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View Full Version : Black vs Pyrodex vs Triple Se7en?


Josh Smith
September 30, 2010, 04:40 AM
Hello,

I'm sitting here reading all these arguments on the 'net about real black powder vs subs. So I went and looked at the actual ingredients, and here's what I found:

Black powder is charcoal, sulfur, and potassium nitrate (but we knew that).

Pyrodex is charcoal, sulfur, sodium nitrate, and potassium nitrate, with potassium perchlorate added.

Triple Se7en is charcoal, potassium nitrate, and potassium perchlorate (Pyrodex without the sulfur).

So it's basically the same stuff. Pyrodex contains an additional oxidizer, as does Triple Se7en, and the latter doesn't have sulfur. All contain a bit of graphite, likely to help flow, as most smokeless powders meant for reloading have it also.

Can't find the MSDS on Shockey's Gold. I wonder if they're embarrassed to put it out there? It is extremely inconsistent and pretty good at making noise, but that's about it. Regardless, we know it's based on ascorbic acid, and probably has an oxidizer and binder in there too. But we'll leave it out of this because it's just not much good.

So why the arguments? The Big 3 - Black, Pyrodex, and Triple Se7en powders - all share most of the same ingredients. Additionally, "real" black powder has historically contained less than the optimum amount of oxidizer at times (early pioneers would often urinate on it and let it dry as a chemical in urine is an oxidizer - they didn't know why it worked, but it did). Too, substitutions were made, for example, sodium nitrate would be used in place of potassium nitrate at times when the latter was scarce.

True black has been more than one thing with more than one mixture - and in my mind, Pyrodex, if not Triple Se7en, would be close enough to the various mixtures to qualify as "true black" at one point or another in history.

And I do have one related question as well: Potassium chlorate is a salt. IIRC, it's the same stuff given off by "corrosive" primers when they're fired. It's the salts which attract moisture and induce oxidization in barrels.

How are these barrels safe? Doesn't seem they would be... unless the charcoal absorbs the moisture and holds it there.

So the two questions are these:

Why the arguments

and

how does a charged barrel not rust?

Thanks,

Josh

mykeal
September 30, 2010, 05:04 AM
Like I said on the other forum where you posted the same thing: some people like Fords, some like Chevys and still others like Chryslers. So what?

B.L.E.
September 30, 2010, 05:44 AM
The graphite coating is also there to prevent the buildup of static electric charges as well as make it flow better.

Also, it's not so much black vs subs as it is Swiss verses Goex verses Shuetzen verses Elephant as far as I'm concerned. There are excellent and mediocre black powders out there. If the company that makes Pyrodex also made black powder, would the precision bench rest shooters forgo Swiss for this black powder?

Rifleman1776
September 30, 2010, 08:22 AM
(early pioneers would often urinate on it and let it dry as a chemical in urine is an oxidizer - they didn't know why it worked, but it did).

I have been active in traditional muzzle loading for nearly 50 years. In that time I have read hundreds of articles and dozens of books about our American ancestors using muzzle loading firearms. Never have I read or heard a reference to urinating on black powder. Without being able to point out a reliable source for your statement, I have to call it hogwash.

As for one choosing one powder over another, it is a matter of personal choice. As a traditionalist, I choose to use real black powder only. I have no desire to use the substitutes.
For what it is worth, at their request, I tested Pyrodex before it came on the market sometime in the mid-70s. Very hard to ignite. And it does corrode if guns are not quickly properly cleaned. That was the last time I ever used a 'substitute' powder.
BTW, I knew Dan Pawlak, the inventor of Pyrodex. He was a fine person and brilliant scientist. His untimely death was a sad, tragic loss for us all.

noelf2
September 30, 2010, 09:03 AM
Without being able to point out a reliable source for your statement, I have to call it hogwash.

