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Classifications of Fireworks

Classifications of Fireworks

This page has 3 sections: (1) A basic summary of the legal classifications of fireworks in the United States. (Other countries have their own classification systems.) (2) A link to summaries of the state fireworks laws of the individual states of the U.S. And (3) a summary of U.S. federal specifications for consumer fireworks. If you need the full details of the federal regulations, you can buy electronic copies of them at the APA web site. If you need the detailed regulations for a particular state, you can contact the office of the State Fire Marshal for that state.

Contents of this page are Copyright © Bob Weaver. For a list of types of fireworks go here.

Class: Large, professional fireworks Small, consumer fireworks
Old name: Special Fireworks Common Fireworks
Old explosives class: Class B Class C
United Nations shipping category: UN0335 UN0336
New name in United States: 1.3G Fireworks or
Display Fireworks
1.4G Fireworks or
Consumer Fireworks

An exception to the table above involves a recent change to the classification of Display Fireworks. Aerial shells that are 8 inches or larger in diameter are now classified as 1.1G instead of 1.3G. That means different transportation and storage requirements for those.

You will probably still hear people say "Class C fireworks," as it is still commonly used, but it is now an obsolete term. Now, though, it is more correct to say "consumer fireworks" or "1.4 G fireworks." For the large professional fireworks used in public displays, call them "display Fireworks" or "1.3G fireworks" and you will be correct.

The "1.3" and "1.4" are Hazard Divisions in the explosives Class 1, and the "G" is the Compatability Group, which can range from A through L or N through S. The large professional fireworks are in the 1.3 hazard division, while the smaller consumer fireworks are in the 1.4 hazard division. The "G" is not an abbreviation for any word. It does not stand for "grams." It's the Compatibility Group that includes fireworks. If you want more information about it than this, you will have to dive into the "UN Transport of Dangerous Goods - Model Regulations 14 Ed., on Class 1 Explosives." 

What determines whether a particular firework is 1.3G or 1.4G? In the United States, the exact specifications which divide 1.3G fireworks from 1.4G fireworks are found in these sections of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations: 49 CFR 173.56, 27 CFR 55, and 16 CFR 1507. If you want to spend the time digging around, you can dig here.

The actual specifications for 1.4G consumer fireworks are contained within a rarely-seen document called APA Standard 87-1, which is maintained and published by the American Pyrotechnics Association. The federal laws simply reference that document, with regards to the actual limits on size, powder content and chemical restrictions. The APA sells electronic copies of that document for $60 to non-members. See this page. A summary of the limits for specific types of fireworks is in the table further down on this page.

If you're interested in reading exactly how the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission tests fireworks, you can download this manual.

"Safe and Sane"
is a term used in some states of the U.S. to indicate a subset of Consumer Fireworks that can be sold in that state. For a more detailed explanation of "Safe and Sane", go to this page of my web site.

"Toy Trick Noisemakers" is yet another sub-category, possibly defined by the U.S. Department of Transportation, and by some states, to include such items as caps, party poppers and snappers. They are generally not considered "fireworks" and are sold almost everywhere in the U.S.

"Toy Smoke Devices" is another sub-classification by some states, in which items that produce smoke only are not considered "fireworks" and are thus legal to sell in some states that don't allow other "fireworks" to be sold.

State regulations

Individual states of the U.S. are allowed to pass laws that are more restrictive than the U.S. federal laws regarding consumer fireworks. For example, a state is allowed to ban the sale and use of consumer fireworks completely, or restrict the types that can be sold or used in that state. The various state laws change from time to time, so no definitive list is offered on this page.

To get the most current information on a particular state, click this to go to the American Pyrotechnic Association's State Law Directory, click on the state you are interested in, and download the PDF file, which will have a summary of that state's laws. The PDF file is only a summary, with the basic facts about that state. If you need the full details of that state's fireworks laws, contact the office of the State Fire Marshal of that state.

Most states also allow individual counties, cities and townships to further restrict or even ban the sale or use of fireworks. To find out the laws for a specific location, contact the Fire Marshal's office or fire department's office in that location.

Specifications for Consumer Fireworks (1.4G) in the United States

The regulations shown below are at the U.S. federal level. They are nominally contained in the Code of Federal Regulations at 49 CFR 173.56(j)(1). However, that regulation "incorporates by reference" a document called APA Standard 87-1, which is maintained and published by the American Pyrotechnics Association. That document is rarely seen by the public, but you can buy a copy of it at the APA web site.

The American Fireworks Standards Laboratory is a private, non-profit corporation that publishes its own set of voluntary standards, for both consumer and display fireworks. They are voluntary standards and are different standards from the federal laws. AFSL also provides testing and certification of compliance with the AFSL standards, and the information in their database is made available to U.S. agencies.

