Small propane tanks are commonly used for various applications, such as heating homes and powering outdoor grills. However, with the increasing popularity of recreational shooting, some people have wondered what would happen if a propane tank were shot with a shotgun or other type of gun.
The thought of shooting a propane tank may seem like a hell of a good time, especially after seeing a huge explosion from these gas tanks in movies. However, there are potential dangers and risks involved. Propane tanks are pressurized vessels that contain flammable gas, and any damage to the tank could cause a propane leak, which can be extremely dangerous.
When propane leaks, it can create a highly explosive mixture of gas and air. This mixture can be ignited by a spark, flame, or even a bullet impact, resulting in a subsequent gas explosion. Furthermore, shooting at a propane tank could cause a rupture, leading to a rapid release of the gas.
A ruptured tank can also cause a liquid expanding vapor explosion (LEVE) which occurs when liquid propane rapidly vaporizes, expanding up to 270 times in volume. In our guide, you can learn more bout what happens when shooting propane tanks.
By the end, you’ll see the results may not be as expected, yet shooting propane tank is still dangerous for most people. (Learn How To Open Propane Tank)
What’s The Chances Propane Tanks Explode?
Bad guys trying to shoot a propane tank may see drastic results. Because of explosions caused by the combustion of propane gas in tanks, accidental gun discharge are among the leading cause of property damage and personal harm.
When exposed to sparks or flames, propane is highly flammable and produces heat. A bullet entering a tank could have a spark, which ignites and causes a propane explosion that can hurt or kill people. However, propane tanks rarely explode, yet the cylinders can in one of two ways: through a gas tank leak or by a BLEVE (boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion).
If the cylinders are damaged or overfilled, or there is a malfunctioning valve or hose, there are chances of a gas leak into the air. A BLEVE could happen if the tank is exposed to high heat or fire. A huge fireball produced by the explosion of a propane tank has the potential to ignite a fire or cause severe burns.
Common causes of propane tank explosions are:
1. Open bleeder valve
If there is too much internal pressure, this valve lets the propane exit the tank. The high-explosive propane can leak and catch fire if the valve is left open.
2. Odor fade
Propane is an odorless gas, but it has a rotten-egg stench because of a chemical added to it. This will assist in finding leaks. But occasionally, the smell can disappear due to different things, such as air, water, or rust. This may make it more difficult to detect a leak.
Any fire source, such as a grill, a cigarette, a spark, or a flame, can fall under this category. These may result in a BLEVE or ignite a propane leak.
Any number of activities, such as lighting a propane tank on fire, placing it close to a heat source, or utilizing a propane tank as a target practice for firearms, can fall under this category. These might result in a BLEVE or hurt the tank.
To prevent propane tank explosions, follow these safety tips:
- Check the tank frequently for rust, damage, or leaks.
- Keep the tank stored away from heat sources and combustible materials in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated location.
- Observe the manufacturer’s instructions and only use the tank for specified purposes.
- Avoid overfilling the tank and closing the valve.
- Don’t shoot at the tank or subject it to intense burning heat or fire.
- When the tank is empty or past its prime, dispose of it responsibly.
Safety Measures On Small Propane Tanks
Small propane tanks are a typical way to power backyard grills and other propane-fueled appliances, but they pose significant safety dangers if not handled properly. Anyone who uses propane tanks should be aware of the potential repercussions of shooting one.
Even though shooting small propane tanks might seem harmless fun, it can have terrible consequences that can result in injury or even death. It’s critical to remember that, despite the size of a small propane tank appearing harmless, it can generate an explosion with catastrophic impact if it’s shot or otherwise exposed to tremendous heat.
The tank will experience tremendous pressure due to the rapidly expanding gas inside; when this pressure reaches a certain level, the container will burst and explode. (Read Can A Propane Tank Lay On Its Side)
Inspect propane tanks properly.
Whenever the fuel tank is not in use, turn it off. Regularly inspect for fuel leaks, damage, or corrosion. Spray the tank and the hose with a solution of soapy water. There is a fuel leak if bubbles are present.
If necessary, swap out the fuel tank or the hose.
Use propane tanks properly.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for connecting, lighting, and using the appliance and fuel canister.
- Do not use dented, rusty, or out-of-date fuel tanks.
- Use a cylinder that is the proper size for the appliance, neither too large nor too small.
- Use only tanks with the same connection or valve as the appliance.
- Use only tanks that have been approved or certified by respected organizations.
Store propane tanks safely.
- Store your tank outside, away from heat sources and combustible objects, in a cold, dry, and well-ventilated location.
- Do not store your fuel tank indoors or in a basement, garage, or enclosed space.
- Store your tank away from cars and sunlight.
- Store your tank away from electrical equipment and appliances.
- Don’t store your tank near kids or animals.
Transport propane tanks safely.
- A tank should be transported standing upright and fastened with a strap or rope.
- A tank should never be driven or transported in a closed vehicle or on a passenger seat.
- A tank leaking, broken, or overfilled tank should not be transported.
- Never transport more than four tanks at once. Never keep a tank in a parked car for an extended period.
How Strong Are Propane Tanks?
For cooking and heating, propane tanks are a common and practical appliance for many domestic uses. How robust are these tanks, though? The fact that these tanks can be highly durable, even when shot at with a gun, may surprise many people.
Contrary to what some might believe, a propane tank will not explode when shot with a gun. The tank cannot hold enough pressure to cause an explosion because the bullet damages the tank’s exterior metal layer.
