The Firing Line Forums

Go Back   The Firing Line Forums > The Skunkworks > Handloading, Reloading, and Bullet Casting

Reply
 
Thread Tools
Old November 16, 2010, 01:58 AM   #1
dreamweaver
Senior Member
 
Join Date: January 23, 2008
Posts: 713
gun powder vs black powder??

OK, dumb question:
black powder goes "BOOM" in fireworks and explosive charges. and works pretty well in older muskets etc..
gunpowder offers a variable burn so fine tuning ammo loads is possible (?).
which yields the greatest energy?
simple example; one pound of unique vs one pound of black powder, same size container, loose pour. which makes the biggest hole in the ground?
thanks
__________________
http://takdriver.com/
dreamweaver is offline  
Old November 16, 2010, 02:46 AM   #2
Rangefinder
Senior Member
 
Join Date: August 4, 2005
Posts: 2,017
A HUGE factor in this equation is burn rate and expansion of gases produced. That's where your pressure yields come from. BP just doesn't have what it takes when compared to modern smokeless powder. Some of the older cartridges were originally designed to use BP, and still do. A lot of your 45-90, 45-110/120 were BP cartridges, and are still loaded that way by traditionalists. Same goes with the 30-30 and .32 Win Sp. They can be loaded with BP, and people do it. But where performance is concerned, it doesn't perform on the same level. If it did, we'd all be using it a lot more than we do.
__________________
"Why is is called Common Sense when it seems so few actually possess it?"

Guns only have two enemies: Rust and Politicians.
Rangefinder is offline  
Old November 16, 2010, 04:34 AM   #3
testuser
Senior Member
 
Join Date: September 8, 2010
Posts: 495
In terms of energy per pound it's easily smokeless powder. No question.

Single based powders are nitrocellulose (gun cotton), double based powders are nitrocellulose dissolved in nitroglycerin.

Black powder is an explosive (creates gas very rapidly!), smokeless powder is a propellant (converted into mostly gas, is consumed more), so black powder is better suited to putting a hole in the ground.

The key to smokeless powder is it's controllable burn rate and ability to efficiently convert itself to gas. Where as black powders burn rate can only be roughly controlled by the size of the grains and doesn't produces nearly the same volume of gas. In fact, you get a lot of fouling, better off converting your solid into gas if you want to propel a bullet instead of fouling.

That's my understand of it, anyway.
testuser is offline  
Old November 16, 2010, 06:46 AM   #4
Sport45
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 25, 1999
Location: Too close to Houston
Posts: 4,053
I think testuser has it correct in his post above. Drill a big hole in a tree stump and fill it with black powder. Set it off with a length of cannon fuse and you'll likely splinter the stump. The same size hole in a similar stump filled with H4895 will give you an impressive jet of flame and a noxious smoke cloud.

A pipe bomb filled with the same H4895 would most likely explode with lethal effect where a pipe bomb filled with black powder MAY actually contain the blast and rocket away on a trail of gas vented out the fuse hole. (I wouldn't personally try either.)
__________________
Proud member of the NRA and Texas State Rifle Association. Registered and active voter.
Sport45 is offline  
Old November 16, 2010, 09:17 AM   #5
Rifleman1776
Senior Member
 
Join Date: April 25, 2010
Location: Arkansas
Posts: 3,309
Explanations given are right on.
I am a traditionalist and use a lot of bp in my old and old style muzzle loaders.
But, I, and others do this to reenact and try to relive the ways of times gone by. If bp were more effective than modern smokeless powders the new stuff would never have been invented.
It is like going from mules to Corvettes.
Rifleman1776 is offline  
Old November 17, 2010, 08:29 AM   #6
LDBennett
Member
 
Join Date: September 2, 2010
Location: Hesperia CA
Posts: 63
Smokeless powder inside a containment vessel, like a cartridge case, creates more pressure as the bullet exits the cartridge case than the same case filled with black powder.

The difference was so great when smokeless came into use in the late 1800's that the barrels of the time were found to be inadequate to contain that increase in pressure. Better steels were needed to handle the pressures.

And as stated above black powder is considered an explosive and must be treated as such whereas smokeless powder is a propellant and not nearly as dangerous to handle.

If you make a pair of parallel lines of both black powder and smokeless powder and light them off then the difference in the burn is huge. The black powder burns fast and the flame travels the line quickly whereas the smokeless powder line will be hard to start and burn the line (if at all) slowly. Of course, in a contained volume the smokeless powder generates much higher pressures than the black powder.

