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Thread: BP in 1800s

  1. #21
    Boolit Master



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    It doesn’t make sense to me either. That’s why I did the original post.

  2. #22
    Boolit Grand Master Don McDowell's Avatar
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    There were what the powder companies describe as "moist" powders, they also warned against compressing those "moist" powders, and suggested their use mainly in shotguns.
    Long range rules, the rest drool.

  3. #23
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    Years ago, one of the gun rag authors (Mike Venturino?) wrote that older (19th century) BP was far superior to anything available at the (then current) time, and I think he perpetuated the myth that the older stuff left moist fouling. That statement has been debunked since then, but I believe that the original author was simply repeating a popular myth at the time. Want to see hard BP fouling? Come to Yuma, Arizona.
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  4. #24
    Boolit Master
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    before any of you rewrite the history of BP, understand that different soft woods provide a different moisture content. Prior even to the War of Northern Aggression, the War Dept specified which type of wood would be used for musket as opposed to pistol or cannon powder.

    I am fortunate to have a set of encyclopedias handed down from a great-grandfather dating back to 1904, "The New International Encyclopedia", published by Dodd, Mead & Company. They offer the complete Ordnance Dept's requirements for BP, down to the type of wood, and the size of the charcoal billets to be used.

    BP formulae are varied, it was not then merely graded for use by granulation.

  5. #25
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    I would like to see that article that debunked Mike's statement. The staff at Yuma Proving grounds proved that the Quanah Parker shot by Billy Dixon was impossible. That was, until Mike took his 50-90 there and replicated the shot in front of them. I have known the tandem of Garbe and Venturino going on 30 years, and anything they write is proven and can be documented.
    Things may be difficult in Daegu, but here records from the time validate the moisture issue. Shoot the same volume of 1Fg, 2FFg, and 3FFFg for ten shot strings and report on the cleaning difference.

  6. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Idaho Sharpshooter View Post
    before any of you rewrite the history of BP, understand that different soft woods provide a different moisture content. Prior even to the War of Northern Aggression, the War Dept specified which type of wood would be used for musket as opposed to pistol or cannon powder.

    I am fortunate to have a set of encyclopedias handed down from a great-grandfather dating back to 1904, "The New International Encyclopedia", published by Dodd, Mead & Company. They offer the complete Ordnance Dept's requirements for BP, down to the type of wood, and the size of the charcoal billets to be used.

    BP formulae are varied, it was not then merely graded for use by granulation.
    I would really, really, really, like to see that information on type of wood and billet size - and any variations of the BP formulae
    would you be able to post pics of those few pages ??

  7. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Idaho Sharpshooter View Post
    I would like to see that article that debunked Mike's statement. The staff at Yuma Proving grounds proved that the Quanah Parker shot by Billy Dixon was impossible. That was, until Mike took his 50-90 there and replicated the shot in front of them. I have known the tandem of Garbe and Venturino going on 30 years, and anything they write is proven and can be documented.
    Things may be difficult in Daegu, but here records from the time validate the moisture issue. Shoot the same volume of 1Fg, 2FFg, and 3FFFg for ten shot strings and report on the cleaning difference.
    I think the main question over this would be - is it a difference in actual moisture content in the powder OR difference in the way a particular recipe reacts in the barrel ?
    There are so many subtle variations with blackpowder ---the recipe is so simple and the process so very basic - yet every brand is different and each batch from the same mill using same recipe and identical components needs testing for variability.

  8. #28
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    We all agree the BP quality and fouling properties vary depending on manufactures processes. That is true today same as it was in the past. I have often read about the superior powders of the past. With the increased technology the very finest BP should have been manufactured in the 1880's or 1890's time frame. The question that I have is why are there no remaining samples today?

  9. #29
    Boolit Grand Master Don McDowell's Avatar
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    Mostly because they got shot up, or dumped in the garden.
    Long range rules, the rest drool.

  10. #30
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    We still have lots of loaded cartridges from the BP days. I know of at least three kegs of unopened rifle BP from the civil war. A friend of mine is into very old and expensive liquors. I have sampled 200 year old liquors. If we still have 200 year old booze you would think we will still have some of the high end powders.
    Last edited by M-Tecs; 01-09-2019 at 02:39 AM.

  11. #31
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    All the black powder I’ve salvaged from old cartridges was crushed and caked in the cases. By the time I got it out, it couldn’t possibly have been of the original grain size distribution, and therefore was pretty useless for comparison with modern stuff. I typically banged it up in cap and ball pistols; it did work very well there. As good as GOEX 3F.

    Many articles in the old days said the reason factory BP ammunition wasn’t accurate was that it was “too old;” that it took “freshly loaded cartridges” to realize the accuracy potential the correspondents were demonstrating in those same cartridges. And this was “too old” by maybe months, not a hundred years.

    This “moist burning” feature is reflected today, I believe, when people note that one brand of powder or another gives “harder fouling” than the one they’ve settled on. In a reasonably humid climate, where most of the accuracy freaks lived in the 1890s, it would be easier to wipe the fouling goo out of the barrel, or more shots could be fired between wiping with a given brand of powder, just like some people report today. This could be described as “moist burning.”

    I’ve seen mentions of black, and even early “bulk” smokeless powders, kept in cigar humidors before loading, to keep the “moist burning” (in the case of black) or “even pressure” (in the case of smokeless) characteristics constant.

