The Firing Line Forums

Go Back   The Firing Line Forums > The North Corral > Black Powder and Cowboy Action Shooting

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old October 4, 2018, 10:50 AM   #1
Senior Member
Join Date: October 23, 2005
Location: US
Posts: 2,868
Serious question, has anyone made their own BP and Percussion caps?

Just that. I've done some perusing and it appears that making black powder is not some super secret closely guarded art. It appears to be fairly simple and can be done safely with proper research.

I am also intrigued at the notion of making percussion caps with prime-all. Does anyone have any experience with this?

With both black powder and percussion caps, what can I expect? Is making black powder consistent from lot to lot feasible from a home ball mill? Is there an alternative to the prime-all kit (I literally just heard of this)? I believe I could strip matches for primer compound, and I wouldn't crank out more than a few hundred caps a year... would this be viable without being too time consuming? Does the standard 75-15-10 BP recipe roughly equate to, say, GOEX? Is there anything else I should know to get started. I intend to read a good bit and do a fair amount of research before even attempting this, but I'm just trying to get a good loose understanding upfront.

And no this isn't based on some strange prepper notion. I don't think the zombie apocalypse is near, nor am I concerned that I will be unable to purchase what I need for the foreseable future. I just enjoy working with my hands and self-sufficiency.
Support the NRA-ILA Auction, ends 03/09/2018
5whiskey is offline  
Old October 4, 2018, 11:14 AM   #2
Senior Member
Join Date: September 8, 2007
Location: Mississippi
Posts: 14,850
There several people at this forum that do it.
Hawg is offline  
Old October 4, 2018, 11:17 AM   #3
Senior Member
Join Date: October 23, 2005
Location: US
Posts: 2,868
^Noted Hawg, thanks.

I also see that there are a couple of old discussions here at TFL on it. I should have searched first, but still interested in percussion cap questions.
Support the NRA-ILA Auction, ends 03/09/2018
5whiskey is offline  
Old October 4, 2018, 11:25 AM   #4
Senior Member
Join Date: February 16, 2006
Location: IOWA
Posts: 7,362
You post takes me back !!!

I have never made my own BP but have shot some homemade and with no issues. When I was heavy into BuckSkinning many moons ago, we use to make a lot of our own stuff and have to admit it was enjoyable. As for caps, I have made my own but not familiar with Prime-All. I use to have a tap-a-cap tool.

I have seen more than one ratio listing. There is a process called "Corning", when making BP not sure how important it is but you may want to look into this...

BE Safe !!!
'Fundamental truths' are easy to recognize because they are verified daily through simple observation and thus, require no testing.
Pahoo is offline  
Old October 4, 2018, 11:49 AM   #5
Senior Member
Join Date: March 15, 2005
Location: Central Connecticut
Posts: 3,048
We're all biased and I have no personal experience making either.
Yet I will give you my opinion because I have watched some videos and read a lot of threads and posts by people who do make it.

There can be a lot of trial and error involved.
It can be messy.
And the more that people get involved with doing it, then the more time & money that can get invested into it.
From my perspective, it's not too much different than reloading cartridge ammo being that in order to make it worthwhile & cost efficient, a person needs to fulfill a certain volume and demand in order to benefit from what they invest into it.
If someone intends to consume a lot of powder and caps, then perhaps it's worth it to save an XXX amount of Dollars per pound.
Some folks do it because they simply enjoy doing it to be self-reliant and that's fine too.
Some people make their own charcoal and some people buy it. Making one's own charcoal then makes it a more time consuming and dirty endeavor than it already is without making charcoal.
Some flintlock shooters like to make their own BP and also hunt for their own flints. There's different levels of involvement.

I think the real debate is whether the hobbyist can duplicate Goex performance.
Some people would certainly claim that they can, but at the same time they recognize the differences.
I did see a video that used a chronograph to compare home made powder to factory powders with a revolver.
It performed quite well by the velocities but one doesn't get to see the quality of the granulation and the rest of the details about it.
I don't know if he was standing too close to the chronograph or not to even get accurate readings, but I assume it's accurate.
Some people say that their powder exceeds Goex performance. But I really don't know how much time, effort, ingredients & experimentation achieving those results involved.
One guy spoke about his XXX ton press to compress his powder into hockey pucks with.
Does it pour as well, does a person like how fluffy it is and does it need graphite or more dextrin or not?
Do you intend to use pure or 90% sulfur?
These are all questions that affect characteristics of the final product that in the end can only be compared to Goex on an individual basis.
Personally I would say don't do it half way and then expect it to be the equivalent of Goex.
If a person can appreciate it for what it is, a powder that works rather than being as good as commercial powder in all respects, then perhaps they won't be as disappointed.
If it's just about saving some money, then I'd say don't do it unless you really want to or need to.

