Well the title says it all! I'm a military flamethrower expert. I've traveled around the country demonstrating rare military flamethrowers. I've used everything from WWII flamethrowers to Modern day units. I have also operated WWII flamethrowing tanks! AMA!

Proof: http://imgur.com/a/4fZLe

Comments: 187 • Responses: 76  • Date: 

st0n3wa1l19 karma

What type of flame thrower do you suggest I use to kill the giant hornets nest in my backyard?

thewiseone9115 karma

Honestly get one of those smaller portable XM42 flamethrowers. They use gas as a combustible and have a very short controllable range. However, with that being said I wouldn't use a flamethrower in your back yard!

st0n3wa1l6 karma

It's okay, it's on a ranch not in a neighborhood.

thewiseone9110 karma

Then you're good to go!

drone4212 karma

When you're using it, does it sound like how it does in the movies, or is that totally off the mark, too?

Also, how the hell does one become an expert in flamethrowers? I tried once with a supersoaker and alcohol in middle school, and only wound up getting grounded for a month.

thewiseone9113 karma

The sound is hard to describe without a specific instance I can't say. It sounds like a roar with liquid fuel. When I use napalm or gelled fuel in it the sound is horrifying. It is truly scary, you knew when one of these was near by and you ran for your life. The sound was also a way to also demoralize the enemy.


thewiseone918 karma

Also I just decided I wanted one and got trained on how to use them. Then I stayed in contact and became a flamethrower instructor, and collected a bunch of them. That's pretty much it!

torgis304 karma

How about the smell? WTF do these different fuels smell like?

thewiseone918 karma

It smells like gasoline or diesel depending on what we're using that day. Also fun fact napalm crackles while its burning, and it's very hard to put out!

natas20611 karma

So...would you say you love the smell of napalm in the morning?

thewiseone918 karma

Of course!

torgis303 karma

you were a firebug as a kid, weren't you? :D

thewiseone916 karma

Ha you would assume, but I actually respected fire and every time I would get near a lighter or book of matches I was yelled at. So no firebug here at least not then!

PaulsPizzaBurgers11 karma

How often are flamethrowers still used in combat?

What is the best type of flamethrower to set an ant hill on fire?

thewiseone9112 karma

We briefly entertained the idea of reintroducing them for the middle eastern conflict in the early 90s but that idea was quickly shot down. The US currently does not employ portable or vehicle mounted flamethrowers in combat and hasn't done so since Vietnam. I probably wouldn't use a flamethrower on an ant hill. If you're too close and you fire at the ground flames will roll back on you. Then you will get pretty messed up. I would stick with pesticides!

PaulsPizzaBurgers4 karma

Thanks for the reply!

So even though you're an expert in flamethrowers, you you chemical warfare is more effective?

thewiseone916 karma

I say against ants it's probably safer to go with chemical warfare!

HempCO7193 karma

The Geneva convention is explicit in the forbidden use of flamethrowers in combat situations, because of Vietnam. I think they cant even use napalm anymore either

thewiseone913 karma

This is correct. Now we just use white phosphorous to burn stuff.

pt_Hazard1 karma

I thought white phosphorus was illegal too. Or was that a joke?

thewiseone911 karma

White phosphorus was used to fill the gap after flamethrowers were ban. I believe in rare cases it's still used today.

Imperium_Dragon2 karma

So do other nations use flamethrowers?

thewiseone917 karma

Yes currently both Brazil and China have an active portable flamethrower program.

DriveGenie6 karma

Was the flame thrower invented by one guy or a team? I want to know who thought to themselves, "I'd like to set those dudes on fire, but I don't want to walk all the way over there to do it. There must be some way I can just throw the flame at them."

Also any new flamethrower breakthroughs since its use had been out of favour?

thewiseone917 karma

That's almost the George Carlin quote! Different countries had different teams who developed different flamethrower systems. The US Military has not worked on portable flamethrower technology since the end of Vietnam when they were ban for use in warfare.