The ensuing fire, however, may be hazardous and cause burns if gasoline or other combustible substances were added to the mixture. Although they are made to withstand extreme temperatures and pressures, propane tanks are not unbreakable. A propane tank’s strength is influenced by various elements, including the tank’s size, shape, composition, and state.
The following are some typical ways to gauge a propane tank’s strength:
The propane gas inside the tank exerts this power. A safety relief valve on propane tanks allows the gas to escape if the pressure rises above a predetermined level. To maintain the liquid propane gas’s state, propane pressure should typically range from 100 to 200 psi.
Based on the temperature outside, a propane tank’s pressure inside changes. For instance, a typical 20-pound propane tank will have a pressure inside of 145 psi at 70 degrees. On a day with 100 degrees, the pressure in that same tank will be 172 psi.
This is how much room the propane gas fuel occupies inside the tank. To allow for gas expansion, propane tanks can only be filled up to 80% of the way. The pressure and temperature of the propane fuel determine its volume within a tank. For instance, a 20-pound propane cylinder has a maximum capacity of 4.7 gallons. (Learn How To Attach A Patio Roof To An Existing Roof)
Propane tank bulk and gas. Propane tanks have a tare weight and a gross weight. The volume and density of propane gas determine its weight inside a tank. For instance, a full 20-pound propane tank weighs 38 pounds and tares 18 pounds.
This is the maximum quantity of heat energy that can be generated by burning propane gas. The total heat energy that a propane tank can produce when full is measured in BTUs.
The volume and pressure of the propane gas determine its BTU inside a tank. For instance, a 20-pound propane tank has a total BTU rating of around 430,000 BTUs. If propane tanks are broken, leak, or are exposed to intense heat or fire, they may blow up.
The quick expansion of the propane gas may cause a BLEVE (boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion), which is a violent burst of the tank.
Mythbusters Propane Tank Shooting
In two episodes of their well-known television program, the Mythbusters crew debunked the Myth of the Propane Tank Shooting. The legend was based on a scene in the James Bond film Casino Royale where Bond uses a revolver to shoot a propane tank, causing it to blow up into a large fireball.
The first episode, “James Bond Special 2,” debuted in 2008 on television. In this episode, the Mythbusters attempted to blow up a propane tank using a 9 mm handgun, a.357 Magnum revolver, and a.223 rifles.
They employed a variety of bullet types, including armor-piercing, full metal jackets, and hollow points. Shooting at a metal plate behind the tank was another attempt to make sparks. Nevertheless, none of their efforts could light the propane gas.
In 2010, the second episode, “No Pain, No Gain,” was shown. In this episode, the Mythbusters attempted to blow up a propane tank using more potent weaponry and explosives. They employed a 7.62 mm minigun, a.50 caliber rifle, and a shaped charge.
They used tracer rounds and armor-piercing incendiary rounds to generate even more heat and sparks. With the minigun and the armor-piercing shaped charge, they could ignite the tank and cause it to explode, but they couldn’t cause a hole with the tracer rounds from the rifle.
They concluded that the myth was true, but only under stringent conditions. The Mythbusters Propane Tank Shooting demonstrated how difficult it is to cause propane tanks to explode by shooting them. Propane tanks are highly resistant to gunfire and explosions.
It also demonstrated that it is conceivable and that there are specific circumstances, such as those caused by incendiary rounds, in which a propane tank can explode with sufficient power and heat.
Will A Propane Tank Explode In A Car?
A propane tank inside a closed truck or RV is unlikely to explode. However, leaving a propane tank in a closed car parked in the sun is not safe. If the safety valve disk ruptures, the tank may leak even if it doesn’t burst.
If you’re camping, bring your tank in a vehicle with open windows and excellent ventilation to keep the temperature down. Keep your truck or car out of the sun if you stop. Park in the shade and leave the windows open for ventilation.
Could A Propane Tank Explode In The Sun?
It’s doubtful that a propane tank explosion would occur in the light. Most US propane tanks are white to absorb less solar heat. They also include a safety release valve to exhaust and not explode if the temperature rises.
Propane and other LPG tanks are only 80% full, allowing 20% vaporization when the tank heats up. This stops the tank from exploding. Avoid exposing the tank to direct sunlight for long periods. The safety valve may leak even if the pressure doesn’t crush the vessel.
When Temperature Rises, Will Propane Tanks Explode?
Pressure-proof vessels are designed around maximum and minimum working temperatures. Excessive ambient temperatures are within the safe range, making propane gas tank explosions unlikely.
Pressure safety valves, for instance, are typically set to 25 bar. The valve opens a hole when the internal pressure reaches that level, releasing pressure from the fuel-filled tank. (Learn How To Clean A White Door)
Conclusion: Will A Gun Cause A Propane Explosion?
If you’ve watched many action movies, television shows, or video games, you might think that firing a shot at a propane tank will cause a massive fireball explosion. However, an explosion from bullets hardly ever happens. It’s unlikely that shooting a propane tank will result in an explosion.
To burn, fire needs oxygen. Typically, propane tanks don’t have enough oxygen to start a fire and cause an explosion. Neither the tank nor the high rate of speed from the speeding bullets is hot to the point they will cause holes and leaks and ignite the fuel in the tank.
The likelihood of a propane tank catching fire and burning is highest when it is almost empty, with most of the gas burned off, and there is more oxygen than propane gas fuels inside the cylinder.