Sunday, October 28, 2012

Black Powder Some of the Ins and Outs

Black Powder Some of the ins and outs. This post covers a number of different powder and is not a commercial for any given powder. Its main purpose is to allow the safe salvage of powder. Often partial cans of powder are available and this article will allow you to use them.   Goex’s Pinnacle powder is said to be created by heat-degrading ascorbic acid and was a black powder substitute that allowed up to 30 shots without swabbing out the barrel. Let us start with a short quote from an article by Randy Wakeman; who notes … “Earlier this year at Shot Show, Goex announced its new “Pinnacle” propellant to answer this growing trend. Hodgdon Pyrodex, long sold as a smokeless muzzle loader powder and used as a blasting compound, has been found to be one of the most caustic propellants that can be used. Pyrodex is worse than black powder insofar as corrosively and toxicity. Pyrodex contains perchlorate, found to cause serious health problems like thyroid damage and birth defects. Pyrodex also contains organic cyanide.”  Whether this health warning is true, who knows? And at what quantity of shooting would cause this, who knows? One study shows that orange juice caused cancer in lab rats! (Use normal black powder if your wife is pregnant if she shoots black powder with you.)
If Pinnacle was as good as he said little wonder they stopped making it. It is said Hodgdon sued Clean Shot for the infringement of the Pyrodex Technology and Clean shot went out of business so Pinnacle powder and Pyrodex may have some close manufacturing ties in the process that caused Goex to withdraw its Pinnacle powder from the market. Low sales has never been a reason to withdraw a grate product, if it was as good as he said. Some time it takes time for people to recognize a successful product.
   I would not throw my Pyrodex away just because of the health warning but it is a decent propellant and offers up to 30% more shots over normal black powder for each pound (according to the manufacture) which is significant. The neat thing about Pyrodex is that it loads volume for volume for black powder. So if you are using a dipper or other physical measuring systems it throws the same charge. If you are doing anything else then you need to refer to Pyrodex loading information for weight in grains. Pyrodex used in shell casings needs to be treated as soon as possible after firing. The shell casings are immersed in a solution of 50% white vinegar and 50% water for 10 minutes (this would seem to indicate that Pyrodex leaves a strong base residue and that the vinegar/water (acid/H2O) solution neutralizes the base). Soaking for a long time may cause etching and shorten case life according to the manufacture. Yet knowing that there is an alternative use of a propellant in other non-black powder guns is useful if there was ever an emergency.   
  It is said that Triple Se7en has a slower ignition, Pyrodex powder does too. In an article written in 1996 by Scot E. Mayre in American Rifleman suggested a pre-charge of a finer grain black powder first, followed by the charge of Pyrodex propellant. This solved all ills and allowed for immediate ignition, and the pre-charge of black powder being so small would not contribute significantly to powder fouling. Pyrodex suggests 5 grains of very fine black powder.
 Goex has been around since 1802 and produces premium black powder. You will also deal with fowling problems normally associated with regular black powder. Although black powder can cause a lot of extra problems associated with modern guns it would pay to store some information on black powder charges for shell casings (as you can make your own black powder at home and extract the potassium nitrate from the soil). Goex has charts on the Internet of loading data for many shell casings as well as loading data for muzzle loading and shot guns.  ( The web site will allow you to print the information which could prove useful in a day of trouble). Gathering this type of loading data could be important since as we mentioned black powder can be made at home, so can primers,  that leaves the projectile which is not a problem as any close fitting undersized scrap of round metal, bolt, or bar-stock can be wrapped in paper, tape, or cloth and make a bullet.
  Muzzle loading guns can have a real swing in velocity ratings with the same charge of black powder even if precisely weighed. A variance of 100 to 200 fps has been recorded by some writers. For most of us this would make little difference, as shooting is based on the fun we have with a given gun and investing in expensive bullet speed measuring equipment is not on the list of priorities. The other argument is that volume matching propellants is not accurate, like using the same dipper from black powder and then switching to measure Pyrodex will not offer the exact velocity, which is absolutely true. But when people talk about volume for volume it is nothing more than offering a safe black powder load with the same equipment. 