Dovebox6 karma

Was it common for flamethrower users to explode when the tank of their weapon was hit by a bullet? Or is that just Hollywood

thewiseone918 karma

Total fantasy. Although it could happen I have never heard of an instance when it did happen. You need a round to hit the tank group at the top of the tanks while it was pressurized. The fuel type would have to be volatile with gaseous vapors. Then that gas would need to reach the ignition system to ignite like you see in the movies. Or the round would have to be an incendiary type to set off the tank group. Too many variables had to line up perfectly for this to happen. So if it did it would be super rare.

Dovebox3 karma

Thanks! So they were more or less safe to use in combat? Ive had it drilled into my head since I was a child that soldiers using them were pretty much running around with exposed dynamite on them haha.

thewiseone917 karma

It was relatively safe besides that fact that everyone would start shooting at you the second you started your initial burn.

HempCO7195 karma

Other than exhibition touring, what types of gigs do you get? The occasional movie?

thewiseone918 karma

I get asked to do some crazy events. I was once asked to come out and do some flamethrower demonstrations at a harvest festival at an apple farm. Some colleagues do movies all the time, I have friend working on the new Mel Gibson WWII film. They are going to have some M2-2s in the movie.

HempCO7193 karma

Can we get a name drop on the movie title?

thewiseone915 karma

Hacksaw Ridge (2017)

NewsBinger2 karma

Have you ever considered corporate events? I have to think a sales conference someplace would love have the spectacle of one of these.

Also, other than firing the flamethrower, are there any "tricks" that you do to build the impressiveness or entertainment value of the display?

thewiseone915 karma

If any corporate event wanted me to come and they paid of course I would go. Assuming that they had the space for the demonstration. I typically pump up the crowd with facts and showing off operators in authentic uniforms and gear. Most people want me to shut up and "pull the trigger" already. But once they see one touch off for the first time I see nothing but smiles from ear to ear!

NewsBinger2 karma

Maybe I have too much imagination, but I can think of a couple of things to build the showmanship of your display. You could "cross the streams" of multiple flamethrowers, you could melt stuff (large plastic figures, maybe an aluminum ladder), you could spray things that explode (maybe firecrackers), you could incorporate the fire department with some "hoses vs fire," etc.

As for corporate stuff; I would think you could get some gigs in commercials as well as corporate meetings.

This wasn't my goal, but did I get the job as your business manager or what?

thewiseone914 karma

Ha interesting. I usually just build life size bunkers to torch. This was one of the events I hosted a few weeks ago!


thejj1001005 karma

Are flame throwers in video games representative of real life flamethrowers? :)

thewiseone916 karma

Somewhat yes. The worse example of flamethrowers being very inaccurate is Call of Duty: World at War. The best example of super accurate and a true to life representation of flamethrowers is Red Orchestra 2: Rising Storm.

rawrausar2 karma

does flamethrower "attachments" like the ones in black ops actually exist?

thewiseone912 karma

I believe those are pure fantasy. I've never seen one or even knew about these until your question.

ArnoldIsNumero_uno5 karma

How long can the old school flame throwers run compared to the new age ones? and also what year was the latest design introduced? If they don't use them any longer in conflicts i wouldn't imagine the design has improved much.

thewiseone915 karma

If you look at my proof you will see the two latest variants of US portable flamethrowers. The one on the left is a WWII M2-2 and the one on the right is a Vietnam M9-7. The two are completely different in design, but very similar in function. With the newer M9-7 we sacrificed fuel capacity in favor of more portability. Empty it weighs about 40 lbs. compared to 60 lbs when the M2-2 is empty. There has been no more design improvements since they were ban after Vietnam.


How often are you asked to demonstrate how to use a flamethrower?

thewiseone913 karma

Almost every weekend when the weather gets warmer. I have to pick and choose events.


