C-4 or Composition C-4 is a common variety of
military plastic explosive.
The term composition is used for any stable explosive, and
"Composition A" and "Composition B" are other known variants. C-4 is
1.34 times as explosive as trinitrotoluene (TNT). It has gained
popularity due to exposure in media including films and video games.
A major advantage of C-4 is that it can easily be moulded into any
desired shape. C-4 can be pressed into gaps/voids in buildings,
bridges, equipment or machinery. Similarly, it can easily be
inserted into empty shaped-charge cases of the type used by special
forces. C-4 is also well known for its durability, reliability, and
safety. It will not explode even if hit by a bullet, punched, cut,
or thrown into a fire. The only reliable method for detonation is
via both heat and pressure, e.g. a detonator or blasting cap.
British Military plastic explosive is referred to as PE4. Like C-4,
it is an off-white solid and its explosive characteristics are
nearly identical. The only difference between C-4 and PE4 is the
type and proportion of plasticizer used.
Because C-4 burns slowly if simply ignited with a flame, rather than
detonated with a primary explosive, soldiers would sometimes use
small amounts of C-4 as a fuel for heating rations while on long
patrols during the Vietnam War era. While many soldiers were able to
use C-4 in this manner safely, there are several anecdotes about
soldiers attempting to put out the fire by stamping on it and
causing it to detonate.
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