Description of above photo-- Above is a handmade bullet starter. The wood is from a lilac bush and carved with birds, vines and leaves by my daughter. The lilac is an extremely hard wood. A 9MM shell casing was drilled slightly after removing the primer. This created a pocket that the round ball could set in. A small piece of dowel rod was placed in the 9MM about 1/2 to 3/4 inch longer then the shell casing, and dented with a punch. On the long dowel rod is a 38 Cal. shell casing with the same type of pocket as seen on the 9MM.  One punch dent is visible -the others are not. Below the ball starter is a powder throw with varying sizes of powder tubes with grain markings. How the powder throw works—The powder of choice is chosen for the given gun the large tube is filled with powder and the cap is screwed on. The spring loaded lever at the right controls a trap door. With the appropriate charging tube chosen for the gun your finger is placed over the hole. The canister is turned upside down and the trap door lever is pushed and released. Returning the powder throw to the upright position, you will now have a measured charge.          

Use black powder only and not Pyrodex to set up your powder throw when using black powder loading tables. Most black powder throwing devices cannot be used as they are-- So what you will need is a powder scale or access to one, your powder of choice and the load selected. Many of the metal hand held throwing devices can be unscrewed and replaced with different sizes tubes, but they may not offer what you want; so use the closest one. The powder is measured in a scale and poured in the mouth of the metal or plastic tube and eyeballed and marked. The powder is dumped in a container, (measure several charges to confirm your mark) and the tube is cut off. File to clean up, put your finger over the hole in the tube, throw your first charge, and measure in the scale. Now test throw a few loads and check in the powder scale again. You can now throw a safe load every time in the field. (Using powder dippers at the shooting range changes everything and you will waste a lot of expensive powder.)
   If you have seen the old powder horns the powder was dumped in the hand and probably gaged by eye and if you dumped too much you probably got rid of the excess with a blow of air from the lips. Black powder is more susceptible to humidity and weather conditions then some other propellants. But even in reloading metallic cases, with modern smokeless propellants, there is a difference depending on the day, humidity and yes even temperature as to how your reloads shoot if you use a chronograph; or at least those who have one will tell you. Even factory ammo is affected by these problems. To me this is splitting hairs! The other argument about the slight difference in volume for volume black powder propellant size, from manufacture to manufacture. Again there is a small differ in physical size of the granules, here again this is splitting hairs! There are some historical notes that good quality reliable black powders were not consistently had until the propellant was mass produced with consistent proportions and granule size, and polishing the finished product in rotating wooden barrels. This brings us back to where we were black powder shooting in the early days was not an exact science. A powder throw is the best device to use in the field and yes there will probably be a foot per second (fps) difference if you go from one powder manufacture to another. Yet if you want a consistent reliable form of shooting you would not want a black powder gun. The allure of black powder shooting is to work with its limitations and do something fantastic with them. But do not think you will be too limited, modern black powder and its substitutes are good stuff and the black powder gun you own is far superior to anything the average frontiersman had to shoot. It takes tenacity to shoot the “old smoking fire sticks, fire breathing smoking monsters, soot burners, or cumulus cloud makers” as some call them, yet it is a window in time a piece of history.
   When I got my 54 caliber kit to build my muzzle loader the man at the gun shop told me to finish the gun -- put in a double charge of black powder -- and two round balls tuck the stock in an old car tire and string-fire the thing. To which I said “you are kidding, right!” He said that was how it has been done for hundreds of years and that if the barrel held then it would take any suggested factory load and projectile offered. Looking at the history of the guns that is just how they were tested only a fuse was used to keep from losing the stock. In actuality the steal in modern black powder guns is better today, so your replica gun is stronger. The old guns were made out of flat iron strips beaten around a solid metal pole shaft. The steel, if you can call it that, as to its poor quality compared to today standards was heated to the melting point and then hammer struck on an anvil a few inches at a time. Again the flat iron was hammer welded and finally the finished steel rod was bored out and rifled. This took about two weeks. The quality check was described above with a double charge of powder and two round balls. If the barrel exploded it would take another two weeks to make the next one. The modern black powder barrel is a solid piece of steal, and this along with better refined metal, account for the extra strength.
   This can then explain why many books and manuals mention powder charges are safe depending on the condition of the gun. Some guns made in the 1800’s were well cared for and still shoot today. On the other hand some new production guns made a year ago are corroded because some lazy fellow shot it and took it home and never cleaned it. In that case the strength of the barrel could have been compromised. Care and immediate cleaning is the life’s blood of a muzzle loader shooter. If you let a barrel rust up there is no telling how much strength you lost. Good gun care is the key to having a muzzle loader or any gun.
   Looking back I do not know if the double charge double ball test was entirely necessary now ‘a days. Yet if for no other reason than to follow tradition and make sure my weapon was reliable in whatever ammo and load I selected. I guess you could say it gives peace of mind; for I will never load it like that again. In the book Hatchers Notebook, WWI Odense officer J. Hatcher turned down the barrel of a 1903 Springfield until it was almost nothing and it still held together. Gun barrel diameter is generally oversized in designed for strength, beyond what is fired in them, because if they were not then black powder gun manufactures as well as black powder makers would have to make some real adjustments. I think this accounts for the general lenience in black powder loading instructions. Yet some would call it down right negligent of the manufactures and powder makers. It would be easier if there was a standard set of measurements for black powder shooting. But that does not mean that what is offered is not safe, it only means that what is offered is within the pressure standards of the guns involved.                         
    As a re-loader I am not scared away by old powders and use what I can get my hands on if it is a good deal. Elephant black powder was said to have closed down in 2011. But black powder is black powder so the Goex loading data should be useful if you came across an old can of off-brand “X” black powder. Only make sure that it loads volume for volume. In starting this article it was mentioned that Goex Pinnacle powder was said to be non-fowling propellant that allowed for up to 30 shots before having to swab out the barrel. I haven’t used this one yet but this sounds like an excellent storage product that has brought muzzleloading into the next century. Too bad they have stopped the line. In an emergency however, it would be imperative to know how to use the original black powder. If all you had used was the new stuff the transition could be costly. What we will be making (at least at first), would be homemade black powder. 

