Author Topic: Old black powder  (Read 8390 times)

Offline albert

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Old black powder
« on: November 08, 2008, 06:48:23 PM »
A couple years ago a friend of mine gave me about 3/4 lb. of black powder that an old fellow that I know found  in a barn on the farm that he bought in about 1930. Last weekend  I did some shooting with my .58 ,just to see how this powder would shoot,only shot about twenty times, and didn't notice anything different from what I normally shoot (Goex).When I got down to cleaning ,there wasn't as much residue as with the modern powder. I was wondering if  anyone has had any of the older powders to compare.
j albert miles

Daryl

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Re: Old black powder
« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2008, 07:13:06 PM »
Years ago in the mid 70's, I was given - or bought - a large red can marked American Deadshot Powder still containing about 3 or 4 pounds of very shiny, hard, angular black powder, granulation 2F.  This was the best powder I'd ever used. Cleaner burning than the C&H, GOX,  or Meteor powders then available.  I was shooting a very much modified TC hawken stock, with a 38" twist Bauska barrel in .50 cal. I used the TC Maxiballs lubed with Crisco and turned out many 5 shot groups at 100 yards that ran !" and slightly less between centres - 100 yards range - open irons, of course.  It was the cleanest powder and exceptionally accurate. I seem to remember that C&H's would do around 1 1/2", so the reduction by 50% and a bit more was amazing. I could actually see then and was shooting a lot of competition with metalics in 3-position shooting so shooting good groups was not foreign to me.  That was the powder and load I used for the Turkey shoots, limit 2 turkeys. That rifle and load won me the 3rd and 4th turkeys at the annual shoot every year. The 1st and 2nd always went to Bob Cheney (no relation) who was an opympic shooter at the time. Bob used his very specialized offhand olympic rifle. The other shooters were the nromal 3-po and prone shooters I was competing with at the time. Everyone shot their match rifles, 'cept me and one year, Taylor, who used his .62 Hawken. That year, Taylor won the 5th and 6th turkeys - no small feat as he was shooting C&H powder.  He really upset one German shooter who was used to wining the 5th and 6th. All shooting was at 100 yards, offhand.

 That American Deadshot powder was very clean burning as noted above and seemingly moist burning too, as noted by Ned Roberts in his big book.  I did a brief check then, and read that the American Deadshot powder factory blew sky-high or ceased production in 1898 or around then.  The old powders were certainly superior to what we buy today.  Apparently Swiss is similar to some of them, except for the 'moist' burn.

William Worth

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Re: Old black powder
« Reply #2 on: November 09, 2008, 12:39:33 AM »
1898!!!   :o

Offline RobertS

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Re: Old black powder
« Reply #3 on: November 09, 2008, 03:31:06 AM »
You would think that with all the new technology today, our black powder would at least be as good.  Do you suppose that black powder somehow improves with age?  Or maybe there are environmental issues that prevent our making it like it was in the old days? 

Offline Curt J

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Re: Old black powder
« Reply #4 on: November 09, 2008, 05:12:30 AM »
I suspect that it's more like the lack of competition, that prevents the modern manufacturers from making powder equal to the best old stuff.

Offline RobertS

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Re: Old black powder
« Reply #5 on: November 09, 2008, 06:56:04 AM »
That does kind of make sense, when you think about it-

Offline jerrywh

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Re: Old black powder
« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2008, 09:40:16 AM »
I started out shooting Dupont. I always thought it was better than what we have now.  It burned cleaner.
Nobody is always correct, Not even me.

Offline Feltwad

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Re: Old black powder
« Reply #7 on: November 09, 2008, 10:31:34 AM »
There were several companies making black powder in the UK the most popular were Curtiss and Harvey who made 4 +grades the most used were Fg,FFg,FFFg,FFFg. Enclosed is an image of old powder tins from my collection.
Feltwad



« Last Edit: November 09, 2008, 10:41:23 AM by Feltwad »

Daryl

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Re: Old black powder
« Reply #8 on: November 09, 2008, 05:10:47 PM »
Taylor and I have gone through many dozens (hundreds) of the red C&H cans - mostly in the '70's and .80's.  Power wise, their 3F was about equivalent, velocity-wise,  to GOX and GOEX 2F of the time. I still have some CIL 1F. The granuals are fairly rounded with elongated shapes, and more like a cannon grade in size than 1F. We've burned a great deal of that stuff as well.  My .50 3 1/4 Sharps cases held 170gr. of ICI 1F along with a 550gr. bullet. In 2F GOEX, 150gr. was about max capacity.  Although the ICI didn't pack well, it was very dense.   I also used it in the 12 bore Shotgun for some round ball loads in higher charge weights up to 200gr.  That'll get your attention in a 7 1/2 pound gun.   

William Worth

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Re: Old black powder
« Reply #9 on: November 09, 2008, 05:25:35 PM »
Daryl;

Do you have any information on what the storage history was of the "American Deadshot" powder that you had?   I wonder if there had been times during it's prolonged storage career that possibly it went through cycles (damp, heat, whatever) that it nonetheless was able to recover from.