That seems rather frequent.... I assumed people didn't use flamethrowers that much anymore.

thewiseone913 karma

Nope but bigger shows know that they can use us for advertising to bring in a bigger crowd. So they try.

Lukasturbo5 karma

Does it get hot for you when using one? And do you use special non flamable clothing?

thewiseone919 karma

Yes! It gets extremely hot when using them. The bigger portable units such as the WWII M2-2 and Vietnam M9-7 have about 8 seconds of burn. I can only hold on for about 3 seconds per shot due to the heat. It can reach up to 3500 degrees Fahrenheit or 1926 degrees Celsius in about 3 seconds. I personally don't wear protective gear but when I train other operators I generally give them a firefighter coat to protect their arms.

Lukasturbo3 karma

Wow. Just 8 seconds of usage. I imagined it would be at least 30 secs. They must chew up a lot of fuel.

thewiseone913 karma

Yes but when using gelled fuel I can get pinpoint accuracy. I would only need one second to clear a bunker or spider trench. I have spoken with veterans of the PTO in WWII that have use a single tank group to take out multiple emplacements effectively.

Awpossum4 karma

What are the different uses of flamethrowers? It kinda look like an inefficient weapon...

thewiseone916 karma

Flamethrowers in combat have several uses. To clear vegetation and enemy emplacements. Flamethrower operators in the pacific during WWII would work in pairs. The Japanese had a habit of using natural camouflage such as brush and trees as concealment. One operator would move up to clear the brush while the other one concentrated on the gun port. Working together they had about 16 seconds of burn and would use about about 2 seconds total to remove an enemy emplacement depending on how much enemy fire they were under.

Awpossum3 karma

Oh it makes a lot of sense, in my mind it was used to burn people, which is kinda stupid.

thewiseone917 karma

Death by immolation is one way these things were used, but in rare instances. Many people died from asphyxiation while inside bunkers, the flame would eat up all the oxygen in the room.

mattchains4 karma

What an interesting profession! Why did you decide to become an expert in flamethrowers?

thewiseone919 karma

I thought that they were cool.

Imperium_Dragon4 karma

So do you have a personal favorite flamethrower?

thewiseone914 karma

I love my WWII M2-2 just because it is super rare. It's heavier than most flamethrowers I've used, but she is potent and powerful. She also kicks like a mule!

Furry_Axe_Wound4 karma

Would using a flamethrower be an effective method of snow removal? Say, over an asphalt driveway or gravel?

Every time I'm snow blowing, I imagine having flamethrower.


thewiseone913 karma

I wouldn't use a flamethrower for snow removal. Fire tends to roll back on you if you fire towards the ground in front of you. Plus you need a lot of space free of trees, dwellings, wires, ect. Otherwise things would get messy pretty quick.

aakash6584 karma

Are they efficient in battle or total gimmick? What fuel is used? What would be the operating cost?

thewiseone915 karma

They were extremely effective in combat. They were used to basically remove bunkers and totally demoralized the enemy. The fuel type depends on the location and need, usually a low octane gelled gasoline for WWII and a more potent mix of napalm in Vietnam. Operating costs are pretty low, today it's about $15 a shot for fuel and propellant.

Epicapabilities4 karma

Do you ever have to take the wind into consideration when "firing" a relatively long distance?

thewiseone916 karma

With liquid fuel absolutely. I will not fire unless the wind is nonexistent.

