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Author Topic: The black powder of yesteryear??  (Read 3171 times)

Online ssb73q

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The black powder of yesteryear??
« on: July 14, 2015, 04:50:55 AM »
Hi, on a regular basis I see people posting that the black powder (BP) of yesteryear was more powerful than today's BP. Last night when watching The Last of the Mohicans I noticed that the flintlock rifle barrels seemed excessively long.  It seems that the rifle barrels of yesteryear were very long compared to modern rifles. My Pedersoli Kentucky rifle has a very long barrel. I remember years ago when visiting Old Fort Niagara that the guide told us that rifle barrels were made excessively long in that the rifles were traded to the Indians for a fur pile as high as the rifle was long. I would think that a frontiersman would want a rifle as light and short as possible, balanced against performance.

I kind of reject that the BP of yesteryear was more powerful than current production BP like Swiss or Olde Eynsford. The long barrels of yesteryear suggest that BP produced in the past was of lower quality where a long barrel was required to get reasonable performance.

What do you think, was the BP of yesterday more powerful than current production BP?

Regards,
Richard 
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Offline Captainkirk

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Re: The black powder of yesteryear??
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2015, 08:20:57 AM »
I see no reason why it would be more powerful. Sulfur is sulfur, saltpeter is saltpeter and charcoal is charcoal.
It's certainly more consistent today.
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Offline mike116

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Re: The black powder of yesteryear??
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2015, 04:11:34 PM »
I doubt if there is any real difference.   Just like nearly everything else,  we tend to feel that the products from years gone by are better than what is produced today.   

Offline G Dog

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Re: The black powder of yesteryear??
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2015, 05:04:19 PM »
I had thought that the elongation of the small caliber 18 th Century rifles was for accuracy in forested conditions against French, Indians and squirrels.  What about that?
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Online ssb73q

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Re: The black powder of yesteryear??
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2015, 08:08:13 PM »
Hi G Dog, I don't know, but most of the military muskets were 50+ caliber. I agree that a longer length barrel will provide a better sight radius compared to a shorter barreled long gun.

Regards,
Richard
There’s nothing better in the morning than the smell of bacon and black powder smoke!

Offline StrawHat

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Re: The black powder of yesteryear??
« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2015, 04:53:23 AM »
The is no comparison between long rifles and Indian Trade Guns.  Both ahd criteria that needed to be met in order to be sold to the perspective buyer.  The American Long Rifle was as individual as the owner wanted it to be and could afford.  In Pennsylvania, each county had a "school" style of rifle and with few exceptions, if you wanted something else, you had to travel there to get it.  John Armstrong actually worked in three different areas and could build rifles in those three styles but he usually blended them into one superbly styled rifle. 

The Indian Trade Gun was usually not rifled and was about 54 caliber.  The Indians wanted a longish barrel and they were actually made in several length.  Fancy ones were made up and presented to Chiefs to encourage trade with the whites.  Barnett, Sargent, Lehman, Henry, Deringer and many English companies made them for use by trading companies like Hudsons Bay and Astor.  Certain features had to be present on them including the Sitting Fox, the flat buttplate, and sometimes a snake inlay.  The preferred ignition was flint as it was readily available to the Indians.

Many books have been written and many of each style are available for view.

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Offline PaleHawkDown

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Re: The black powder of yesteryear??
« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2015, 10:37:36 AM »
I don't know if you could make a comparison to period, but people have definitely made it by place. Sometimes the ingredients available in a certain region were very pure, sometimes they were poor quality, and sometimes they were impure but had beneficial ingredients that made them a little hotter.

Since charcoal is generally made from wood, different woods have different qualities (tar levels, carbon content, fineness of carbon molecules, other chemical content), since the other ingredients were mined, scooped out of swamps, purified from sewage or other byproducts or whatever, there would also be variations in those ingredients.

For example, Confederate powder produced in Virginia was considered in its day to be some of the finest in the world. Testing shows that it was actually impure, but contained flecks of magnesium, phosphor, and other hot burning compounds which made it arguably superior to more "pure" powders created in England at the time and vastly superior to that Yankee stuff.