It would be good to know to maybe improve our storage protocols.

I would expect the old powders simply had better ingredients and quality control.

Harnic

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Re: Old black powder
« Reply #10 on: November 09, 2008, 07:55:56 PM »


I would expect the old powders simply had better ingredients and quality control.

And maybe a lot less regulatory interference?  :'(
« Last Edit: November 09, 2008, 07:56:44 PM by Harnic »

Daryl

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Re: Old black powder
« Reply #11 on: November 09, 2008, 08:50:52 PM »
William- I had to sift the powder to remove the rust flakes from the inside of the can, then store it in normal cans. Too, there were lumps of powder that had to be broken up again, easily done and it returned to it's original clean, angular, shiny granulations. No dust at all - just clean, dustless sharp angular grains of wonderful powder.  It was obvious it became quite damp at some time, but did recover perfectly.  What was really amazing, was it's cleanliness. I've read American Deadshot was second only to #6 English Sporting powder - maybe Ned Roberts?  It surely was seemingly clean burning, accurate powder.
« Last Edit: November 09, 2008, 08:51:24 PM by Daryl »

Offline Mad Monk

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Re: Old black powder
« Reply #12 on: November 10, 2008, 02:16:40 AM »
I suspect that it's more like the lack of competition, that prevents the modern manufacturers from making powder equal to the best old stuff.

The present Swiss black powder is the equal of any of those old black powders.  The materials and processing of the Swiss powder is an almost dead on match for the old pre-1970 C&H powder out of the Ardeer plant in Scotland.

The thing about not making powder equal to what was top of the line in the latter-half of the 1800's is that 90% of today's bp shooters are too cheap to consider it.

Black powder is like anything else, you get what you pay for.


Daryl

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Re: Old black powder
« Reply #13 on: November 10, 2008, 02:20:21 AM »
Well Bill - some of us would like to try it, if it was available up here.  I'd like nothing better than to use 1 1/2 through 3F Swiss in my little silhouette rifle.

Offline Mad Monk

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Re: Old black powder
« Reply #14 on: November 10, 2008, 03:17:06 AM »
Well Bill - some of us would like to try it, if it was available up here.  I'd like nothing better than to use 1 1/2 through 3F Swiss in my little silhouette rifle.

Down here a good bit of the black powder sold goes to reenactors.  Used mainly in blank charges.  The primary criteria are: CHEAP, makes smoke and goes bang.

The present big bucks in the powder business is with the subs used in in-lines and hunting in general.

Most of the serious competition shooters see which works best in their particular guns and purchased based on that.

The market for a really good powder is kind of small compared to the total amounts used.

Any of today's bp manufacturers are capable of making powder equal to the best of the latter-half of the 19th century.  Trouble is to find really good charcoal without having to make it in-house.  High purity potassium nitrate is no problem.  The saltpeter produced by Haifia Chemical is used by the Swiss and actually exceeds the quality standards of some of the old powders.  Except those where the labels are marked "Triple Refined".  Some of today's plants use sulfur that is a by-product of crude oil desulfurization.  Really pure sulfur is still to be had but at a hefty price increase.

Daryl

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Re: Old black powder
« Reply #15 on: November 10, 2008, 08:00:30 PM »
Some time ago, Ross Seyfried wrote an article in Handloader wherein he'd tried either Schutzen or Swiss (one or the other) and had achieved regulation with regulation charges.  In pior testing, it took roughly 20% increase in charge with GOEX to get the same regulation.  He then cross checked in several other guns requiring regulation and found that the Swiss or Schutzen regulated in those as well.  The only difference was that the modern stuff didn't shoot as cleanly or shot with dryer fouling.

BuffaloGun

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Re: Old black powder
« Reply #16 on: November 11, 2008, 04:50:59 AM »
When I got back into muzzleloading in the mid 90s I found three cans of old DuPont BP I had left at my Mom's house in PA in the late 60s or early 70s, at least.
I tried it and was amazed that it fired quickly burned well. It worked at least as well as the Schutzen I've been using. If fact, I have found that the newer BP that has been stored since my surgery last year has not worked as well and teh old stuff that sat for two decades.

Offline Dphariss

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Re: Old black powder
« Reply #17 on: November 11, 2008, 10:37:36 AM »
You would think that with all the new technology today, our black powder would at least be as good.  Do you suppose that black powder somehow improves with age?  Or maybe there are environmental issues that prevent our making it like it was in the old days? 

In this case the new technology is not always better. The price is a major part of the problem as Mad Monk pointed out. It takes more time and top of the line ingredients to make premium BP.

By the 1890s BP had reached its zenith. It was important at the time but as smokeless came on it became more or less a sideline. The American powder makers were destroyed by DuPont and when forced to divest in the early 20th century they were the only maker of BP remaining and theirs never was the best at least not by the 1890s standards.

Dan
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