CypripediumCalceolus3 karma

Are these useful fighting forest fires, when they make controlled burns to create a no-go zone?

thewiseone913 karma

Yes as a matter of fact that is one of their biggest applications today is for controlled burns.

joeybdot3 karma

What's the last book you've read ... or burned ...?

thewiseone912 karma

I was actually just reading our flamethrower operator manual that I've developed with a friend to make sure it makes sense!

pm-me-ur-window-view3 karma

What was the longest actual combat range achieved by flamethrowers?

thewiseone915 karma

The WWII M2-2 combat pressure was about 380 PSI. With a gelled fuel they could get a good 150-200 ft range depending on environmental factors.

smevik3 karma

Are you Charlie Hobson from http://flamethrowerexpert.com/ ? If you are, i loved the series you did on forgotten weapons youtube channel. If you're not Hobson, are you familiar with him?

thewiseone913 karma

I am not Charlie, but Charlie is my mentor and very close friend. We have worked together for a very long time and he is how I got into this business.

torgis303 karma

This is officially one of the coolest jobs ever. I have a few questions:

1) I heard that, in combat, nobody wants to stand near the guy with a tank full of pressurized, flammable liquid on his back. Is that true?

2) Also heard that if you were a flamethrower trooper (or whatever they are called), you absolutely did not want to be captured by the enemy. The enemy had no love for trench guns or flamethrowers. Have you heard anyone mention this?

thewiseone913 karma

  1. Yes a lot of guys were afraid of the tank group exploding. This was a very occurrence if it happened at all.
  2. I have not personally heard of any operators being caught alive. You were target priority number one. Besides the straps have safety release buckets and many guys would have dumped the tanks in that case.

_peb3 karma

Is it seriously legal to just buy a flamethrower in the US? I'm Canadian and the concept seems super alien. I saw previous question about dealing with hornets nests, so is it actually legal to buy flamethrowers for personal use in America?

thewiseone913 karma

Yes, you can own them. But be prepared to shell out tens of thousands of dollars.

irregularcog3 karma

Are Flamethrowers the most advanced super soakers?

thewiseone912 karma

That's one way to put it!

irregularcog2 karma

What do the ones that use liquid fuel use to create consistent pressure and range?

thewiseone912 karma

They have pressure bottles that have a propellant in them.

Andre_Shingarev3 karma

Why isn't this on front page?

thewiseone912 karma

I don't know! We need more upvotes!

fiftyshadesofsway3 karma

Are flamethrowers actually effective in warding off hordes of zombies?

thewiseone914 karma

You know I was waiting for this one! Unfortunately, I would say that this would be a very poor weapon to go up against a zombie horde. Depending on environmental factors you maybe able to do substantial damage to the horde but it is unlikely you'll neutralize it altogether. These things weigh you down and you want as much maneuverability as possible. Also with 8 seconds of burn and a limited distance depending on fuel type, your better off using conventional firearms. Plus I think having flaming zombies chasing you is a bit more dangerous! Thanks for an awesome question.

PangurBanHammer1 karma

How exactly did you get into this line of work?

thewiseone913 karma

I took an interest in exotic and rare weaponry. Then I met a group of guys who do this stuff for a living and then just started collecting. I'm constantly being contacted about events and fundraisers for museums. Flamethrowers are a crowd pleaser and a huge draw for people.

torgis301 karma

Do you need, like, a flamethrower permit to own and operate one? Or can any jackass (me) off the streets scrape together the money and buy a flamethrower for shits and giggles?

thewiseone911 karma

Technically no you don't need a permit. But these things are ultra rare and cost prohibited. In my proof picture you're looking at about $40K in flamethrowers.

justscottaustin1 karma

Have you seen this? (I have to put a question here... ) :)


thewiseone911 karma

I actually just bursted out laughing. I haven't seen that before, but it's great!

ArnoldIsNumero_uno1 karma

Do you have any examples of the flamethrowing tanks you've driven/used? Those things look almost scifi when the flames shooting out according to google images lol. Also where are you seated while firing?

thewiseone913 karma


That's me supporting the M4 Sherman in the turret (Big Tank on the right). The next day I was in the assistant driver/bow gunner position actually firing the weapon.

