War is Peace

Freedom is Slavery

Ignorance is Strength

Just repeat that over and over again and it may make you better able to understand the mood of the planet. Australia, USA, France, and so forth. It’s been like that in China since their glorious cultural revolution.

(Zero Hedge) Despite the fact that the French people haven’t experienced such an intense ‘papers please’ society since the Nazi occupation, President Macron insisted that vaccine passports were about protecting people’s “freedom”.

“It’s about citizenship. Freedom only exists if the freedom of everyone is protected,” Macron said, adding, “it’s worth nothing if by exercising our freedom we contaminate our brother, neighbor, friend, parents, or someone we have come across at an event, Then freedom becomes irresponsibility.”

However, Julien Odoul of the right-leaning Rassemblement National slammed the French government, asserting, “The constitutional council has approved a two-tier society where there are two categories of citizens who don’t have the same rights.” There is a lot of that going around.

666

You can buy your vax cardholder on Amazon… Only $4 + tax. You don’t want to be the last one in your neighborhood to have one. You might need to buy two to document all the booster shots that they’ll be injecting into you.

“What can you do, thought Winston, against the lunatic who is more intelligent than yourself; who gives your arguments a fair hearing and simply persists in his lunacy?” – Orwell, 1984

 

Gunpowder – A Brief, Practical, Historical Discussion

Despite being singularly important to warfare since the Middle Ages, gunpowder, and in particular ye olde black powder c.Tang China to the Third French Republic (1870), took a long time to be practical, efficient, and safe.

In its earliest form, black powder or serpentine as it was called in Western Europe consisted of a very fine powder made up of large quantities of saltpeter, charcoal, and sulfur. Said powder was extremely finicky to use, as it was sensitive to humidity and its components would not stay mixed homogeneously if shaken like, say, during travel in an army’s baggage train on some thousand-year-old Roman road. Both problems would have to be remedied on-site before use in a firearm, by re-grounding or re-mixing, which created highly volatile black powder dust around your encampment.

On top of making yourself extremely flammable, working with fine loose gunpowder as a gunner for large medieval bombards provided a challenge. Serpentine could not be packed tightly into your gun, or it wouldn’t burn properly, instead, it needed to occupy about half of the powder chamber then be sealed with a wooden plug before the projectile was loaded. On the best of days, only half of your powder would turn into propellant gasses, with the rest fouling up your barrel and creating this quaint, foul-smelling fog of war.   When the priming charge was lit on the gun’s touch-hole, the deflagration there would disturb the powder inside like a sneeze would a pile of instant coffee, with this airborne dust being the ideal state for gunpowder/instant coffee to combust.

This airborne dust works better than a sitting pile of powder because for a reaction like this to be self-sustaining it needs to happen fast, and fire propagates through the air to nearby independent particles about 150 times faster than it does through a particle itself. It’s not why a log will light your campsite for an hour while a pile of leaves will leave you without eyebrows in half a second but it’s a close enough analogy.

After four hundred years of using serpentine, corning was introduced in the fifteenth century to finally make gunpowder practical.   Corning started by wet-mixing the ingredients of gunpowder. Rather than simply grinding up the components, they would then be made wet with distilled alcohol and pressed into solid cakes. This left them homogeneously mixed, easier to handle and transport, and more resistant to ambient humidity. This part of the process was similar to that used in pharmacies to make pills.

These compressed, dry cakes would then be crumbled by hand or using sieves, to make grains of gunpowder, with corn being an old word for grain, which depending on their size would be used in different types of firearms.   Because a pile of corned gunpowder did not sit as compactly as serpentine, it did not require extra breathing room in a cannon’s powder chamber. Suddenly loading cannons became a much less complicated affair, with gunners packing their bombard tight with black powder and promptly exploding because it was now twice as powerful in that form.

Corning made all medieval cannons instantly obsolete.  Because of what we discussed above what with fire propagating faster between grains than through them and such, different sizes of corned powder were used for different size firearms. Very fine powder and even serpentine was still used for handguns, where the load was normally never strong enough that it risked bursting the barrel, or for priming larger guns. Said larger guns however needed to use large loads of gunpowder, which if set off too fast would result in a catastrophic pressure build-up before they could begin to move their heavy projectiles. This called for larger-sized grains of powder, which resulted in the same energy released but at a slightly slower rate to avoid the initial pressure spike. The largest grains of corned black powder were developed for 19th-century coastal guns, being the size of golf balls and reducing pressure inside the barrel by 80%.

