today as they were in 1776.

VERDICT: Deadly, not very colorful, but legal to use all year round.

Roman candles

LEGAL IN: Mostly Rome.

IGNITION: Lit like a normal candle, the roman candle spits bright orbs of light in unpredictable arcs, either loudly fizzling out or exploding at unpredictable intervals. Roman candles are tempting to hold because you can pretend you have a magic wand, but after a few cans of liquid Independence Day cheer, you might find yourself shooting red hot burning chemicals at your family. Save the spell-casting routine for when you are playing wizard by yourself.


VERDICT: Wild, colorful, unpredictable, and dangerous; like the love of a good Roman woman.

Bottle rockets

LEGAL IN: The trunk of your car.

IGNITION: Small, compact, and cheaper per pound than flour, bottle rockets are simple fireworks that zip into the air (ideally) and crack with a sudden explosion (again, ideally). Notoriously fickle, the bottle rocket's popularly comes from its suspiciously low price. Often sold in a gross (144, or a dozen dozens), it's meant to be cheap and disposable. This also leads to more risky behaviors like throwing them at the last possible second, using them as ammunition in bottle rocket fights, or even trying them to your penis for a laugh like in Jackass 5: The Legend of Steve-O's Gold.


VERDICT: The most bangs for your buck.


LEGAL IN: International airspace.

IGNITION: Like the basic sky rocket, but equipped with a bonus feature. After zooming into the air and exploding in a red or green blast, the rocket body comes down buffeted by a built-in parachute. It's whimsical and fun to catch. However, the parachuting apparatus does not hold up to repeat missions. You quickly realize you're just catching your own warm garbage.


VERDICT: Buy a few. If you buy one or two, you'll think you're being smart, but you're cheating yourself out of fun.


LEGAL IN: The blind spots of local law enforcement.

IGNITION: A substantial piece of pyrotechnics, the sky rocket is the star of your fireworks extravaganza. Much larger than the simple bottle rocket. You're going to need a pipe sticking out of the ground or a heavy jug to properly send one of these into the air. With a quick light, skyrockets zoom high up and explode in primary colors that your aunts will love. They are rather loud, so if you are shooting them off in the city, be sure to frequently change location, or else you'll be arrested. Plus, you'll spread the joy of unexpected explosions throughout the neighborhood.


VERDICT: If you didn't get at least six of these for when the sun goes down, you screwed up your Fourth.

Mortar rounds

LEGAL IN: The next state over.

IGNITION: Mostly sold as a pack, mortar rounds are for the more experienced backyard pyrotechnician (or just a total psycho). The pack comes with a mortar tube that is supposed to sit flat on the ground and a variety of bright explosion effects to dazzle the family. Each round must be carefully placed into the mortar tube, or else your next big boom will flop out of the tube, explode on the ground, and give everyone a great excuse to visit the hospital together.


VERDICT: A great centerpiece for any homemade explosion show.


LEGAL IN: Nowhere.

IGNITION: This is a no-kidding quarter-stick of dynamite. It's the very definition of light and get away. M-1000's are not colorful nor dazzling. They are for pure destruction. Great for blowing apart valuable possessions or for sending burning shrapnel into your eyeballs. If you are looking to remove a body part and don't have health insurance, look no further than the M-1000.


VERDICT: Illicit explosive power that is sexually fulfilling.