ATF is responsible for regulating explosives, including fireworks, to prevent the mishandling and illegal use of explosives materials. ATF’s regulatory enforcement and investigative programs work closely with industry members to ensure the proper use and safeguarding of these items.
ATF regulates two types of fireworks: consumer fireworks (including articles pyrotechnic) and display fireworks.
Consumer fireworks are small devices that are purchased and used by the public, often during the Fourth of July season or other holidays. They are either ground devices containing less than 50 milligrams of explosive materials, or aerial devices containing less than 130 milligrams of explosives.
Before buying any consumer fireworks, check with your local and state governments to ensure they are not prohibited in your area.
Articles pyrotechnic, also known as pyrotechnic devices, are similar to consumer fireworks in chemical composition and construction, but not intended for consumer use. The importation, distribution and storage of articles pyrotechnic are generally exempt from federal explosives regulations.
Under federal regulations, you need a federal explosives license (FEL) to manufacture consumer fireworks and articles pyrotechnic.
Display fireworks are large devices that are primarily designed to produce visible or audible effects by combustion, deflagration or detonation under the supervision of a trained pyrotechnician.
Display fireworks include salutes, fireworks used to create loud bangs, aerial shells (including any break charge and visible/audible effect composition but exclusive of lift charge), and other display pieces which exceed the limits of explosive materials for classification as consumer fireworks. Display fireworks also include fused set pieces that exceed 50 mg of flash powder.
An FEL is required to manufacture, import or sell display fireworks. A federal explosives permit (FEP) is required to import for personal use, as well as to receive and transport.
Explosives that are not permitted for personal use are considered illegal explosives. Some explosives in this category can be manufactured, transported or sold by federal explosives licensees or permittees.
If you need more information on the classification of certain fireworks, please contact your local ATF office.