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Saturday, 20 June 2015

Gun-Powders - Different Colored Chemical Mixes:

Gun-Powder was not called Black-Powder until very late in its history - to delineate it from the new smokeless powders which were sometimes referred-to as 'white-powder' - (poudre blanche). - Before that it was just 'gunpowder'.

 - However both breeds of propellant were in reality coloured a dark grey - and that colouring remains even with Green-Powder  - which refers to a dry blended mix of gun-powder that has not been intimately milled and incorporated while moist.

Brown prismatic powder - also called Cocoa-Powder was developed using much reduced levels of sulphur - and charcoal that was under-charred and made from rye straw - to slow the powder to a more progressive burn - for very large diameter ordnance.

There are other variants of the old gun-powders - still using 'saltpeter' (- potassium nitrate) as an oxygen supply base.

 - One version is also referred to as "White-powder" - being a mix of potassium nitrate and sugar - while another has added ferric oxide ("rust") and is called Red-Powder.

Then there are other black-powder 'substitutes' that are called 'Golden-Powder'. - Again these use potassium nitrate (same as in Black-powder) but here it is blended and mixed with Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) in a 60 / 40 ratio - instead of the dirty charcoal and sulphur.

Golden-Powder is a very clean burning propellant and its use is said to actually clean a muzzle-loaders barrel while still working very efficiently to drive a projectile. - Dry mixed 'G-P' will be white -whereas wet mixed and then incorporated by heat it becomes 'gold' coloured.

Earl 'Skip' Kurtz has made several attempts to commercially market his particular formulation of Golden-Powder starting in the 1980s. He doesn't seem to have enjoyed much luck - and I have read reports of two manufacturing explosions. - I first learned of his work with this variation in a 1989 Gun Digest that I recently bought on-line.

 - For internet information try: Gold Powder Google Groups.

A further variation found is Crimson-Powder that is a Potassium nitrate/ Ascorbic-Acid/ Iron-Oxide mixture.

Crimson Powder (compared with ffg BP)

Moving away from "black-powders" - "Poudre-Brugere" is an ammonium picrate explosive (pink or yellow), - as are 'Dunnite' and 'Explosive D' - all early variants of alternative "black-powder" - that was much used in WW1.

Development of these possibly superior formulations for muzzle-loading was hindered by the fact that the modern synthetic nitrocellulose 'Smokeless Powders' came to fill all the needs of metallic cartridge firearms - while the muzzle-loading fraternity are a small market commercially - and many 'smoke-pole' shooters actually like all the hands-on smoke clouds and greasy grime!

Many of the alternative types of saltpetre based powders appear on-line as do-it-yourself projects - but before you plan to have a go - consider that black-powder burns at 2,138 centigrade - which is a higher temperature than the melting point of both bronze and iron - as used in cannon barrels

 - and that the black-powder combustion products (- 44% gas and 56% solids) - when hot - take-up 3,600 times as much space as the volume of the original powder and can produce a pressure of 20 tons per square inch in a closed container.


There's Nothing New

 ..  In Ferrara in 1523 - an ordnance was passed outlawing muzzle-loading wheel-locks as "an especially dangerous kind of firearms ... with which a homicide can easily be committed."

- I've tried to write about this without giving any formula or instructions - for more information try ..

 "Gunpowder: Alchemy, Bombards, and Pyrotechnics: The History of The Explosive that Changed the World" by Jack Kelly.

"Do it Yourself Gunpowder Cookbook" by Don McLean.

Marty K.