Gunpowder, also commonly known as black powder to distinguish it from modern smokeless powder, is the earliest known chemical explosive. It consists of a mixture of sulfur, carbon (in the form of charcoal) and potassium nitrate (saltpeter). The sulfur and carbon act as fuels while the saltpeter is an oxidizer. Gunpowder has been widely used as a propellant in firearms, artillery, rocketry, and pyrotechnics, including use as a blasting agent for explosives in quarrying, mining, and road building.
Gunpowder is classified as a low explosive because of its relatively slow decomposition rate and consequently low brisance. Low explosives deflagrate (i.e., burn at subsonic speeds), whereas high explosives detonate producing a supersonic shockwave. Ignition of gunpowder packed behind a projectile generates enough pressure to force the shot from the muzzle at high speed, but usually not enough force to rupture the gun barrel. It thus makes a good propellant, but is less suitable for shattering rock or fortifications with its low-yield explosive power. Nonetheless it was widely used to fill fused artillery shells (and used in mining and civil engineering projects) until the second half of the 19th century, when the first high explosives were put into use.
Gunpowder is one of the Four Great Inventions of China. Originally developed by the Taoists for medicinal purposes, it was first used for warfare around 904 AD. It spread across Eurasia by the end of the 13th century. Its use in weapons has declined due to smokeless powder replacing it, and it is no longer used for industrial purposes due to its relative inefficiency compared to newer alternatives such as dynamite and ammonium nitrate/fuel oil.

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  1. Ruger Rich

    F R E E Black Powder Guide from 1969 . . . . .

    I was digging through a box from a long time ago. Found this in the box. I no longer remember where I got it from. I was never into black powder so likely why it was still in the box. It's full title is: Black Powder Guide, authored by Maj George Nonte. It's 214 pages in length and is in decent...
  2. Gaucho Gringo

    Powder Coated Bullets for Reloading With Black Powder?

    Hi I am looking for bullets for my .32S&W caases to reload with black powder. I have some 105 gr DE wadcutters that I use in my .32S&W long but are too big for my .32S&W loads. I haven't reloaded in awhile and found looking that powder coated bullets are cheaper than regular lead bullets...
  3. hazelwould

    Lifelong black powder shooter and gun owner in Portland.

    Born and raised on black powder hunting in New Mexico. I married a Goonie 13 years ago and moved to Portland 11 years ago. Since then, I was mostly active as a rock climber up and down the west coast (big wall climbing, etc), but got in archery hunting in the last 3 years. I'm a member at Sylvan...
  4. ilikegunspdx

    Where to buy black powder?

    Me need um' black stuff to make pow pow. Where to buy? Is this sold in-store at bimart, sportsman's warehouse, cabelas, other? I assume online they charge u for hazardous shipping? Would like to get bullets caps powder wads and some sort of measure all in one place in store if that's...
  5. ilikegunspdx

    Do nfa laws apply to black powder firearms?

    Can I put a stock on a 8" black powder revolver? Thanks!
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