Last edited by arcticap; October 4, 2018 at 12:14 PM.
arcticap is offline  
Old October 4, 2018, 01:31 PM   #6
Senior Member
Join Date: July 17, 2015
Location: South Central MO / Africa
Posts: 1,086
I bought a cap maker and prime-all from the same site that sells the prime all. I made is as far making some caps out of aluminum cans.

Mixing the prime-all looks to have some major pitfalls. Watching a couple videos on it. I don't think it's as simple as they purport it to be.

I've put it off for the future where I have more time on my hands but do plan to try it.
NRA Life Member
drobs is offline  
Old October 4, 2018, 01:50 PM   #7
Senior Member
Join Date: September 8, 2007
Location: Mississippi
Posts: 14,850
There's a guy at Gunslingers that has made caps. He goes by Washbuster. The secret to making reliable powder with repeatable results is corning then breaking it up and screening.
Hawg is offline  
Old October 4, 2018, 06:09 PM   #8
Senior Member
Join Date: May 19, 2010
Posts: 100
There is a long thread (694 posts so far) about DIY primer compounds on the Castboolits forum -
ofitg is offline  
Old October 4, 2018, 06:23 PM   #9
4V50 Gary
Join Date: November 2, 1998
Location: Colorado
Posts: 20,161
Only caps with Tap O Cap.

I won't try to make Holy Black. No willow charcoal for starters.
Vigilantibus et non dormientibus jura subveniunt. Molon Labe!
4V50 Gary is offline  
Old October 4, 2018, 08:12 PM   #10
Join Date: May 9, 2016
Posts: 89
I use to manufacture both BP and caps...
Centurion is offline  
Old October 4, 2018, 08:48 PM   #11
Senior Member
Join Date: December 20, 2007
Location: S.E. Minnesota
Posts: 4,375
I have made BP; made my own charcoal (I think it was cedar), nitrate stump remover, and cheap garden sulfur. It burned fast enough I think I could load .45 Colt cartridges or shotgun shells with it, but I never got around to trying that. I did not use any binders, and the grains kind of fell apart again into dust after a while. I still have a few ounces of that batch of powder.

If I was serious about it, the next step would be to find some better potassium nitrate, and a cheap (harbor freight) hydraulic press to make pucks. I think the charcoal I made was just fine, and I don't think the grade of sulfur matters that much. But once I proved I could do it, I just checked it off my list and didn't follow through.

I think I've read somewhere that The South used cottonwood charcoal during the Civil War. And that it burns about as fast as willow but is a lot dirtier. But I'm having trouble finding anything searching on the Internet right now to verify this.

You're probably better off buying a lifetime supply of commercial percussion caps (or switching to flintlock) than making your own caps. But if you're going to make your own, look up "Armstrong's mixture" rather than messing with mercury fulminate, etc. Mercury primers will ruin your brass, but are probably okay in a muzzle loader. Try not to blow your fingers off. And chlorate (Armstrong) primers are even more corrosive that black powder residue, so make sure you clean your guns after use if you go there.
"The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun"
zxcvbob is offline  
Old October 4, 2018, 09:26 PM   #12
Sure Shot Mc Gee
Senior Member
Join Date: January 2, 2012
Location: Minnesota
Posts: 3,608
Read how to make B/P a few years back. Its a definitely a challenge to make and does require some equipment to ease its making.

Over time {like driving a car} each time you make you get enlightened a little how to do better & better.

BTW: Never got into making my Caps. In there making the primer mix for is quite sensitive to pressure set off.

Being in my 70s a small unexpected explosion may be the last thing I witnessed.__

It's the recipe (75-15-10) I have used since day one of my making. Have never found a better recipe ~~to date.

Last edited by Sure Shot Mc Gee; October 6, 2018 at 03:25 PM.
Sure Shot Mc Gee is offline  
Old October 4, 2018, 11:59 PM   #13
Senior Member
Join Date: October 22, 2016
Posts: 2,202
When I ever asked the question about making your own black powder, I was often met with extreme resistance. So much so that I'm pretty sure this is what people responding were probably yelling while they replied with their opinions on the level of danger involved:

I don't think making caps is worth it, can get those pretty cheap and in good quantity to last you, but powder is not cheap and when you are using 40 grains in .45 Colt case, 70 grains in .45-70, IDK how much in a 12 gauge... it adds up quick.

