Squib (explosive)

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0.5 and 1 grain bullet hit squibs and solid polycarbonate backing shields to simulate a gunshot wound on an actor. A blood pack is to be built atop the squib.
An example of a bullet hit squib assembly to be attached to an actor's wardrobe. When triggered, the squib propels the encapsulated fake blood out of the fabric, creating the gunshot effect.
An example of a bullet hit squib assembly to be attached to an actor's wardrobe. When triggered, the squib propels the encapsulated fake blood out of the fabric, creating the gunshot effect.
Demonstration of bullet hit squibs embedded in a waterproof down jacket as the dead-character costume bursting out fake blood and smoke.
An actor wearing a spent set of scrubs as the dead-character costume after "getting shot" for a movie scene with the detonation of 6x bullet hit squibs hidden beneath the fabric, exposing the bullet holes and spilt fake blood on the fabric.
Pyrotechnic charges from ejector seat of MiG-21F-13 fighter in the Aviation Museum of Central Finland

A squib is a miniature explosive device used in a wide range of industries, from special effects to military applications. It resembles a tiny stick of dynamite, both in appearance and construction, but has considerably less explosive power. They consist of two electrical leads separated by a plug of insulating material; a small bridge wire or electrical resistance heater; and a bead of heat-sensitive chemical composition, in which the bridge wire is embedded.[1] They can be used to generate mechanical force to shatter or propel various materials; and for pyrotechnic effects for film and live theatrics.[2]

A squib generally consists of a small tube filled with an explosive substance, with a detonator running through the length of its core, similar to a stick of dynamite. Also similar to dynamite, the detonator can be a slow-burning fuse, or as is more common today, a wire connected to a remote electronic trigger.[3] Squibs range in size from ~2 to 15 mm (0.08 to 0.6 in) in diameter.[2]

Film industry[edit]

In the film industry, the term squib often refers to electric matches and detonators used to trigger larger pyrotechnics. They are generally (but not always) the main explosive element in an effect, and are often used in the special effects and theater industries to simulate bullet impacts on inanimate objects or actors.[4] Simulants such as sand, soil, wood, splinters, or in the case of the latter, fake blood, dust,[5] down feathers[6][7] (for the desired gunshot aesthetic on a down jacket), water [8] (for rehearsals), glycerine[9] (for nighttime shoots) or other materials to simulate shattered bone and tissue, may be attached to the squib to simulate the impact that occurs when bullets pierce different materials. The stage clothes worn by actors, referred to as dead-character costumes, are equipped with squibs that blow the simulant through pre-made "bullet" holes.

Automotive industry[edit]

Squibs are used in emergency mechanisms where gas pressure needs to be generated quickly in confined spaces, while not harming any surrounding persons or mechanical parts. In this form, squibs may be called gas generators. Two such mechanisms are the inflation of automobile air bags and seat belt pretensioners which sometimes use pyrotechnic devices.

Aerospace industry[edit]

In military aircraft, squibs are used to deploy countermeasures and are also implemented during ejection to propel the canopy and ejection seat away from a crippled aircraft. They are also used to deploy parachutes.[3]

Other uses[edit]

Squibs are also used in automatic fire extinguishers, to pierce seals that retain liquids such as halon, fluorocarbon, or liquid nitrogen.

History[edit]

Squibs were originally made from parchment tubes, or the shaft of a feather, and filled with fine black powder. They were then sealed at the ends with wax. They were sometimes used to ignite the main propellant charge in a cannon.[10]

Squibs were once used in coal mining to break coal away from rock. In the 1870s, some versions of the device were patented and mass-produced as "Miners' Safety Squibs".[11]

The famous "Squib Case"[edit]

Squibs are mentioned in the prominent tort case from eighteenth-century England, Scott v. Shepherd, 96 Eng. Rep. 525 (K.B. 1773). A lit squib was thrown into a crowded market by Shepherd and landed on the table of a gingerbread merchant. A bystander, to protect himself and the gingerbread, threw the squib across the market, where it landed in the goods of another merchant. The merchant grabbed the squib and tossed it away, accidentally hitting a man in the face, putting out one of his eyes.

