Author Topic: Question for Mad Monk @ Substitute Powders in a Flintlock?  (Read 1507 times)

Offline Bruce Mattes

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Question for Mad Monk @ Substitute Powders in a Flintlock?
« on: November 18, 2021, 12:33:32 AM »
Mad Monk,

With the distinct possibility of real black powder shortages looming as a result of Goex shutting down the sole remaining plant come January 2022, I need to know if the use of a 10 grain squibb charge underneath any of the black powder substitutes, to include BH209, constitutes in any way a dangerous chemical reaction that could lead to excessive breech pressures?

My engineering mind tells me that it should be OK. Mainly because of the semi-open breech that results from the touch hole drilled into the side of the barrel.

If a shooter wishing to continue shooting his flintlock rifle is being faced with a diminishing supply of real black powder, but has access to an abundant supply of a black powder substitute; then logic might suggest that a pound of fffg black powder could be stretched out to approximately 538 shots per pound by utilizing 3 grains of powder to prime the pan of the lock, and 10 grains as a squibb charge to help ignite the substitute powder main charge.

7000 grains ÷ 13 grains = 538.462 shots per pound

Since most of the substitute powders generate greater breech pressures than does regular black powder, a reduction in the weight/volume of a shooter's normal hunting charge is obviously in order.

What my inquiring mind needs to know, and I am hopeful that you can answer, is when real black powder is used as a squibb load to ignite a substitute powder; does the combination of the two different propellants end up creating a dangerous pressure situation in the breech of a flintlock barrel.


Thanks.

Offline Mad Monk

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Re: Question for Mad Monk @ Substitute Powders in a Flintlock?
« Reply #1 on: November 18, 2021, 01:02:38 AM »
Mad Monk,

With the distinct possibility of real black powder shortages looming as a result of Goex shutting down the sole remaining plant come January 2022, I need to know if the use of a 10 grain squibb charge underneath any of the black powder substitutes, to include BH209, constitutes in any way a dangerous chemical reaction that could lead to excessive breech pressures?

My engineering mind tells me that it should be OK. Mainly because of the semi-open breech that results from the touch hole drilled into the side of the barrel.

If a shooter wishing to continue shooting his flintlock rifle is being faced with a diminishing supply of real black powder, but has access to an abundant supply of a black powder substitute; then logic might suggest that a pound of fffg black powder could be stretched out to approximately 538 shots per pound by utilizing 3 grains of powder to prime the pan of the lock, and 10 grains as a squibb charge to help ignite the substitute powder main charge.

7000 grains ÷ 13 grains = 538.462 shots per pound

Since most of the substitute powders generate greater breech pressures than does regular black powder, a reduction in the weight/volume of a shooter's normal hunting charge is obviously in order.

What my inquiring mind needs to know, and I am hopeful that you can answer, is when real black powder is used as a squibb load to ignite a substitute powder; does the combination of the two different propellants end up creating a dangerous pressure situation in the breech of a flintlock barrel.


Thanks.

With the BP subs you are looking t ignition temperatures a good bit higher than that seen in black powder.  This was a problem when Prodex first came out and then with the first ascorbic acid based powder known as Golden Powder.  Some tried to scrape the heads off wood matches and use that match head composition as a pan powder and a little squib powder.  I have been told that the American Pioneer Powder can be used in a flintlock pan in a pinch.  But there is no reason you could not make small batches of home-made black powder to use only as a pan powder and a light charge in the base of the barrel.  The last thing you want to stuff into a standard BP ML gun is the BH 209 powder. That is straight smokeless with a modifier to slow it down.  The Hodgdon Triple Seven has a bit higher ignition temperature than the Pyrodex.  That gave me no end of ignition problems in my side lock percussion Lyman Trade Rifle.    As bp subs go the Hodgdon 777 powder is a good route to go.  No perchlrate corrosion.  Almost no residue in the bore.  But going too heavy in charges will give you glass-like films in the bottom of the bore and make fully seating of follow up charge difficult.