Today, black powder is generally available in these corned categories: F, FF, FFF (rifle/musket), and FFFF (priming pan). I’ve used FF in my Brown Bess, but I get a better discharge with FFF. And I use FFF in the priming pan as well. Historically, the soldier loading the Brown Bess would bite the cartridge and pour some of the charge into the pan, close the frizzen, and put the weapon on half-cock. The remainder of the powder in the cartridge was poured down the muzzle, followed by the paper from the cartridge and the ball, which had been pre-sealed in the cartridge.

The weapon would be taken off half-cock, fired, rinse/repeat.

 

15 COMMENTS

  1. Nice little history lesson about the black powder. The early part I didn’t know so you’ve expanded my knowledge. I’ve known a lot of shooters who use 3F in both main charge and pan as you do. It does require a good lock and flint to ignite reliably. 4F works well in blanks used in staged gunfights. Most of the muzzleloaders I see at the range these days are in-lines and their owners usually use a substitute, mostly Triple 7. which works well and makes a lot of smoke, but lacks the smell and doesn’t sound right when it goes off. I suppose I’m something of a romantic.

    • If it doesn’t smell like sulfur, it’s just not right. I have 777 but prefer to use the real thing.

      I use 4F in my Dragoon.

  2. Vax Card- Yeah, right. Not happening. Not 100% sure of my reaction when some idiot makes the demand to see it, but I have an idea.

    Spring-boarded by that fine treatise on gun powder, Mr. MAGU has created a volatile “serpentine” situation, one spark and it goes up in a massive fireball. Covid was Step 1…this is Step 2 to bring America to it’s knees. Guess we’ll know in three weeks how emboldened our enemies have become under this subversive Administration, bringing thousands of Afghani’s to a city near you. Trump makes a phone call. Done. This clown couldn’t find his milk & cookies and nap mat without 3 Secret Service guys helping.

    Just remember, “We’re all in this together.” Uh, no…half of us ain’t playin’ stupid games.

    • For tactical use, there is smoke-less black powder. Makes less smoke, duh. And lots less fouling.

      And mixing black powder and tannerite is not to be recommended, but it works, or so I hear. No, never tried it. That takes space and time and money, all of which I am short of. (I can see my apartment manager’s face when I blow up the neighbor’s hooptie-mobile… yeah, no, at least not yet.)

  3. Back in high school 50 years ago, I tried to make black powder once. Didn’t work. No practical recipe, I’d just heard that it was ground charcoal, sulfur powder and saltpeter (potassium nitrate) from the drug store in equal amounts.

    We got more dramatic looking violet fires from saltpeter and sugar.

  4. There are many interesting topics in the book “Foxfire 5” including making your own saltpeter (KNO3)
    using chicken manure and stove ashes.

    I read somewhere long ago that the U.S. Army had a manual for the testing and purchase of black powder. One of the tests was to burn a pinch of powder on a copper sheet and observe the color of the copper. The article did not say what the results should be. I would love to have a copy of that manual.

    I’ve also read (in Foxfire 5?) that the wood used to make the charcoal makes a difference too.

    On a range trip back when my youngest son was in jr. high, the shooter to our right had a home built flintlock. He was kind enough to let my son shoot it, much to my son’s delight. So, next trip I dug our my trusty T/C 50 cal percussion Hawkin. Unfortunately, I elected to use some Pyrodex that had been on my shelf waaaay too long. First shot with a patched round ball was a glorified wet fart. The ball hit the ground about 40 yards out, then bounced down range. Gee, thanks dad.

  5. All of my black powder guns are percussion cap so no FFF for priming. I found that the priming pan going off a few inches from my face affected my accuracy just a bit more than was acceptable. I have found a significant difference between different FFF suppliers so stick with one brand for now just for consistencies sake.

  6. I’ve mixed up my own black powder, and corned it. Pretty easy if you use the crappy 7-3-1 formula (saltpeter, sulfur, charcoal.) Yes, I know now there are better recipes, but I was 11 years old. And information wasn’t as easily forthcoming as it is now, because 11 years old for me was just after the safety nazis swept through all the libraries and school books and removed all the fun stuff, dammit.

    Never picked it up as an adult, so maybe, considering how clutzy I am, that was a good thing.

    I’m sure, if you check the historical records, that the Chinese will take credit for corning before the Europeans.

  7. Like most guys my age, I made my own “black powder” as a hih-school kid. Don’t remember the formula, but it burned really fast on the ground, and made a lot of “fireworks” smelling smoke.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here