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Thread: Ulrich Bretscher's SMOKELESS BLACK POWDER & HANDGONNE web page. Re-found!

  1. #46
    Member Cordite's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by canross View Post
    I'm curious if one were to make smokeless(sulphurless) black powder, whether it would behave similarly at the standardized black powder compressed volumetric/gravimetric grain weight..... probably not, but would be neat to find out, and would certainly make measuring it with the normal BP volumetric scales easier.
    Ulrich Bretscher did that comparison in an Enfield muzzle loading rifle, home-made three-component gunpowder vs home-made two-component smokeless gunpowder. Found that the two-component was about 10% less powerful.

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    The page with the diagram above and the discussion around it.

    Bretscher created an impressive three dimensional graph varying both sulfur and charcoal proportions.

    Swiss artillery created a type of smokeless gunpowder created by the usual method but eliminating sulphur from the mixture. It overcame the problem in fortresses that you blinded yourself to what attackers were up to once you had fired the first cannon salvo, instead the two-component powder left a light haze. @Marty Henry's post above explains the difference.

    To go on from your question canross, Bretscher mentioned that he wondered if the smokeless powder would behave differently in modern, large case small calibre bottlenecked cartridges rather than in an old Enfield muzzle loading rifle.
    canross likes this.
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  2. #47
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    Thanks Cordite! I see what you're saying around the comparison of his two home made powders.

    I think I usually write too much without being very clear - what I was trying to say (poorly) was I was curious about whether the sulphurless BP would behave the same was as sulphur based BP when compressed as part of the manufacturing process. You can make BP without pressing into pucks before graining it into Fg, FFG, FFFG etc, but you'll get a very light fluffy powder. Pressing into pucks then corning it down to the appropriate grain size gives you a "standard" powder. I have no idea what that standard is, but it seems like there is one. Again, I haven't done it, just read about it.

    I didn't see Ulrich's write-up mention compressing his powder so that the mass (1 gr) matched whatever the accepted "standard" density of BP is, which apparently affects burn rate (from what I've read: as powder density increases from pressing, burn rate decreases). In that way I suspect that home made powders by their nature are faster burning than commercial powders because they are lower density, but at the cost of being less robust and bulkier.
    Since we have powder measures that have volumetric graduations, and most countries historically used volumetric measurements for their powders, there must be some sort of accepted density for powders that most current commercial companies follow where they can say that X weight of BP equals Y Volume of BP. I know historically that exact density varied between countries, but within one area of standardization (military, country, region, alliance) they tried to keep that density fairly consistent so one batch of powder wouldn't be significantly stronger or weaker at a given charge volume than another (though it did happen as angry letters from supply agents to powder mills and officials demonstrate).

    If the whole "density increase=burn rate decrease" thing is correct, then I'm curious if the two powders (sulphur and sulphurless) might behave the same or differently when compressed as part of manufacturing. Might be that the sulphurless stuff burns faster than its sulphur counterpart when compressed, or maybe it burns slower, or maybe compression doesn't affect it any differently than its identically treated sulphur-using counterpart. Maybe it's even harder to ignite when compressed, maybe it's easier. I'd assume that it would continue to be 10% less powerful in compressed form than its sulphur counterpart.... but maybe it isn't? If there wasn't a significant decrease in performance it would at bare minimum mean you could use your standard volumetric powder measure to measure loads with your muzzle loader and not have to offset your charge weight because it was a sulfurless powder.

    Anyways, that's me rambling. It would make a fun experiment I guess is what I'm trying to say at the end of it all.

  3. #48
    Member Cordite's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by canross View Post
    Thanks Cordite! I see what you're saying around the comparison of his two home made powders.

    I think I usually write too much without being very clear - what I was trying to say (poorly) was I was curious about whether the sulphurless BP would behave the same was as sulphur based BP when compressed as part of the manufacturing process. You can make BP without pressing into pucks before graining it into Fg, FFG, FFFG etc, but you'll get a very light fluffy powder. Pressing into pucks then corning it down to the appropriate grain size gives you a "standard" powder. I have no idea what that standard is, but it seems like there is one. Again, I haven't done it, just read about it.

    I didn't see Ulrich's write-up mention compressing his powder so that the mass (1 gr) matched whatever the accepted "standard" density of BP is, which apparently affects burn rate (from what I've read: as powder density increases from pressing, burn rate decreases). In that way I suspect that home made powders by their nature are faster burning than commercial powders because they are lower density, but at the cost of being less robust and bulkier.
    Since we have powder measures that have volumetric graduations, and most countries historically used volumetric measurements for their powders, there must be some sort of accepted density for powders that most current commercial companies follow where they can say that X weight of BP equals Y Volume of BP. I know historically that exact density varied between countries, but within one area of standardization (military, country, region, alliance) they tried to keep that density fairly consistent so one batch of powder wouldn't be significantly stronger or weaker at a given charge volume than another (though it did happen as angry letters from supply agents to powder mills and officials demonstrate).