For the foreseeable future we will have Swiss and Schuetzen powders on the U.S. market.  So a flintlock prime and bore positioned ignition charge should be no problem.  Then if you want to use a sub for the main charge I strongly suggest the 777.  The BH 209 is for strong in-line guns.  The straight ascorbic acid based powder on the market is still a bit weak.  Those ascorbic acid based powder burn giving off little heat.  They are more of a gas producing composition.   They gave me lower velocities than the same volume of black powder and as i raised charge volumes in the shooting the velocities did not pick up the way they would with black powder.

Going back to the 1990s.  At one of Dixon's Gunmakers Fair I finally kicked out the bucks for a Bernie Tolino mule ear lock for my flintlock Lyman GPR rifle.  It was a drop in switch.  Just a little bit of work in the lock mortise.  Then pull the vent and replaced it with a percussion nipple with a long threaded portion.  That put the tip of the nipple right up against the powder charge in the breech plug's powder chamber.  After that I could light anything off with a standard #11 percussion cap right up to the 777 powder charge.

Other than the BH 209 none of the powders we have available for use in ml guns have anything even remotely like a pressure response.  With potassium nitrate as the main oxidizer in these powders they rely on heat into the powder versus heat produced by the powder.  Aberdeen Proving Ground did a lot of work on this with black powder back in the 1970s.  They found that black powder had no pressure response whatsoever during powder combustion.

Offline Mad Monk

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Re: Question for Mad Monk @ Substitute Powders in a Flintlock?
« Reply #2 on: November 18, 2021, 01:40:28 AM »
Let me follow up here with a bit of BP history.

This is not the first time we BP shooters have been concerned about future powder supplies.
Back in 1972 when du Pont sold the BP plant and business to then Gearhrt-Owen the first plant manager under Gearhrt-Owen refused to sell black powder to the civilian market.  He had come down from a then recently shut down Canadian Industries Limited BP plant in Canada.  This CIL company was part of ICI who was then exiting the black powder business shutting down a BP plant in Canada, Australia and the old C&H main plant in Scotland.  That guy lasted a year and Gearhart-Owen brought in Frank Fahringer from the oil fields out in Western PA.  Gearhart -Owen bught the du Pont black powder business with one purpose in mind.  Gearhrt-Owen was deep in the oil well business out west.  They needed a source of booster cartridges used in reviving oil wells that had slowed up on the oil they produced. These booster charges were black powder packed in a cardboard tube roughly bore size.  Used to keep the ammonium nitrate fuel oil blasting charges going from the surface to the bottom of the well.  The NMLRA started talking to Frank Fahringer and convinced him that the civilian shooter market would be profitable and trouble free.  So we see cans of powder with a GO label.  Being Gearhart-Owen for the GO.  Then Gearharet and Owen had a parting of the way.  Gearhart-Owen then became Gearhart-Owen Explosives with the parent company seen as Pengo Industries which was the oil well section of the now divided Gearhart-Owen business.  Then we see the same changed again to Gearhart-Owen Explosives which became GOEX.

In 1984 the feds made Pengo stop trading stocks on the stock mrket.  The oil well business fell apart.  By 1988 Pengo was forced into Chapt 11 bankruptcy and put under control of a bankruptcy committee.  Which proceed to pull every bit of profit out of the Moosic BP plant they could.  No real plant maintenance was being done.  They were milking the facility into the ground.  When they had the big explosion and deaths in 1990 I started to hit the Allentown, PA office of OSHA for their investigation reports. At that point in time I had a bunch of years in the PVC polymerization plant I worked in and knew how to judge how a plant was being run.  The PVC plant I worked was being used as the cash cow for the main company with less profitable sections.  So I could see over the 7 years from 1990 to 1997 how that Moosic plant was run into the ground where it no longer paid to keep in running.  As early as 1993 the investment company that owned GOEX was planing the move to the Minden property.  But they shut Moosic down while the Minden plant was not completed.   So in 1998 there was a big question in the industry if the investment company had the money to finish the plant and start it up.  So there we had another point in time where the future of bp production in the U.S. was in question or in doubt.  Goex management had made several trips to other operating BP plants around the world to see if they could get one to supply GOEX with the common black powders while GOEX made just their military powders in a reduced size plant operation.  So these is about the third time the future of bp production in the U.S. is in doubt or question.

