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Old May 9, 2007, 02:02 AM   #1
MDman
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TNT rather than gun powder

I was just curious if there had been any work into using a more volatile explosive than gun powder. I imagine the benefits would be you could have a smaller cartridge also meaning less weight. this could also help in the development of a case less cartridge.
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Old May 9, 2007, 02:25 AM   #2
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A high energy exposive like TNT has a shattering effect when it detonates. Although I'm no expert, I think TNT powder could detonate under the conditions (high pressure, confined space) shortly after ignition. That means firing a TNT propellant cartridge is touching off a fragmentation bomb right in front of your face
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Old May 9, 2007, 03:13 AM   #3
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I know that over time TNT reverts back towards the attributes of nitroglycerin where kinetic energy (shock) can set it off. Of course it takes years and years to do this. Not sure on an exact time. I will look.

Edit: Wasn't gunpowder used as explosive in China in the first stages of rocket warfare? (fireworks) So we alreasy are, in fact, touching off part of a bomb when we shoot.
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Old May 9, 2007, 03:17 AM   #4
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I wasn’t specifically thinking of TNT, actually I was thinking more along the lines of C-4. I can imagine shaping the charge, to create an amazing amount of pressure inside the chamber. and obviously the amount of C-4 would be very small.

its just a thought
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Old May 9, 2007, 03:43 AM   #5
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I think it's going to have a lot to do with burn rates. You don't want a propellant that is going to burn too fast because pressures would spike quickly and then fall off as the bullet travels down the barrel. You want something that burn a little bit slower so that as the bullet travels down the barrel the pressures are being kept up by the still burning powder.
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Old May 9, 2007, 04:17 AM   #6
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+1 Axion. Pretty well said.

Some explosives are just far too fast. Last I looked, the material used in det-cord had a burn rate measured in hundreds of meters per second! The fastest I've heard of was det cord used in large scale mining operations that burned at 5.25 miles/sec. (over 27,000 fps)

Black and smokeless powders are "low explosives" meaning they burn slower and release less power per pound than high explosives. High explosives burn so quickly that they virtually vaporize instantly, creating high pressure shockwaves (with or without fragments).

The steel alloys needed to contain the pressures safely, shot after shot would be substantial while the actual explosive and its corresponding projectile would be small. Sure, you might get a little .22 bullet to move fast using a very small amount of C4, but to relieve the pressure quickly enough, you'd need a short barrel. Think of one of those ugly 2" N-Frame snubbies in .22 with a 5-shot cylinder. I'll leave the problem of dispersing the shockwave through the grips as an exercise for the advanced reader.
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Old May 9, 2007, 06:44 AM   #7
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You wouldn't want a more volatile propellant, which would be one more likely to go off before you wanted it to. There are certainly "fast" propellants, the best known one being Bullseye. I don't see how it would help with a caseless projectile. But most of the weight in a round of ammuntion is in the projectile anyway, so while there might be some weight savings, it wouldn't be that much.

The basic concept has a following, however. The recently introduced Glock .45 is based entirely on the idea that smaller is better, at least in some ways. However, there is also a mistaken idea that a hotter propellant will produce higher velocities, because it will all burn up inside the barrel and will not be "wasted." A faster (hotter) propellant will certainly burn up entirely inside the barrel and is therefore more efficient, if that's what you're after, but it won't necessarily produce a higher velocity (if that's what you're after) than a slower burning powder. The primer also makes a difference as well.

There is caseless ammuntion in use, sort of, already. I mentioned in another thread that 120mm tank gun ammuntion has a metal base but the case itself is consumed upon firing. But it is not without problems. Tanks have not been going through a lot of main gun ammuntion in Iraq, so the rounds just lay there for most of a deployment. Evidently they deteriorate to the point that the bases will come off when the rounds are handled, though it isn't necessarily because they have combustible cases, although it might be likely. The propellant is not loose inside the cases, by the way.

You probably know already that not all propellants are powders and powders themselves come in a large variety of forms, just for small arms alone. The only non-powder propellant I know of is cordite. If you have a British .303 round, pull the bullet and check out the contents. It's interesting.
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Old May 9, 2007, 11:01 AM   #8
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Quote:
I was just curious if there had been any work into using a more volatile explosive than gun powder. I imagine the benefits would be you could have a smaller cartridge also meaning less weight. this could also help in the development of a case less cartridge.
RDX is generally viewed as pretty fast burning and it's used in larger rounds.

I gather the 19 Perf Hex JA2 propellant is distinguised from JA2 proper by the inclusion of 25% 5 micron RDX by weight showing a small MV increase.

Given the "Wiki" description of RDX:
Quote:
...synthesized state RDX is a white, crystalline solid. As an explosive it is usually used in mixtures with other explosives and plasticizers or desensitizers. It is stable in storage and is considered one of the most powerful and brisant of the military high explosives.
I'm not seeing much of a performance increase given a 25% RDX cocktail, leading me to believe I'm missing something obvious.

120mm link

online patent stuff

Wiki RDX

Maybe somebody else can figure it out.
(scroll down on the patent page - the "meat" is there after the ads).
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Old May 9, 2007, 12:20 PM   #9
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When nitrocellulose was first synthisized in the 1800s there were a number of people who tried to adapt it to use as a firearms propellant.

The early efforts weren't successful becase it burned too quickly and it was very, very sentisitve.

French chemist Paul Vielle figured out the equasion in the 1870s/early 1880s and the result was the first truly smokeless powder. The trick was to regulate the burning rate of the guncotton.
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Old May 9, 2007, 12:22 PM   #10
ArfinGreebly
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Explosive?

Quote:
more volatile explosive than gun powder
Actually, smokeless powder is not classified as an explosive.

It probably sounds like a nit, but it's a propellant.

It has (for any given grade) a carefully calibrated burn rate.

Black powder, on the other hand, is classified as an explosive.

In general, you want something in your cartridge with a known burn rate that takes advantage of the dynamics of the "system" as a whole (chamber diameter, barrel length, etc.)

So, just going for a "bigger, faster bang" doesn't lead to better performance.
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Old May 9, 2007, 12:54 PM   #11
Mike Irwin
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Department of Transportation classifies smokeless powder as a flammable solid for interstate transportation purposes, not an explosive.
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Old May 9, 2007, 01:52 PM   #12
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RDX in artillery propellant? Wow. The hottest thing I had heard of was triple base with nitroguanadine in 30mm.

I once read that the propellant of the H&K G11 caseless was an explosive "denatured" to a burn rate suitable for firearms rather than conventional nitrocellulose or nitrocellulose-nitroglycerine.

The characteristics of nitrocellulose are regulated by the degree of nitration, which is controlled by the concentration of nitrating acid (nitric + sulfuric acids) and reaction time and temperature. Low nitration, you have celluloid for collars and pool balls; medium nitration, you have guncotton as made into smokeless powder; high nitration, you have high explosive grade guncotton. Of which latter one of the survivalist/revolutionary/terrorist "manuals" described as "homemade RDX". Not the same chemistry but easier to make, as powerful... and a lot more dangerous.
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Old May 9, 2007, 04:44 PM   #13
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I think in time we will invent a stable enhancement to gun powder.
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