View Full Version : Pro's and Con's against Real Black Powder

12-21-2012, 2:47 PM
I know a little about it but I'm sure I'm in the company of experts here. As I understand, Real Black Powder is:

Authentic. Lots and Lots of smoke. Good for reenactments.

Hard to obtain realistically. Almost nobody sells it because it is more explosive (hazardous) to store. You can buy substitutes anywhere.

Very corrosive to the firearm after shooting. If you don't clean it right away it will begin to pit the steel in the barrel.

Dirtier. The firearm after a shooting session with black powder will be dirtier than if a substitute is used. (This may be a plus for some people for added realism).

Requires more grains of powder for a given load than a substitute. (unconfirmed, just what I heard)

Yes, most of these are negatives, but I'm here to get your opinion, not give mine. What is better about shooting real black powder over a substitute.

12-21-2012, 3:04 PM
Real black powder ignites much better than substitutes, in my experience.

For big loads (72 cal) I have used a duplex charge as follows:

30 grain charge of BP under a XX grain charge of pyrodex (of course keeping the total charge in a safe range), where 30 + XX is the total charge.

Without the BP as a starter, it can be hard to reliably ignite a big load of Pyrodex. Magnum caps help.

Downside of real BP is : availability, cost, storage, quantities you can keep on hand, etc.

12-21-2012, 3:06 PM
It ignights better than Pyrodex, so it's better in Flintlocks. The other plus is you can make it yourself... if you are careful.

12-21-2012, 5:07 PM
In flintlocks you pretty much have to use black powder in the pan and at least part of the main charge. It's really the only option.

In percussion, it's kind of a wash. They all make a nice bang and lots of smoke. Black powder smoke smells different - contains sulfur. People argue about which is more corrosive. 777 in particular is easier to clean but it's no big deal either way. 777 powder is slightly more powerful and some people prefer it in cap and ball revolvers where space is limited for this reason.

If I could just mail order 50 pounds of real black like most people in this country I'd just do that and be done with it. Because of CA's legal issues you can't do that. So I keep a little black powder (less than a pound) around for my one flintlock single shot and run 777 for the percussion guns. If I should be fortunate enough to get a flintlock long gun for Christmas I'll run it with just black powder until I'm sure it's working but will probably have to explore duplex loads.

12-21-2012, 5:08 PM
PS Isn't making it yourself manufacturing an explosive?

12-21-2012, 7:46 PM
PS Isn't making it yourself manufacturing an explosive?

There are all sorts of exemptions out there for black powder. Its an art to make a good powder fast enough for use in a firearm. Buying a BP substitute is much more economical.

12-22-2012, 3:14 PM
PS Isn't making it yourself manufacturing an explosive?

Yeah probably though I have seen folk in free states that do it. I've also heard that Potasium nitrate and sugar works. Is it against the the law to make white poeder?

Josh Smith
12-22-2012, 3:31 PM
Making black powder can be very dangerous. A static spark can set it off, as can a struck spark from, say, a hammer against steel.

Of course, you mix it, wet it, and while it's wet, that's when you corn it.

The problems begin to arise when you realize what kind of facility you need to do all this safely.

I keep real 2Fg for hunting; I'm almost out, though, and need to get more. Only what's in the powder horn is left.

If I recall correctly, sulfur is what gives the lower ignition point in pure black powder, but I believe that the perchlorate in Pyrodex raises it again. But again, I don't remember for sure. Ignition for black is around 300-400 degrees while substitutes ignite at around 650 degrees. Again, this is from memory and I may be off.

I've found that, in a caplock rifle, a 1:10 mix BP:Pyrodex ignites as well as pure black, Pyrodex being (if I recall correctly), charcoal, potassium chlorate, sulfur, and potassium perchlorate. (Going from memory here!)

What I've observed in shooting black vs Pyrodex in a sidelock .50 (New Englander) equipped with musket caps is this:

1. Pyrodex: Snap-Boom. The Pyrodex ignites quickly, but only after I hear the cap snap.

2. Holy Black: Boom. No noticeable lag. Very consistent.

3. 1:10 mix: Boom. No noticeable lag. Consistent enough.

Anything I've tried with sugar leaves something resembling taffy in my barrel. Won't do it again.

I do sort of like Shockey's Gold. It's weak; it's less consistent than black or Pyrodex, but it's made from Vitamin C and cleans very easily. When I go out to plink I like to use it just because it's not dirty.

Just some random thoughts which may or may not be helpful. I've not been into black powder as much as I used to be.



12-22-2012, 7:57 PM
Another random thought - some people are sulfur-sensitive. If you get a lungfull of the real deal and feel vaguely ill (or worse for some people), you might have some motivation to try 777 which is sulfur free. For me it's very mild but I was reminded of that today when I caught a whiff from my flintlock. Other days the wind cooperates more and I'd never notice a difference.

12-22-2012, 8:08 PM
I shoot muzzleloaders, in part, to experience some of what it felt like to shoot in the golden age of firearms. Shooting a BP substitute just doesn't feel right to me.

12-23-2012, 2:10 PM
.....and then again some of us just love the smell of burning rotten eggs. :D;)

12-23-2012, 2:26 PM
I shoot a pound to a pound and a half per shot (yes, it is a cannon) and pyrodex just won't work as well. Cannon grade black powder is safe if you follow basic safe handling rules, and the smell, dirt, etc. cited above just isn't an issue.

12-23-2012, 4:21 PM
How are pyrodex pellets?

Not to thread jack.

12-24-2012, 11:00 AM
I tried the 30gr pyrodex pellets in my 1860 army revolver, they are super easy to load, but I still hear a noticeable lag between the percussion cap igniting and the main charge firing. I've since switched to Goex (angeles range sells it right on the spot) and it works great. Its super easy to get since the range I go to sells it right there.

12-24-2012, 12:18 PM
I seem to recall the advice that the pellets only really ignite well with the larger primers (209? Fuzzy memory today).

Once you get into a groove the measuring part isn't a big deal. I think they're mostly intended for hunters trying to make a quick followup. Even in that situation I'd rather just use some pre-measured loose powder.