In the past I had been taken to task often for getting involved with Elephant and WANO.  But my goal was to insure that we would always have an alternate supply.  And given the track record of the GOEX Moosic, PA plant follies the Elephant saved the day on several occasions.  In my real world work I was sold along with the machinery a number of times so I knew what to look for as to the future of my employment.  At a PVC plant in Auburn, PA my butt was sold three times to other companies in just 1 year.

Offline Mad Monk

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Re: Question for Mad Monk @ Substitute Powders in a Flintlock?
« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2021, 01:51:23 AM »
I think what might be looked at here is how much the black powder will cost in the future.  When you see the political nonsense today and what it is doing to our economy you must really ask what will be the cost of a pound of powder in the future.  Will most of us still be able to afford to shoot bp guns given how much powder we must use in them and how many shots you get out of a one pound container.  Will we be priced out of it.

Offline P.W.Berkuta

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Re: Question for Mad Monk @ Substitute Powders in a Flintlock?
« Reply #4 on: November 18, 2021, 08:38:21 PM »
Thanks Mad Monk for the history lesson. it was very informative. As I don't shoot BP as much as I use to and have enough on hand to last me a few years I am not overly concerned with GOEX leaving the BP market - there are other makers of BP BUT as you say the future cost of buying said powder will be high :(.
"The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person who is doing it." - Chinese proverb

Offline snapper

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Re: Question for Mad Monk @ Substitute Powders in a Flintlock?
« Reply #5 on: November 18, 2021, 08:51:04 PM »
Bill

When you say "They found that black powder had no pressure response whatsoever during powder combustion".  Are you talking about that BP burns at essentially the same rate regardless of increasing pressure in the chamber?

Thanks

art
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Offline Bruce Mattes

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Re: Question for Mad Monk @ Substitute Powders in a Flintlock?
« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2021, 09:59:58 PM »
What exactly makes BH209 dangerous to use in sidelock muzzleloading rifles? I understand that its chemical composition makes it exponentially more energetic than black powder, or the other substitutes. Is it the thread length engagement for the breech plug, the drum, the nipple, and the touch hole liner?

Thanks

Offline Mad Monk

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Re: Question for Mad Monk @ Substitute Powders in a Flintlock?
« Reply #7 on: November 18, 2021, 11:26:27 PM »
Bill

When you say "They found that black powder had no pressure response whatsoever during powder combustion".  Are you talking about that BP burns at essentially the same rate regardless of increasing pressure in the chamber?

Thanks

art

Art,
Exactly.  They made up sticks of black powder and burned them in a chamber with high-speed photographs.  They were measuring temperature and pressure in the chamber.

And this goes back to what I had explained before.  The speed of combustion in black powder depends on how much heat it is producing during the combustion process versus how much is lost to the surroundings at the same time.  They used to run lead tube burn rates on BP as a QC test.  Pack long lead tubes with the powder.  Then roll something over the tube to slightly flatten it.  A timer at each end of the tube that timed the rate of flamespreading up through the very long tube.  The time between ignition and blow out at the other end of the tube was then calculated  to determine the flamespead velocity through the charge.  Now that will change with grain size because you have different amounts of powder grain surface area doing the burning In fine grain powders that flamespeard rate through the tube can reach almost 2,000 feet per second.  But in a train open to the air that rate is very slow because during the burning of the powder a good deal of heat is lost to the air around the train of burning powder grains.   I would point out that this is also why you will see a specific can of black powder give different velocities on different days of shooting.  The temperature of the powder charge at the time of ignition will play a part in ho fast the charge burns in the gun.  That thing about having to heat the potassium nitrate and then "pump in" more heat until the potassium nitrate reaches its decomposition temperature and releases oxygen for even more powder combustion.

