2,3-Dimethyl-2,3-dinitrobutane (DMNB) is an explosive taggant added to plastic explosives during manufacture making them more susceptible to vapour-phase detection systems. In this study, the formation and detection of gas-phase [M+H](+), [M+Li](+), [M+NH4](+) and [M+Na](+) adducts of DMNB was achieved using electrospray ionisation on a triple quadrupole mass spectrometer. The [M+H](+) ion abundance was found to have a strong dependence on ion source temperature, decreasing markedly at source temperatures above 50 degrees C. In contrast, the [M+Na](+) ion demonstrated increasing ion abundance at source temperatures up to 105 degrees C. The relative susceptibility of DMNB adduct ions toward dissociation was investigated by collision-induced dissociation. Probable structures of product ions and mechanisms for unimolecular dissociation have been inferred based on fragmentation patterns from tandem mass (MS/MS) spectra of source-formed ions of normal and isotopically labelled DMNB, and quantum chemical calculations. Both thermal and collisional activation studies suggest that the [M+Na](+) adduct ions are significantly more stable toward dissociation than their protonated analogues and, as a consequence, the former provide attractive targets for detection by contemporary rapid screening methods such as desorption electrospray ionisation mass spectrometry. Copyright (C) 2009 Commonwealth of Australia. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.