Explosives Courses Offer Civilians Valuable Training

Columbus, Texas Explosives training courses have traditionally been focused towards EOD/UXO and law enforcement personnel. However, in these days of increased terrorist threats from IEDs focused on civilian targets both in the U.S. and aboard, the need exists for explosives awareness training for civilians. Bonetti Explosives is meeting that need through the Explosives Awareness Course. The class is designed to provide civilians a firsthand look at what explosives look like and what they are capable of doing. The course is designed to help students recognize explosive components such as detonators and det-cord as well as various types of common explosives used by terrorist so that they can better inform the police and investigators if they encounter any future threats.

 A recent student of the course, Larissa Lindsay, a security specialist for Planned Parenthood, had this to say about the class, "Realizing that hearing about "explosive devices" on the news was not going to help me recognize and understand them, I was happy to discover Bonetti Explosives. While there are various internet articles, training modules, and videos about explosives, I was searching for a place where a civilian could hear, see, and ask questions. I was not disappointed in the least. The value in seeing the components, understanding the terms, being exposed to types, shapes, different sounds, and to experience the damage was invaluable. Owners Matt Barnett and his wife Gina are ordnance professionals, and it shows. I have recommended this class to both civilian and law enforcement colleagues. One step in preventing an act is to understand the principles. I got more than I paid for".

 The explosives awareness course can be tailored to meet the needs of the students. For example, a course given to members of a private security firm included a mock office setting with a small explosive device placed on a desk. The aftermath was a grim reminder of what such a small amount of explosives is capable of doing when in the wrong hands. The course also reviews proper security measures for UXO which represents a hazard in more ways than just to the unsuspecting passerby.

 With the violence on the U.S. and Mexican border growing all the time and terrorism worldwide escalating, it is important for people to recognize what could be a dangerous situation. It is important for all members of our society to be on the same page with understanding the threat associated with the misuse of explosives.

 For more information on the Explosives Awareness Course, please contact Matt or Gina Barnett at (979) 739-5597 or visit Bonetti Explosives online at


By Jacob Truchard, Staff Writer                                                April 15, 2009

CHS graduate enjoys explosive career near and far

A Columbus native has turned his lifelong passion into a full-time career.
Matt Barnett, a 1999 Columbus High School graduate, has had a passion for explosives and firearms since he was a youngster in elementary school.
“When I was seven, my father (Max Barnett) taught me how to make black powder,” Matt Barnett said. “I guess the fire just never went out.”
He recalled how his father used to make homemade rockets and rock the town of Columbus with them.
“He later went to work for NASA and kept on tinkering on interesting stuff. When he had a son, well, he just passed on the torch of curiosity to me I guess,” Matt said.
Matt’s passion for explosives lit up when asked if he would like to make some gun powder, said Matt’s father.
“He asked me if you could really make it and I said all you need were the ingredients so we went to the store, made the gun powder and from there that was it,” Max Barnett said. “When he was 14, he found a passion in working with dynamite and he was later given advice to get a degree in chemistry.”
Max said his son has studied in that field ever since and that his son knows more about gunpowder, ammunition and explosives than he will ever know.
Matt’s love of explosives may have evolved from his father, but his love for collecting firearms came from his old friend Pet Crawford, a long time resident of Colorado County.
“This fella is a hoot and most people in the county have probably heard of him before,” Matt Barnett said. “I have spent evenings on his porch listening to him tell how guys at the Alamo fought valiantly or discussed the history of certain firearms. It was always rewarding.”
Crawford said Matt had always been responsible when working with explosives and firearms.
“Whatever he does he puts his whole effort into doing it,” Crawford said.
Some of Matt’s favorite types of weapons to use include black powder ammunition.
“I like to shoot black powder cannons and I do a bit of plinking with my .22 now and then,” Matt said. “It’s about all I can afford to shoot these days with ammo so high.”
Matt said when it comes to his favorite type of historical firearms, he leans toward collecting military weapons from World War II like German Mausers, Tommy guns and 1911 .45 pistols.
“I am not really a history buff, though I am interested in it and I dabble in it,” Matt Barnett said. “I never turn down the chance to hear some war stories from the old timers.”
Even though Matt enjoys shooting guns and working with explosives he believes in safety first.
“I have had a piece of my rear sewn to my hand because of carelessness in my younger days and no one should experience that,” Matt said. “I passed that test with a 69.5. However, most don’t.”
Barnett emphasized that if someone has a passion for such things, they must follow it in a decisive manner.
“Study it, talk to others, be very patient, put the ego in the trash can and slowly begin the grueling road of study,” Matt said. “If it’s something ‘cool’ to do then treat it as a hobby and only dabble in what you are comfortable with. People see blasting and they get the notion they want to do it as well but they don’t see is the six years of college I have had or the scars both physical and personally from family and friends thinking your weird because you don’t ‘fit in the box.’ To everyone I say follow your heart, dream your own dreams and blaze your own trail and you’ll have more fun that way.”
Matt also thanks his lucky stars that he has been blessed to find a soulmate who shares his passions in life, his wife of three years, Gina.
“My wife is my partner,” Matt said. “We are just having so much fun.”
He spoke of how they were married on Rau’s Hill located on Smith Rau Road, a spot dear to his heart.
“It was a ‘bring your bathing suit wedding’ and we did demolition shots, fired cannons, shot weapons and after supper skipped a grand march and jumped into Cummins Creek, which I am convinced is the ‘Fountain of Youth’ in Colorado County,” Barnett said. “I met Gina at Texas A&M where she was my bus driver. She is not as passionate about explosives as I am but she is very passionate about being my wife.”
Since finishing college, Matt first began gaining experience at Schlumberger’s Shape Charge Manufacturing Plant.
“That experience sent me to Wyoming as a field engineer,” Matt said. “It didn’t take me long before I knew I wasn’t a computer jockey and off to the explosives remediation field I went. My first job was in Vieques, Puerto Rico, stacking and blasting rounds all week and spear fishing all weekend in the clear Caribbean water, providing a change I warmly embraced for over a year and a half.”
His assignment in Puerto Rico gave him the opportunity he dreamed about for years, the chance to travel to different parts of the world.
“When I was a very young boy I often laid in the hammock in the back yard and wondered where the clouds had come from, what they had seen and I dreamed of pirate treasures and islands in the Caribbean,” Matt said. “I also dreamed of swimming in the ocean and always about explosives. I never knew that one day my dreams would be tied together to form a life well fit for me.”
He said Puerto Rico is part of the U.S. but one can get a sense of another country when living there for a long spell.
“Gun control is very strict there and of course gun crime is through the roof on the mainland of Puerto Rico,” Matt said. “However, the people I met in Vieques are much like us in Columbus, just folks doing what they have to do.”
Matt said he once brought a citizen of Vieques to Columbus and said how amazed they were by the differences in American life.
“He was amazed at the freedom and comfort of life we enjoy,” Barnett said.
Once Matt completed his work assignment, he continued his travels, digging up old dynamite in Indiana, clearing fiber optic trenches through the artillery ranges in California and redistributing 130,000 pounds of commercial fireworks in Reno, Nev.
Matt soon hit a roadblock when his health failed him.
“I went into the hospital with spinal bifida issues and my wife took on the load and went to work in Hawaii sorting ordnance debris and making sure there were no explosive hazards,” Matt Barnett said.
After his health returned he joined his wife in Hawaii but jokingly said he enjoyed the Hawaiian atmosphere while Gina continued with the work.
Matt and Gina Barnett established their business, Bonetti Explosives a little over a year ago and have designed it to be a service provider to the explosives industry.
Bonetti Explosives is focusing on the law enforcement training aspect, said Matt.
He added that this is because they are currently working with retired members of the Marine Corps Explosives Ordnance Disposal to build a range where explosive recognition, use and safety can be demonstrated to first responders like fire and sheriff departments.
Currently, Matt and Gina are working at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant for Ordinance and Explosives Remediation and are performing some remediation work on some old ammunition.
Matt said that even though the media continually portrays how the U.S. economy is continuing to struggle, he said the explosives business is booming literally and figuratively.
“Whether times are good or not, aspects at any given time of this industry will still be up and running at healthy rates,” Matt said.
Matt said that what also makes him proud to be an American is the opportunity to use firearms and explosives in a legal matter, but to also make it something he does for a living.
“What other country in the world today could a little boy dream of starting an explosives company and actually make it happen without government contacts or bottomless bank accounts,” Matt said. “This country is still the best around as far as I am concerned.”
Matt emphasized that the American dream still exists. The desire, effort and passion just have to be there.
“In this there is much freedom and there is also failure but from that becomes strength for the one who on their own gets back up,” Matt said.
“To be guaranteed no safety net and no limit on your success and accountability for actions is the plot of land for me and I reckon I’m gonna have to stand it. It makes for a richer life.”
By Jacob Truchard, Staff Writer                        Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Cowboys, Firearms Bring Explosive Action To County

ATF Day literally proved to be an explosive event Saturday, March 7 at the Brune Ranch in Shaws Bend.
The event gave participants an opportunity to fire weapons on a shooting range and experience some cowboy action shooting in a reconstructed town depicting the Old West.
Columbus resident Matt Barnett of Bonetti Explosives, along with his wife Gina and Jeremy Haneck and John Blaschke, all of Columbus and Brent Mills of Austin, formerly of Columbus, were a few of the instructors who helped people learn how to shoot some heavy artillery in a safe, but fun environment.
“The shooters were able to come and use this free stuff for getting wet with our ‘black rifles’,” Barnett said.
ATF Days were hosted by the Texas Historical Shootist Society of Shaws Bend, Brune Ranch, Yaupon Creek Blackpowder Cartridge Silh-ouette Association and the Austin Young Repub-licans.
Types of weapons used on the firing range at the Brune Ranch included a .30 caliber belt fed machine gun from World War II converted to a semi-automatic, AK-47s, an M-1 Garand, a .50 caliber Barrett sniper rifle and a .338 Lapua sniper rifle.
“I like ATF Day at Brune’s Ranch because it gives people a chance to get together and enjoy something that only in America can be done,” Barnett said. “Anywhere in the world you can watch sports, barbecue and go to the movies but there are few places left on Earth where ordinary citizens, in a peaceful fashion, can assemble and enjoy the right and hobby of shooting all types of weapons which include military style firearms.”
He added that events like ATF Day are the “Heart of America.”
“It is our duty to pass this heritage onto the generations that follow so that the struggles of our forefathers of this nation will not have been in vain,” Barnett said.
Not only was gunfire heard throughout Shaws Bend, but there were also exploding targets on the shooting range, which were donated by Bonetti Explosives, L.L.C. It was not difficult to determine if a participant hit the target because a loud “boom” could be heard within the territory.
John Knesek, a Columbus resident and a Yaupon Creek Blackpowder Cartridge Silho-uette Association member, was a participant at the shooting range where he fired his buffalo rifle and used the black powder style of loading. This type of shooting was used regularly in the 1870s and 1880s by buffalo hunters.
Knesek is also the 2008 State Black Powder Cartridge Silhouette Iron Sight Champion.
“I thought it was a very nice, safe and well run event,” Knesek said. “It was good to see the enthusiasm of the young people. Some of the ladies could really shoot.”
He said one of the most interesting and entertaining aspects of this year’s event was seeing some of the firepower on display.
“A highlight was getting to see the power of the big .50 caliber rifles of John Blaschke and seeing participants shooting the planted explosives,” Knesek said.
While there was plenty of shooting taking place at the firing range, modern day cowboys and cowgirls from the Houston area dressed up in “old west” attire and greeted participants at “Gunsmoke.”
“Gunsmoke” is an authentically built western town located in Shaws Bend, which includes replicas of the O.K. Corral and 19th century style saloons, hotels, marshall’s office, cemetery and even a gallows for the unlawful. Located at the town is a shooting range where participants can try their marksmanship abilities.
Cowboy action shooters are members of THSS and may reside from the Houston area, but when they put on their western attire and go by their “aliases,” they depict the culture of the old west with the passion of true cowboys and cowgirls.
Kevin Jones of East Bernard or “Barb Wire Bernard” as he was known while in old west character spoke of how the event not only gives spectators a chance to learn basic shooting skills, but also a taste of the old west.
Some of the pistols being fired under supervision of THSS members included 1911 semi-automatic pistols, .22 single action revolver Colt .45 and many others for anyone from novice to expert to try their skill in the Gunsmoke firing range.
Kristin Jones, Texas Young Republican Federation Comm-unications Director, said she enjoyed the ATF Day and especially the chance to fire a pistol at the Gunsmoke range.
“I loved shooting the Colt .45,” Jones said. “It was really smooth and I was able to hit all of my targets.”
TYRF Chairman Dorian Juaregui also had her share of exciting experiences.
“ATF Day is a great learning experience,” Juaregui said. “We have young Republicans who have never held a gun, some who are even slightly afraid initially and some who come away from this experience with a great appreciation for shooting sports.”
She added that it also gives people knowledge of firearms safety and history.
“Where else can you shoot a .22 caliber revolver cowboy style and a .50 caliber assault weapon army style all in the same day?” Juaregui said.
Not only was the TYRF organization in attendance but also a candidate for U.S. Congress in District 25, Dr. Donna Campbell, who also participated in the shooting events.
Jones was excited to have Campbell out there at ATF Day, participating along with TYRF members.
Herman Brune, who hosted ATF Day, said the event is one where amateur and expert shooters can come out and have safe and unique shooting experiences.
“ATF Day gives first time shooters and curious shooters hands-on experience with weapons that may otherwise be inaccessible or seemingly rare,” Brune said. “The purpose of ATF Day is to introduce interested people to firearms and make them aware of safety and proficiency. By incorporating shooting clubs the public also is made aware of shooting sports and the Second Amendment.”
More “Old West” entertainment can be found in Shaws Bend at “Gunsmoke” when the 18th annual “Trailhead” begins Thursday, March 19.
By Jacob Truchard, Staff Writer                        Tuesday, December 11, 2007  

Boy Scout Demonstration Turns Explosive

A local boy scouts' troop was recently given a crash course in the world of explosives by a former Columbus High School graduate.
Matt Barnett, a 1999 CHS grad who currently works as an Unexploded Ordinance Technician, recently gave a demonstration to a group of boy scouts of how explosives are important in society and their uses.
The explosive demonstration took place at Daley Iron and Metal outside of Columbus Saturday, Dec. 1 with Boy Scoot Troop 312 and troop leader Sidney Chollett in attendance.
Barnett demonstrated the effects of explosives on various materials from metal I-beams to a refrigerator.
He also included a demonstration of a shaped explosive charge and how it differs from simply placing explosives on a target.
Topics during Barnett's presentation included safety with explosives, effects of the confinement and different methods of initiation, use of detonation chord, identification of dangerous material such as blasting caps.
The day was concluded with the demolition of an old refrigerator along with a salute from a black powder cannon.
Chollett added that Barnett talked to the Boy Scouts about his profession, the importance of explosives, how and what they are used for and also different job opportunities that are available in his line of work.
He also said that Barnett presented to the boy scouts different types of explosives that are used and explained the properties of the particular explosives.
"Safety was his number one concern during the entire demonstration," Chollett said.
Barnett went on to explain to the boy scouts further details of the profession.
"The explosive industry is suffering a huge gap in qualified personnel," Barnett said. "Ever since dynamite was taken from hardware store shelves in the mid 60s, the public has lost touch with this valuable tool and the news media has demonized it as a weapon of terror."
Barnett explained that in truth thousands of people make a good living working with explosives, a trade that he emphasized, now has few qualified prospects.
"This gap has provided a great opportunity for those who wish to learn about how to apply their trade as explosive engineers," Barnett said. "More can be learned from this subject at the University of Missouri."
Chollett added that if anyone has an interesting profession and would like to discuss it with the Boy Scouts, to contact him at (979) 732-5422.

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