In the world of fireworks, a “dud” is a shell that fires but then has an issue in the air, falling to the ground without exploding. A “misfire” is a shell that never fires at all. Both are extremely common but can quite dangerous if not handled properly. Here are some safe handling tips for duds and misfires.


The first step is to correctly identify the device as a dud. Without touching it, visually inspect the fallen firework. It will often look damaged, possibly with its internal components bulging out, but it will be clear that it did not explode.

Mark the location to keep spectators away, and let the dud sit for 5 to 30 minutes to cool off. Fresh duds can be dangerously hot. After it cools, use a shovel to scoop it up and dump it into a bucket of water, ensuring that it is completely submerged. Let it sit overnight, and then double bag it in two plastic bags to keep it from drying out. You can then dispose of it, still sealed in the bags, with your regular trash.


Misfires can be particularly dangerous because they introduce the element of fire, especially when the misfire occurs within a mortar tube. If the lift charge is not sufficient to push the shell out of the tube, it can actually detonate within the tube, potentially sending shrapnel flying. Another possibility with misfires, regardless of whether the firework is in a tube or not, is that there may still be burning embers that could unexpectedly cause the shell to explode.

To guard against these dangerous possibilities, it is vital to thoroughly douse misfires right away. Do not touch the misfire or allow anyone else to touch it. If it is stuck in a tube, use a hose to thorough fill the tube with water. If it is not in a tube, douse the misfire first and then submerge it in a bucket of water overnight before double bagging and sealing it, and throwing it away in the trash.

Although still quite rare, misfires are most common in finale bundles, in which numerous fireworks are fused together for a single spectacular launch. If the quick match fuse blows apart, it can leave one or two shells in the rack after the rest are launched. Always check your mortar rack as soon as the show ends in case any misfires were left behind.

Duds and misfires are not common, but they are a risk for any fireworks show, both professional and amateur. Developing a safety protocol is a necessary step when planning a fireworks display, and it only makes sense to prepare for the possibility of duds and misfires. With a bit of advance knowledge and preparation, duds and misfires need not turn into disasters.

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If you are ready to purchase your next fireworks, or you are simply seeking information on using them safely and responsibly, contact Dynamite Fireworks today at (219) 937-4090.