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 Black Powder

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lighthorseman

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PostSubject: Black Powder   September 8th 2016, 10:02 am

Black Powder


Black powder was the sole propellant, explosive and pyrotechnic agent for 500 years, from 1300 to 1800, and is still in use for certain applications. It is a unique and fascinating compound chemically, technologically and socially. It was invented as a pyrotechnic substance, then applied as a propellant in firearms, and finally used in engineering and mining. The history of black powder and firearms is treated in Cannon. Some authors make assertions about the history of black powder that are not supported by good evidence, and should not be accepted without better proof. An egregious assertion is that Chinese alchemists experienced a black powder explosion in 220 BCE. There is no evidence of "black powder" in China, and this is about 1200 years before nitrates were first discovered and used, according to more reliable sources. The great Chinese invention was pure nitrates, which they used in pyrotechnic devices, arrow throwers and rockets. The invention of black powder is shrouded in mystery; neither Roger Bacon nor Berthold Schwartz invented it, but high-nitrate powder is probably a European invention. Black powder is not a simple mixture of nitrate, charcoal and sulphur.
The composition of ordinary black powder is 65-75 KNO3, 15-20 C, 10-15 S, which is close to the "stoichiometric" ratio of 84:8:8 that gives the ideal reaction 10KNO3 + 8C + 3S → 2K2CO3 + 3K2SO4 + 6CO2 + 5N2. The heat released is 685 kcal/kg, and the volume expansion factor is 5100. The solid products make the characteristic white smoke. The actual reaction depends on the exact constitution of the powder, how it is prepared, and how it is detonated. The density of gunpowder is about 1.04 g/cc. Black powder is the safest of all explosives. It is insensitive to shock and friction or to electric spark. It must be initiated by heat or flame. Moisture renders black powder useless, and drying does not restore its properties.
The nitrogen in KNO3 has a formal charge of +5, which is reduced to 0 in N2 (in such molecules the formal charge is taken as zero, its average value). The carbon is oxidized from 0 to +4 in CO2 and the carbonate, and the sulphur from 0 to +6. KNO3 is a stable and safe oxidizing agent, not capable of explosion on its own. Black powder is a very stable explosive, insensitive to shock or friction, but sensitive to heat and flame. Like all explosives, it supplies its own oxygen and does not rely on the atmosphere. Note that it is much less efficient as a heat source than carbon and oxygen, which gives 2140 kcal/kg. Its utility lies in its ability to furnish its energy in a very short time, while the carbon will take a good while to burn.
How the powder burns is affected by the grain size. The larger the grain, the slower the powder burns. Fine powder is used for blasting, small grain for firearms, and large grain for cannon. A large variety of black powders are manufactured, and each type has a special designation and use. Black powder is essentially a propellant that burns at a rapid but finite rate determined mainly by its temperature. It is often said that gunpowder will only burn in the open, but explodes when confined. This is much too simple a statement. When in the open, the unburnt powder never becomes hot enough to burn rapidly. When confined, as in a firecracker, the powder quickly becomes hot enough to burn very rapidly, releasing all the energy in a very short time, quickly enough to make a loud report. Pressure does raise the rate of burning, but gunpowder has the least pressure effect of any common explosive, and for this reason is gentle to guns. A thread of gunpowder, wrapped in paper or other covering, burns at a slow and reliable rate, making a delay element or fuse.
Because of its safety and reliability, pressed black powder is used as the propellant in small rockets. A powder for this service has less KNO3 and S, and more C. Its rate of burning can be slowed with chalk, wax or talc. A typical mix is 91 black powder, 9 chalk. No more than 3% of the powder can be stopped by a #20 sieve (0.84 mm) and no less than 60% must be stopped on a #40 sieve (0.42 mm). It is compressed to 1.82-1.89 g/cc, and contains 1.8%-2.5% moisture. This propellant grain is burned in a chamber with a ceramic choke in army signal rockets, which reach 700 ft. altitude. A bursting charge expels 5 white stars that free-fall, or else a red star with parachute, that burns for about 50 sec. and falls at 10-15 ft/s. A model rocket has a pressed black powder propellent grain, and a granular black powder ejection charge. There is a delay element between the two charges, so that the rocket coasts to its maximum altitude before releasing the payload. The fuel for solid-fuel rockets, though called the "powder grain," is a cast plastic cylinder of the fuel material. The word "grain" does, in fact, seem to come from the grains of black powder that are used in a pressed charge, and has been transferred to the whole fuel assembly of any type.
Black powder is an oxidizer--fuel mixture of the type we shall discuss at more length under pyrotechnics. The sulphur and charcoal are first ground together, so that the thixotropic sulphur coats the colloidal charcoal intimately. Then the nitrate is mixed in by wet grinding. The nitrate produces oxygen to oxidize the sulphur and carbon, catalyzed by the large active surface of the charcoal, while releasing the nitrogen with the evolution of heat. The reaction begins at a temperature where there is a change in the crystal structure of the nitrate, which creates lattice defects that encourage the solid-state reaction.
War rockets were not extensively developed in China, and were used only incidentally in the West. Rockets for pleasure pyrotechnics did, however, become widely used, and were the basis for later war rockets. William Congreve developed his war rockets in the late 18th century, but they were only successfully used first in 1807 at Copenhagen. They were difficult to control, and not very effective. However, they could be fired with a light launcher instead of a heavy cannon, a principle later extensively applied. The last major use of Congreve rockets was in the Zulu war of 1879. Rockets appeared again in the Second World War for use in mass flights from landing ships and to support infantry. They also were used in the recoilless rifles and antitank rocket launchers that are still valuable, providing powerful artillery without the weight and recoil.