ArnoldIsNumero_uno1 karma

Thats so cool. Is the short flame (at 0:22) just a flare up or does it have both long range and close range flames?

thewiseone912 karma

We don't have big fuel cells in the tanks to conserve room for the occupants. That is just the last of the fuel being burned up. Also depending on how much you squeeze the fuel release will depend on how much distance you can get. This only works for the vehicle mounted flamethrowers and is extremely dangerous to do with the portable ones.

Nucleardomo1 karma

What fuel is used for the average flamethrower?

thewiseone912 karma

Today we use diesel because it is considerably safer than other fuels and it is nonvolatile.

Holy_Shit_A_Username1 karma

What is the biggest misconception about flamethrowers?

thewiseone913 karma

That they blow up when you take a round to the tank group. They just simply leaked all over the place, kind of anticlimactic.

CaptainCorpse6661 karma

Do you make a living off Flamethrowing?

thewiseone911 karma

Unfortunately, not really. I do rent out flamethrowers to people and train them on how to use them. I can make a few thousand dollars in a few hours.

Jim1051 karma

Is using a flamethrower a better choice for snow removal than a snow blower?

thewiseone912 karma

nope it's too dangerous.

leah1281 karma

Where are you from?

thewiseone912 karma


juliusstreicher1 karma

What is the propellant? I had read in Wikipedia that it was compressed nitrogen, but, from what you wrote, it doesn't sound like it to me.

thewiseone912 karma

I use nitrogen in all my flamethrowers. It's safer because it's an inert gas. Also fun fact it cleans the flamethrower as it's being used.

birdoge1 karma

Thank you for this AMA! I've been writing a story about a pyromaniac in the late 60's with a home-built flamethrower for a while now and this thread is fascinating to me. The character uses a propane tank as fuel and the fire it expels is just a jet of flame and not a stream of napalm or something of that nature. I've read Breath of the Dragon by Ragnar Benson, but the flamethrower my character uses is pretty highly fictionalized and just sort of stuff I've made up that sounds mostly believable. Are there any particular resources you could recommend for research along this line?

thewiseone911 karma

If you would like I can help you with authenticity and how it would naturally react in your fictional world. But it sounds pretty reasonable, propane is clean burning but you would need an ignition system, and a propellant to give you some distance and accuracy.

dunkpig1 karma

whats your favorite flamethrower?

thewiseone912 karma

I've answered this before, but I love my WWII M2-2 flamethrower.

dunkpig2 karma


thewiseone912 karma

ha no need to apologize! Thank you for your interest and question!

Commando23521 karma

What are the legal issues and processes around acquiring and owning a military grade flamethrower?

thewiseone912 karma

If you live in a state where it is not regulated, it's not that difficult to attain one of these. The trouble is finding one that has been hydro-tested and certified as a shooter. Then you need at least $15K for a Vietnam shooter and the cheapest WWII one you'll find starts at $25K.

Commando23521 karma

Are Maryland or DC regulated? I really want to find a way to use a flamethrower now haha

thewiseone911 karma

Wow, you're just unlucky! Maryland is one of two states where flamethrowers are banned for civilian ownership. Sorry.

Commando23521 karma

The People's Republic Of Maryland everyone! I'm guessing the the only other state besides Maryland is New York? Anyways does DC have any loop hole? Ya know with it not really being a state and all.

thewiseone911 karma

The other state is California, but there are people in NY trying to ban them as well. As for DC law I'm not entirely sure.

Spearka1 karma

Is it conceputally possible to increase the temperature of the flame by mixing in chemicals with higher flame temperatures e.g acetylene, cyanogen to standard napalm or other gel-based liquids? (I am of course disregarding potential price increases as a result)

thewiseone912 karma

Yes you can mix in certain chemicals to make the fire burn hotter. Although this probably could be considered to be more dangerous to operator. These things give off enough heat without mixing in some chemical accelerants.

