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How to be a Competivtive Fireworks Grandmaster w/ Linda Westfall
Episode 1345th July 2022 • The Business Samurai • John Barker
00:00:00 00:14:51

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In honor of the July 4th holiday. Here is a previously unreleased segment of my conversation with Software Quality Design Expert Linda Westfall.

Linda and her husband are competitive fireworks makers. In this segment we discuss:

1) Making your own fireworks

2) The different classes of explosives

3) How competitions work

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Transcripts

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Linda Westfall is a software quality expert.

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In a previously unaired segment from my conversation with her about designing

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quality software, we talk extensively about what it's like being a competitive

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fireworks maker as she and her husband have been competing for years.

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And Linda is the very first woman grand master.

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So I hope you enjoy as this seems appropriate for the July 4th holiday.

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Sit back, enjoy, and welcome to the business Samurai podcast.

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I am your host, John Barker

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I wanted to ask about the fireworks.

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As soon as I had read that, do you guys make your own or you

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just shooting them off all the

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time?

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You make your own?

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No.

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We make our own, we literally take the powders.

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We have formulas that in fact, my husband invents the formulas on some

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really, but we also have standard cookbook formulas that we, that have been

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around for decades or centuries, even.

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Some of 'em, you can't even get the ingredients for anymore

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because the government's made a lot of the stuff illegal

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But yeah, we mix the powders.

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We make the fireworks.

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In fact, the grand master that I mentioned, we're members of the pirate

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NIC Guild and international, the PGI they meet for a week every summer,

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basically the first week of August-ish.

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And I say that because this year, for some reason, it lapped over

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into the last, the first two days or the last two days of July, rather

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than the first full week of August.

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But beside the point they meet for a week there are people

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like my husband and I that are builders that build our own stuff.

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We have a manufacturing area.

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There's other places that are teaching class people that are teaching

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classes on how to build your own and they'll actually be hands on and you

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can build your own thing at night.

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They actually budget dark.

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okay.

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Because they, we can only shoot until one in the morning.

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So from the time it gets dark at about 9, 9 30 until one in the morning, we

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will first have what we call our shows and demos shows are literally this group

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of people is putting on a show for us.

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We pay for it.

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Now, when we have a show, it's not like the normal 4th of July.

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, it's more like 4th of July in New York city.

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Okay.

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Where they're shooting 30 things at once instead of one, your

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local community show they'll.

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Ooh, isn't that pretty?

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Okay.

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Ooh, isn't that pretty?

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Oh, is not pretty.

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They'll shoot one or two at a time, but we're shooting cuz and the demos are

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people that actually build fireworks commercially come in and do little mini

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shows to show off their new products.

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Okay.

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And again, they'll shoot a whole bunch of 'em at once.

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So the first thing we have in the evenings are the shows and demo.

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And we have so many of those each night, then after that we have competitions

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and you have to have built it yourself.

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Now there's certain things like Lance work pieces, you're allowed to buy the Lance.

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You don't have to buy your own F, make your own fuse.

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They're allow you to buy fuse, but anything that's an

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actual fireworks component.

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You're going to have manufactured it.

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And this is all the way from this is my first three inch ball, shell beginner ball

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shells that I have ever built in my life.

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all the way up to what we call exhibition shells, which

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can be 12, 16, even 20 we've.

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I've seen ones as big as 24 inches.

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And every once in a while, they'll do one, that'll be like 36 inches

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where it fills the whole sky with one she , but you get scored and

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first place is worth so many points.

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Second place, third place, fourth place, fifth.

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Is worth so many points and you're allowed to take your top two scores in aerial,

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which are the ones where you're shooting.

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'em out of a mortar and you get an effect up in the air.

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That's typically what in community shows, okay.

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Is they're shooting something.

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It goes off in the air.

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That's called an area rockets.

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Instead of having a mortar that you're shooting it out of, you're

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actually having a rocket tube.

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That's my husband's specialty is doing rockets well, mine too, really?

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But you fill the tube with some kind of comp that takes the rocket up in

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the air, and then the effect goes off.

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There's a ground, which is anything where the effect starts on the ground.

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So you've seen the American flag.

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That's an Lance work piece.

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This is comments where it's like a tin.

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It looks like a tin can size.

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It's just basically a chunk of material that's been compressed

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and you shoot those up.

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So you get a tail all the way from the bottom to the top mines again, that

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come up from the ground, waterfalls, wheels, those kinds of things.

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And those are the different categories.

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You count your top two scores in each of them and you add it all up.

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And whoever gets the most points that year wins

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is the scoring based on the biggest, the loudest, the brightest, how

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long it can hang in the air.

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What's

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the any, and all of the above, you have a panel of 10 judges and they each score

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each device and it all gets added up in.

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Whoever has the most points in that individual competition

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comes in first, second, third, fourth, depending on the points.

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And then you add up your top two scores in each of the three categories.

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Whoever gets the most overall.

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Wins grand master.

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And that's what I am the only female in the 52 year history of

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the PGI to have won grand master.

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That's awesome.

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And I have to, I had to, my per my husband was able to, was allowed to help

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me put it in the ground, but I had to personally build every single firework.

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Now, do you have an area around your house?