Call it what you want, then do some chemistry research. I can't confirm that it was done back in the day (wasn't there), but urine contains saltpeter. I have read that, sometimes, stale urine was used instead of water when making black powder. More oxygen, better burn (every little bit helps). From The Foxfire Book, Volume 5 - © 1979 (http://www.dangerouslaboratories.org/foxfire5.html)

Rifleman1776
September 30, 2010, 10:56 AM
noelf2, you beat me to it. I did do some research and was about to post the Foxfire reference.
But, note, the use of urine for making bp was stale urine. It was added for its nitrogen value and to keep the mixture moist while working. (that must have smelled great. :barf: )
Peeing on already made black powder has yet to surface as a beneficial thing to do.
On the muzzle loading/black powder/history forum I asked about this, one member suggested peeing on Pyrodex would be an appropriate form of expression. :eek: He said it, I didn't. I might be thinking it, but I didn't say it. :rolleyes:

RWBlue01
September 30, 2010, 11:24 AM
I have used Goex Black and Pyro and I think it was called black canyon.

Pyro was more accurate in my inline and revolver from what I remember.
Goex was better in the traditional rifle, pistols.
Black canyon was useless. It just didn't work. I ended up using it as fertilizer.

Is this what others are seeing?

arcticap
September 30, 2010, 12:08 PM
But, note, the use of urine for making bp was stale urine. It was added for its nitrogen value and to keep the mixture moist while working. (that must have smelled great. )
Peeing on already made black powder has yet to surface as a beneficial thing to do.


According to the theory described below, whether the source of the moisture is urine or not, it's quite possible that properly adding the right amount of urine to weaker black powder could enhance its performance simply because urine contains moisture which would act as a dissolving agent.

Just FYI, adding the water also increases the strength of the Black Powder by allowing some of the Potassium Nitrate to dissolve and be absorbed into the pores of the charcoal particles.

http://www.unitednuclear.com/index.php?main_page=page&id=4

Poodleshooter
September 30, 2010, 12:11 PM
The arguments occur because we don't have enough objective information to qualify what makes one brand better than another in a given weapon. We just have experience and opinions. The MSDS doesn't contain enough detailed data to give us useful info on real world powder performance. It doesn't tell us that one company uses some super clean alderwood charcoal,while another uses charcoal from pallet scraps off of the loading dock.
Goex, Schutzen and Elephant FF may all be charcoal,sulphur and saltpeter on the data sheet, but they sure give different velocities and produce different amounts of ash and fouling since the quality of the ingredients and/or the manufacturing process differs.
The same differences are found in the various non-fouling substitutes, which trade a cleaner burn for more difficult ignition. The variances in our ignition systems don't help the matter much. Will ignition matter to the guy shooting 209s? It sure will to the rocklocker or someone using a sidehammer with #11s.

Josh Smith
September 30, 2010, 03:32 PM
Thank you for the information.

I'm going to try to get my hands on true black, but for now I had to go with Pyrodex just to get away from that Shockey's Gold stuff that came with the muzzleloader.

I never stopped to consider what the charcoal was made from. I always figured carbon was carbon. Then I stumbled across something called brown powder that seemed to compete with black for a bit... so I'm going to have to read up more on this subject. I'm NOT a chemist by any stretch of the imagination.

I did see I made a typo: Pyrodex contains POTASSIUM NITRATE as well; I put sodium nitrate.

I was thinking ahead to a future paragraph where I would address the sodium nitrate thing in old black.

Sorry for the confusion.

Thank you, again, for the info!

Josh

Josh Smith
September 30, 2010, 07:57 PM
Hello,

Just got back in from shooting Pyrodex and cleaning the rifle just like I do my C&R firearms.

First, this is how I cleaned it:

1. Soapy water. I used to pour boiling water down the barrel, but I found that this does the trick just as well - or perhaps a bit better - if the patches are wrapped around a bronze brush and totally saturated. I did this two or three times.

2. Rinsed it out in the same manner, using regular hot water.

3. Ran some dry patches down the bore to dry it out, and did the same with the nipple and drum.

4. Applied lanolin. This has become a favorite of mine for bore conditioning, water repelling, and getting past rust.

5. Ran a dry patch down the barrel to get rid of the excess lanolin.

I've never had a firearm thus treated rust.