Squibs in films[edit]

A puff of gray smoke blasts from a small squib hit explosive, during a death scene in the film Bataan[12]

The first documented use of squibs to simulate bullet impacts in cinema was in the 1943 US war film Bataan.[13]

Other early films using squibs include the 1955 Polish film Pokolenie by Andrzej Wajda, where for the first time audiences were presented with a realistic representation of a bullet impacting on an on-camera human being, complete with blood spatter. The creator of the effect, Kazimierz Kutz, used a condom with fake blood and dynamite.[14]

However, the American western, River of No Return, filmed in 1953 and released in 1954, used a blood squib to simulate realistic bullet impact in the story's climax, when the story's antagonist is shot dead. As such, this film precedes Run of the Arrow (1957) – often credited with being the first to use blood squibs – by three years, and Pokolenie by one.

Origin of the phrase "damp squib"[edit]

While most modern squibs used by professionals are insulated from moisture, older uninsulated squibs needed to be kept dry in order to ignite, thus a "damp squib" was literally one that failed to perform because it got wet. Often misheard as "damp squid",[15] the phrase "damp squib" has since come into general use to mean anything that fails to meet expectations.[16] The word "squib" has come to take on a similar meaning even when used alone, as a diminutive comparison to a full explosive.[17]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Thibodaux, J. G. (July 1, 1961). "Special Rockets and Pyrotechnics Problems". Langley Research Center. NTRS. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Top 10 Frequently Asked Questions". Fantasy Creations FX. Archived from the original on 10 July 2011.
  3. ^ a b US 5411225, Lannon, Robert G. & Weldon, William F., "Reusable non-pyrotechnic countermeasure dispenser cartridge for aircraft", published 1995-05-02 
  4. ^ Fantasy Creations FX. "Top 10 Frequently Asked Questions".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ "Professional Bullet Hit Effects". Roger George Special Effects. Retrieved 2021-02-06.
  6. ^ Sara Down Jacket Shot, archived from the original on 2021-12-21, retrieved 2021-08-19
  7. ^ FX (1996). "Fargo (1996) Kill Count". YouTube.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)[dead YouTube link]
  8. ^ Duerr, Seth; Kirby, Jared (2021). Staging Shakespeare's Violence: My Cue to Fight: Domestic Fury. Pen and Sword History. p. 276. ISBN 978-1526762436.
  9. ^ "Rapid Reload | Direct Hit". Retrieved 22 August 2021.
  10. ^ Calvert, James B. "Cannons and Gunpowder". University of Denver. Archived from the original on 2007-07-01.
  11. ^ Wallace, Anthony F. C. (1988). St. Clair, a nineteenth-century coal town's experience with a disaster-prone industry. Cornell University Press. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-8014-9900-5.
  12. ^ Bender, Stuart Marshall (2014-01-01). "Blood Splats and Bodily Collapse: Reported Realism and the Perception of Violence in Combat Films and Video Games". Projections. 8 (2): 1–25. doi:10.3167/proj.2014.080202. ISSN 1934-9688.
  13. ^ Bender, Stuart Marshall (2014-01-01). "Blood Splats and Bodily Collapse: Reported Realism and the Perception of Violence in Combat Films and Video Games". Projections. 8 (2): 1–25. doi:10.3167/proj.2014.080202. ISSN 1934-9688.
  14. ^ "Pokolenie". Gazeta Wyborcza. 2008. Archived from the original on 2012-06-03.
  15. ^ "Damp Squid: The top 10 misquoted phrases in Britain". The Daily Telegraph. London. 24 February 2009.
  16. ^ "Definition of damp squib". Allwords.com.
  17. ^ "squib: Definitions, Synonyms". Answers.com.