Was dynamite ever available for purchase at farm stores or hardware stores?

I vaguely recall older people talk about buying dynamite for clearing stumps or large rocks on their farms. Or even small one or two man mining operations needed dynamite.

Was there ever a point in time when the Farmers Co-op or True Value Hardware sold dynamite to the public? Did it come with an instruction manual? :slight_smile:

If it was sold at stores. When did it become illegal to sell?

Here’s a hardware store ad from 1947.

In 1927:

Someone on Yahoo says:

I always thought my grandparents were spinning yarns with their dynamite stories. It really was a different and simpler time back in their day.

They didn’t have Bobcats back then. Even today a buried rock ledge can make digging a basement foundation impossible. Blasting it out isn’t allowed anymore.

Blasting in certain areas might be restricted but we can certainly contract a explosives tech to do what folks back 40 + years ago could do on their own.

Seemed like almost every garage back when i was a teen had blasting caps around.
We shot a awful lot of them with an old single shot Springfield .22 rimfire rifle.
Today marksmen enjoy the sound of lead hitting steel, :dubious:

Story was that one could buy long arms - including the Thompson sub-machine gun - at hardware stores.

Don’t know if the Prohibition gangsters’ unseemly use of them got that changed, or if the change came later.

While not as handy as dynamite, the “fertilizer bomb” (Oklahoma City Federal Building) is well known to farm kids. Don’t know if it would be practical for a foundation.

Since mining still uses high explosives (it still does, doesn’t it?), there have to be people and ways to detonate it. Maybe there are specialty businesses which can be called.

A few years ago, I was telling an elderly woman that the longest list of disciplinary actions for licensed professions in our state was not nurses or beauticians, but locksmiths. :confused: She told me that in the early years of her marriage, she and her late husband worked in his family’s hardware store, and one day in the 1960s, there were certain tools they weren’t allowed to sell any more - specifically, lock-picking aids.

The most common reason for these people to get in trouble was because they lied about their criminal records.


Certainly it was.

In fact, until 1968, you could go to any farm and feed and/or hardware store and simply purchase it. Until 9/11, all you needed was a $5 Federal Explosive License to purchase dynamite and it was still sold at chemical supply houses.

While some would limit who they would sell it to, many would look at the license, look at you and then make the sale. They also kept terrible records,especially for cash sales as the BATF went back in the 1990s and found many suppliers had no idea as to who they had sold dynamite to.

Frankly, getting explosives or fabricating them yourself really isn’t that difficult. Almost all mines have a magazine where they store explosives and most are guarded by a single person who is more concerned about the heavy equipment being stolen. And since the 1960s publishers like Paladin Press and Loompanics have published and sold dozens of books teaching people how to create homemade explosives and detonators.

I don’t worry about it myself as gasoline is readily available and can cause just as much damage as any explosive. And you don’t need any ID to purchase it.

The NFA of 1934 restricted Full Auto [Machine guns]
Long arms are still sold at hardware stores that are federally licensed.
The Thompson sub machine gun is just one of many that fall under the NFA 1934
and the Simi-Auto Thompson also falls under the same act.
NFA 1934

As for mining most certainly still blasts, like at least once a week.
Here is a video of a blast at the mine i retired from.
About 200 holes are connected via delays to turn 15-20 million tons of solid rock into rubble under 5 foot for processing to remove the 30-35 % Iron.


Loading & Hauling

I bought a Ruger 10/22 (common semi-automatic .22 LR carbine) from a hardware store circa 1992. Most hardware stores no longer maintain Federal Firearms License to sell firearms, but many in rural areas sell ammunition and accessories.

ANFO (ammonium nitrate soaked in fuel oil) can be made to detonate, but requires a substantial impulse. When I worked for a powder monkey we would blast duck ponds and irrigation canals by digging holes and burying 5 gallon containers of ANFO with a stick of high grade (85% TNT equiv) dynamite. Unless the ammonium nitrate is processed into a fine slurry, commercial blasting caps alone will not detonate it.

Commercial mining operations today generally used Seismopac, Tovex, or Emulex (water-gel explosives) due to their mechanical and thermal insensitivity and ease of deployment. High grade explosives (RDX and HMX based plastique) is really only used for building demolition, aviation/aerospace ordnance functional and termination systems, and for law enforcement and military use.

While it was once true that explosive safety was lax in the mining industry, since 9/11, the BATFE has taken explosive security extremely seriously, and all commercial companies handling explosives are regularly audited, with even small infractions like the loss of a single 200 ft reel of Primacord costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

The crap published by Paladin and Loompanics is far more dangerous to the reader, lacking as it does basic safety and handling information, and often containing wrong instructions for making explosives and other hazardous devices. Of particular concern is The Poor Man’s James Bond series and the CIA Black Books, which provide information on improvised devices likely to blow up in the user’s face. On the other hand, any graduate with a chemistry or chemical engineering degree with access to chemistry journals probably has enough practical knowledge to make any of of a wide array of explosives and toxins with relative safety. But they would-be survivalist with his library of “How to Blow Shit Up” books? Make sure you live well away and upwind of his domicile.


You have to remember that, right up into the 80’s or even 90’s, hardware stores were important local markets. I bought my first 12 gauge at a Coast-to-Coast hardware store back in 1977. Still have it.

Our local Ace Hardware sells ammunition. In fact, our local feed store sells ammo as well. I might be a redneck when the only two stores in my town sell ammunition.

Personal damn experience! My dad and I built a road, and had to blast through a rough spot. He bought ten sticks of dynamite, plus blasting caps, at a hardware store. This was in 1974…give or take a couple years each way.

We came within a skinny half inch of blowing ourselves to crap. It was as bad a set of clumsy, stupid, and unskilled guys you’ve ever seen. We could have been making a Two Stooges movie.

We drilled, by the way, the old John Henry way: a steel drill and a sledgehammer. Slow going.

Dynamite is one DIY project I’d have to pass on. :wink:

I might briefly consider it if the hardware store sold a very detailed instruction book. But this is one job I wouldn’t mind hiring done.

I’m not aware of anyone that does blasting for farmers anymore. Even out in a rural area people would shit a brick if a big explosion went off.

Back in the 70’s my uncle burned some stumps in his pasture with tires. The filling stations had big stacks of them and he got a truck full. Fitted several over a stump and added brush. That thing burned super hot for over a day. A couple of the stumps too two burnings before it was basically a charred stick.

This is somewhat off the subject, but I’ve felt for some time that it’s very lucky that suicide bombers use modern explosives. If they tried to use something like nitroglycerin, they would almost certainly do more damage by accident than they’ve ever managed to do on purpose.

Don’t see why not. IIRC, the machine guns used in the St. Valentines Day Massacre were purchased at a Sporting Goods store (no cite).

That could make for some pretty interesting Olympic events!