By all means go for it, just be safe. I would love to do it myself and churn out a pound of bp a day if possible because I want to shoot a cannon and make a modern fougasse.
Any good revolver > Any good semi auto
TruthTellers is offline  
Old October 5, 2018, 09:35 AM   #14
Senior Member
Join Date: November 18, 2010
Location: Orygun
Posts: 781 also has a thread on making BP that must be even longer than the primer/cap making thread. It went on for at least a year. I learned a lot. It is a whole lot easier to just order 25-50 lbs and have it shipped to your door. It would be easier to mow lawns, shovel driveways or pick up deposit bottles from the side of the road to scrape up the money and just buy it. If you insist on DIY then go to the castboolits site and read til your eyes glaze over.
With over 15 perCUSSIN' revolvers, I've been called the Imelda Marcos of cap & ball.
SASS#3302 (Life), SASS Regulator, NRA (Life), DGB#129
Wolverton Mtn. Peacekeepers (WA), former Orygun Cowboy (Ranger, Posse from Hell)
Hellgate is offline  
Old October 5, 2018, 11:30 PM   #15
Senior Member
Join Date: October 23, 2005
Location: US
Posts: 2,868
Thank you all for the replies. Every one seems well reasoned and I have taken note. Just to clarify, I am not looking to save money hand over fist. I just into BP shooting, but none the less I don't foresee ever going through more than a few pounds a year. I am aware that the savings aren't really there. Best I figured I might break even in a few years after The purchase of a tumbler to be used as a ball mill.

I load my own ammo, fix my own cars, and when possible i make my own tools. It's about just knowing how and self sufficiency. That's my draw to this. Responses affirm my beliefs... It's entirely feasible to do it, but is barely worth the endeavor, if at all, unless you have an intangible motivation. I do.
Support the NRA-ILA Auction, ends 03/09/2018
5whiskey is offline  
Old October 6, 2018, 06:07 AM   #16
Senior Member
Join Date: February 9, 2006
Location: Homes in Brooklyn, NY and in Pennsylvania.
Posts: 5,033
I made my own a project....just to see what was involved. Made my own charcoal. The actual mixing and milling is straightforward. The bits afterward are more complex than I expected...compressing, corning, etc.
I used a Tap-o-cap to make the caps. That worked nicely.
What i found was that the entire process is labor intense. Good to know about but not worth the trouble for me. I buy ten to 20 pounds of BP, have it delivered and I am good for quite a while.
“Auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports ... all others are games.” Ernest Hemingway ...
NRA Life Member
darkgael is offline  
Old October 6, 2018, 12:03 PM   #17
Senior Member
Join Date: December 20, 2007
Location: S.E. Minnesota
Posts: 4,375
Originally Posted by darkgael
I made my own a project....just to see what was involved. Made my own charcoal. The actual mixing and milling is straightforward. The bits afterward are more complex than I expected...compressing, corning, etc.
What kind of wood did you use for the charcoal? (just curious) Willow? Grape vines? White cedar? The charcoal seems to be where all the art and magic takes place.
"The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun"
zxcvbob is offline  
Old October 6, 2018, 01:41 PM   #18
Senior Member
Join Date: January 22, 2009
Location: Texas
Posts: 2,212
I made a weak BP many years ago. I didn't know what I was doing. It would burn but not really explode. I have since then (the internet days) learned much more about it. It is not as simple as it seems. Yes you can make powder but I don't think you can match the commercial powders. I am reading the Cap Lock Rifle Book right now and different powders are discussed. And cussed. Some burn cleaner with more strength. Some are moist after firing and clean easily. Others do not. This was in the heyday of BP shooting.

I did buy 10 pounds of pure Potassium Nitrate from the link below to make my own powder. Also the gunslingergulch link will show you how to make powder and where to buy a tool to compress the powder to a puck so you can corn it in a grinder. The same guy that sells the tool will also sell you charcoal.

After all the research and watching videos I decided it is just better and easier to buy the powder and primers. I had a Tap-A-Cap tool but never got it to set off a rifle. So now I have around 40 pounds of powder, Goex, Pyrodex and Alliant MZ plus 8000+ caps. I am good for now. And I really liked the MZ powder. If you buy powder get the 25 pound lot from Powderinc. No hazmat that way. Get a bud or two to split the order with you. Thats what I did.
"Those who cannot cleanly dispatch their game using a .30-30 are either shooting too far, hunting inappropriate (too large) game, or are simply incompetent." Mic McPherson
ratshooter is offline  
Old October 6, 2018, 04:14 PM   #19
Senior Member
Join Date: February 28, 2008
Location: Michigan
Posts: 2,441
In the book Handloading By Phil Sharpe there is a chapter on the making of black powder.
He has pictures of English powder makers in the process of making the stuff.
One problem was keeping the mix just moist enough so the materials wouldn't go up in
But then the English liked their beer! Maybe that's why the English powder was soo
mush better!!
jaguarxk120 is offline  
Old October 6, 2018, 07:41 PM   #20
Jim Watson
Senior Member
Join Date: October 25, 2001
Location: Alabama
Posts: 15,176
Powdermakers of old thought the best wetting agent was the urine of a wine-drinking monk.
Jim Watson is offline  
Old October 8, 2018, 08:05 AM   #21
Senior Member
Join Date: August 30, 2010
Posts: 1,605
Here is the definitive thread on making your own BP:

