Thanks for the response. I pretty much convinced myself that shooting powder would be a mistake. The construction is robust and I'm sure that it would handle it. That said the pistol is cool because it is simple to use and easy to clean. Shooting powder would defeat that.
I don't know where the pistol came from, it was my mothers. At one time my parents imported directly from some of the Italian manufactures. It may have come from that time or just a cool piece that she picked up on her travels. So the Readers Digest answer to the question of where it came from is"I don't know".