LDBennett
LDBennett is offline  
Old November 17, 2010, 07:46 PM   #7
dreamweaver
Senior Member
 
Join Date: January 23, 2008
Posts: 713
appreciate the explanations.
the question came to mind because i see lots of reference for using black powder to blow up stumps, but no mention of gunpowder.
thanks!
__________________
http://takdriver.com/
dreamweaver is offline  
Old November 17, 2010, 07:51 PM   #8
Brian Pfleuger
Staff
 
Join Date: June 25, 2008
Location: Central, Southern NY, USA
Posts: 18,568
Quote:
Originally Posted by LDBennett
If you make a pair of parallel lines of both black powder and smokeless powder and light them off then the difference in the burn is huge. The black powder burns fast and the flame travels the line quickly whereas the smokeless powder line will be hard to start and burn the line (if at all) slowly. Of course, in a contained volume the smokeless powder generates much higher pressures than the black powder.
Try that with a pistol powder and you won't be talking about hard to light and slow burning! I've done it with Power Pistol and Unique. WOOOOOOOOOSH!!!!!
__________________
Still happily answering to the call-sign Peetza.
---
The problem, as you so eloquently put it, is choice.
-The Architect
-----
He is no fool who gives what he can not keep to gain what he can not lose.
-Jim Eliott, paraphrasing Philip Henry.
Brian Pfleuger is offline  
Old November 17, 2010, 08:53 PM   #9
brickeyee
Senior Member
 
Join Date: December 29, 2004
Posts: 3,342
Quote:
the question came to mind because i see lots of reference for using black powder to blow up stumps, but no mention of gunpowder.
in sufficient quantity black powder goes high order and is a real explosive.

It detonates generating shock waves than can fracture material.

Smokeless poweder will not detonate (it has been designed to deflagrate to hot gases very rapidly.

The difference in a closed bomb is a burst event (typically a few larger pieces) and an explosive even (a greater number of small pieces from the shock wave fracturing the container).
brickeyee is offline  
Old November 18, 2010, 02:09 AM   #10
Doodlebugger45
Senior Member
 
Join Date: April 15, 2009
Location: Wyoming
Posts: 1,717
Quote:
appreciate the explanations.
the question came to mind because i see lots of reference for using black powder to blow up stumps, but no mention of gunpowder.
thanks!
Well... I hate to be nitpicky, but black powder IS gun powder. So is smokeless powder, just a lot different.

As far as the "power" comparison, well it's a hard thing to say. I suppose a chemist could quantify the actual BTUs released during the burning. But it boils down to what you are trying to do. Blowing up a tree stump is a different goal than propelling a .243 slug across the prairie to a golf ball sized target 400 yards away.

And I guess it's just my night to nitpick, but I couldn't let this one just sit...

Quote:
Some of the older cartridges were originally designed to use BP, and still do. A lot of your 45-90, 45-110/120 were BP cartridges, and are still loaded that way by traditionalists. Same goes with the 30-30 and .32 Win Sp.
No, not exactly. The cartridge we now call the 30-30 was a phenom at the time because it was one of the very first designed from the ground up for smokeless powder. Winchester first called this amazing cartridge the ".30 Smokeless" cartridge. Well, that sure wouldn't fit on a case rim so they labeled it as "30 W C F" on the cases. That motivated Marlin to catch up with their own version of this amazing new smokeless technology, so they hurried things along and figured it out pretty well within months and came out with their own version of cartridges and guns. They wanted their own name though, so following the old convention of blackpowder cartridges like 45-70, 50-90, etc, they came up with the 30-30 name because it used 30 grains of this miraculous powder under the 30 caliber bullet. Exact same dsimensions of the Winchester cartridge.... hmmmm.....

Sorry for the digression, but everyone needs to know the history of the 30-30 cartridge. At least as I remember it
Doodlebugger45 is offline  
Old November 18, 2010, 02:42 AM   #11
henryfrapp
Member
 
Join Date: November 11, 2010
Posts: 58
Doodlebugger's right 30-30 and the 32 special are smokeless cartridges.
henryfrapp is offline  
Old November 18, 2010, 06:02 AM   #12
Rifleman1776
Senior Member
 
Join Date: April 25, 2010
Location: Arkansas
Posts: 3,309
Quote:
At least as I remember it
If you were there, who can argue?
Rifleman1776 is offline  
Old November 18, 2010, 10:33 AM   #13
Rangefinder
Senior Member
 
Join Date: August 4, 2005
Posts: 2,017
Quote:
The cartridge we now call the 30-30 was a phenom at the time because it was one of the very first designed from the ground up for smokeless powder.
Yep, you are completely correct. Had it tucked in the back of my head somewhere, but tend to misfile things occasionally. The 30-30 was a big transitional kick-off to smokeless powder from the former black powder cartridges (that would be the ones mentioned earlier and the 32-40, not 32 WS). The 32 WS was not originally intended to use BP either, and was marketed originally as a step between the 30 WCF and the 30 Army (30-40), but didn't catch on. The thing that hung it in the original BP category was that it was rumored to be more 'friendly' for BP reloading, having a larger bore and longer twist rate making it less troublesome to fouling--but we know how rumors are. None the less, neither it, nor the 30-30 were intentionally BP at all, and were the stepping stones for the smokeless era. In a round-about sort of way, it still shows the original intent of why smokeless is still used and BP went by the way-side.

Thanks for the correct
__________________
"Why is is called Common Sense when it seems so few actually possess it?"

Guns only have two enemies: Rust and Politicians.
Rangefinder is offline  
Reply

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 10:18 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
This site and contents, including all posts, Copyright © 1998-2014 S.W.A.T. Magazine
Copyright Complaints: Please direct DMCA Takedown Notices to the registered agent: thefiringline.com
Contact Us
Page generated in 0.09766 seconds with 7 queries