The Seraphim Armoury Fire Storm is, without a doubt, the most unique piece of…we’ll just call it “equipment”… to roll across our desks in the history of Calibre Magazine. Now, to be fair, this is really just industrial equipment for a range of applications from woodland firefighting to agricultural burns. They’re pretty specific about the legitimate uses, and the uses do make sense and if you’re prepared to be logical about it, this thing makes way more sense than your gut tells you when you first see it.
It’s also a fifty foot stream of fire, from a tank you wear as a backpack.
And you can own it. It’s absolutely, one hundred percent, no holds barred, legal. Legal as a tiger torch or a propane barbecue. There are no restrictions. It just is.
And it’s a flamethrower.
What’s in the bag?
Unpacking the Fire Storm is interesting. You’re looking at, essentially, an alice pack frame, a SCUBA-looking tank made of spun aluminum, a pressure gauge, and some hoses, plus what looks to our non-expert eyes a lot like a wand from a pressure washer. There are several different tips which, in concert with your fuel selection, which can range from gasoline to a 90/10 diesel/gas mix, allow you to control the flame for both range and duration. We recommend the quarter-inch full blast experience, incidentally.
You’ll need to add a couple of items to get the machine into action: presumably for shipping reasons, you’ll have to supply your own bottles of CO2 and propane, but at least that stuff is readily available at sporting goods or even big box stores in a lot of places. Still, if you order one, plan ahead, because we don’t want anyone picking up their flamethrower from a shipping depot on a Sunday morning, and then having to wait around until Monday to lay waste to, um, whatever you’re intending to obliterate. Play safe.
How is the Fire Storm legal?
We’ll be honest: we read the included explanation many times, because we were absolutely convinced that this was going to be the straw that broke the camel’s back and sent us all to prison. It basically goes like this: yes, all military flamethrowers are totally illegal; anti-personnel flamethrowers are prohibited items, and the Canadian Controlled Goods Program specifically lists “Flame throwers”. But that legislation is for weapons. This isn’t a weapon. It’s designed for a whole range of agricultural and fire fighting uses, which are listed in the manual. And also for use in movies, because it looks absolutely insane when fired. But it’s not intended for use as a weapon.
Frankly we did not find this rationale especially comforting; we spent more time strategizing about how we were going to talk our way out of what we considered the inevitable (if not incipient) SWAT takedown, than we did about how and where we were going to use the thing.
But then the realization hit us: the Fire Storm is imported. Seraphim Armoury is the Canadian distributor for a US company who actually build the things. Why is this a huge relief? Because somebody at Industry Canada must have okayed the thing. Somewhere out there is a bureaucrat who looked at the justifications and the intent and the design and rubber-stamped the beast. This thing is government-approved.
And the fact is, that despite how crazy it initially appears, there are absolutely legitimate uses for this thing, and it really doesn’t present any more danger than any number of unregulated, readily available fuel items, besides which, the $2999 price tag will essentially limit the market to people who genuinely need the utility it represents as an agricultural tool. Large sections of Canada are still either back burned for farming purposes or cleared of brush by burning, and the Fire Storm is really just a convenient way to get that done. Anyone who seriously intends to inflict harm with fire is more likely to use accelerants on an occupied building than attempt to shoot at people with a sixty pound scuba tank backpack with extremely limited range.
So while we admit the initial reaction we had was “this is insane and it can’t be legal,” the fact is that it’s really not much of a threat to anyone. That said, naturally almost anything COULD be used as a weapon, so don’t do that, because if this gets used to hurt people, it’s going away, forever. But for now, we can simply marvel at the triumph of reason of emotion that led to its legal importation.
Having thus concluded that whoever okayed the importation was actually being pretty calm and rational, we decided that we were in the clear, legally speaking, and readied ourselves for the Fire Storm.
Playing with fire
So you open up your bag of insane flaming onslaught, and you read the hilariously brief instruction manual: it’s literally a page of pictures laying out how to fill the tank with fuel and pressurize it. Step nine is just a picture of a guy launching a jet of fire. You get yourself some CO2 and some propane. You stop by the gas station and half-smile nervously at people who are probably equally nervously watching you fill a scuba tank with a 90/10 mix of diesel fuel and gasoline. In fact, just go ahead and get yourself a jerry can, because it turns out that people get really weird about this stage if they witness it.
And if you’re anything like us, you drive out into the middle of nowhere, put on all the safety gear you can think of (in our case a hooded sweatshirt with the hood up and a pair of sunglasses) in case something goes wrong, and you give it a try.
We’re not going to print the excited stream of profanities that issued from our mouths after the first jet of flame seared out into the drizzling British Columbia sky. But rest assured, there were only two reactions possible, and they were either A) excited gibberish, or B) stunned, open-mouthed silence. Our staff reflected both option. The Fire Storm is the craziest, weirdest, flat-out gnarliest and probably the most fun piece of machinery that’s rolled through the Calibre headquarters since this magazine began.
We were warned by staff at Seraphim Armoury that the first few moments would be terrifying, but that we’d get used to the idea that it wasn’t going to explode in a ball of hellish fury, and then it would just be fun. We can advise that this is exactly correct: the first jet of fire was unleashed by the editor, who was convinced the episode would result in a total lack of eyebrows. But in fact, the experience was almost nothing like we’d expected. We thought there’d be a terrific blast of heat, plus a stench of diesel, that would make operation somewhat unpleasant.
It turns out that no, the user doesn’t experience much heat, nor smell much fuel. The relatively small flame front to which the operator is exposed, which is of course perpetually retreating from the user, makes for a pretty pleasant flame throwing experience. The only aspect we were right about was that we also expected shooting it to be absolutely awesome, and that we would feel like a cross between Marines storming Iwo Jima (only without the risk or glory), the Ghostbusters, and some kind of demon from a heavy metal album cover. And yes, that is exactly how we felt.
And it was all over too quickly: on the full-blast setting, we burned a full tank of fuel in about thirty seconds of actual burn time. That’s another reason to bring a big jerry can: you will want to keep doing this as long as possible. After a full tank of fuel, one of our staff was quoted as saying “I never want to do anything else, ever” and it really is exotic, crazy fun.
We’re predicting these things are going to show up as rental toys at outdoor ranges, so if you can’t quite stomach the three thousand dollar entry fee, and you can’t justify it for agricultural purposes, take heart. You’ll probably going to see them cropping up here and there, and if you get the chance, give one a try.
Just don’t blame us if you get addicted.