If you’re like any red-blooded American that likes to play with fire, you probably like fireworks. And if you’re like me, you probably like bottle rockets. I’ve launched probably a thousand of them over the past few years on and around Independence day. Unfortunately, not all bottle rockets are created equal. Today, I conducted a pseudo-scientific experiment to figure out just which brand works the best.
This experiment was conducted on the fourth of July (today) at approximately 5PM EST/CDT. The temperature was 89°F, and the winds were light but variable. My elevation was 639 feet above sea level. The apparatus used to launch the rockets can be seen to your left.
I purchased all of these bottle rockets on July 5, 2003. Surprisingly, bottle rockets keep pretty well; my brother had some that were six years old, and their failure rate was not much higher than these two year old specimens.
Bottle rockets come in a gross (144 rockets per package). This consists of twelve packages of twelve bottle rockets each. I considered a successful launch as reaching a height above treetop level (or an equivalent diagonal distance), and having a satisfactory report.
The first contender was the TNT Rocket brand. This was the most expensive brand; I believe it cost me around $6 dollars. Out of all three normal size contenders, though, it performed the best. The quality of the sticks the pyrotechnic parts are mounted on was higher than the others. All twelve rockets launched very high, and the only anomaly that occurred was that the last one I launched had no report. In essence, this is a very good brand if you can afford to spend the money on them. (Or you can do what I do and buy all your fireworks on July 5.)
The next brand was Premium Moon Travelers. These turned out to not be very premium. Last night, I used 132 of these up, and many of them did not work very well. At least a dozen total either did not launch into the air at all, or went up only a few feet. This was the brand that spurred me to do this experiment. This test package worked better than the rest that I launched last night: only one rocket failed to launch satisfactorily. Two rockets had below average reports, sounding more like piffs than bangs. If I recall correctly, these rockets were in the middle of the price range. Unfortunately, based on the rest of the results, I can’t recommend these.
The last contender of this size was the genercially named “moon travelers”. A closer look at the packaging reveals only that they are made in Hunan, China. This brand, however, gives you the most bang for your buck. This is the brand that can last in six years of storage and still perform well. This test package of twelve only had one lackluster launch, and one rocket that failed to report. Overall, because of their low price and good performance, this is the brand I recommend. Maybe some things made in China aren’t so bad after all.
And just for the hell of it, I decided to throw into this experiment a larger type of bottle rocket. As you can see, this type is several inches longer and somewhat wider than its smaller counterparts. All of these rockets had a good report, but two of them failed to launch above treetop level (one lost its stick, the other just didn’t have enough juice). If you’re craving something with a little more power without making it look like you’re getting into a competition as to how big your bottle rockets are, this is the type of bottle rocket I would recommend.
Strangely, every single package of these had the exact same warning instructions:
WARNING: FLAMMABLE ROCKET WITH REPORT
Use only under close adult supervision. For outdoor use only. Place in wooden trough or iron pipe at 75° angle, pointing away from people or flammable material. Do not hold in hand. Light fuse and get away. This rocket travels at high speeds and can travel long distances. Misuse may result in injury or fire.
Have a happy and somewhat safe fourth of July, everyone.