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. L

    Is a chronograph useful for black powder load development?

    Greetings, I'll apologize in advance if I blow up the group again, but... Is a chronograph useful in black powder load development? The plant that I work in is at about a 50% slowdown right now so I'm loath to spend the $165.00+ on a chronograph & stand but, I was wondering if it would be...
  2. Andy54Hawken

    Black Powder Gun Show

    Black powder gun show March 9th and 10th Evergreen State Fairgrounds Monroe , Washington. $8 admission 9-5 Saturday 9-3 Sunday Traditional only This is a big show folks...lots to see , plenty of folks to visit and there will be something to buy for sure. I have found some great deals here...
  3. L

    Any Black powder gunsmiths in Portland/SW Washington area?

    Greetings everyone, I joined the group moments ago. My question is: Does anyone know of a Gunsmith with experience in Black powder arms in the Portland/Valley/SW Washington area? I'm lucky that I have a gunsmith just 2 miles away but he's never fired or handled any black powder arms by his...
  4. CountryGent

    World's Biggest Black Powder Cannon

    If @AndyinEverson ever wins the lottery, here's an idea for a next acquisition: the largest muzzle-loading gun ever made. Anyway, I found the history and engineering interesting. Cheers.
  5. Andy54Hawken

    Hawken Shop Black Powder Shoot...New Date...

    New Date *** 13 APRIL *** 10.00 AM $2.00 Entry fee Greene's Gun Shop ( The Hawken Shop ) 4778 Monkey Hill Rd. Oak Harbor Wa. 360.675.3421 Traditional Muzzleloading rifle...Caplock or Flintlock...Roundball only Iron sights... 10 shots @25 yards , Offhand... 10 shots @50 yards , Offhand... Bring...
  6. Haftard

    357 black powder

    I just got a saa revolver and want to load up some black poweder rounds for it ... Anyone have a recipe or should I just treat it as smokeless powder
  7. ATCclears

    Guidance on selling black-powder firearms

    I'm looking for any and all guidance from the collective. This is for a buddy. WA State. Perhaps seven years ago his Father-in-law passed. They inherited several black-powder firearms. I've never seen them so cannot provide a better description. I don't even know if they are pistols...
  8. B

    Black powder shot shells

    Hi everyone. First time on this forum about the black powder firearms. My good friend has an old Charles Daley 10 gauge double barrel. It's got exposed hammers and Damascus barrels. It seems solid and locks up tight. He wants to shoot it but can't find anyone who carries the ammunition. Anyone...
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