Offline Mad Monk

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Re: Question for Mad Monk @ Substitute Powders in a Flintlock?
« Reply #8 on: November 18, 2021, 11:57:03 PM »
What exactly makes BH209 dangerous to use in sidelock muzzleloading rifles? I understand that its chemical composition makes it exponentially more energetic than black powder, or the other substitutes. Is it the thread length engagement for the breech plug, the drum, the nipple, and the touch hole liner?

Thanks

Bruce,

I had looked at this BH 209 when it first came out.  Some of the claims made for it did not make sense to me if it were a modification of black powder.  But it was developed specifically with in line rifles in mind.  Very high ignition temperature.  And almost no fouling in the bore after shooting it. The original seller denied it was a smokeless powder.

I had noticed that nobody was posting any breech pressure dating for the amount you would normally use in a gun.  I was so used to using the volume measure in grains.  So I shipped the wife off to the mall and had at it in her kitchen which I used for a lab.  Dumped some in water.  It just floated on the water.  Meaning that the density of the powder flakes were below 1.00, the density of water. (Specific Gravity test which I ran often in my real lab job.)  Then took some acetone in a cup and dumped some in.  A little stirring and it quickly dissolved into the acetone.  Then ran that through a little coffee filter funnel and washed it good with fresh acetone.  I was left with this greyish-white solid residue on the filter.  It would not burn when treated to a torch flame.  Meaning it is fairly inert.   That then explained what I was looking at.  When I evaporated the acetone solution that passed through the filter I was looking at a thin nitrocellulose film.  Looked at lot like my IMR powder I used in the .223 reloading.  Burned both.  Both burned the same. 

So they doctored a smokeless powder to temper or cut down on the normal burn rate response with smokeless powders.  It cannot go as high in pressure development as a standard smokeless powder will.

So in using it in a muzzle loader that was originally designed for black powder you would need to know the various breech pressures with various size charges.  Certainly you could not throw 80 grains of it down the front of the .50 GPR the way I did with black powder.

So before you go playing with the BH 209 powder in a bp gun you need a good bit of info on pressures, etc.  I would hope that Hodgdon can give guidance in this since they now sell it.

When I look at the price I kinda cringe when you calculate it to cost per pound.

Offline Dphariss

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Re: Question for Mad Monk @ Substitute Powders in a Flintlock?
« Reply #9 on: December 24, 2021, 04:47:23 PM »
Assuming the BH209 is smokeless and I am sure Bill is correct, there is a danger that many shooters still do not realize. Under (I.E. weak) or improper ignition of smokeless powder is the cause of many “problems” in the grey powder world. And I mean REAL problems. I would not use this stuff with any ignition source other than a modern primer. Even the percussion cap, nipple is a weak form of ignition compared to the modern primer which is designed to give the needed impulse to the charge to properly ignite the propellant so long the charge is at a safe loading density, I.E. the charge weight is not too light.  It sounds like this stuff may be Trail Boss under a different name. This powder was the result of cowboy action competitors FRACTURING into fragments modern made firearms with light loads of conventional smokeless powder. Which will all to often result in the propellant not being properly ignited. This issue will also blow up military cannons not just small arms. And I mean BREAK not bulge. If you need BP then keep in contact with the distributors and what you need when its available. Its not off the market, it like almost everything related to firearms ammo right now is just selling faster than its coming on the market. So keep after it. While Swiss is the best, the others, Schuetzen etc are still better than the powder generally available in the US in 1800. If you are worried about using too much powder then get a 32-36 cal for fun shooting.
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Offline Dobyns

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Re: Question for Mad Monk @ Substitute Powders in a Flintlock?
« Reply #10 on: December 24, 2021, 05:34:03 PM »
There is or was loading data for BH209 in cartridges as well as recommended loads for modern frontstuffers.  There is a requirement for a sealed breech even in guns with 209 ignition, so not likely to even ignite with a precussion cap, let alone a flintlock.  I tried it in a patent breech percussion gun with MagSpark 209 conversion just enough to verify that it worked.  That was at a previous time of percussion cap shortage, so was "just in case".

BH209 load data for both ML and cartridges, and pressure data for cartridges https://blackhorn209.com/load-data/

BH209 does NOT resemble Trail Boss physically.  BH209 looks like SR4759, or bigger granules of 5744 vs Trail Boss looking like big flake donuts.

