Special Explosive Device Exemptions

The regulation at 27 CFR § 555.32 states “The Director may exempt certain explosive actuated devices, explosive actuated tools, or similar devices from the requirements of this part. A person who desires to obtain an exemption under this section for any special explosive device, which as designed does not constitute a public safety or security hazard, shall submit a written request to the Director. Each request shall be executed under the penalties of perjury and contain a complete and accurate description of the device, the name and address of the manufacturer or importer, the purpose of and use for which it is intended, and any photographs, diagrams, or drawings as may be necessary to enable the Director to make a determination. The Director may require that a sample of the device be submitted for examination and evaluation. If it is not possible to submit the device, the person requesting the exemption shall advise the Director and designate the place where the device will be available for examination and evaluation.” 

In November 2023, ATF issued an open letter rescinding special explosive device exemptions for certain consumer-style grenades (e.g. flashbang grenades, smoke grenades). As a result, these explosive devices are no longer exempt from the provisions of the Federal explosives regulations at 27 CFR, Part 555 – Commerce in Explosives.  

To ensure the timely processing of a special explosive device exemption request, persons or companies should submit the following information with their request:

  • The requestor’s name, mailing address, and e-mail address.
  • The Federal explosives license or permit number (if applicable).
  • A full description of how the device is designed, how it functions, and any safety features that minimize unintentional initiation.
  • The intended customer base and use of the device.
  • The type of explosives composition (including chemicals and percentages) and the total net explosives weight.
  • Photos, diagrams and/or drawings of the device.
  • The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) EX approval.
  • The DOT testing report used to obtain the DOT classification.
  • The Safety Data Sheet.

All special explosive device exemption requests must be submitted to the Explosives Industry Programs Branch at EIPB@atf.gov.

Airbag inflators that are commonly exempted as special explosive devices. Airbag inflators that are commonly exempted as special explosive devices.

Micro gas generators that are used in automotive safety systems and are commonly exempted as special explosive devices. A power disconnect device that cuts power in emergency situations and commonly exempted as special explosive devices.

Last Reviewed November 8, 2023