   Transition powders 

Propellants that should not be used in any gun. Found powders in old attics and basements that could destroy any gun (even a normal smokes powder guns) because many of these powders have degraded in time or even in their original condition were verging on unsafe when the powder was made. Some of these were made by drying nitroglycerin on cotton and some with other chemical compounds making some of the first smokeless powders. Many of these made their first showing as substitutes for black powder. Even with the loading data these products should be discarded. The can on the other hand  should be emptied and kept as a collectible if you feel you can safely open it otherwise just call the city you live in and ask them about hazardous material disposal sites. Its not worth blowing your hands off for the can if the top will not come off. Since many propellants are nitrogen based they make good fertilizer on your lawn. The list of powders not to use in your gun are--!
Balistic Powder
Brown Powder
Bulk Powder
Coopalls Powder
Dense Powder
Du Pont Bulk Smokeless
Kings Semi-Smokeless
Schultz Powder
Never use a smokeless propellant in a muzzle loader! Just because a powder is black in color does not make it black powder1

 Useful information for using older powders you might find or  buy as a bargain.
 Some companies are out of business but others are not.     
  Pyrodex has been around for about 33 years and measures with the same powder throw as you would use for normal black powder, in other words volume for volume.          
Pyrodex   and normal Black Powder
             =                   FFFFG   For flint lock pans and pre charge
     P      =                     FFFG   For small caliber pistols and rifles     
     RS    =                       FFG    For large caliber rifles and shot guns
     Select-- is  a match grade powder of Pyrodex comparable to RS
     CTG-- is Pyrodex for black powder shot shells and big bore cartridges

Black powder and Pyrodex is measured volume for volume and must not be hard packed or you could have a compression ignition. They are impact sensitive!

