Bangers, Chinese Crackers & Aerial Shells

Before you get excited, all of these are banned from sale to the UK public. They are included here because many years after their ban they are still amongst the most enquired about fireworks. This article looks at each of these and explains the reasons behind their ban along with suggested legal alternatives.


Bangers and Jumping Jacks

Most people born before 1990 have fond memories of bangers. These simple fireworks consist of a rolled paper tube filled with gunpowder with a fuse at the top. The banger is lit and then usually discarded by throwing it. After a short pause the banger explodes with a loud bang.


A selection of bangers with a Jumping Jack – also now banned – in the foreground (photo courtesy Andy Pearce)

These were banned on a number of grounds, not least because of their potential to cause injury through misuse. In fact the regulations brought into force in the late nineties has banned any consumer item that is designed to be thrown in this way. There was also an intention through the ban to try and remove so called “pocket money” fireworks from the market to discourage misuse by children.

Bangers are still on sale in France and Spain amongst other EU countries, but they have no real alternative here. There is no consumer firework designed to be thrown, or to simply create a single bang on the ground.

The nearest item in terms of “throw and bang” would be a thunderflash. These are intended for battle simulations (including paintball) but as these are not classed as fireworks they are outisde of the scope of this article.

Jumping Jacks are another well remembered firework by people over a certain age. These consist of a folded tube and a fuse. Once lit, the firework jumps around very erratically. You can probably imagine why these were banned along with bangers.

Bangers and Jumping Jacks summary:

  • Banned for sale to the public
  • No alternative in consumer fireworks


Chinese Crackers

Chinese Crackers

Chinese Crackers

There isn’t a fireworks retailer in the UK who has not been asked about these especially near Chinese New Year. Along with bangers these were banned in the late nineties on the grounds they were erratic and dangerous. Simply put, Chinese Crackers are a whole string of bangers – typically 500, 1000, 5000 or more all connected by a fuse.

These are often seen in other countries in daytime celebrations and parties where the effect is a sustained barrage of unpredictable bangs, often jumping around if they are not secured properly.

For many years there has been no alternative to these in consumer fireworks but recently an imitation Chinese Cracker has been available from several manufacturers. This is made from a long tube of crackling powder and is legally classed as a fountain. At close quarters the effect of good versions is not unlike crackers albeit less powerful. Whilst good for back gardens these are not really a viable alternative if you have seen and used the proper crackers.

The good news is crackers are still available to professional displayers. So if you are planning a larger display, especially a daytime one, and are employing the use of a professional display company then it’s still an option to consider.

Chinese crackers summary:

  • Banned for sale to the public
  • Still available and used by professional fireworks displayers
  • A smaller alternative that mimics crackers is available in the form of a fountain which is legal for the public to buy and use but is not as powerful


Aerial Shells

Aerial Shell

An aerial shell prior to loading in a mortar tube

These ball-shaped fireworks are loaded into a mortar tube and fired into the air, where they explode with an effect. Extensively used in professional displays, these were banned for sale to the public in the late nineties. Whilst this ban was very unpopular in fireworks circles it has removed a firework from sale that did have a very real capability to severely injure or even kill if misused. In fact the ban was, in part, because of a fatal accident at a display involving a member of the public who was firing shells.

Shells are usually referred to by their diameter and also their effect. For example a 6″ red peony. They are usually supplied without a safety fuse on the basis this will be added on site by the operator depending on their requirements. This is one reason why they are so dangerous and should never be used by the public.

Obtaining aerial shells is often the goal of many amateur displayers since they offer much better performance than rockets. Unfortunately, no amount of training or experience qualifies a member of the public to obtain these items and contrary to popular belief there is no licence you can get either. You need to be a bonafide professional display company to obtain and use these.

Large display rockets are the nearest to these in consumer fireworks. Some of the large rockets are not far off a 3″ or 4″ shell in their effect. Although you can never quite mimic the power and beauty of aerial shells in a consumer rocket you can at least get close.

Aerial shells summary:

  • Now classified as category 4 (professional) fireworks and not available to the public
  • You cannot train or buy a licence to use these, professionals only!
  • Use large display rockets to achieve a similar effect to the smaller shells


Further information

If you are working through the beginner’s “Start here!” guide you can return to it here. Or, pick a new help topic from the menus at the top of the page.

When you are ready to buy fireworks have a look at UKFR’s Buying Fireworks guide for advice and the Buy Fireworks page for a listing of fireworks suppliers. Always give these companies priority with your fireworks cash (find out why).

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