12 Strong Movie Review, Exploding Tide Bottles, Rifles, and Significance

“Good Lord!  We can’t get them.  I never figured on having to shoot through dirt!” – Tremors


Good times.  Not pictured:  plastic Tide® bottle.

How many of you remember that perfect day?  That wonderful day where the Sun was shining, everyone was in harmony, and you lost yourself in the activities you were engaged in?  Those days are significant in their perfection – days that you remember now and that you’ll remember when you’re 50 or 60 or 70.

I imagine The Boy and Pugsley will both remember watching their dad’s form silhouetted in front of exploding Tide® laundry detergent bottle at least that long.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

One of the place where I think I’ve been negligent as a dad is in not taking The Boy and Pugsley shooting often enough.  Shooting is fun, but it also teaches patience and persistence.  How do you get good at shooting?  By shooting.  Nobody’s great at shooting coming out of the box, but by patience and practice you learn to get better – and the feedback loop is literally supersonic – you can see the result of your efforts nearly immediately.  And you have to be patient.  And disciplined.

Two weeks ago we went shooting, and had a great time.  We brought only .22 rifles (I’m sure that in California these are registered as assault weapons or orbital bombardment cannons or something) that time.  It was about 40˚F out (-371˚C for you living in Great Britain) so after a while (400 rounds or so) we decided to go and get warm.  But a good time?  Absolutely.


I have no idea where this meme came from, but I bet it wasn’t Europe.

I’d been watching the weather because it’s no fun shooting when it’s colder than a brass monkey in the fridge on the dark side of Pluto.  We couldn’t go Saturday, since The Boy was busy with athletics.

Fortunately the weather looked good for Sunday.  And on Saturday night we got home early enough to rope in Pugsley and go see 12 Strong.  12 Strong is a true story about the first Special Forces (Green Berets) unit into Afghanistan after 9/11.  It’s rated “R” primarily because it features Americans being unambiguously good, moral, and upright against unambiguously evil people even though it stars an Australian as an American Special Forces Captain (Chris Hemsworth) in a clear case of cultural appropriation.


I’m pretty sure Warner Brothers wants us to share this image, since it gives sixteen buttons to share it . . .

The movie was good, in a “I love America and the values that it stands for” way as shown by the bravery of the troops, the fidelity of the spouses, and the idea that a promise made is one to be kept.  In this movie there are no politics of division.  And the American men and many Afghani men (almost every character in this movie with more than two lines is a man) were brave.  And it didn’t try to discuss deeper issues – it had the decency to allow us to have and believe in heroes of flesh and blood.

How good was the movie?  Pugsley is 12, and is now contemplating how he’s going to become a Green Beret (a little less likely for The Boy – I think he’d rather create nuclear-powered x-ray space lasers).  Scary for a dad to think that?  Yeah, it is.  But boys grow up, and the responsibility of holding a rifle is sobering for a 12 year old, given its sheer destructive power.

My ranking on the movie?  5/5.

Okay, back to shooting.  Today we went shooting again.  It was one of those fun coincidences that as we left the house “Freeze Frame” by The J. Geils Band was playing on the radio . . . Pugsley started doing a dance when the lyrics, “shoot, shoot . . . deedle leedle lee” kept repeating since I think he was excited about going shooting, or “shoosting” as we called it, in an homage to Lisa from Green Acres®.

However, we also brought two additional things that we didn’t bring last time:  an AR-15 I’d bought from a friend several years ago that I’d only put about 20 rounds (for New York readers – that means I’d shot the rifle 20 times) through.  The Boy had NOT liked shooting it several years ago.  Scary.

Also, I brought explosives with the explicit idea that we’d shoot them and create a series of explosions.

I know what you’re thinking.  More on that later.

The Boy and Pugsley each jammed out a few hundred rounds of .22 down range.  Then I pulled out the AR-15.  An AR-15 shoots a .223 caliber bullet – really only slightly larger than a .22, but whereas a .22 comes out of the barrel at 1600 feet per second, a .223 comes out of the barrel at over 3,000 feet per second.  And a doubling of speed is a quadrupling of energy.  (Really closer to 8 times, since the bullet is larger.)  For all of you purists – we are NOT getting into the difference between a 5.56 and a .223 in this post – go get technical somewhere else.

The Boy and Pugsley each shot the AR and pronounced it . . . amazing.

So, I thought, perhaps it’s time to mix up the explosive?


We tried to use the .22 to initiate the explosion.  You were supposed to be 100’ away . . . and we shot at it for a ludicrous number of shots (it was about 2” x 1”, so it’s not that small of a target at 100’).


The Boy went downrange and checked.

“You went clean through it twice.”