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PostSubject: Re: Black Powder   September 8th 2016, 4:59 pm

Doug,

Lots of info there buddy. Thanks for posting it.

Ray............

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PostSubject: Re: Black Powder   September 8th 2016, 7:01 pm

Smile

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PostSubject: Re: Black Powder   September 8th 2016, 10:49 pm

Good read, thanks.

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PostSubject: Re: Black Powder   September 9th 2016, 7:20 am

It's a good article.†

Quote :
Fine powder is used for blasting, small grain for firearms, and large grain for cannon

Not all blasting powder is small grain.††

i have had the pleasure of seeing cannon powder made† during the US Civil† War.††Powder grains†for one of the†big guns was†the size of†golf balls.†

i†spent a career in US Army EOD and worked in the same field as a civilian for†about 30 more years.† In the late 1950s and early 1960s†i was stationed at Ft. Bragg, NC.† We went on numerous calls involving†Civil War explosive ordnance.† †Saw some gruesome scenes†where folks were killed with cannon balls and projectiles.† One guy wanted to use a ball about 10" in diameter for a boat anchor.† He was †welding a chain on†the† ball† when†it exploded:† What a mess.† The oxygen tank†blew adding to the devastation.††††

http://thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=356628
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PostSubject: Re: Black Powder   November 10th 2017, 6:56 pm

@lighthorseman wrote:

Black Powder



The carbon is oxidized from 0 to +4 in CO2 and the carbonate, and the sulphur from 0 to +6. KNO3 is a stable and safe oxidizing agent, not capable of explosion on its own. Black powder is a very stable explosive, insensitive to shock or friction, but sensitive to heat and flame.

The problem with black powder is when subjected to being shaken, the individual grains rubbing against each other†causes a†reduction in physical size of the grain over other powders. The residue from this action is now a fine dust in the bottom of your container and will filter into your powder measurer changing what your load will be. A friend had some black powder (Goex) riding behind the seat of his truck for a period of time. He mentioned this and the gentleman that ran my muzzleloading store (ex Seal from Seal Team One) told him to bring the powder in, then poured the contents into a gold pan for us to look at. He was correct about what had happened to the powder being banged around in the truck. The Seals saw this all the time with explosives being shipped to operation locations (much was black powder like used in the big ship guns in WWII). He told us some of our guys found this out by accident, they wanted to break (blow off) a small section of a bridge to stop traffic). Did the usual amount of powder that would do the job. When it went off it took down about 2/3rds of the bridge. After doing an investigation by the Navy Department the additional finer powder was found responsible, lesson learned.

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PostSubject: Re: Black Powder   November 10th 2017, 10:02 pm

Great information. The detail is much greater than what we normally see.
Thank you!

