Fireworks Guide: Bangers & Airbombs
Two very noisy - and now illegal - types of UK firework.
- A banger is a small tube-shaped firework which is usually lit and thrown down, banging loudly. Now illegal in the UK.
- Airbombs eject a projectile into the air which then bangs. Also loudly, and also now illegal in the UK.
- Both are very common black market fireworks.
- Airbomb cakes – barrages with multiple bangs that fire one by one – are, paradoxically, still legal in the UK.
- Guides to other types of fireworks can be found in the Firework Guides main menu.
If you’re over a certain age and into fireworks you’ll probably have fond memories of messing around with these in your youth. Banned in the late nineties, bangers were the quintessential nuisance firework given their cheap cost and the ease with which they could be thrown.
It was probably no surprise that they were on the UK government’s hit-list along with several other “pocket money” fireworks in an attempt to remove the fireworks being misused by the youth of the last century.
Because bangers are still legal in many European countries, they do occasionally turn up for sale in the UK via black market channels. These would be illegal and unregistered “white van” sellers and illegal online sellers (some of whom post to the UK, also illegal). If you come across sellers like this, or bangers for sale, be warned they’re an illegal firework and that shipping them via the post is also illegal.
Another favourite of many of our youths, airbombs have no other purpose than creating a very loud bang. Typically from one shot launched from a tube but sometimes a double effect. Technically, airbombs are single or double shot roman candles.
Airbombs were banned a little later than bangers, in the noughties, as part of continuing efforts to remove pocket money nuisance fireworks from sale in the UK. Because it was the cheap cost and appeal to children that drove this ban, larger cakes and barrages containing effects which only bang (in effect, a battery of airbombs) are still fully legal. So you’re not allowed to make a single loud bang, but say 25 in a row is fine. One of the many peculiarities of UK fireworks legislation!
Like bangers, airbombs are a popular black market firework in the UK and Ireland. Be warned that however genuine and “legal” airbombs might look (some are sold as replicas of popular brands such as Black Cat), they’re an illegal firework in the UK.
Thanks to TONYB and fozzboy for kindly supplying the photos used on this page.
Bangers and airbombs FAQ
You can't, they're illegal and have been for some years. Any you see for sale on the internet or from unlicensed "white van" sellers are also illegal.
Whilst still legal in some other European countries, bangers should not be brought back to the UK as this means transporting them via air or sea; fireworks are a prohibited item.
The short answer is yes, vintage bangers are highly collectable. They occasionally come up in my Fireworks Forum where people have done house clearances for relatives and found old fireworks. Selling them is harder, since you can't list live fireworks on Ebay. Try posting in my Forum for a valuation.
You can't - single shot candles that just bang have been banned for many years in the UK. However, candles that have another effect - like coloured stars - are legal, as are batteries of airbombs.
It's a peculiarity of UK law. Single airbombs were deemed "pocket money" fireworks and open to abuse by the younger generation, hence their ban, whereas bigger cakes are more of a considered purchase.
A popular cheap firework in supermarkets, packs of single shot candles, although they bang, do not have just a bang as the primary effect. If you add another effect such as coloured stars, it's technically not an airbomb and is legal. Another peculiarity of UK law.
Further information and next steps
If you are following the Beginner’s Guides then you can click here to return to that page. Alternatively you can click here to see the main menu of each firework type in this section if you want to read more (or click on the menu at the top of this page to access all of my guides).
If you’re ready to buy fireworks for your display then the Buying Fireworks section will guide you further.