C-4 Plastic explosive

So I was reading one of my David Drake books today, and one of the short stories centers on a guy burning C-4. The sory itself is kind of weird - at the end, the guy end up getting transported to France in the middle ages and the witch who called him ends up where he was in Viet Nam. Very strange story.

Anyway. The story says that C-4 will just burn if you light it with a lighter and that it takes concussion to make it explode.

Is that correct?

Also, that story (and a couple of others) gice the impression that C-4 was pretty common and easy to come buy for the soldiers. True?
I know. The stories are fiction, and really squirrely fiction at that. Several of the stories are like reading a mixture between a war story and a horror movie. Still, Drake was in Viet Nam so that I think at least possible that he could accurately represent things. Not that I don’t think he (or any other author) is beyond changing things just to make the story work.

Yep. C-4 and other high explosives are engineered to be insensitive to heat and moderate shock. It typically takes a blasting cap, which is a small explosive device on its own, to initiate detonation. This insensitivity is important for such applications as bombs which you don’t want to detonate in the event of a crash or fire, and nucelar weapon triggers for the same reason. It also vastly improves the safety of various construction, demolition and mining activities which require the use of HE–though AFAIK, civilian activities don’t generally use C-4.

As Q.E.D. stated, C-4 does burn with a bright, hot flame and will not detonate just from the flame, it requires both heat and force. From the way the EOD guys talked about it you could hit it with a hammer or set it on fire and nothing would happen -BUT- you wouldn’t want to do both at the same time.

From the veterans I’ve spoken to and more books than I’m able to count, C-4 was commonly issued to infantry for demo use in the field. Quite a few guys talked about using a pinch off the block to heat up a canteen cup of water for coffee in the field.

I like David Drake’s novels and think I’ve read most of them. He was with the 11th ACR in Vietnam and is pretty accurate about many of the small details regarding life as a grunt in the field.

So, if my Evil Overlord Stockpile™ of C-4 catches fire, beating the flames out with a shoe is a bad idea? :smiley:

That’s a big Roger on that, Q.E.D.* Highly* contraindicated!

A piece of C-4 about the size of a quarter will, when ignited, bring a canteen cup of water to a raging boil in seconds.

I’ve got quite a few of his books. Not so much the ones that go more towards fantasy, but the Military SF stuff. Hammers Slammers, Lt. Leary, Red Liners, etc. The book I was reading today was “The Military Dimension Mark 2.”

I like Drake’s novels, but the thing that really impresses me about his stuff are the prefaces to some of the books where he explains his thoughts on the military.
Thanks for the info, guys.

Not much to add except that for some reason I love the French term, plastique.

So if Q.E.D. attempts to beat out the plastique fire with an old shoe, he might require some plastique surgery as well, if he survives? :smiley: