L4A1 Explosive Ordnance Detector Kit

As the War on Terror developed and terrorist bombs became more sophisticated, so to did the equipment used to detect them. Whilst there were devices such as metal detectors that could find suspicious items, once found British soldiers still needed to be able to confirm that the substances they had found actually were explosives. One of the solutions was to issue small explosive detector sets that could be used to make a chemical test of a suspicious substance in the field and confirm if it was indeed explosives or something more innocent:

The detector set came in a small blue plastic case that could fit comfortably in a pocket and protected the contents from damage:

The case has a label giving NSN number and an expiry date, after which the chemicals inside would no longer be as effective and might not reliably confirm if a substance is an explosive or not:

It can be seen that this is the L4A1 version of the kit, implying that there had been a number of different variations prior to this point. The inside of the lid has detailed pictographic instructions on how to test a substance:

The testing kit itself takes up the bulk of the interior of the case and features a number of vacuum sealed packets and a small bottle of distilled water:

It is not clear how much use these kits actually saw, or how widely they were issued. A number of these kits have appeared on the surplus market over the last year, all with the same expiry date suggesting they were all from the same batch that was surplussed at the same time. I have struggled to find much context for them however. One thing is clear however, they were far more effective at confirming the presence of explosives than the ADE-651. This electronic device that was sold for vast sums of money abroad was claimed to be able to detect explosives, drugs and a multitude of other items. Costing pennies to make, it was nothing more than a dousing rod in a fancy case and the subsequent fraud led to the company’s director being jailed for more than ten years!

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