Bear in mind that this thread is over 100 pages long. I recommend you read ALL of it. You will discover that there are at least 3 different mechanisms described for making BP. You will also discover that there are a lot of people who jumped into the conversation when it was already dozens of pages long, without reading any of the preceding pages, only to chime in with wrong information.

I have not yet done it myself, though I have done everything prior to the mixing and pressing. So, take my advise with a grain of salt.

I'll summarize some of the high points from the above link, but I recommend you read the whole thing yourself.

First of all, black powder charcoal is not like cooking charcoal. Softer woods make better BP than hard woods. Regular old spruce from the hardware store is said to work fine. Yes, Willow is said to make great BP, but so it is said that Balsa will. Hard woods like Oak are said to make poor black powder.

Second, all you need to make BP is charcoal, potassium nitrate, and sulfur. I bought my KNO3 and Sulfur from Duda Energy: . You do not need to add urine, or any other things, to it.

Some people add Dextrin to the mix as a binder, but this is only necessary if you are making "screened" BP. More on this next.

There is only one "real" way to make black powder, and this is using pressure to intimately bind all of the ingredients together. This is called "corning", and it is the way commercial black powder is made. The ingredients are finely pulverized, then mixed together when damp and pressed under very high pressure into cakes, or "pucks", and allowed to dry. Then these pucks are broken up and sorted by use of screens into different granule sizes. Too-large grains can be re-ground, too-small grains can be put back in as raw material again, so there is no waste.

Some people make black powder by "screening". This is where you mix the ingredients together, including a Dextrin binder, and then dampen them, and then push the damp mix through a screen. This results in very low-density, "fluffy", or "light" powder. It burns fine, but you will require a lot more of the powder by volume then with commercial, pressed, powder. This is because it is much less dense than pressed powder. In something like a muzzle loader, this may not matter. In something like a revolver or a cartridge it might matter because there is a limit to the volume available for the charge.

To make corned powder most people use a Harbor Freight hydraulic press. People have made due with 6-ton presses, a 12 or 20 might be better. I don't know that I have seen any definitive tests. I bought a 12-ton press for my own BP making but have not yet assembled the press.

Some basic safety rules here:

Pulverize your ingredients into powder separately, obviously. While separate, they are relatively inert. Only when combined do they become dangerous. You will combine them in a ball mill to become finely mixed as "green powder". Many people use a Harbor Freight rock tumbler for this. Make sure you only use non-sparking grinding media. Some people use lead balls. This can sometimes result in caking in the corners of the tumbling drums where the balls can't reach. I took segments of 1/2" brass tubing and filled them with lead to make little cylinders for my media.

Some people use coffee grinders to grind the puck chunks into grains. Make sure you use a ceramic one if you do this. I recommend discarding the glass catch container and simply grind into an open bucket of some kind. You don't want a glass hand grenade as part of this process.

I recommend only processing small amounts of powder at a time. Like a half a pound or less.

I'd recommend doing all your processing outdoors. Let your ball mill run outdoors. Do your grinding outdoors. Do your screening outdoors. Do your container filling outdoors. You don't want to end up with residual fine black powder dust accumulating in your workshop or garage or whatever. Your insurance company may give you trouble if you blow up / burn down your house because you were making black powder in it. I don't know.

If you use a blender to pulverize your ingredients, make sure you thoroughly wash all the parts before you switch to pulverize a different ingredient. Never use a blender to try and pulverize mixed ingredients! That is the job for the ball mill with its non-sparking media while it is running 50 yards away from your house out in the back yard.

I believe that making your own BP in small batches is something that can probably be safely done, at least well within the acceptable risks of any hobby with some measure of danger, so long as certain precautions are taken.

Read the above link from end to end. Ignore the junk posts sprinkled within it.

maillemaker is offline  

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

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 05:14 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
This site and contents, including all posts, Copyright © 1998-2018 S.W.A.T. Magazine
Copyright Complaints: Please direct DMCA Takedown Notices to the registered agent:
Contact Us
Page generated in 0.09543 seconds with 10 queries