A summary the federal regulations Is listed below. This is not all there is to it. There are additional specifications for the physical design and construction of the various types of fireworks, but I don't have that information. There are also transportation and storage regulations. I can't say for sure how accurate or current the information below is, as I have not researched it in several years. If you need more accurate or up-to-date information than what is shown here, I would suggest contacting the American Pyrotechnic Association.

Composition limits for 1.4G fireworks
Type of device
Composition limit
Fountains, Cone-type
50 grams
Fountains, Cylindrical
75 grams
Skyrockets or Missiles
20 grams
20 grams
Roman Candles
20 grams
Aerial Shells, Mines, Comets (contained in firing tube)
60 grams
Firecrackers or ground-based reports
0.05 grams per cracker or report
Any aerial report component
0.13 grams per report component
Reloadable aerial shells (box with tube and shells)
60 grams per shell
44 mm. diameter max.
12 shells per package max.
400 grams total per package
Aerial display shells, without launch tube, bulk
Classified as 1.3G unless tested
Multiple-tube devices, dense-packed
Maximum 200 grams total pyrotechnic composition
Multiple-tube devices, 500-gram
Maximum 500 grams total pyrotechnic composition
Must be on a base
Tube separation of 13 mm between tubes
60 grams per driver
200 grams total composition
Ground Spinners
20 grams
Toy Smoke Devices
100 grams
Wire sparklers
100 grams
Chemicals alllowed in 1.4G fireworks
Chemical allowed
Typical use
Ammonium Perchlorate
Oxygen Donor
Antimony Sulfide
Barium Carbonate
Barium Nitrate
Oxygen Donor
Barium Sulfate
Oxygen Donor
Bismuth Oxide
Oxygen Donor
Boric Acid
Calcium Carbonate
Calcium Sulfate
Oxygen Donor
Carbon or Charcoal
Copper Metal
Color Agent
Copper Oxide
Oxygen Donor,
Color Agent
Copper Salts (except Copper Chlorate)
Color Agent
Hexamethylenenetetramine (Hexamine)
Iron and Iron Alloys (e.g., ferro/titanium)
Iron Oxide
Oxygen Donor
Magnalium (Magnesium/Aluminum alloy)
Magnesium Carbonate
Magnesium Sulfate
Oxygen Donor
Nitrocellulose based lacquers
Phosphorus, Red (only as provided in regulations)
Potassium or Sodium Benzoate
Potassium Bichromate (Potassium Dichromate) (not to exceed 5% of formulation)
Oxygen Donor
Potassium Chlorate (only as provided in regulations)
Oxygen Donor
Potassium Hydrogen Phthalate
Potassium Nitrate
Oxygen Donor
Potassium Perchlorate
Oxygen Donor
Potassium Sulfate
Oxygen Donor
Sodium Bicarbonate (Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate)
Sodium Nitrate
Oxygen Donor
Sodium Salicylate
Sodium Salts (except Sodium Chlorate)
Color Agent
Sodium Sulfate
Oxygen Donor
Strontium Carbonate
Color Agent
Strontium Nitrate
Oxygen Donor
Strontium Salts (except Strontium Chlorate)
Color Agent
Strontium Sulfate
Oxygen Donor
Titanium (particle size must not pass through 100 mesh sieve)
Miscellaneous compounds allowed
Organic compounds (compounds such as lactose, shellac, red gum, chlorinated paraffin and polyvinyl chloride, consisting of some combination of carbon with hydrogen, oxygen and/or chlorine; nitrogen may be present if it accounts for less than 10% (by weight) of the compound.)
Nitrocellulose containing greater than 10% nitrogen by weight is permitted as a propelling or expelling charge provided there is less than 15 grams of nitrocellulose per article.
NOTE: Exact chemical identity of each "Organic compound" must be included when submitting an Approval Application to the U.S. DOT.
Chemicals prohibited in 1.4G consumer fireworks
Arsenic sulfide, arsenates, or arsenites are prohibited
Boron is prohibited

Chlorates are prohibited, except:

a. In colored smoke mixtures in which an equal or greater weight of sodium bicarbonate is included
b. In party poppers
c. In those small items (such as ground spinners) wherein the total powder content does not exceed 4 grams, of which not greater than 15% (or 600 mg) is potassium, sodium, or barium chlorate
d. In firecrackers
e. In toy caps

Gallates or gallic acid are prohibited
Lead is prohibited, including lead tetroxide (red lead oxide) and other lead compounds
Magnesium is prohibited (but magnesium/aluminum alloys, called magnalium, are permitted)
Mercury salts are prohibited
Phosphorus (red or white) is prohibited. (Red phosphorus is permissible in caps and party poppers)
Picrates or picric acid are prohibited
Thiocyanates are prohibited
Titanium is prohibited, except in particle size that is too large to pass through a 100-mesh sieve
Zirconium is prohibited

Copyright © Bob Weaver. All rights reserved.

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