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» Economics » Pyrotechnics » Topics begins with B » Black powder

Page modified: Wednesday, July 13, 2011 15:42:35

Black powder (also often gun powders called) was the first explosive, which was used as propellant for firearms. The mixture burns racing fast, does not exceed here however not the internal-material speed of sound, why instead of of a detonation of a Deflagration one speaks. With the burn a temperature of approximately 2,000 develops "°C.


Black powder consists 10% sulfur, which must be absolutely acidless of a mixture of 75% Kaliumnitrat, 15% charcoal, primarily of the wood of the Faulbaums won, and.

Powders on sodium nitrate basis, which are very hygroscopic more cheaply, but, were manufactured in the form of Presslingen and impregnated with bitumen against humidity. Since they were suitable in this form as cannon powder little, they were used primarily in the mining industry, the actual designation read Sprengsalpeter.

Salpeter serves as oxygen supplier, Kohlepulver as fuel and sulfur as fuel and Sensibilisierer, so that it begins to burn during smallest contact with sparks.

These components must be ground finely and mixed evenly, whereby each procedure takes several hours. That happens mostly in the mixture into cakes so mentioned is damp injected and dried, which again zerstossen and/or are roughened. Thus one attains a larger surface and burn-up rate. To the enlargement and/or the powder was partly brought to the burn-up rate in complicated forms: hexagonal staffs with several drillings, in order to increase the surface during the burn-up.

The finished powder is still dried and can be filled up and/or packed then. It keeps itself hermetically packed over centuries completely unchanged.

For the achievement of flame colorations in pyrotechnic mixtures the Kaliumnitrat can be replaced by nitrate, whose cation supplies an appropriate flame coloration.

Chemical reaction (much simplifies):

16 C + 4 S + 10 KNO_3 \ rightarrow 15 CO + K_2CO_3 + 4 K_2SO_3 + 5 N_2

This reaction equation is approximate at black powders with 15% charcoal, 10% sulfur and 75% saltpeter portion. Were not considered thereby the remaining humidity as well as the oxygen, hydrogen and ash portion in the charcoal.

Black powder deflagriert with 300 to 600 m/s, play the remaining humidity, the thoroughness of grinding and mixture of the components, which size was used and density of the charge as well as the granulation large with hand weapons fine-grained powder, in order to achieve at all an acceptable Schussleistung, had with large-caliber cannons according to coarse-grained powder to be used, in order to limit the final pressure and avoid thus tubing breakups.

The cloud volume (with standard conditions) lies around 337 l/kg, in addition about 0.58 kg firm potassium salts develop.

The disadvantages of black powders are the quite low achievement, by the combustible gases caused strong muzzle flash and strong smoke development by the large quantities of firm potassium salts. For this reason it was displaced to a large extent by smoke-weak gun powder on the basis of nitrocellulose ones.

Caution! Black powder is a little sensitively in relation to impact, sensitive because of the developing frictional heat however strongly opposite friction. Static electricity (spark impact) can ignite it only extremely with difficulty, since the used charcoal in the black powder represents a good leader and the electricity into the ground is thus passed on. The lies very low (approx. 170 "°C). Black powder is measure explosive, i.e., starting from a certain quantity of approx. a kilogram is necessary no more insulation, in order to release an explosion.


The Byzantiner knew already in the year 671 a mixture from rosin, sulfur and Salpeter, Greek fire mentioned and invented from Kallinikos from Heliopolis. This on water inflammable material played a crucial role with the defense of Konstantinopel. In the following centuries "the Greek fire was used "particularly in sea-engagements against the fleets of the penetrating Muslims.

In the Empire of China salpeterhaltige incendiary compounds in the Song temporal Wu Ching Tsung Yao are mentioned of 1044. The book is delivered however only in its earliest copy of 1550 from the Ming time, therefore is no longer recognizable whether the notes were added not later to the incendiary compounds. 1330 came into force a law of the Mongolian Besatzer, which forbade the Chinese the possession of all possible weapons. Therefore the dangerous powder and the Feuerwaffen were mentioned with no word and were unknown in this time in China as weapons. In its book concerning mounted fight and the use of war machines (aluminium-Furusiyya wa aluminium-Manasib aluminium-Harbiyya) from that 13. Century describes the Syrian author Hassan acre-Rammah the production of black powders, in particular the necessary cleaning of the saltpeter. The Liber Ignium (book of the fire) of Marcus Graecus, approximately from that 11. Century with still received copies of the beginning 13. , Contains directly several prescription variants of century. Also Roger Bacon mentions in several writings from 1242 to 1267 several times the powder, but with different mass conditions and even 1267 as Kinderspielzeug. A further around 1250 written book, which was attributed falsely to Albertus Magnus, copied almost completely the older book of Marcus Graecus.

In the Middle Ages one called the black powder also "thunder herb ". The today's name black powder does not decrease/go back by any means on the Berthold black from Freiburg, in 14. Century found according to a legend a better mixing ratio of sulfur, charcoal and Salpeter (this mixture differs from the Chinese according to the saltpeter content) to separate on its appearance, toward end 19. Jhd. one needed a distinction black powders of the new (white) nitrocellulose powders.

The black powder remained up to the invention of the modern explosives the only military and civilian explosive and only propellant for artillery and hand-held weapons. In 17. Century was facilitated its handling as propellant for mash ketene by the paper cartridge with measured amount of filling including ball. In the first half 19. Jh. made the development of the Hinterladers the still simpler unit cartridge possible. Since center 19. Century displaced explosive explosives like nitroglycerin, the dynamite which are based on it, the nitrocellulose one (gun cotton) and Nitroaromaten and Nitramine etc. the black powder to a large extent as explosive and propellants.

Today black powder is used particularly for fireworks. It serves thereby as propellant for simple rockets, as charge of and as output and Zerlegerladung for larger effect carriers as for example Bombetten. In the shooting black powder is only used as reminiscence to the history of the contactor nature, where it comes into different disciplines of the front loader and Westernschiessens or to the Salutschiessen to the employment.


Mentioned black powder exists like further above of a mixture of Salpeter, Holzkohle and Schwefel in the relationship 75:15: 10. As replacement of Salpeter also nitrate is usable like e.g. Kaliumnitrat etc. The Alpha and Omega of the black powder production is fine pulverizing added. First the charcoal is powdered e.g. in the mortar, to it-given finely afterwards the before finely gemahlene sulfur. The mixture will continue to grind in the mortar. This point is very important with the production, because thus the sulfur in the charcoal powder can store itself. Subsequently, Salpeter is to it-given and (not in the mortar!) innigst with the charcoal sulfur mixture blends. That the longer one added grinds, the black powder is important the faster and more arrearsless burns.

Legal references to the acquisition (Switzerland, Austria, Germany)

In Switzerland and Austria each private person is entitled to the acquisition of black powders. The sales to children is limited or forbidden.

In Germany private people are entitled to the acquisition of black powders, if they took an examination after an appropriate training course in accordance with "§32 of the first regulation to the explosive law. are called such training courses also or front loader training course. These training courses only persons become certified, which in accordance with "§34 of the first regulation to the explosive law a so-called certificate of non-objection to submit, which, dependent on the respective official competencies, is issued e.g. on the district administration office or on the office for supervision of trade. Within the private sector becomes after successful training course (proven by an official certification) and when being present an entitled need (customs when and exercising the appropriate shooting with front loader contactors) a handling permission after "§27 SprengG to handling powder within the private sector, which so-called "27-er" issued, which is likewise given by the district administration office or trade supervisory board. The own production of black powders is forbidden after German right.

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