Observations:

First, this rifle LOVES Pyrodex and round balls. I was shooting at 30 yards or so working up loads for squirrel. It shot pretty much at the same place with 30gns to 90gns (the highest I tried) at that range. Twenty grains dropped the ball quickly, but was still good to 30yds.

Offhand groups were pretty much one hole with the same charge. Hate to say it, but I shoot this rifle more instinctively and just better from a non-rested standing position than any of my modern rifles. I will have to shoot for 50yd groups again - I bet they come in near 1/2".

I LOVE the smell of Pyrodex - which I'm guessing is real similar to the smell of true black.

I did have a spent cap land on my right hand - it's a downside of being a lefty shooting a righty lock I guess - and it seared the skin pretty good. Probably will scar. I'll wear it with pride :D

I have six balls left. A gent from another board is sending me a .490" T/C round ball mould. That will be real nice to have as I cast for my .45acp and do have some pure lead ingots. Got to thinking that it would take me about an hour to shoot up those remaining six balls though - while I could do 200 round of aimed .22LR with my "squirrel sniper" heavy barreled Savage MkII in about the same time.

I don't care about price per shot; if I shoot right, I won't be able to use ammo up near as fast!

The Pyrodex just makes me hungry to try true black. If this rifle can shoot this much better with Pyrodex than with that Shockey's Gold stuff, I wonder if it would do even better with true FFg..?

Hmmm...

Josh

mykeal
September 30, 2010, 08:14 PM
If the company that makes Pyrodex also made black powder, would the precision bench rest shooters forgo Swiss for this black powder?
I have no idea what that question means, but...they do. Hodgdon Powder, the manufacturer of Pyrodex, also owns Goex.

noelf2
September 30, 2010, 08:49 PM
I have used Goex Black and Pyro and I think it was called black canyon.

Yes, Black Canyon was absolute waste of space and time. It's one of those attempts to use sugar or fruit juice instead of sulfur. Most hygroscopic garbage ever made. I have a container of it on my safe. It is a solid clump in the jar. I like to take pieces off it and burn it. It sizzles and melts down into a gelatinous goo.

B.L.E.
September 30, 2010, 09:37 PM
Hodgdon Powder, the manufacturer of Pyrodex, also owns Goex.

Well, shucks, I learn something every day.

Poodleshooter
October 1, 2010, 12:31 PM
If this rifle can shoot this much better with Pyrodex than with that Shockey's Gold stuff, I wonder if it would do even better with true FFg..?
If you're having ignition troubles, hangfires, etc, definitely try black powder. Otherwise, there's not much point. Real BP fouls the bore much quicker, particularly in patched round ball shooters.
I can get 3 rounds down the barrel without swabbing using Goex FFg BP. A few more if using good Swiss or Schuetzen powder. With old Elephant, I couldn't get more than 2 of them down the pipe. With Pyrodex or 777, I can load without swabbing for as many rounds as I can shoot in an afternoon. This is given the same lube, patches,etc.
I only shoot a lot of real BP because I shoot flintlocks. For my 209 or musket caplocks it's nothing but substitutes.

Hawg Haggen
October 2, 2010, 09:09 AM
I tested Pyrodex before it came on the market sometime in the mid-70s. Very hard to ignite. And it does corrode if guns are not quickly properly cleaned.

I use Pyrodex exclusively and I've never had an ignition problem but I don't use flinters. I sometimes go two or three days without cleaning and have gone as many as nine. No rust, no corrosion.

mykeal
October 2, 2010, 08:15 PM
I, too, had a very bad experience with the early Pyrodex in 1976; completely ruined a Pietta 1851 Navy, my first bp revolver, with only a couple of days without cleaning. Stopped using it as a result for several years, but at some point they changed the formulation so that it's more like real black powder in terms of the salts left as combustion by-products. I have used it off and on over the last 10 years with no corrosion issues. I still prefer real black, but have no qualms about using Pyrodex and treating it just like the real stuff as far as cleaning is concerned.