This page contains 43 formulas in 9 tables.
CAUTION: Black powders are highly flammable and explosive if confined. Some so-called "cocoa" powders are inherently friction sensitive. Most black powders are at the peak of their sensitivity when a few percent of moisture is present.
NOTE: Black powder is the one composition in pyrotechnics that varies greatly from type to type. The most important component of black powder (BP) is charcoal. It is important to use a very reactive charcoal such as willow or grapevine that contains many volatiles (oxygen and hydrogen) to increase the speed of burning.
Simply mixing the three components together does not give good results. It is usually wise to "impregnate" the charcoal with the potassium nitrate by ball milling the two chemicals together for several hours, or by the precipitation method where the potassium nitrate is dissolved in hot water and charcoal is added.
The following table gives a number of BP formulas. If a specific type
charcoal is required for a composition, it will be noted in brackets beside
the charcoal percentage. Bear in mind that if the charcoal is not very
reactive the BP will merely fizzle and burn slowly. Examples of unreactive
charcoals are activated charcoal which contains virtually no volatiles,
and barbeque briquettes which usually contain clay.
NOTE: The term "general" is applied loosely here, referring to
any black powder composition that was not designed for a specific purpose,
or if it was then the specific application was not given.
|name||Standard BP||(composition as of 8th century)||(composition as of 8th century)||Ignis Volatilis||(composition
as of 1249)
as of 1252)
as of 1300)
General black powder II
|Arderne||Whitehorne||Bruxelles Studies||British Government|
|(laboratory recipe, composition as of 1350)||(composition
as of 1560)
as of 1560)
|(powder made under contract, composition
as of 1635)
NOTE: The following composition is optimized for firing aerial
shells from fireworks mortars.
CAUTION: Cocoa powders are more sensitive to friction than ordinary black powder. Accidents have resulted from shaking of the composition in a canvas sack.
NOTE: These compositions are intended
for firing projectiles from small-bore, hand-held weapons. They may also
be used for lifting aerial shells from fireworks mortars, however some
testing as to the suitability of a certain composition might be necessary.
|Davis||Davis||Davis||Davis||Davis||Noble and Abel|
|Charcoal||18 (rye straw)||17.6 (rye straw)||19 (rye straw)||20 (rye straw)||19 (rye straw)||18 (rye straw)|
NOTE: The following compositions
were used in France for military purposes. Specific applications are listed
in the table. A date as to when these compositions were put into use was
|name||Cannon||Sporting||Normal (rifle powder)||Cannon modified||Delay fuse powder|
|grain size||7 - 21 mm||0.1 - 1 mm||various||hexagonal "nut"||0.3 - 0.6 mm|
Blasting-specific powder I
|name||Strong blasting||Slow blasting||No.1 blasting powder||No.1 Bobbinite||No.2 Bobbinite||No.1 black blasting powder||American blasting powder||No.3 black blasting powder (Petroclastite or Haloclastite)||No.2 black blasting powder|
|Charcoal||15||30||10-15||17-19.5||18.5-20.5||10-16||15-17||15-19 of coal-tar pitch||10-16 of lignite|
|Ammonium sulfate and copper sulfate||13-17|
Blasting-specific powder II
|French Forte||French Lente||French Ordinaire|
CAUTION: Ammonium picrate is a sensitive high explosive compound. Its use is discouraged.
DANGER: Potassium picrate is a very sensitive high explosive compound. Its use is strongly discouraged.
NOTE: These compositions were generally
used as propellants, but have been largely superceded by smokeless nitrocellulose-based
|name||Amide powder||Ammonpulver||Brugere powder||Gold Dust Powder|
|name||Sulfurless powder||Sulfurless powder||Sulfurless powder
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