   Pyrodex and black powder have about the same smoke production and about the same smell and both are about as susceptible to ignition with a drop or shock. Pyrodex fowls less than black powder but you must clean the gun and shell casings immediately after firing. The cleaning solution for the gun: hot soapy water, use a blow dryer, and coat the barrel with a lubricant.
Pyrodex is slower on ignition especially in cold weather (use a 5 grain pre-charge of black powder before throwing the charge) hotter caps will also help without the pre charge.

Black Canon powder works only on a weight for weight bases. The granules are really big and you must tap it with your ramrod a few times to settle it into position so as not to have voids. The number of shots from a pound is equal to black powder. This is considered a non-corrosive propellant with little fouling. Lightly lube (grease) the bullet. Clean up with water use a blow dryer coat the barrel with a lubricant. Given that the Black Canon granules are larger the ram rod may not settle to its normal mark when the ball is seated
Black Mag2: minimal fouling, non-corrosive, works only on a weight for weight bases.
Black Magic 3 has an ascorbic acid base, and said to be a non-corrosive propellant. Clean with water use a blow dryer and oil the bore for storage. -This oil must be removed out of the boor before firing. You do not have to swab the bore while firing and it is an eases ignition propellant.

Triple Se7en volume for volume for loose propellants (granules) will work fine according to the manufacture but to duplicate a black powder load for fps decrease the charge by 15%, water cleanup. For shell cases do not reload shell casings that are not on their loading list. For shell casing on the list the base of the bullet should just touch the propellant with no air space compression should not exceed 0.100 The filler wads can cause a dangerous situation apparently a pressure spike, though they list one acceptable wad thickness exception I would suggest not using them at all. For revolvers or shell casings do not use fillers like dry grits, Malt-O- Meal, Dacron, etc. As with Pyrodex in cleaning the shell casing, soak the shell casings for 10 minutes in 50% white vinegar and 50% water.   

American Pioneer propellants, and Jim Shockey’s Gold propellants Manufactures instructions-- loading  volume for volume for loose propellants. This powder creates its own water and has minimal fowling -no lubricant is needed and using a lubricant can cause fowling, so load dry. Shell casings are loaded so they compress the charge only 1/16 of an inch. Do not use a filler or greased wads or patches. The bullet on the shell casing should be crimped. (I am supposing that they are referring to copper jacketed bullets. Led bullets are not crimped because it strips off the soft led and causes barrel leading). While in the field after shooting they claim that two or three wet patches make the gun clean. If you lube the bore, clean before you shoot again, as the oil residue can cause fowling. On the pre-formed sticks have the same characteristics just mentioned except load the small end first, the bore diameter will shave off the edges (a square peg in a round hole).
   Golden Powder Company (out of business). The product was said to be a black powder substitute made from ascorbic acid (vitamin C) 40%, and potassium nitrate 60%. The heat generated is 5% greater than black powder and the pressure is 10% higher, so cut charge weight by 10%. In an emergency do not try to make this propellant as the vitamin C is more valuable for human consumption even if it is expired.
   In an emergency this capitulated information could prove useful in using partial cans of propellant. Muzzle loaders are not toys and still formidable weapons. Using Conical Balls or Minnie Balls there is still a 75% amputation rate for any limb hit; even if the best medical help is available immediately. If there was ever a war these black powder pistols and especially the long guns would be most useful mixed in with modern weapons. Currently you can own a sawed-off black powder stage coach shotgun gun with no extra permits and without registration. If it were loaded with slugs or buckshot it would be an awesome weapon. To see my book click my name  Richard W Norman   

If they pass laws against guns then you will either make your supplies at home, salvage or do without. Below 1) Tactics Techniques and Concepts of Anti-armor Warfare historical training manual 2) KFM Fallout Radiation Meter Kit Instructions This is a home made fallout meter developed during the cold war. They knew the public could not get a meter in an emergence so this was designed so anyone could build one with stuff you had around the house.3) US Ammunition Price list from 1912. Not just a neat document but it includes bullet weights and black powder charges for many old cartridges.  To see military e-manuals and gun e-books click here No waiting, get it now as an E-Book over 70 to chose from!

Anti-armor Infantry Tactics Techniques and ConceptsHomemade KFM Fallout Radiation Meter KitUS Ammunition Price List for 1912

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