Sorry, Californians. You Can't Have a Personal, Portable Flamethrower

Monday, March 23, 2015
XM42 flamethrower

According to the webpage for the XM42™, “the world’s first commercially available handheld flamethrower” is “easy and fun” to operate, and possibly legal in all 50 states except two—California and Maryland.

But there’s still time for those states to come around, because the product is still in the final stages of development, and the IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign is just beginning. It’s worth keeping an eye on that start date because an XM42 can be pre-ordered by making a contribution.

The price is $699 for the brushed aluminum. The polished aluminum or powdercoated look cost $100 more.  

The flamethrower ignites 87-octane gasoline as it shoots 25 feet straight out. It has many potential domestic uses, according to Chris Byars, CEO of ION Productions Teams and flamethrower visionary. He told WTOP, “You can use it for clearing snow and ice, or weeds, like with a propane torch. Pyrotechnic event displays, like they use at concerts.” Or, “You can start bonfires from a great distance away, or it’s just something you can enjoy with friends—just a cool toy.”

Byars didn’t mention self-defense in his interview with WTOP, but he said people don’t need a license to operate the XM42. Perhaps that would obviate the need for a permit to carry a dangerous weapon. But there is reason to question the accuracy of some of Byars’ information. He said California was the only state that banned flamethrowers.

However, a county battalion chief in Maryland showed a WTOP reporter the state law that specifically forbids possession of “a bomb, grenade, mine, shell, missile, flamethrower, poison gas, Molotov cocktail, pipe bomb, and petroleum-soaked ammonium nitrate.”

That’s some heavy-duty company the flamethrower keeps. So what? “Misuse of any item should punish the offender, not the tool, as far as we’re concerned,” Byars said. So, caveat emptor. He adjusted his website faq map to include Maryland.

Byars was right about flamethrowers being banned in California. The California Health and Welfare Codes 12750-12761, Flamethrowing Devices clearly makes it a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail or a up to a $10,000 fine for toting one around that shoots flames more than 10 feet without a permit. Those can be had from the State Fire Marshal.

There is no federal law banning flamethrowers, but the U.S. military decided to stop using one of the more terrifying weapons ever seen on a battlefield in 1978. Some have suggested it was a moral and ethical decision, but there also may have been some question about the efficacy of soldiers running around a battlefield with tanks of flammable liquid strapped to their backs.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Personal, Portable Flamethrower Raises Funds, Legal Questions (by Neal Augenstein, WTOP)

A Nice Handheld Flamethrower? How Handy (by Chris Matyszczyk, C/NET)

This Personal Flamethrower Is Somehow Legal in 49 States (by Andrew Tarantola, Engadget)

Coming Soon: Your Own Personal Flamethrower—Unless You Live in California (by Chuck Bednar, Red Orbit)

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