IF I needed to shoot a flintlock with a substitute, I would be looking at other then BH209, and using a real blackpowder kicker under the substitute for ignition.

« Last Edit: December 24, 2021, 09:23:11 PM by Dobyns »

Offline Mad Monk

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Re: Question for Mad Monk @ Substitute Powders in a Flintlock?
« Reply #11 on: December 24, 2021, 08:58:28 PM »
There is or was loading data for BH209 in cartridges as well as recommended loads for modern frontstuffers.  There is a requirement for a sealed breech even in guns with 209 ignition, so not likely to even ignite with a precussion cap, let alone a flintlock.  I tried it in a patent breech percussion gun with MagSpark 209 conversion just enough to verify that it worked.  That was at a previous time of percussion cap shortage, so was "just in case".

BH209 load data for both ML and cartridges, and pressure data for cartridges https://blackhorn209.com/load-data/

IF I needed to shoot a flintlock with a substitute, I would be looking at other then BH209, and using a real blackpowder kicker under the substitute for ignition.

With the open vent on a flintlock you can run into something else.  When I was playing with the ascorbic acid based bp subs I noted that they burn cool.  Producing very little heat of combustion.  It is mainly a gas generating composition.  So that open vent can cost you a bunch of velocity as the charge burns.  that is why I settled on Hodgdon Triple Seven as my ideal powder in the event black powder were to become unavailable.  What we are seeing now in the closure of the Hodgdon GOEX plant is something that has been in the works since the mid-1970s with the invention of Pyrodex where you do away with ALL of the old traditional black powder producing machinery.  A big difference in the cost to produce one pound of black powder versus one pound of one of the subs. 
When you factor the cost of the BH 209 out to dollars per pound you get the idea that if you could sell a pound of black powder for that price it would not be out of the picture to set up a small bp plant that specialized in our small arms powders.

If the GOEX Minden plant fails to restart it will simply allow for more imported black powder.  There are still a number of BP plants around the world that could supply the U.S. shooters.  We may have reached a point where buy American will no longer be possible with black powder.  The BP business in general has been in a steady decline over the past 20 years.  Fireworks powders production way down.  No mining powders to speak of.  My last contact in that powder was a slate quarry up in a New England state that produced roofing tiles and paving blocks.

Offline HighUintas

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Re: Question for Mad Monk @ Substitute Powders in a Flintlock?
« Reply #12 on: January 01, 2022, 06:59:50 PM »
There is or was loading data for BH209 in cartridges as well as recommended loads for modern frontstuffers.  There is a requirement for a sealed breech even in guns with 209 ignition, so not likely to even ignite with a precussion cap, let alone a flintlock.  I tried it in a patent breech percussion gun with MagSpark 209 conversion just enough to verify that it worked.  That was at a previous time of percussion cap shortage, so was "just in case".

BH209 load data for both ML and cartridges, and pressure data for cartridges https://blackhorn209.com/load-data/

IF I needed to shoot a flintlock with a substitute, I would be looking at other then BH209, and using a real blackpowder kicker under the substitute for ignition.

With the open vent on a flintlock you can run into something else.  When I was playing with the ascorbic acid based bp subs I noted that they burn cool.  Producing very little heat of combustion.  It is mainly a gas generating composition.  So that open vent can cost you a bunch of velocity as the charge burns.  that is why I settled on Hodgdon Triple Seven as my ideal powder in the event black powder were to become unavailable.  What we are seeing now in the closure of the Hodgdon GOEX plant is something that has been in the works since the mid-1970s with the invention of Pyrodex where you do away with ALL of the old traditional black powder producing machinery.  A big difference in the cost to produce one pound of black powder versus one pound of one of the subs. 
When you factor the cost of the BH 209 out to dollars per pound you get the idea that if you could sell a pound of black powder for that price it would not be out of the picture to set up a small bp plant that specialized in our small arms powders.

