View Full Version : Homemade Gunpowder

November 15, 2007, 02:21 AM
I was thinking about getting into reloading soon and I was wondering if anyone makes their own gunpowder? Please excuse me if that's a completely idiotic question, I just had no idea whether it was even feasible or not.

I'm not really considering doing that or anything, if I start reloading I will find someone knowledgeable to mentor me and be extremely careful and do everything by the book. I was just wondering if, say in times of emergency, would it even be possible to make your own gunpowder for reloading? I wouldn't consider doing it myself, but my boss was a chemistry professor at a university for a long time and I would think that it could be possible for someone of his caliber to undertake something like that. Any thoughts? Please don't flame me, I only created this post because I couldn't find any existing posts on the subject, although I did find several sites on-line that show how to make gunpowder.

Thanks for understanding that I only mean this to be a theoretical question. I know a lot of you guys are REALLY into doing-it-yourself and thought that someone out there might actually be competent enough to handle something like that safely.

November 15, 2007, 02:42 AM
You can make blackpowder with primitive technology (ie home technology) but you cannot make smokeless

WildboomAlaska TM

k Squared
November 15, 2007, 05:05 AM

Welcome to the Reloading Club.

There are an awful lot of reloaders out there that take tremendous pride in doing as much of the reloading process as possible by themselves, but I've never heard of anyone making the their own power.

The cost of setting up and maintaining a very stringent quality control, along with the risk associated with manufacturing the power make it a no-win option. There are also all the costs associated with getting a license and zoning authorization for manufacturing propellants (notice I didn't say explosives;))

November 15, 2007, 08:26 AM
That's understandable. I guess I was just envisioning some kind of "fit-hits-the-shan" scenario where we might have to really take "roll your own" to another level. I guess if that was the case we'd be lucky to have muzzle-loading blackpowder zip guns or something. Maybe I shouldn't watch mad max before posting to TFL.com!

Anyway, I'm excited to get into reloading and I'm glad there is so much info here on these forums. I've read some of the stickys and other posts and I think I will start with "The ABC's of Reloading" book and then possibly pick up a Rock Chucker kit and try loading some .38/.357 Mags. Maybe 9mm after that, but they're cheap enough now I can afford to just shoot factory loads.

Is it normal to feel this overwhelming wave of stupidity for not saving all the brass I've fired over the last 20 or so years? Man, I wish I would have had the foresight to even keep half of it all!

November 15, 2007, 09:28 AM
Is it normal to feel this overwhelming wave of stupidity for not saving all the brass I've fired over the last 20 or so years? Man, I wish I would have had the foresight to even keep half of it all!

Hindsight is wonderful ain't it?:p

Mike Irwin
November 15, 2007, 11:17 AM
You can certainly make your own black powder.

Not a bright idea, though.

Explosions at powder mills used to be relatively common, and they took exhaustive steps to prevent that from happening.

November 15, 2007, 11:49 AM
Without getting too detailed, it is possible for black powder.

Saltpeter (potash), Charcoal and Sulphur in the right quantities. I'm not going to publish it here because I don't want anyone blowing themselves up, but a web search will tell you how.

Nitrocellulose powder is out of most folks' capabilities.

Another (much easier) way to reload a cartridge in a SHTF situation is this:


Look at "rifle cartridge" and "reusable primer".

You basically use strike-anywhere matches. The white tip of the match is used for a makeshift priming compound, and the red part of the match is used for propellant.

This technique is used for rifle cartridges though. Probably wouldn't work with a revolver cartridge.

As always understood in the reloading forum: I ain't yer daddy, your own decision to monkey with things you don't fully understand is not my responsibility. This stuff can be dangerous, and turn into a small handheld bomb if done incorrectly.

ETA: welcome to reloading, it's fun and let's you shoot a lot more than those suckers who only shoot factory ammo.

November 15, 2007, 01:09 PM
Is it possible for black powder? O yes, junior high and high school kids have been getting into trouble for years for doing that. Smokeless powder , however, would be very diffucult to even get all of the ingrediants. I read a discription of it over 20 years ago.
As for the improvised munitions, keep in mind those are intended for situations where you have to get the gun in use even if it might destroy same.

November 15, 2007, 01:45 PM
My next door neighbor used to work at a Hercules gunpowder plant. One day there was an accident. Thanks to good safety practices, everybody evacuated and no one got hurt, but the metal frame building where the nitrocellulose was drying out and where the fire started burned completely down to the foundation, there was nothing to haul away when it was all over. And these folks knew what they were doing. So I'd advise against it. If you're worried that powder may become less available, I'd suggest stocking up while you can.

November 15, 2007, 01:57 PM
Actually, making smokeless powder is fairly simple, but it does involve some rather nasty chemicals. Once the pulp is nitrated, it is dried with ether, which preserves the powder's "strength" and removes the water that is one of the byproducts of the reaction. The ether is VERY flammable, and is responsible for fires like the one mentioned above (drying powder). Then you get into testing the powder, pelletizing the powder, graphiting the powder, etc. Just buy your powder, it's much easier. You also won't have to explain to anyone how you lost your eye, hand, or whatever.

November 15, 2007, 04:57 PM
In one old Gun Digest there was an article about shooting .22 LR rifles, and the author had hooks for hands.

Somewhere in the article he mentioned that as a kid he tried making gunpowder. He quit after he lost his hands in the explosion.

I don't recommend anyone trying to make explosives at home.

November 15, 2007, 05:08 PM
I used to use that mixture to make my homemade "fireworks"...Blew up lots of goffer holes back in HS...wouldn't do it now. ATF might accuse you of being a terrorist...:barf:

Damn feds take the fun out of everything...

