Blackpowder "Oops", or starting New years a bit early...


December 30, 2002, 11:05 PM
I'd collected about a dozen or so early Remington-UMC .45-70 rounds, the brass appeared to be of the balloon-head type. Some fired, but a bunch didn't when I tried them in my Ruger #1S. No problem, I've been looking for some usable brass to try and duplicate a full-load .45-70 blackpowder charge, and I just can't get 70 grains of FFg into the newer Remington and Winchester brass and still seat the bullet properly.

The kinetic bullet puller got the big, hollow-base lead bullet out of the ammo. Cool, now I just gotta dump the old powder out.

It won't come out. It's one solid chunk of blackpowder after all those decades. Scraping with a small screwdriver just gives a few flakes. Hmm...

I've always gotten rid of surplus powder one of two ways - spreading it the lawn as a nitrate fertilizer, or putting it in a stainless measuring cup on a concrete pad, and lighting off a piece of paper towel stuck in the powder before stepping back several yards.

Ok, I set up the recalcitrant .45-70 round on my front entry sidewalk, stuffed some paper towel wadding into the top, and put a pinchful of IMR4350 into the wadding to give the ignition process some extra heat. I lit off the paper towel, and stepped back several yards to watch the short-lived Roman candle about to happen.

Save for one thing. It didn't happen that way. More like an M-80, or better, an M-100. Egad! The pressure wave was felt about the same time the ear-shattering Ka-BOOM happened.

My wife came running out of the house, probably expecting to see bits and pieces of me raining down from the sky.

Suffice it to say, old compressed blackpowder columns in vintage rifle brass can generate some pretty impressive blast effects.

The brass looked fine after the contents lit off, so it got soaked in soapy water like all of my blackpowder brass, and tumbled clean.

But I'll never do that again! Whew!


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December 31, 2002, 01:42 AM
I think I would have done this behind the house.

December 31, 2002, 08:03 PM
No time like New Years to do a little fire forming! :D

4v50 Gary
December 31, 2002, 09:12 PM
Old blackpowder can remain potent. What you had was a cannon size grain. Not that wimpy 1F stuff but 18" cannon size grain.

December 31, 2002, 09:15 PM
Or was it the decades of compression that formed it into the homogenous single grain of blackpowder? I wonder how much different the pressure curve was. When I fired the sibling cartridges, they weren't that much more potent than my own drop-tubed .45070 blackpowder loads.

Of course, the folks who loaded that particular round are long since gone.

January 2, 2003, 01:19 PM
The Pyro in me rears his ugly head

:evil: Kewl! Wonder if these can be reproduced. I like a good big bang every now and again!

Hmmmm, maybe try and use something to desolve the BP into one homogenous state and let it dry... hmmmm

January 2, 2003, 03:17 PM
The dog ran and hid INSIDE the computer desk at my wife's feet when it happened. And she stayed there long enough for me to get pictures afterwards. Guess she ain't going duck or pheasant hunting with me anytime soon.

The brass is now loaded with 5.0 grains of WST, then 55.0 grains of FFg. A Wonder Wad sits under the 405gr cast bullet. We'll see how they perform this weekend. I have two more dead hard drives that need a hole for the bad data to leak out of. :evil:

January 10, 2003, 09:57 PM
I don't think that it took decades for the powder column to become a more or less solid mass. I've pulled recent BP reloads down and found the same thing, I believe that it's the compression of the charge that is the primary cause. I think that if I want to salvage some brass with a mass of BP inside, I'd just soak them in hot soapy water, messy but it'd work.

Don in Ohio

4v50 Gary
January 10, 2003, 10:40 PM
Gewehr98 - Like yourself, I think the powder got stuck into one massive grain and hence the 18" cannon size grain. Keep your powder dry. :)

January 10, 2003, 11:24 PM
The brass looked fine after the contents lit off, so it got soaked in soapy water like all of my blackpowder brass, and tumbled clean.

Did your underwear get soaked in some soapy water to clean them too? :p

January 11, 2003, 08:21 AM
I'm no expert, but unlike smokeless propellant, BP is an EXPLOSIVE. It does not exactly burn but goes off at one time. I assume that's why the loads have to be compressed, so the ball is the weak link that moves when the detonation occurs. If there is air space, the detonation works against the steel of the chamber and can enlarge it or even rupture the bbl/cyl. :what: :eek:

January 28, 2006, 11:48 PM
I've been loading 65gr of FFFg Goex black powder for my 1874 Sharps recently, and thought about that older solid grain of black powder in that vintage .45-70 round. I'm routinely compressing about 0.30-0.40" of FFFg as I seat my 500gr bullets above the top lube groove, so it really doesn't surprise me these days that the stuff essentially becomes one huge kernel of BP over time. I'd wager that if I disassembled one of my own BP loads after a few years, it would appear the same.

Something else that caught my eye as I disassembled those ancient REM-UMC .45 Gov rounds - the bullet was seated directly onto the BP column. No wad!

That leads me to believe what others before me have said, namely, that black powder formulation in the old days was considerably better than it is now, especially if they didn't use blow tubes, duplex loads, or over-powder wads to keep things going smoothly.

January 31, 2006, 11:12 AM
I did a similar thing years ago but with different results.
I had an el-cheapo Spanish percussion single shot pistol back in the early 60s. The load in it had gotten wet, I don't recall exactly how, but it wouldn't fire. Being a kid, I decided to deal with it later and just put it away. When later arrived quite some time down the road, I managed to work a screw into the ball and get it pulled. The powder wouldn't pour out so I attempted to break up the caked powder with the screw I'd used on the ball. I could only get small pieces to break loose so I thought if I couldn't get the powder to light from the back, I'd try it from the front.
I removed the barrel from the stock, poured some powder down the bore, laid the barrel on the sidewalk (yep, in front of the house) and scooted the barrel backwards until I got a powder trail just out of the muzzle. When I lit the powder trail, the pistol barrel didn't fire, it became a rocket! It swooshed up under the porch where it's a miracle it didn't catch leaves under there on fire. I have no real sense of how long it burned, couldn't have been long, but it seemed like forever.
When I got it out, the caked powder was gone so I suppose the project suceeded. So, why will a single grain blow up sometimes and apparently burn progressively sometimes?


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