If the GOEX Minden plant fails to restart it will simply allow for more imported black powder.  There are still a number of BP plants around the world that could supply the U.S. shooters.  We may have reached a point where buy American will no longer be possible with black powder.  The BP business in general has been in a steady decline over the past 20 years.  Fireworks powders production way down.  No mining powders to speak of.  My last contact in that powder was a slate quarry up in a New England state that produced roofing tiles and paving blocks.

What is the feasibility of a regular joe or group of Joes starting a small US BP plant specifically to supply US small arms? Is it the regulation, or safety compliance, or some other financial cost that would prevent it from being profitable?

It seems the demand is there to support it

Offline snapper

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Re: Question for Mad Monk @ Substitute Powders in a Flintlock?
« Reply #13 on: January 01, 2022, 09:27:41 PM »
Does the US military still use any BP in their large ship cannons?

Fleener

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Offline Paul from KY

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Re: Question for Mad Monk @ Substitute Powders in a Flintlock?
« Reply #14 on: January 01, 2022, 10:08:58 PM »
The Navy doesn't have any large bore guns anymore.  Main armament is missiles nowadays.

Offline Fyrstyk

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Re: Question for Mad Monk @ Substitute Powders in a Flintlock?
« Reply #15 on: January 02, 2022, 01:48:40 AM »
My main concern with the use of imported black powder is that it only takes the stroke of a pen from the President to ban such imports on the grounds that Black Powder can be used to make terrorist bombs.

Offline Mad Monk

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Re: Question for Mad Monk @ Substitute Powders in a Flintlock?
« Reply #16 on: January 02, 2022, 05:21:49 AM »
The Navy doesn't have any large bore guns anymore.  Main armament is missiles nowadays.

I think thy still use black powder as the intermediate primer in large caliber artillery.  The Navy was using it as the intermediate primer in the 5 inch and 7 inch modernized gun mounts back in the 1970s and 1980s.  I think small squibs are used as an intermediate primer in the guns used in aircraft that operate at high altitudes.  Heat is best ignition for smokeless powders and only black powder is noted for putting out a strong radiant heat wave ahead of any flamefront.  They still use some black powder but not nearly as much as they used to.  Then mining and fireworks powders are a mere shadow of what they once were.

Offline Mad Monk

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Re: Question for Mad Monk @ Substitute Powders in a Flintlock?
« Reply #17 on: January 02, 2022, 05:44:47 AM »
Does the US military still use any BP in their large ship cannons?

Fleener

I forgot to get into black powder use as an intermediate primer in the Rheinmetall smooth bore tank cannons.  Originally 110 mm smothbores now using 120 mm bores.
Rheinmetall developed 4 main rounds for that gun all using different smokeless powders.  Basically 4 different burn rate (strength) powders.  They had to do a lot of test shooting to find out exactly how much black powder gave the ideal pressure profiles and muzzle velocities in those guns.  The guns and ammo are used in our U.S. main battle tank.   I was lucky to get my hands on an English translation of that work.

Offline Mad Monk

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Re: Question for Mad Monk @ Substitute Powders in a Flintlock?
« Reply #18 on: January 02, 2022, 05:52:57 AM »
My main concern with the use of imported black powder is that it only takes the stroke of a pen from the President to ban such imports on the grounds that Black Powder can be used to make terrorist bombs.

We faced that problem several times in the past.  A goodly portion of the ATF staff wants black powder out of civilian hands totally.  They just never got big enough to size to pull that off.   And that ban would have included domestic production.  The ATF forensic people had little good info to use in investigated black powder bombing. I had about 6 months were I was writing papers on how to look at the powders very closely and tell producers, type of bp trace chemicals indicating individual producers and sometimes periods of production.  That ended the call to put tagging chemicals into our black powder.  There was already a bunch of these chemicals in the powder.  No two powder producers used the same source for their ingredients and each source had their own unique array of traces of odd chemicals.

Offline Mike from OK

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Re: Question for Mad Monk @ Substitute Powders in a Flintlock?
« Reply #19 on: January 02, 2022, 06:37:19 AM »
One of the coal mines near me bought a barge load of surplus powder from the government to use for blasting...

Something to see "granules" the size of your thumb.

Mike