Fireworks Guide: Rockets

One of the most popular - and spectacular - consumer fireworks available in the UK.

Key information

  • Fired from the supplied launch tube into the air (note: never fire rockets from the hand or from bottles).
  • Nearly all rockets bang with their effect.
  • By far the highest reaching consumer firework effect; large rockets can reach 300ft+.
  • One of the shortest duration fireworks available, usually a few seconds each.
  • Safety distances typically 8m up to 25m. No licence or training required to buy and use at any time of the year.
  • Sold singly or in packs.
  • 1.3G rockets are usually significantly better than 1.4G rockets.
  • The rocket’s stick can travel some distance and will return to earth – ensure you have a suitable fall out area.
  • Guides to other types of fireworks can be found in the Firework Guides main menu.

A closer look at a typical rocket

Main body: The effect is contained in this part of the rocket and explodes out of this when the rocket is in the air.

Motor: The part which gives the rocket its thrust to take off.

Fuse cover: Always remove this prior to lighting the fuse underneath.

Stick: This is inserted into the supplied launch tube. This part and sometimes some of the casing comes back down to earth after firing.

Warning label and instructions: The important things you need to know about firing the rocket, its classification (Category F2 or F3), safety distance and so on. It is on the reverse of the rocket shown.

What type of effects to expect

Rockets are a one-shot firework; they take off, explode with an effect and that’s it, usually in just a second or two. However they can be one of the most spectacular consumer fireworks with the larger effects creating a brief but massive, sky-filling display. In fact the very largest consumer rockets can reach 300ft or more, significantly higher than even big bore cakes and candles.

But be warned that smaller rockets (especially Category F2 1.4G) can be quite tame in comparison with just a “pop” and weak effect, see below for more guidance on this. The smaller rockets typically fly to less than 100ft and their effect can feel a little limp.

Effect types in all sizes of rockets include hanging gold willow, coloured stars, crackles and more. Rockets that simply bang loudly (known as salute, maroon or signal rockets) had fallen out of favour and are hard to find, but are making a comeback. The legal sound limit on bang-only rockets is the same as any other rocket however.

A larger Category F3 rocket is shown in the video below (costing around £30+ individually or £20+ each when bought in a pack or case):

How much do they cost?

Rockets are sold either in packs, or singly.

Rocket packs can retail for as low as under £10 and go up in price from there. Single rockets typically cost £20+ or so each but are significantly bigger than those found in packs. As an example, a bigger Category F3 rocket might have an overall net explosive content (NEC) of 180g but a rocket from a smaller Category F2 pack only around 15g or so.

It is not economically viable to produce, pack and store small rockets and to sell them individually, this is why single rockets tend to be much larger and more expensive.

Rockets have increased in price significantly since the pandemic (which created shipping and availability problems for fireworks) with single large rockets that were once around £20 each now costing more than £30. This is why cakes and barrages are much better value for the bulk of your display.

Your retailer should provide you with a tube to fire single rockets from and most packs already include one.

1.3G vs. 1.4G rockets

Like all consumer fireworks, rockets are given a classification of 1.4G or 1.3G. This classification makes a big difference to the power of the rocket.

The less hazardous classification of 1.4G is easier to transport and store (hence being liked by retailers and seasonal sellers) but with rockets can produce effects lacking in much of a bang or big effect. 1.4G rockets typically create more of a “pop” with a small ejection of glitter. They’re great for back garden displays or if you want to keep the noise down.

However 1.3G rockets although less widely available unless you shop at a specialist, are allowed to contain more explosive powder which is required to create the big spread of effects and a reasonable bang.

To complicate matters, some of the larger rockets are 1.3G but are supplied in special packaging known as pyromesh which allows them to be classified as 1.4G.  This allows retailers to both store them and send them via courier in the case of mail order customers.

So for the best effects in rockets look for either 1.3G rockets or rockets which are 1.4G because they are in pyromesh.

Firework retailers usually make it very clear if a rocket is 1.3G or pyromeshed. You will also have their video clips to watch to check out the quality and power of each rocket.

Be aware that having the more hazardous 1.3G classification of firework in your display may have implications on how many fireworks you can store and how long for.

You can read more about these subjects in the following guides: Firework Categories & Classifications, 1.3G or 1.4G Fireworks?That Pesky Pyromesh, and Safe Fireworks Storage.

The 1.3G or 1.4G classification should not be confused with the rocket’s category of F2 or F3 which is separate and will dictate the required safety distance to spectators.

Photos of consumer rockets with people to scale are rare but this one from my archive demonstrates the height larger F3 rockets can reach. Aside from the oak tree for scale, there are three firers shown sitting by the base of the tubes. Using these for scale I estimate that the lowest rocket is reaching about 300ft high, with the others even higher, off the frame.

Rockets FAQ

Always use the supplied launch tube. Push the tube into the ground (or secure it to a stake) and insert the rocket into that tube by its stick. Make sure the rocket is free to move before you light it.

No, never do this. Modern rockets are too top-heavy to be safe fired from a bottle. Use the supplied launch tube.

Never do this: The exhaust gasses are extremely hot and will burn. The rocket will also fly unpredictably. Always fire from the supplied launch tube which you insert into the ground

If the tube cannot be glued back into the head (or safely taped up if it has snapped), don't try and fire it without the stick; it will fly erratically and can go off at ground level.

It will fall to earth somewhere, usually in many bits, which is why you should only fire large rockets where you have a suitable area for debris to fall into.

Sticks are a potential safety and litter hazard as they will fall to earth somewhere. Ideally you should only fire bigger rockets where you have a suitable fallout zone for debris.

Yes. Wind causes the stick to tip and makes the rocket fly into the wind. Debris will the come down with the wind. The stronger the wind, the more pronounced the effect.

It is better to avoid rockets completely with low noise displays, as nearly all of them pop or bang to a greater or lesser degree. Use low noise cakes, barrages and fountains instead.

It's under the orange protector at the bottom of the main head.

Only a few seconds each. Look at cakes and barrages if you want an aerial effect to last longer than this.

You need between 8m and 15m distance to spectators for F2 fireworks and 25m for F3 fireworks. 

Yes, 1.3G rockets are considerably better than 1.4G rockets. It's the only type of firework where this classification makes a big difference.

Smaller rockets like these were banned in the late 90s due to "erratic flight". There is no current alternative.

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.