November 15, 2007, 08:09 PM
It seems to me the Firefox book had a description of making your own black powder for muzzle loaders from scratch, starting with storing human waste in sealed jars to ferment for a year, then pouring it through wood ash to pick up potassium, then letting what comes through dry so the saltpeter will crystalize out. You need the right kind of soft wood charcoal and you need sulfur. There's more to it than this, but it isn't impossible in a true Armageddon scenario to do. It just isn't a worthwhile safety risk under civilized circumstances, where you can just go buy some.

The reactions for making nitrocellulose for gun cotton have to be properly controlled, especially as to temperature, or they can blow up in your face and melt you like the wicked witch of the west. The safety considerations mentioned above go double for that. Plus, even if you get at supplies of nitric and sulfuric acid of high enough concentration to do this, you won't easily find rate retardants or grain forming equipment that would make good controlled burning rate smokeless powder. It is more likely you'd come up with something too fast and too easily detonated to be worth risking using it in a gun. You could blow up tree stumps with it maybe.

November 15, 2007, 10:25 PM
I bought a pamphlet a few years ago about a CIA study of making gunpowder. It involved dissolving/dispersing the ingredients in water and precipitating the powder with 100 proof alcohol (vodka.) They got variable results, none of which were as good as commercial powder. But in a pinch, behind enemy lines...

November 17, 2007, 10:05 PM
When I was a kid,,, soooo many years ago and you could buy Potassium Nitrate at the local drug store along with powdered Sulfer ( different trip or store of course). Me and my buddies would try to make Black Powder and of course, with our very limited experience and skills, it didn't work too well for much of anything. We knew the proportions, but it really didn't work well at all. We never learned the trick to make it work and it is probably just as well, at least we are still all here in one peice.
I guess I would just join the fellows that say, stock up on powder,, just in case TSHTF

November 17, 2007, 11:19 PM
kind of off topic, but

Nitrocellulose powder is out of most folks' capabilities.

Did it about 6 years ago while working in a chemistry lab at school.
made a softball-sized piece of it, and at home while showing my wife how cool the stuff was, lost most of my eyelashes & eyebrows, some facial hair, and most of the top layer of skin on my nose as well as some on my cheeks (that stuff burns REALLY fast and hot); thank God I must have closed my eyes in time - Docs were concerned about cornea damage.

It was unbelievable painful, and after a trip to a few emergency rooms (ended up at HCMC burn center) I think the FBI probably has a file on me somewhere (I think the doctors / nurses thought I was involved in making methamphetamine).

The moral of the story: Be very VERY careful when making or playing with explosives!!

44 AMP
November 18, 2007, 01:44 AM
If you do it enough, odds are you won't have a home afterwards. A friend of mine did make his own powder in his basement back when we were in high school. Basic blackpowder formula. It worked. Doesn't come out black though. Kind of yellow (from the sulfur). The black of black powder is added during the corning process (making it into grains) to retard moisture absorption.

Be aware that "blackpowder" can be detonated by heat, sparks, static electricity, and impact. And that sometimes it just detonates without any discernible reason at all.:eek: NOT a good idea for the home workshop. And today, there are not only laws against it, but they actually enforce them!

Smokeless powder (nitrocellulose) can also be made at home, so can Nitroglycerin, but again, unless you are a chemistry major (and are actually good, and lucky as well) it isn't a good idea. The chemicals involved are nasty, hazardous, corrosive, inhalation hazards, and the mixtures are EXTREMELY unstable at different points of the manufacturering process.

I remember one formula/instruction for making nitro at home that included using a bathtub as an ice bath, because when the chemicals mix, they self heat. The temp had to be kept below a certain point (by adding more ice), and the instructions included the warning that if the temp reached XX degrees, dump the mixture in the ice bath and RUN!!!! (I am serious, it actually said to do this:eek:) So I would think that it is not a good idea to try this kind of thing at home (or in your garage!) DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT!!!!!!

November 18, 2007, 02:52 AM
Interesting thread. Bottom line is that in a SHTF scenario, which IMO includes a Democrat in the White House as well as running Congress, you want to be sitting on a good supply of your favorite powders. That's what 5 and 8 lb. kegs are for.

Mach II Sailor
November 18, 2007, 08:55 AM
many years ago i made a lot of Black Powder, the secret is wet, as saturated in water, i could give detailed "how to" but probaly not legal or permitted here, sooooooo, i won't :D

November 18, 2007, 11:35 AM
In high school I tried making everything but nitroglycerin and fulminate of mercury. I chickened out on those, and am glad I did. I still have all my parts. Nitrocellulose, I remember, smelled like model airplane glo-plug engine exhaust after it burned, though I never made more than a cotton ball's worth at a time. Again, just as well.

You can make gunpowder as good as commercial BP at home, which I did back then, but with 40 years' hindsight, I think I am lucky to be alive. It takes some study because things you don't expect, like the grade and type of charcoal, play critical rolls in achieving top performance (and no, ground hardwood charcoal brickettes don't even come close). Caking, crushing, and grading grains is also usually ignored by amateurs and is also critical to top performance, same as with commercial BP. Even glazing the resulting grains with graphite to improve static charge dissipation and moisture resistance is a dangerous activity, what with having dry powder in a tumbler. The work has hazards at every stage, and I would not encourage doing it.

November 18, 2007, 12:30 PM
I think all BG's should be required to make their own gunpowder, that way there would be less of them.

November 19, 2007, 01:05 AM
In my SHTF scenario in which a republican is in the white house (particularly Guilani (sp)) I'd hoard all the Power Pistol I could find.