Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

33rd annual Brooksville Raid Re-enactment is Jan. 19-20

Ron Gilbert, an expert in the art of “anvil shooting,” will demonstrate his skills at Brooksville Raid Re-enactment held at the Sand Hill Scout Reservation west of Brooksville.

Courtesy of Ron Gilbert

Ron Gilbert, an expert in the art of “anvil shooting,” will demonstrate his skills at Brooksville Raid Re-enactment held at the Sand Hill Scout Reservation west of Brooksville.

Ron Gilbert has a penchant for things that go boom. He likes shooting off fireworks, guns of all types, and he enjoys tinkering with other small ordnance. And when it comes to sending a 100-pound chunk of heavy metal skyward, he's the man with all the answers.

Gilbert is one of the country's pre-eminent experts in the art of "anvil shooting." He travels all over the South putting on what can only be described as the ultimate gravity-defying stunt.

"It's something of an art mixed with science," Gilbert said in a phone interview. "I guess you could say there's a little magic involved, too, because most people just can't believe they're seeing an anvil flying 150 feet in the air."

Gilbert, who will demonstrate his anvil-shooting this weekend at the 33rd annual Brooksville Raid Re-enactment, spends his days working as a pyrotechnic supervisor for building demolition. About 20 years ago, however, he found himself enthralled with one of America's oldest forms of public spectacle. So he decided to give it a try.

"Long before there were fireworks shows, you had people shooting anvils as a way to celebrate a holiday or event," said Gilbert, 49. "Soldiers did it often during the Civil War. It's got that wow factor that people just gravitate to."

Though the anvil-firing process is fairly simple, it's dangerous and must be done using only established procedures by someone qualified to handle high explosives.

Gilbert uses steel-forged anvils that are more than 100 years old and stronger than those made of cast iron. Preparation for a shoot involves turning one anvil upside down and filling the base cavity with black powder. Next, he places an inverted powder-filled anvil sealed with a paper gasket on top of it. To fire the anvil, Gilbert uses a type of electronic fuse allowing him to remain a safe distance away.

His shows also involve firing several anvils at once — a sort of finale.

"It's pretty spectacular to watch four or five of those things flying through the air at the same time," he said. "The crowds love it."

Though most of Gilbert's anvil shoots are in the 100- to 150-foot range, he knows some experts blast them 500 or more feet up.

"The trouble is, when they come down, they tend to get buried . . . and you have to dig them out," he said. "I hate having to do that."

In his all of his years of shooting anvils, Gilbert says he has never had a major mishap. But it does happen to others. And when it does, as it did in a Discovery Science Channel taping of a Missouri anvil shooting competition a couple of years ago, he regrets it.

"There's a right way and a wrong way to do it," Gilbert said. "Mistakes usually happen out of carelessness. And that hurts everybody."

• • •

The Brooksville Raid Re-enactment is Saturday and Sunday on State Road 50 at Sand Hill Scout Reservation, across from Oak Hill Hospital. (352) 799-0129;

Logan Neill can be reached at or (352) 848-1435.

33rd annual Brooksville Raid Re-enactment is Jan. 19-20 01/17/13 [Last modified: Thursday, January 17, 2013 6:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Orioles Buck Showalter's Trop takedown includes bullpen mounds, bathroom options, bladder probelms


    Orioles manager Buck Showalter has never been a fan of the Trop, and after Monday's 5-0 win he - with some prodding from O's TV man Gary Thorne - took a few more shots during their MASN interview, specifically about the location of the bullpen mounds, and the lack of bathroom facilities.

  2. HomeTeam 100: Players 31-40


    Wesley Chapel High School running back Dexter Leverett (6) runs the ball past Hudson High School offensive linebacker Cody Sutphin (8) during the second half at Wesley Chapel High School in Wesley Chapel, Fla., on Oct. 8, 2016. Wesley Chapel won the game 39 to 34
  3. 'I called for help, not for them to kill him.' Dead man's mother says Pasco deputies mishandled shooting


    CRYSTAL SPRINGS — The mother of a man shot to death by deputies believes authorities were too quick to fire their weapons and used unnecessary force in dealing with her son.

    Steve Steele, 47, was shot by Pasco deputies on Thursday, July 13 [Photo Courtesy of Trish Manson]
  4. New Florida drivers licenses, ID cards coming in August

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE – A new look is coming to Florida licenses and ID cards.

    Starting in August, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will begin to issue the new Florida driver license and ID card. [Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles]
  5. 21 fun places to escape the heat and chill indoors in Tampa Bay


    A simple walk down the street this summer can feel like it takes years. With the humidity and the Florida sun blazing, no amount of time feels like enough to cool off in summer. To help you regulate, our critics and writers came up with a few places that encourage lingering for just ... a few ... more ... minutes.