A critical analysis of experimental work on the initiation of high explosives (HE), high-current electron beam of nanosecond duration. It is demonstrated that there is no unambiguous evidence for the initiation of detonation in HE by the electron beams described in the reviewed works. The results of experiments on the effects of a pulsed electron beam on model paraffin samples are presented, which show that the geometric parameters of the sample and the presence of copper oxide nanopowder in it influence its resistance to the action of the beam. It is shown that the main effect on the sample is produced by cathode plasma beam and that the selection of the sample geometry and introduction of nanopowders can enhance the action of a high-current electron beam. © 2013 Pleiades Publishing, Ltd.