Hmm. I put another explosive packet together since the powder had leaked out of the first through the bullet holes.  I stuck it on the side of a plastic Tide® laundry detergent jug – one of the big ones that does 5,000 or so loads of laundry.  I took a shot with the AR.  Hit the Tide® jug, and the explosive fell off.  (Stay 100’ away, the instructions said.)  I went down range and put the explosive back on.  Walked back.  Shot, and hit the jug again.  And knocked the explosive off.  (Stay 100’ away, the instructions said.)  Again.

I finally determined the add-on sight that I was using wasn’t even remotely accurate, and pulled it off to use the basic sights (“iron sights”) that come with the rifle.  Frustrated, and thinking the explosive was a dud based on the previous experience we’d had with the first packet, I stuck the packet back on the jug, and then moved back and I took aim at the explosive stuck to the Tide™ jug not 20’ away from me.

There was a flash.  Lots of smoke.

And the Tide® jug . . . ceased to exist.  Gone.  Left this plane of existence.  The only thing left was the label.  I could see something that looked like tiny orange fragments of plastic jug, but only a few.  But the jug?



I felt my face.  Small particles of dirt or unexploded explosives were imbedded in a dusty patina all over my face.  Thankfully I was wearing glasses and hearing protection.

So, the explosive did work.  And 100’ was certainly a much better idea than my 20’ – I’m guessing something about fools rushing in where angels fear to tread?  I walked back to the firing line.

The Boy:  “How on EARTH can that be legal???”  His grin was huge.

It is, at least where I live.  Your mileage may vary depending upon what location you live in.  US Federal law allows this explosive to be sold because when they sell it, it’s two compounds . . . a “binary” explosive.  You have to mix the compounds yourself.  And you can’t transport it after mixing (without insurance, permits, etc.).  You have to use it for personal, non-commercial use.  And . . . you should research this yourself.  I believe in California they will ____ your ____.  And you don’t want your ___ to be ____.  Very uncomfortable for your _____.

No.  Seriously I think they’d call that a felony.  But where we live?  It’s Sunday afternoon.

Hint:  Google® “Tannerite©” – although Tannerite™ wasn’t the manufacturer of the stuff we used, it’s the easiest search term.  This is NOT a law blog – you need to figure out if this stuff is legal where you are.

So, it is legal here.  That doesn’t mean it’s always used in a smart – one gentleman filled a lawnmower with a binary explosive, shot it, and it promptly lopped off a leg.  But that’s the definition of freedom – not stopping idiots from being idiots.  If we go too much further down that road, every surface in every house will be mandated to be made of Nerf®.

Regardless, the Tide® bottle was gone and I still had all of my parts.

Second shot?  We taped an explosive packet up to the plastic cylinder the explosive originally came in.  The Boy took aim with the AR, and . . . first shot it exploded and likewise disappeared into another dimension.  I went to check for more things we could blow up in the car we brought (it was The Mrs.’ car) and was rummaging around in the back seat.

And found a Wal-Mart bag containing two pounds of thick-cut bacon and three pounds of hamburger.  Sitting in the back seat.  Of a car The Mrs. hasn’t driven in three days.

Pugsley:  “Oops!  Guess I forgot to bring that bag in.”

Normally I’d give him a much harder time about leaving $30 in meat to rot in his mother’s car, but in this case?

We had explosives.  And guns.  And meat.

It’s even better if you imagine they’re singing “gone shoosting”.

Two explosive charges and the bacon was unrecognizable.  One charge took care of the hamburger.  Both The Boy and Pugsley were dead-on in their shots, hitting the explosive charge on their first shot in almost every case.

We picked up the exploded stuff (left the bacon and burger for the coyotes) and packed up and went home.

But the bigger perspective?

I was talking with another dad the other day – he was coaching a group of kids at the same sporting event The Boy was at.  We talked back and forth.  He was coaching his own son, which he felt was really the toughest coaching he had to do.  But, he indicated, he thought he’d keep coaching even after his son was done.  He really enjoyed it (and he was a good coach – his team did well that day).

“You know,” I said, “it’s not the money.  It’s not the things you do to things that matters in this world.  It’s the opportunity to be significant to someone – to give them training and experiences that change them for the better.  And these kids will remember what you did for them and how you changed them, coach, for the rest of their lives.  Now that,” I paused, “is the definition of significance.”

“That’s pretty well said,” he responded.

“Yeah, I’m Noted Internet Humorist John Wilder.”

And these perfect days can be the perfect days that will form memories for The Boy and Pugsley that will reinforce their character forever.

I wonder how many perfect days I’ve got left?  Not too many if I stand too close to too many exploding Tide® jugs, so I think I’ll avoid those from now on.  It would be good to be around to see what happens with The Boy and Pugsley . . . Green Beret or not, I’m sure I’ll be proud of both of them.

Author: John

Nobel-Prize Winning, MacArthur Genius Grant Near Recipient writing to you regularly about Fitness, Wealth, and Wisdom - How to be happy and how to be healthy. Oh, and rich.