While there are many people who love fireworks purely for the sounds they make and colours they display upon explosion, others – like ourselves here at Firework Crazy – love the science behind fireworks and the different facts you can learn about these incredible products that we all love.
One of the most common questions we’re asked when out performing displays is how fast are fireworks? Although it’s certainly a great question and one worth asking, if we were to add the speed of each firework onto our product pages, we’re not sure many would find it useful. We’d also have to think how we’d definitively measure the speed of each firework too!
With that in mind, all speeds within this guide are a general indication, and we won’t be refunding anyone who comes and tells us their firework shells didn’t hit a certain speed! Remember too that the speed of your fireworks may be affected by additional factors including the prevailing weather conditions, and if for any reason you are not firing directly up into the sky.
How Fast are Fireworks?
The answer is “it depends.”
As well as the weather, the firing angler and other external factors, the speed fireworks travel depends on the size of the firework itself. Here’s a look at fireworks by size, with a handy comparison to give you some idea of how quickly they might be travelling when you see them fired at a display.
How Fast do Two Inch Shells Travel?
Two inch shells typically travel at around 80mph. This is an easy comparison to make, as you can get in your car and feel what 80mph is like for yourself. Just don’t do it in a built up area or otherwise in front of a police car or where you know there’s a speed camera!
What About Three Inch Shells?
A three inch shell from a two inch shell might not sound like a significant size increase, but the guide speed for how quickly they travel jumps from 80mph to 98mph.
Some readers may have experienced 98mph in their cars or on their motorbikes – keep it to yourselves – but for most people 98mph is perhaps best contextualized as the speed of a second serve at Wimbledon.
Searching for things travelling at 98mph online turns up everything from people asking for advice having been caught speeding to videos of old cars driving off into the distance. Take a look at create your own vision of how 98mph looks and feels.
How Fast do Four Inch Shells Travel?
Four inch shells are still very much in tennis serve territory, coming in at 113mph. We hope we’re well beyond “I’ve done that in my car” territory now!
How Fast do Five Inch Shells Travel?
Five inch shells tend to reach around 126mph, the speed that has been the fastest recorded by a steam locomotive train since 1938.
Check out the video below.
How Fast do Six Inch Shells Travel?
Six inch shells jump up to around 140mph. At this speed you’re starting to approach speeds that some commercial aeroplanes would be able to take off at.
In the United Kingdom, 140mph is the speed at which Richard Branson is hoping to run trains on the East Coast Mainline from 2018. In the context of rail travel in this country that sounds mighty impressive, but it pales in comparison to Japan, where passenger trains run daily at 200mph and where tests have even been completed at trains travelling at anything from 275 – 375 mph!
How Fast do Eight Inch Shells Travel?
We’re now jumping up to 160mph for eight inch shells.
At this speed we’re now above the threshold of 156mph that is used to categorize a Category 5 hurricane!
How Fast do Ten Inch Shells Travel?
Ten inch shells can travel at up to 180mph. This is quicker than the highest wind speed ever recorded in the United Kingdom (173mph) and higher than the highest forecast winds on the slopes of Mount Everest (175mph). At this speed we’re well into flat out Formula 1 car territory, too, although we have a little further to go before we get to the record speed recorded in Formula 1.
How Fast do 12 Inch Shells Travel?
We’re now on the brink of 200mph, but twelve inch shells won’t quite breach the barrier, usually topping out at around 196mph.
It’s also just slower than the world’s fastest battery powered remote controlled car, which you can see in the video below. Sadly these won’t be in the shops in time for Christmas!
How Fast do 24 Inch Shells Travel?
With a jump in shell size comes a jump in speed, and we’re now up to 268mph, well beyond the 232mph driven in a Formula 1 car by Juan Pablo Montoya at Monza in 2005. If we’re talking wind speed, 268mph is into the highest possible category of tornado – F5.
It is difficult to appreciate just how fast and frightening this is, but you can get some idea by watching the video below.
How Fast do 36 Inch Shells Travel?
We finish on 36 inch shells and another big jump in speed. At 327mph, a 36-inch shell goes beyond the highest ever wind speed recorded in a tornado on Earth, of 318mph.
It also matches the speed hit in the drag race in the below video, though is still a long way off the world land speed record of 763mph, which you can see in the second video below. Check out both videos, and we hope you enjoyed this look at some of the science behind fireworks.