However, I thought the thread was entitled "Black Power." My error. Very Happy
Ron

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PostSubject: Re: Black Powder   November 11th 2017, 8:08 am

For those that think it's so easy to make black powder. checkout The APO site. These guys are pyros,they also have some pictures† of† †"mistakes".† No thank you,† I'll buy the stuff. I love all my fingers, my arms ,even my ugly face.† Also , all my buildings, and my home.
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PostSubject: Re: Black Powder   November 11th 2017, 9:47 am

@csitas wrote:
For those that think it's so easy to make black powder. checkout The APO site. These guys are pyros,they also have some pictures† of† †"mistakes".† No thank you,† I'll buy the stuff. I love all my fingers, my arms ,even my ugly face.† Also , all my buildings, and my home.


I was asked where I got the information stated, hell I was there and saw some of the damest experiences with muzzleloaders. From cutting a TC breech plug in half for John Baird to retiring what had been written by others that we were not sure was correct (some information was found to be baloney).

Like 'csitas' says above, it can be harmful to ones self when playing with black powder. I'm sure his Mrs. would rather he read about the experiments than trying them himself.

I'm happy we never had any really bad experiences other than scaring the crap out of our selves with our tests.

This is funny; a customer of ours was a "powder monkey" handled all types of explosives daily, worked for the state taking down the sides of mountains for road construction in Colorado. He would come in my store and within minutes he would spill his pop, knock something over or just do something really stupid like spinning the cylinder on a revolver for sale. I was always correcting him on his latest screw up.† With 3-4 employees on the weekend and myself, when Pat pulled up in the drive everyone one of us throw a $$ dollar on the counter and said 2 minutes - 5 minutes, winner takes all. You could bet within that time frame Pat would do something that one of us was telling him about†the mistake. If I was there I always stood in front of the handgun counter ready to tell him "Don't spin the cylinder, if you do, you just purchased that gun Pat", everyone was instructed to say and do the same. Pat bought a few that he spun when not paying attention ........ :tdown2† He has passed on God Bless him.

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PostSubject: Re: Black Powder   November 13th 2017, 6:44 pm

You know , on the out side it looks really simple. Only 3 ingredients. At a certain stage things get fussy.If you fall out of line† with the directions , sometimes just slightly, you could be courting real trouble. Worst part is , it comes with no warning.
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PostSubject: Re: Black Powder   November 15th 2017, 8:39 am

@csitas wrote:
You know , on the out side it looks really simple. Only 3 ingredients. At a certain stage things get fussy.If you fall out of line† with the directions , sometimes just slightly, you could be courting real trouble. Worst part is , it comes with no warning.

Boy isn't that true and most don't give it a thought. I see guys smoking or messing around a camp fire with their powder horns on. A few paid the price with some serious burns over the years. BAM ....

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PostSubject: Re: Black Powder   November 15th 2017, 12:10 pm

I have been really lucky in my life time also. All the trouble I've been around with powder has resulted in burns , not with myself though. Usually they are very serious, deep , and right now. I've never researched this but,just to my knowledge, I'd say way more people are burnt than are killed with an explosion.Some times dying would have been the easy way out. Enough said, buy the stuff.
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PostSubject: Re: Black Powder   November 15th 2017, 7:33 pm

Agreed, knew one guy that lost a limb from a horn going off when around a camp fire. Took along time to heal ....

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PostSubject: Re: Black Powder   November 20th 2017, 9:25 pm

I have had several friends that were powder monkeys for different construction companies in Colorado. They seemed to live short lives usually do to their line of work.† :tdown2

One of the biggest problems in the western states is old powder caches with black powder sticks that have turned into a jelly state (wrong term, but you know what I'm saying, I'm tired ... crystalized). Have never handled this stuff but have seen and reported the location when found, usually on a search and rescue mission for the county sheriff department (no-one ever goes back that far into the old mining areas with no roads for miles, probably to unknown unmapped locations). That's the trouble with some local sheriff departments, poor communications between the citizen's and the department. More than once we have tried to tell them of an old mine that hasn't been worked in this century that they need to look at, never gets done.

Search and rescues have found more bones of missing persons by accident in these remote areas than the police looking. Around Georgetown CO and several towns near by has many open mine shafts (really deep) left from the past, in the 50's and 60's they were the favorite dumping grounds for the hoods from back east.

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PostSubject: Re: Black Powder   November 27th 2017, 2:50 pm

Just read in the paper today some kids found some old powder cans, parents called police and found they were Goex cans (nothing more than that was stated). Good someones mom or dad was paying attention.

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