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Thread: Early Smokeless Powder Information And Powder Cans/Tins

  1. #1
    Boolit Master Savvy Jack's Avatar
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    Mar 2009
    Hickory, NC

    Early Smokeless Powder Information And Powder Cans/Tins

    I have been working on obtaining information about the early smokeless powders being tested by the United States Military back in 1893. I have only been able to read through one 961 page Ordinance Report from August 1894 but was submitted on October 1st, 1893. Along with this information, looking to figure out which powder the US Military decided to purchase and use in their .308s, I am also merging this with the old black powder cartridges as well, Namely the -40 like the 44-40.

    You .30-40 Krag buffs already know this information, this is mainly for my brain and to learn more. It shows the early testing of smokeless powder by the US Government. They used the 30-40 Krag, of which a powder had not yet been adopted for service.

    Smokeless powders had been around since at least 1882-1885 but seem to be used in shotguns.

    My current understand but still digging!!!

    The US Government obtained a large supply of Wetteren powder and I think they or someone purchased the rights from the company? Hard to follow but it is in the 961 page report. The Wetteren powder was used as a "standard" to which further powders would be tested.

    Nine powder names would be used but some powder companies sent updated samples which would lead to nearly 25 over all tested.

    I noticed John Kort was searching for older information back in 2012 https://forum.cartridgecollectors.or...powder/11815/7 When I am searching for something and find his name, I know I am on the right track.

    1. Wetteren - Purchased from Cooppal & Cie, Liege Belgium. Used as the testing standard.
    2. Smokeless Powder Company Limited, London
    A) Rifleite
    B) S.R.
    C) S.V.
    3. B.N.F. - Procured from Hotchkiss Ordinance Company in 1882
    4. Peyton - California Powder Company, Santa Cruz California. Plant explosion was the demise and what was left went to Dupont in 1903, operated after 1906 then to Hercules? Powders named to replace Peyton for the 30-40 are unknown to me at the moment. That is the information I am looking for. By this time, I think it was Sharpshooter
    5. Leonard - Various powder samples, from Salem
    A) Sample "N" and "J", submitted March 1893
    B) Samples "J" and "N" submitted April 1893
    C) No. 7
    D) 13A
    C) United States
    6. Dupont - a redish Brown colored powder of small regular grains
    7. Axtell - New York, Samples 1, 2 and 3
    8. Troisdorf - (SS Smokeless Shotgun cira 1900 also used in the 44-40). Eventually marked by Laflin & Rand till 1900
    9. Alters - Sweat Home, Ark.

    Dates of testing were between Spring 1892 and Spring 1893.

    Tests included in Report to Chief Of Ordinance Oct 1st, 1893

    Of those powders, Peyton and Leonard were reported to be the two superior powders. It is of these two powders as to what was (at least) to be offered to civilians by 1897 as, what would appear to be W. A. 30 under several labels and names through turnovers of powder companies during those years. It looks as if the early W-A powder was of the Cordite filaments "stick type" but eventually formed into a disc type from what I understand as W.A. 30 by 1897.

    Eventually Sharpshooter powder (Laflin & Rand) was of the same formula but smaller grains as W.A. 30 by 1900. Sharpshooter was a great powder for the 44-40.

    My main question is does anyone know what powder the military settled with to load the 30-40? I may be missing some other information be we certainly know the Springfield .308 came out by 1899? I have yet to look that far.

    Powder Can Photos, always being updated!!

    Review of the Report To The Chief Of Ordinance:

    The Report, best to open settings and view as PDF:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by Savvy Jack; 09-13-2019 at 06:33 PM.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master
    Join Date
    Dec 2016
    After reading a chapter in Sharpe's Complete Guide To Handloading, as near as I can tell, they requested bids on a lot of 10,000 pounds of powder, which was divided between the California Powder Works, and Leonard,with their "Ruby" powders, which were of the Nobel type. Apparently Lieut. Whistler and Henry Churchill Aspinwall further developed these Ruby powders into what was later referred to as W.A. 30.

    Perhaps W.A. 30 was the most used powder for the Krag, but in the short time the Krag was in use, it might have just been one big powder experiment between powders that fit the specifications set forth by the Army in 1894.

  3. #3
    Boolit Grand Master

    M-Tecs's Avatar
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    Apr 2008
    One area of smokeless powder development I would like to learn more about is the bulk smokeless powders used in a one to one volumetric replacement for Blackpowder used for shotshells. I don't know if it was used in rifle, handgun or muzzleloaders also????????
    Last edited by M-Tecs; 09-14-2019 at 02:21 AM.
    2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. - "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

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  4. #4
    Boolit Buddy
    jrmartin1964's Avatar
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    Sep 2013
    Plantersville, MS
    According to "History of Modern U.S. Military Small Arms Ammunition" by Hackley, Woodin, and Scranton, Peyton was the most common powder used in early .30 Caliber service ammunition. This powder was green in color, and hexagonal on shape. Considerable use of du Pont powder, a tubular powder that was black in color, was also used. After July of 1895cartridges produced at Frankford Arsenal also began using Laflin & Rand's W.-A. smokeless powder, which can be identified by its yellow coloration and perforated tubular grains.

    Charges of these powders necessary to reach standard chamber pressure of 38,000 psi. and achieve 2,200 fps. muzzle velocity
    with the 220 grain service bullet were 36 grains of Peyton or du Pont, and 42 grains of Laflin & Rand W.-A.

    Evidently all three powders were used in varying degrees until the end of .30-40 ammunition by government arsenals, which apparently did not cease until the end of WWI, and Laflin & Rand's W.-A. was the primary powder used in the original .30 caliber Model 1903 cartridge.


  5. #5
    Boolit Master Savvy Jack's Avatar
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    Mar 2009
    Hickory, NC
    Quote Originally Posted by jrmartin1964 View Post
    Evidently all three powders were used in varying degrees until the end of .30-40 ammunition by government arsenals, which apparently did not cease until the end of WWI, and Laflin & Rand's W.-A. was the primary powder used in the original .30 caliber Model 1903 cartridge.Jim
    I just finished scanning Reports to the chief of ordinance from 1893 to 1900 and my brain is literally fried!!!!

    I came to the same conclusion.

    Wetteren was the base for a very long time

    1895 report, Whister & Aspinwall was actually mentioned by name. Page 23

    By 1896 The three contracts were:


    Ruby was mentioned a lot for Cannon and other larger guns

    Dupont No. 1 Smokeless powder was mentioned.

    My brain just stopped.........

  6. #6
    Boolit Buddy

    Black Powder Bill's Avatar
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    Mar 2010
    Madison County Ga.
    I have a can of Kings Semi-Smokless still sealed.

    I should try it out!?

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    What I write on this forum or any forum is my opinion unless otherwise stated.

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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
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HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
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LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
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