BagOfMeats1 karma

Is it true that flamethrower operators were generally disliked (even by their own 'team') because of the grim nature of the weapon and its effect? I vaguely remember reading about that in an article mentioning tanks with such capabilities and their operators, though i'm not sure. Interesting AMA btw, thanks for taking the time!

thewiseone912 karma

It depends on your perspective and who you ask. The vets I've spoken to who fought in PTO in WWII had a lot of respect and owed their survival to these operators.

ninjalexi1 karma

are these something you can just buy if you find one? O_o

thewiseone911 karma

If you have the money and manage to find one that hasn't been demilled, yes. With that being said they are extremely rare and extremely expensive.

Norkeys1 karma

What is the closest call with death you've had with a flamethrower?

thewiseone913 karma

I haven't had any close calls, I'm pretty safe with this stuff. I have burned the hell out of my face once because the wind picked up. That was unpleasant.

ThorsGrundle1 karma

Do you have a business card? If so can you post a picture?

thewiseone912 karma

I do not have one for this stuff, yet. Thanks.

AllanKempe1 karma

You've probably seen the Schwarzenegger movie The Running Man (1987) where the stalker Fireball is killed because his flamethrower explodes ("What a hot-head!"). Is it realistic or completely made up by Hollywood?

thewiseone912 karma

This completely made up. But assuming he was using a volatile fuel source with gaseous vapors what you see in this scene may be possible but not as exaggerated.

the_real_lemur1 karma

What exactly does a flammenwerfer do?

thewiseone913 karma

It werfs flammen! I've been trained on the flammenwerfer 41, a little paratrooper model. Very awkward design and was made to be disposable. They used tar and petrol in their flamethrowers!

adam_jamie1 karma

Do you think civilians should be allowed to own a flamethrower?

thewiseone911 karma

This is a tricky question. Many civilians already own one form of flamethrower or another, they're just not weaponized. If someone wants to own one, and they can find and afford a live one. Then they should be trained by a professional and know the ins and outs of ownership. But as I've stated before you can't just walk down the street to the store and buy one, they are extremely rare and cost prohibitive.

sammmuel1 karma

I presume it is a strange question but is a flamethrower considered a firearm per se?

thewiseone911 karma

Not in the US. It's classified as an agricultural device.

AyyLMAOdazdank1 karma

Did you play with fire a lot as a kid?

thewiseone911 karma

No, not really.

SagginDragon1 karma

Wow, you've responded to almost every question on this thread so far, including a lot of non-top level ones. Good Work!

My question is, are there any practical non-combat applications for flamethrowers today? And are they still used in combat?

thewiseone912 karma

They are not used by us anymore in combat but the Chinese still maintains a large arsenal of them. Flamethrowers are used for firefighting now, but they are usually not military ones.

AngloKiwi1 karma

Didn't the chinese recently use one on a massive wasp nest?

thewiseone911 karma

Yes they did!

GildoFotzo1 karma

What Flame Thrower did Hank Scorpio use?

thewiseone911 karma

It looks to be a variation of the US M2-2 judging by the elongated fuel cells. But most likely a fictional rendition.

jaja161 karma

Ever help at a Rammstein concert?

thewiseone911 karma

Ha, no I wish. I have been to a few concerts and they typically use a natural gas a combustible, which is a lot safer to use in doors and won't catch things on fire unless you light it for a prolonged amount of time.

link00071 karma

Should we be concerned about terrorists using these for attacks?

After seeing some of the footage, it seems flamethrowers are more efficient at attacking large crowds than regular machineguns are..

thewiseone911 karma

Honestly no, I wouldn't be concerned. The smaller commercially available models don't burn as hot and use gas as a combustible. Meaning it's harder to light targets on fire. These ones are so rare and expensive the people who broker them wouldn't sell them to a suspicious person.

frothface-7 karma

Do you think a flamethrower would be a more deadly weapon than an ar15 type rifle if you were to decide to attack a gay bar in Orlando at 2am? Genuinely curious.

thewiseone916 karma

Well this is actually in really poor taste. So I'm not going to answer it.