The Law



Home   ||   High Power Rocketry   ||   Experimental Rocketry        




This page is being rewritten as of April 4, 2008 and will be re-issued shortly.  I have left some of the sections here since they will not change significantly.  This change is because as I complete my own LEUP, I am getting a better understanding of the current laws.




Both high power rocketry and experimental rocketry are legitimate hobbies.  The government has no interest in people who are pursuing legitimate hobbies but they must always be on the lookout for possible terrorists whether foreign or deranged citizens.  Help them do their job of protecting us by cooperating.  Yes it can be some trouble but compared to the effort, time, and expense most of us put into high power and experimental rocketry, it is small and it is worth it.  Please do not give our hobbies a bad name and bad reputation by doing anything illegal.



The LEUP (Low Explosives User Permit)

You apply for the LEUP through the controlling organization, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.  You may also see the abbreviation BATF or BATFE.

Note that an importer, dealer or manufacturer requires a license.  A user requires a permit.

The controlling document is the ATF regulations 27cfr555 which are at  This is a list of individual sections with text or pdf files for each section.  Actually, 27cfr555 is one large document and the individual files listed are specific pages.  You will find some overlap between adjacent files because individual articles of the regulation are not started on new pages.  To find the area of interest, just scroll down, reading the titles or to the section you want and open that file.  Some areas of interest are found in the following sections:

555.41    General -- talks about the requirement for permits, who needs them, etc.

555.43    Permit fees -- this is the cost of a LEUP

555.62    State or other law -- The LEUP is your federal permit, you still have to deal with any additional state or local regulations if any.  California requires a pyro license.  Washington State requires a license for the magazine.  In my town in Washington, the only additional, requirements where I live in Washington is that the words "EXPLOSIVES -- KEEP FIRE AWAY" must be in 3" high letters on the magazine and it must be on "substantial" wheels or castors.

555.101   Posting of license or user permit -- a copy must be posted on the premises (somewhere).  The original licenses or permits should be kept in a safe place and be readily available for inspection.

555.125-127  Keeping records (inventory).  Received and used.  Not difficult.

555.210   Construction of type 4 magazines.


Note that the forms you fill out and ask for from the ATF are not for a LEUP but just for an "Explosives Permit" and on it you mark which kind of permit you are applying for.

Here are some links to explain the LEUP, how to get it, and how to fill out the application paperwork.:

( covers the variance request for attached garage)

(a general rundown on the regulations, no details about the LEUP)

A downloadable and printable set of forms is available from the ATF website on their forms pages here:  Call the number below rather than use these forms because you need the proper fingerprint form that comes in the kit.  This link is good for taking a look at the forms and a trial filling of the forms if you want to do that.

To get started, I was advised by my state ATF agent to not use the online forms but to call 703-455-7801 (not state specific) and ask for an "explosives permit kit" which they sent right out.  One good reason for this is that they send you their specific finger print card they want your finger prints on.  They won't take the one from the police station and you can't use a photocopy or printout from one online.  Just take them to your local police station and they will be glad to do it for you -- takes just a couple minutes.

You must have an approved explosives magazine (a wood-lined metal box) and a detached lockable garage to store the motors in.  You can get a variance (not a waiver) for an attached garage but that is an additional process with additional requirements.  The storage requirements are at .


Pyro License (Pyrotechnic Operator-Rocketry Class III License)

This is also required if you live in or are going to fly in California.  Here is some help and info for this:


Examples of Problems People Have Had

This is not meant to scare you or deter you from pursuing the hobby but to encourage you to obey the law and go through the necessary permit procedures.  Note, people who have a LEUP, as far as I know, have not been targeted by the government.

Staten Island Man Is Charged in Home Storage of Chemicals:  Link #1 or  Link #2

Teenager 'had bomb-making chemicals under his bed': Click here

Bob Lazar raided by CPSC and charged with "violating the Federal Hazardous Substances Act and shipping restricted chemicals across state lines": Click here

Firefox legal battle: Click here

Potassium nitrate "sugar" propellant latest target of ATF scrutiny (Scott Fintel) Click here



Home   ||   High Power Rocketry   ||   Experimental Rocketry