The Chinese are credited with inventing powder, but by the late medieval period theirs was some of the worst in the world, and Italy was king. Then Spain and England got into the game making even better powders. By the 17th century the Swiss, Austrians and Nordic nations were producing some of the best.

Another factor is the ratio of ingredients. There is a perfect ratio, but we found out in chemistry class that virtually any combination of those three ingredients will go boom when lit. Up until the 18th century no one was in total agreement what this perfect ratio was.

Basically a good "pure" powder then versus a good "pure" powder now, made from the same proportions should be identical, but when you get into variations the answer would pretty much have to be "yes, no and maybe both" in terms of quality of todays powders versus those of the past.


Offline Hewy

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Re: The black powder of yesteryear??
« Reply #7 on: March 13, 2016, 04:32:11 PM »
I don't know if you could make a comparison to period, but people have definitely made it by place. Sometimes the ingredients available in a certain region were very pure, sometimes they were poor quality, and sometimes they were impure but had beneficial ingredients that made them a little hotter.

Since charcoal is generally made from wood, different woods have different qualities (tar levels, carbon content, fineness of carbon molecules, other chemical content), since the other ingredients were mined, scooped out of swamps, purified from sewage or other byproducts or whatever, there would also be variations in those ingredients.

For example, Confederate powder produced in Virginia was considered in its day to be some of the finest in the world. Testing shows that it was actually impure, but contained flecks of magnesium, phosphor, and other hot burning compounds which made it arguably superior to more "pure" powders created in England at the time and vastly superior to that Yankee stuff.

The Chinese are credited with inventing powder, but by the late medieval period theirs was some of the worst in the world, and Italy was king. Then Spain and England got into the game making even better powders. By the 17th century the Swiss, Austrians and Nordic nations were producing some of the best.

Another factor is the ratio of ingredients. There is a perfect ratio, but we found out in chemistry class that virtually any combination of those three ingredients will go boom when lit. Up until the 18th century no one was in total agreement what this perfect ratio was.

Basically a good "pure" powder then versus a good "pure" powder now, made from the same proportions should be identical, but when you get into variations the answer would pretty much have to be "yes, no and maybe both" in terms of quality of todays powders versus those of the past.

Oh I gots to bring this forward :)
Now that I'm diving into black powder shooting, making my own Holy Black is the next chapter.
One of the biggest ,rather more frequent  items discussed are the ingredients and more specifically the charcoal used.
Wide spread usage around the world logically involves varying degree of so called purity.I say ,so called, because the guy in 1861
didn't give a damn about this ingredient is better than the another, as long as the bullet got out of the barrel with the pull of the trigger.
Hewy
BETTER TO GETTIN than GETTIN GOT.

Offline Hawg

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Re: The black powder of yesteryear??
« Reply #8 on: March 13, 2016, 05:21:42 PM »
The barrels were long to get a full burn of the powder. Pennsylvania/Kentucky rifle barrels were 36-48 inches with some longer. Hawken rifles were from 32-40 inches

Offline mazo kid

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Re: The black powder of yesteryear??
« Reply #9 on: March 13, 2016, 06:08:46 PM »
For years I have been hearing "the powders of yesteryear are stronger" and "the powders today are stronger".  I don't have the answer, but I think the powders of today might be more consistent. I do have some early DuPont powder, but have never tried it against, say Goex. Were the other powders more powerful? Hazards, Golden Pheasant, King, American, etc., these are some empty cans in my collection so I can't test any of them. The powders would have to be tested in the same gun so as to be consistent in the results.

Offline Hawg

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Re: The black powder of yesteryear??
« Reply #10 on: March 13, 2016, 06:24:10 PM »
Years ago I found an original 58 in a dilapidated barn fully loaded. I removed the charges and fired the powder out of a repro. It was definitely stronger. I have no clue as to how long it had been loaded but it had been in the barn a very long time as the side exposed to the elements was pitted up pretty  good while the other side just had some light pitting.