Old black powder.

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gamekeeper
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Old black powder.

#1 Post by gamekeeper » Thu Apr 18, 2019 12:48 pm

My local toy shop owner asked me to come over and fire his miniature cannon, he wanted to show it off to some friends but he always asks me to help when black powder is involved :?
Anyway he hands me a tin of BP that judging by the price on the label must be over 30 + years old :shock:
It looked okay but ignition time was really slow and it went off like a damp squib :oops:
I have in the past tested BP that came out of antique muskets that had been in storage (in India) for perhaps 100 years and it still had some life left in it.
I have no idea how my dealers tin had been stored or where he got it from, my question is, does anyone keep black powder this long if so does it detiriate :?:
BTW the only shot that went with anything like a bang was the one where i forgot to put in my ear plugs.... :lol:
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Re: Old black powder.

#2 Post by Shasta » Thu Apr 18, 2019 2:39 pm

Until I lost it in last summer's fire, I had a metal 25 lb. keg of FFg black powder made by Gearhart-Owen Industries, which went out of business in the early 1980's. I had used two or three pounds of it in my black powder cartridge rifles with no determinable difference.

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Re: Old black powder.

#3 Post by Pisgah » Thu Apr 18, 2019 3:13 pm

Black powder is not a chemical compound; it is a physical mixture of three components: charcoal, sulfur, saltpeter. As long as it is kept dry, it is virtually immortal. Once an original container is unsealed, the container and its sealing arrangement will slowly deteriorate, meaning that atmospheric humidity may eventually kill or weaken the powder. I bought a mixed case of ffg, fffg and ffffg about 30 years ago, still have probably 1/2 of it, and every time I have opened a sealed can -- the last one only a few weeks ago -- it's fresh as a daisy.

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Re: Old black powder.

#4 Post by BlaineG » Thu Apr 18, 2019 3:39 pm

I have read, but cannot prove, that the black powder loads for WWII Battleships were used during the first Gulf War.....
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Re: Old black powder.

#5 Post by gamekeeper » Thu Apr 18, 2019 3:55 pm

Thanks for the replies, I thought that black powder, if stored correctly had a very good shelf life..
My local dealer collects all sorts of rubbish with no idea what it is, this powder obviously had not been looked after before he got it. The last time we fired this little cannon we used some of my black powder with much better results and my powder wasn't exactly new.
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Re: Old black powder.

#6 Post by Scrumbag » Thu Apr 18, 2019 4:59 pm

BlaineG wrote:
Thu Apr 18, 2019 3:39 pm
I have read, but cannot prove, that the black powder loads for WWII Battleships were used during the first Gulf War.....
I doubt that, my understanding is that battle ships in the C20th used cordite gun cotton...

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Re: Old black powder.

#7 Post by harry » Thu Apr 18, 2019 5:46 pm

BlaineG wrote:
Thu Apr 18, 2019 3:39 pm
I have read, but cannot prove, that the black powder loads for WWII Battleships were used during the first Gulf War.....
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/16%22/5 ... Mark_7_gun

The 16”/50 mark 7 guns of the Iowa class during WWII used :
The D839 propellant (smokeless powder) grain used for full charges issued for this gun was 2 inches long (5.08 cm), 1 inch in diameter (2.54 cm) and had seven perforations, each 0.060 inches in diameter (0.152 cm) with a web thickness range of 0.193 to 0.197 inches (0.490 to 0.500 cm) between the perforations and the grain diameter. A maximum charge consists of six silk bags–hence the term bag gun–each filled with 110 pounds of propellant.
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Re: Old black powder.

#8 Post by Old No7 » Thu Apr 18, 2019 8:28 pm

gamekeeper wrote:
Thu Apr 18, 2019 3:55 pm
...I thought that black powder, if stored correctly had a very good shelf life...
It can be "quite energetic" even if NOT stored properly too...

Seems that over here we lose 2 or 3 Civil War collectors who "have a problem" when drilling into dug-up cannonballs to defuse them...

Yeah...

"Rapid deflagration" is one way to ensure that it won't explode -- for a second time, that is... :shock:

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Re: Old black powder.

#9 Post by gamekeeper » Fri Apr 19, 2019 7:44 am

Old No7 wrote:
Thu Apr 18, 2019 8:28 pm
gamekeeper wrote:
Thu Apr 18, 2019 3:55 pm
...I thought that black powder, if stored correctly had a very good shelf life...
It can be "quite energetic" even if NOT stored properly too...

Seems that over here we lose 2 or 3 Civil War collectors who "have a problem" when drilling into dug-up cannonballs to defuse them...

Yeah...

"Rapid deflagration" is one way to ensure that it won't explode -- for a second time, that is... :shock:

Old No7
I can quite believe that, as I said in my original post, I unloaded several antique guns from India when I worked for Westley Richards, I put the powder in a tobacco tin, some of the powder had turned brown but when I dropped a match on it , BIG FLASH and lots of smoke. These guns were sold as wall hangers and not all of them were sold unloaded :shock: some of the matchlocks had barrels about 4 foot long and several blunderbusses were loaded with pebbles wrapped in cotton.
Before my time there, one of the guys (the stocker) was shot in they arm with an Indian percussion pistol that they had been fooling around with, after busting several caps it went off, the ball destroyed part of his bicep.
I always drop a ramrod down muzzleloaders to check for a long forgotten load.
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Re: Old black powder.

#10 Post by KWK » Fri Apr 19, 2019 8:06 am

BlaineG wrote:
Thu Apr 18, 2019 3:39 pm
I have read, but cannot prove, that the black powder loads for WWII Battleships were used during the first Gulf War.....
As I recall reading, the main charge is smokeless but not cordite. The large, multi perforated grains are difficult to get going, so a charge of BP is what the primer first lights off.

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Re: Old black powder.

#11 Post by Bullard4075 » Fri Apr 19, 2019 10:21 pm

KWK wrote:
Fri Apr 19, 2019 8:06 am
BlaineG wrote:
Thu Apr 18, 2019 3:39 pm
I have read, but cannot prove, that the black powder loads for WWII Battleships were used during the first Gulf War.....
As I recall reading, the main charge is smokeless but not cordite. The large, multi perforated grains are difficult to get going, so a charge of BP is what the primer first lights off.
Exactly.
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Re: Old black powder.

#12 Post by JRD » Sun Apr 21, 2019 4:21 pm

While visiting the Battleship Massachusetts years back on a Cub Scout campout with my boys, I learned the blackpowder ignition charge in the 16” guns was a 45-70 blank cartridge.
Handling the powder bags in the turret was a big ordeal too with all sorts of airlock hatches to keep a potential fire from setting off the whole magazine. It tools hundreds of sailors to man one of those 16” turrets. There is a ton going on in the turret below decks.

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Re: Old black powder.

#13 Post by AmBraCol » Sun Apr 21, 2019 4:37 pm

There's a reason for the old saying, "Keep your powder dry". Blackpowder kept dry has basically an unlimited shelf life. Don't know what effect getting damp then then being dried out has on it, but it'd still be dangerous even if it's lost some potency.
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