    Of course, you can’t physically wet down black powder for “moist burning” without ruining it. But I was a Chemist in a previous life, and the CRC Handbook lists a bunch of salt solutions which impart various percentages of constant humidity to the air above them. I thought on and off about making up a few of these solutions in dessicators, and storing BP samples above them, to see if the adsorption of moisture at the given humidity would “moisten” the burn characteristics: the “scientific” version of the cigar humidor. In that case, the atmospheric moisture would only be adsorbed by the charcoal, and not leach out the saltpeter like spraying or steaming would. Never got around to it, though.

  12. #32
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    The cleaner burning powders of the old days might have some truth, but maybe not. Several years ago in the Single Shot Exchange, there were some old articles reprinted regarding "shooting dirty". The author of the article made it sound easy. One of the letters in reply basically said the article was wrong and that it couldn't be done. So the same arguments regarding fouling happened back then too

    Chris.

  13. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bent Ramrod View Post
    All the black powder I’ve salvaged from old cartridges was crushed and caked in the cases. By the time I got it out, it couldn’t possibly have been of the original grain size distribution, and therefore was pretty useless for comparison with modern stuff.
    I was thinking more along the lines of a chemical analysis using a mass spectrometer or whatever analysis equipment would be best for the task. Until the 1880's BP was the only viable option for BP and the manufacture of it would be at it's technological apex. Cleaner burning and moister fouling would have been a huge benefit to both the civilian and military market yet other than some minor marketing claims of cleaner burning I am not aware of any written data (at the time) of this "better" BP. It's sounds a lot like the 100 mile per gallon carburetors of the 1970's.

  14. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bent Ramrod View Post
    I thought on and off about making up a few of these solutions in dessicators, and storing BP samples above them, to see if the adsorption of moisture at the given humidity would “moisten” the burn characteristics:
    Already been done a couple of times. All of the documents, photos, etc, that I ever uploaded to the net are now gone permanently, but years ago, Pete Mink, Ed Stutz, and Bob Mullen, exposed various blackpowders to different humidities for varying lengths of time - days and weeks even - to see how much moisture was absorbed from the air. The answer was, effectively, none. BP is very stable and simply does not pick up moisture. The moisture in fouling is either a by product of combustion (typical of burning any hydrocarbon) or absorbed by the fouling, which is chemically much different than the powder, of course.

  15. #35
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    The Mad Monk did some research on "Moist fouling" several years ago and concluded the "moisture" was wood creosote that was present in the charcoal used to make black powder. It resulted in softer fouling that seemed moist and that indeed some powders did produce softer fouling. Water is not a product of combustion of BP and there is no significant water in BP.

  16. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bent Ramrod View Post
    All the black powder I’ve salvaged from old cartridges was crushed and caked in the cases. By the time I got it out, it couldn’t possibly have been of the original grain size distribution, and therefore was pretty useless for comparison with modern stuff. I typically banged it up in cap and ball pistols; it did work very well there. As good as GOEX 3F.

    Here is a photo of some black powder I took out of an Eley 450/400 2-3/8” cartridge, probably from the 1880s.
    The powder was quite compressed but came out with a pick.
    The granules are very hard and there wasnt much in the way of fines in the powder.
    I could load this powder in a cartridge and give her a go as a comparison so some modern powder or even shoot a couple cartridges over the chronograph to see if they are close to the published velocities of the time. Hate to waste the cool copper tubed boolits they have though...




    On another note, I was recently reading about a new (ish) black powder from South Africa called Obatex.
    There is some information about it here:
    http://www.bpsu.co.za/

    Interestingly, they claim very reduced charges for duplication of standard velocities yet claim to be a traditional type of black powder!
    I don’t know how their performance is possible for a true black powder.

  17. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by 13Echo View Post
    The Mad Monk did some research on "Moist fouling" several years ago and concluded the "moisture" was wood creosote that was present in the charcoal used to make black powder. It resulted in softer fouling that seemed moist and that indeed some powders did produce softer fouling. Water is not a product of combustion of BP and there is no significant water in BP.
    What ARE the combustion products of BP then?

  18. #38
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    The ingredients are carbon (charcoal), saltpeter (KNO3), and sulfur. There is no Hydrogen in any of the ingredients to combine with the Oxygen from Saltpeter to make water. Combustion products would be CO2, CO, SO, SO2, and solid compounds of potassium sulfur and carbon and whatever other trace minerals and compounds (such as wood creosote) that might be included in the charcoal. Note the creosote is not the same stuff used to preserve wood but a natural part of the wood. Beech wood used to be distilled to produce natural creosote.

  19. #39
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    You think that charcoal is pure carbon? I'm doubtful.

  20. #40
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    It's not pure carbon but it no longer has significant hydrocarbon due to the charring process. Charcoal used in BP manufacture analysis is given for 14.286 gms as: Carbon 12.398, Hydrogen 0.401, Oxygen 1.272, Ash 0.215.

    Moisture in BP is usually about 1%

    Gaseous products as a % by weight: CO2 49.29, CO 12.47, Nitrogen 32.91, H2S 2.65, Methane 0.43, Hydrogen 2.19. H2O is not listed as a product
    Solids are listed as KCO3 61.03, KS 15.1, Potassium Thiocyanate 0.22, KNO3 0.27, Sulfur 8.74, Carbon 0.08

    (The Chemistry of Powder and Explosives, T. L. Davis, pp43)

    I think I have copies of the research done by the "Mad Monk" on BP composition and burning characteristics. He was a consultant to Several of the powder makers in the late 90s and early 21st cent. The articles are well worth reading.

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check