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UK Fireworks: A buyers guide/Barrages

Buying fireworks can be a daunting task. Especially if you have no experience in buying them, or you only buy fireworks once a year on Guy Fawkes Night, Independence Day or New Year's Eve.

Firstly if you do only buy fireworks once a year, shame on you. Fireworks are perfectly legal to use in the UK all year round so there is no excuse not to have an excuse, to set of some pyro!

Part 1 - Barrages

Barrages are, according to the Epic Fireworks Glossary - A combination of several fireworks, most usually Roman candles and/or mines, designed to be fired with a single ignition. Also known as “cakes”, barrages are the most popular form of fireworks today, as they give an impressive display with minimum work.

So barrages are basically a lot of smaller fireworks fused together to go off one after another and save you a lot of time and effort. As it rightly says they are by far the favourite type of firework in the UK and around the world.

What makes a good barrage firework? There are many things to consider when buying a barrage firework. Ask the following questions to get the best results.

  1. what are the effects?
  2. what colours will I see?
  3. how long does it last?
  4. how many shots does it fire?
  5. how wide are the tubes?
  6. What Category is the barrage?
  7. have you seen a video of this firework?

The final question here is definitely the most important. Anyone can write a fancy description of a firework but how do you really know what it does unless you have at the very least watched a video of it. Watching it in real life would be even better but its a lot harder to convince the shop to do live demo's - still, no harm in asking.

Effects will vary greatly from barrage to barrage. Look for effects that you like and beware of shops with a wide range of fireworks but all the fireworks do very similar effects. The most common/cheapest effects are red and green peonies, try not to buy 20 fireworks that do the same thing as it will get boring after a while. Watch the videos! Blue is by far the most expensive colour to produce in a pyrotechnic and is also perhaps the most spectacular to see, expect to pay a little bit more for a blue-based firework but it is worth having one.

Duration is important but remember generally speaking the longer a firework barrage lasts, the less impressive the overall performance will be. Go for a balance. Try to get some longer duration barrages and some quicker, crazier ones to impress the crowd and to use in your finale.

A good rule of thumb is: half the duration, double the impact.

The number of shots a barrage fire is less important than you may think. Generally the more shots a firework has, the smaller the shots are and the less exciting it becomes. 1000 shot and 500 shot barrages may look great in the shop and seem excellent value, which they are, but do not expect fireworks (excuse the pun). They are "fillers" and although they do have their own little finale's, they are not ideal for your last piece of the night or if you are only having one firework.

If the shot number is high in a firework, you can guarantee that the bore size (the internal diameter of the tubes) will be small. For example, it's normally safe to assume that a 500 shot cake with smaller tubes than a 100 shot. Of course, this depends on the overall size of the barrage.

Another good rule of thumb is: If your thumb fits in the tube it's a good firework. (Do not put your fingers in fireworks!)

Remember to watch out for fireworks that look massive but are full of air. Gaps between tubes make the fireworks look a lot bigger than it actually is and can be a disappointment. That said the Brothers Choice Barrage Pack by Brothers Pyrotechnics has gaps between all the tubes and is the best small barrage selection on the market. Again, you must watch the fireworks videos.

The maximum diameter of a barrage tube in the UK is 30mm. this is big so do not expect to get a 500 shot barrage of 30mm tubes. But do remember that they will all be big and powerful shots.

Firework barrages and explosives are separated into categories in the UK. 1.4G and 1.3G - 1.3G Fireworks contain flash powder and have powerful, loud and large effects. These are harder to come by as there are limited suppliers of 1.3G fireworks in the UK but it is well worth seeking them out as 1.4G Fireworks, generally, are poor quality in comparison. 1.4G Barrages do not contain flash powder in any great quantity (less than 5%) and do not bang so much as pop.

Great Rule of Thumb: 1.3G = Good, 1.4G = Not so Good

I hope this advice helps you in choosing your fireworks this year. Remember the golden rule, watch the firework videos!

Part 2 of UK Fireworks: A buyers guide/Rockets coming soon

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