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Are you fans are you big fans of, with the neighbors for testing these out before

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competition

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time?

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No, in fact, we don't shoot here because we're on a fire plane.

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Okay.

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The Cato grasslands.

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And if we get, if we set the wrong thing on fire, we could burn downtowns.

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Sure.

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It's happened with lightning hitting and things like that.

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We only shoot at the shows we do.

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To club events.

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We now go the Florida pyrotechnic art skill, which is a Florida club

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meets twice a year for a long weekend.

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And again, you have all the regulations, you get your permits, you have the fire

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department there, et cetera, et cetera.

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Then we belong to the Texas club.

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They have one event a year.

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We belong to the Western winter blast that has one event a year.

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So we four times a year.

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And then the PGI is a whole week long stuff.

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You try it stuff out for a year or two until it gets good enough

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to enter into a competition.

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yeah.

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Okay.

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But no, we, unless it's some tiny little thing, we don't anything

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that's gonna shoot sparks more than five feet in any direction.

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So it would get off the concrete of our driveway.

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We're not gonna shoot in Texas.

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We don't do anything in the.

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Make my dog dive the ground

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. Yeah.

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And even with that, we'll wait and shoot something.

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The, it may still be raining outside, try something little, but we've had,

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we had one of 'em get away from us.

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One time.

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You are allowed to U you suit class C here.

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I'm not familiar in Texas

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class C

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I'm not familiar.

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Okay.

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Three classes of firework of explosives type a explosives high explosives dynamite

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T C4, nitroglycerin high explosives.

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The difference is in a high explosive is the, you always have

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to have a fuel and an oxidizer.

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Okay.

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And in high explosives, they're in the same molecule and the molecules are

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being broken apart by the explosion.

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And it is a.

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unpleasant, high frequency crack.

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If you've ever heard any of that stuff go off.

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Class B is your fireworks that are like black powder or any, anything else?

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That's an explosive, that's low explosives here.

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The oxidizer and the fuel are two different molecules that interact with

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each other through these formulas.

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And that's class B is when you go to the local community event and

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they're putting stuff in the air, that's gonna be all class B fireworks.

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Class C is consumer fireworks.

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This is a stuff I don't.

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Where do you live, Virginia?

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okay.

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Kent, do you have the firework stands in your community?

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Yeah.

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We, where you go to another state and buy 'em.

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So

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they got the little cheapo, firework stands.

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Everybody.

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I know either goes to Pennsylvania or I think it's usually Pennsylvania where

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they've got all the firework stores right across the state line, because

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you can't buy those rockets here.

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and again, different states have different regulations on what you

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can and cannot include in class C.

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But if you can go buy it without any licenses at all, then that's class C.

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Okay.

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And it's less than a certain amount of powder.

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Okay.

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Or explosive material in it.

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and different states have different regulations on how much and

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what can be sold in their state.

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I've helped

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friends of mine set theirs off after they've made the truck a couple mile

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or a couple hours to go load up their pickup truck with stuff, because I

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don't actually know what I've never bought any from the little stands, but

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I assume they're not the good stuff.

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As everybody says a neighbor used to get his on a pallet delivered.

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He would buy like a thousand dollars worth of stuff and have a pallet dropped in

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his driveway for 4th of July every year.

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You can't buy 'em in, you cannot buy 'em from somebody in Virginia, but

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all you gotta do is get 'em shipped to

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you.

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yep, exactly.

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And that's consumer fireworks.

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Okay.

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And there's again, different states, different rules and regulations.

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It's all.

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But class B is covered in a, the high explosives and low explosives

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are covered under the ATF.

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Okay.

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It's actually alcohol, tobacco, firearms, and explosives.

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It's actually at E except most people ignore the E.

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Gotcha.

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But we actually have explosive manufacturing.

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They come and audit us once a year.

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we have to keep diligent records of, today we made this many ounces of, or pounds of

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this explosive that, so what's in our mag.

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We have to have a magazine that has to have three quarters, inch

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steel and three inches of hardwood.

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So if somebody shoots into the magazine, it will not get as far as the

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explosive GE that's, you have to worry about table of distance and how much

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material you can put in the magazine.

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Depends on what's close.

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Other houses, railroads, roads, that's inhabited buildings,

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uninhabited buildings, there's all kinds of rules and regulations.

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You were absolutely the first person I know that has had that as a hobby, no,

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this is awesome for anybody listening.

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If they want to reach out or check out any of your courses, what's the

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best way for them to contact you?

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L Westfall team.com.

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You can email me or they can sign onto my website at software

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excellence academy, no spaces.

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So just software excellence academy, all one word.com and

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I'll make sure to have one.

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I do weekly webinars.

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If you go slash webinars, it'll, the next three coming up are up there record.

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I always keep recordings of the previous eight webinars there for people to watch.

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If you go to slash classes, you can see what live classes are coming up.

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What online classes there.

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that is I do virtual on demand or live classes periodically.

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No, that's

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awesome.

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And I'm gonna make sure to put all the links in the show notes and all of that.

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So that's all out there

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and there you got, we just did that one yesterday.

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That's I need to take that one off but we do a theme of the month.

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This month's theme is teams.

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Okay.

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Last month's team theme was met software metrics and measurement.

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You mentioned security.