    If the whole "density increase=burn rate decrease" thing is correct, then I'm curious if the two powders (sulphur and sulphurless) might behave the same or differently when compressed as part of manufacturing. Might be that the sulphurless stuff burns faster than its sulphur counterpart when compressed, or maybe it burns slower, or maybe compression doesn't affect it any differently than its identically treated sulphur-using counterpart. Maybe it's even harder to ignite when compressed, maybe it's easier. I'd assume that it would continue to be 10% less powerful in compressed form than its sulphur counterpart.... but maybe it isn't? If there wasn't a significant decrease in performance it would at bare minimum mean you could use your standard volumetric powder measure to measure loads with your muzzle loader and not have to offset your charge weight because it was a sulfurless powder.

    Anyways, that's me rambling. It would make a fun experiment I guess is what I'm trying to say at the end of it all.
    Yes, lots of unknowns. Sadly... I don't think anyone on this forum will invest in a 30 ton pressure BP mill to find out. This is the commercial powder difference.

    Anyway Bretscher found that, by weight his homemade sulfur BP was more powerful than Swiss commercially milled powder! The dense commercial kernels help get a lot more charge into a fixed cartridge space but does not seem to make the best out of the powder otherwise. This is good news for muzzle loaders who want to make their own powder as they don't have to make compromises. They can load by weight. And if you want to load subsonic loads you might even get enough into a cartridge case!

    Got a tin of sulfur free BP sitting there and some of shooternz's 212 grain .303 boolits, life on the range is going to be good post-lockdown, but I must remember to bring a cleaning rod... (O:
    Micky Duck and canross like this.
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  4. #49
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    Well how interesting thanks Micky.

    I recall reading somewhere that New Zealand's own native Mahoe (whitey wood) was once used to make charcoal for powder manufacturing.

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    It is interesting that Mahoe is also said to be one of the woods used by the Maori to make fire. I've used it successfully as a bow drill hearth to create embers.

  7. #52
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    Ive "heard" that charcoal made from totara....like the one growing in my front yard....makes great charcoal but will take much longer to burn down in tin can...and BP made with said totara charcoal weighs heavier than BP made with willows ...like the ones growing in river down the road...wink wink.

  8. #53
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    if you look at properties of willow for burning....burns quickly,sparks a bit,clean ash,very light in weight
    totara is similar but I believe TAWA would be very very similar to willow...unfortunately tawa isnt down here in south canterbury.

  9. #54
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    Cant recall for sure, but I think I've heard that grape vines make good charcoal for the purpose. And all this has got me thinking about producing your own potassium nitrate. I recall hearing/reading that urine and wood ash were part of the process. So I just looked it up and came across this simple description: Science Minus Details: Why Pee is Cool - entry #3 - "Explosive Urination" or "Gunpowder Comes from Pee!!!"

  10. #55
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    read what mr B says about it....really interesting site

  11. #56
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coote View Post
    Cant recall for sure, but I think I've heard that grape vines make good charcoal for the purpose. And all this has got me thinking about producing your own potassium nitrate. I recall hearing/reading that urine and wood ash were part of the process. So I just looked it up and came across this simple description: Science Minus Details: Why Pee is Cool - entry #3 - "Explosive Urination" or "Gunpowder Comes from Pee!!!"
    Yup. The hay from barns is an easy source, pre soaked in horse/cow piss.
    You can of course grow your own.

    Urine also used in tanning fish skins.
    Amazing now how much time, effort and enrrgy society spends "dealing with waste" what was once considered a resource...
    Micky Duck likes this.
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  12. #57
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    Quote Originally Posted by mimms2 View Post
    Yup. The hay from barns is an easy source, pre soaked in horse/cow piss.
    You can of course grow your own.

    Urine also used in tanning fish skins.
    Amazing now how much time, effort and enrrgy society spends "dealing with waste" what was once considered a resource...
    I've been to piss farms in Canada where pregnant Mares are kept in stalls and their piss collected. Wonder if any have blown up lately ?
    'Bother' said Pooh, as he chambered another round ... Wong Far King Way

  13. #58
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    Off topic but pregnant mares urine is used to make PMGS pregnant mare gonadotropin serum used in artifical insemination to synchronise ovulation.

    I did read somewhere that one of the commercial BP substitutes, 777 I think it was used a complex sugar like mannitol that contains a significant amount of oxygen already as part of the fuel along with the charcoal.
    Last edited by Marty Henry; 17-10-2020 at 07:15 AM.

  14. #59
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marty Henry View Post
    Off topic but pregnant mares urine is used to make PMGS pregnant mare gonadotropin serum used in artifical insemination to synchronise ovulation.

    I did read somewhere that one of the commercial BP substitutes, 777 I think it was used a complex sugar like mannitol that contains a significant amount of oxygen already as part of the fuel along with the charcoal.
    "rocket candy" is made with plain ol' table sugar,and gives a bit bit of lift...
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  15. #60
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    Quote Originally Posted by mimms2 View Post
    "rocket candy" is made with plain ol' table sugar,and gives a bit bit of lift...
    The favourite sweetener of the PLO in the Gaza strip

 

 

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