Bottle rockets are fireworks which are designed to have a small size, but formidable power. They are a type of sky rocket, meaning that they will rapidly climb high into the sky before exploding. The “bottle” in their name probably arises from the tradition of deploying bottle rockets from bottles, allowing the person firing them off to step well out of range after lighting the fuse. The term is also used to describe water rockets, rockets which use old soda bottles as a body and water for propulsion.
A bottle rocket is approximately half the size of a normal firework, and much smaller than commercial skyrockets. At one point, they were widely sold at fireworks hobby stores, because they are small and relatively easy, though not always safe, to use. Growing concerns about their safety led to a ban on bottle rockets in many areas, making them very difficult to obtain in some regions.
The core of a bottle rocket is a tube filled with black power or a similar explosive. When ignited, the explosion propels the bottle rocket into the air, often setting off further explosions of colorful fireworks star bursts, trails, or sparklers. Many manufacturers of bottle rockets also design them with whistles which will shriek as they climb into the air, or explosives which will make a concussive bang when they explode. The explosive part of a bottle rocket is attached to a long stick which should be mounted in a rock launcher, but is more often stuck in the ground or braced in a bottle.
Like any explosive, a bottle rocket can be dangerous, despite the misleadingly small size. Bottle rockets should be launched from a specially designed launcher, rather than a bottle or the ground. People firing bottle rockets should ideally be sober and over 14, and a large bucket of water should be kept in the vicinity for emergencies. Bottle rockets should never be fired near homes, and if the season is dry, the earth should be dampened with water before lighting rockets.
When lighting bottle rockets, instruments designed for lighting fireworks should be used, and everyone should stand clear of the area. Make sure that the bottle rocket is not aimed at anyone, and if it sputters or malfunctions, soak it in water and dispose of it. Never handle or try to relight a firework which has malfunctioned; the majority of fireworks injuries arise from this very activity. If you are fortunate, you can escape with burns, but loss of digits or an entire hand is possible.