Black powder guns are one of the funnest hobbies you can have, and you can employ a lot of your own ingenuity when pursuing this hobby. I still remember seeing my dad melt down lead weights from semi-truck tires into black powder bullets. . .
On the other hand, many antique and antique replica black powder weapons are exempt from the Federal Firearms Act Of 1968. That means that legally, the 6 shooter black powder revolver you order off of the internet is NOT a firearm under federal law. The implications are tremendous…
So – I thought I’d give you yet another EPIC post. . . This time on:
Everything You Need to Know About Black Powder Guns
Black powder, also known as Gun powder, is one of the oldest explosives made from a combination of chemicals. Gun powders were first made in China as early as the 9th century. Although modern day guns do not really use black powder anymore, antique guns still function well with this kind of explosive. In fact, this is even more reliable compared to other types of explosives that are currently available for modern guns today.
Black powder is a mixture of sulfur, potassium nitrate and charcoal. Each of these three chemicals has its own use in the finished product. Charcoal, as well as sulfur, acts as the fuel for this explosive. Charcoal and sulfur both have great burning properties not only when used as gun powders, but also when combined with other chemicals. Meanwhile, the potassium nitrate (a.k.a. Saltpeter) functions as an oxidizer. The combination of these three chemicals makes a powerful explosive, enough to shoot even long range targets.
How Black Powder Is Made
Black powder has many uses. In fact, it has been used by many campers and hikers as a survival tool. They say that there are only 2 ways you can get hold of black powder. One is by buying it, and the other one is by making it. Yes, that’s right. You can make your own gun powder.
Caveat: Neither I nor anyone associated with me is suggesting that you manufacture black powder. It’s legal to own in most places in the US, but please check your local laws, and avoid production of any explosive under any circumstance these days, especially in bulk – as the authorities are much more strict about these things than they used to be. I would recommend meeting and getting to know an established black powder hobbyist who can teach you how to properly handle and use black powder and black powder weapons.
It’s true that making your own black powder can help you save a lot of money, but it’s not that easy to make. You have to go back to some of your chemistry and physics lessons in order to perfect the recipe. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that your location could affect the kind of recipe for making black powder.
To recap, here is a list of the ingredients needed when making black powder:
- Saltpeter (Potassium nitrate)
You won’t need every ingredient listed above for a single recipe of black powder. Since there are various recipes for black powder, that’s the list of all the ingredients needed for any recipe you might find.
Here is a step by step tutorial on how black powder is made:
- Choose the right black powder recipe. Before you even start thinking of making your own black powder, you should research which recipe to use. This will prevent you from overbuying ingredients that you don’t really need. There are mild to extremely powerful black powder recipes you can find, so choose what best suits your needs.
- Purchase the ingredients for your black powder. Usually, potassium nitrate (Saltpeter) and Sulfur are sold in drugstores. As for the charcoal, you may opt to buy it, or make it on your own. (The only advantage of making your own charcoal is that you can be sure of its quality.) If you want to just buy your charcoal, then you can skip this step. Otherwise, proceed with this – To make your own charcoal, you must first choose the kind of wood you want to use. Willow, fir, birch or oak are good materials for making charcoal. Place the wood of your choice inside a lidded container. Make sure that there’s a little open space between the lid and the container, so that some steam can escape. Start a fire under your container, and wait for the steam to come out. Once you see steam coming out from the container, light up the wood inside the container and wait again until the fire burns out. What remains inside the container is now your charcoal.
- Grind ingredients separately (It’s extremely important to grind your ingredients separately to have the best outcome). Most commercial black powder ingredients are gro using a Ball Mill. However, if you do not have this equipment, then you can just use mortar and pestle. You may also use an ordinary hand mill that you can find at home.
- The next thing you should do is to measure your ingredients. As of this writing, the most common ratio for making black powder is 75 parts Saltpeter – 15 parts charcoal – 10 parts sulfur.
- After measuring your ingredients, chill 600ml of isopropyl alcohol for every 100 grams of sulfur & charcoal mixture. If you are planning to use 200 grams of sulfur & charcoal mixture, then you should chill 1200ml of isopropyl alcohol. Once the alcohol is cold enough, combine it together with the sulfur & charcoal mixture. Set aside.
- The next step involves your potassium nitrate. In a pan (an old one preferably), measure 40ml of water for every 100 grams of nitrate used. Continuing the example above, you will need a total of 600grams of nitrate. This means you will also need 240ml of water. After putting water in the pan, add your nitrate and bring the mixture to a boil while continuously stirring it. Make sure nitrate is totally dissolved.
- Add the sulfur & charcoal mixture to your pot of boiling potassium nitrate. Continuously stir until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.
- Bring all your mixture outside and take out your chilled alcohol. Add the hot mixture to your isopropyl alcohol and stir until everything is combined. After ensuring that all the ingredients are thoroughly combined, chill this new mixture. (The faster you chill this mixture, the better the results will be)
- Get your chilled mixture and take out the excess water from it using cheesecloth, or anything that can filter your mixture (an old t-shirt or blanket will do).
- Take your mixture outside and place it on a piece of paper. Make sure to place it under the heat of the sun.
- After a while, strain your damp mixture using a sieve or sifter. After removing the excess water, let it dry under the heat of the sun again.
- Once your mixture dries completely, press it down on a sieve to make sure that it becomes a powdery substance and to avoid having large lumps.
- You now have your black powder. Make sure to store it inside a container, preferably a glass container, and seal it tightly.
Make sure to follow all these instructions to end up with good quality black powder. You no longer need to wonder how to make black powder…
Best Black Powder Rifles
Rifles are among the most commonly used firearms in the USA but modern-day firearms don’t really use black powder anymore, but there are still available black powder powered rifles in the market at present.
To give you some examples, here’s a list of black powder rifles today:
- Thompson Center Impact .50 Muzzleloader
This is currently one of the most powerful firearms today. The Thompson Center Impact has flexible features that can accommodate any size shooter. One of the advantages you can get when using the Thompson Center Impact is that it can easily be handled by both right and left handed shooters, due to a special break-open hood.
Another special thing that comes with Thompson Center Impact is its well-built, adjustable TruGlo fiber optic sights. This allows you to see targets even at long distances.
- CVA Optima V2 Muzzleloading Rifle
- This is one of the most high-end black powder guns today. It’s also among those firearms that can give you the best value for your money. The CVA Optima V2 Muzzleloading Rifle is equipped with a 26-inch barrel, which allows you to shoot targets even at long distances. This is one of the reasons why the CVA Optima V2 is most commonly used by hunters and bird shooters.
How to Load Black Powder Rifles
More often than not, black powder rifles are used by hunters. This is probably because of their practicality and functionality. Aside from the fact that rifles are accurate in shooting targets, you can also save lots of money when used black powder. Ammo is relatively expensive, depending on the quality of the ammo you purchase. When you go out hunting, it would cost you a considerable sum of money to even shoot one target since they are in motion most of the time. Before you know it, you have already used up all your ammo, without a single animal shot.
Here are some detailed instructions on how you can load black powder into your rifles:
- Measure your black powder
- This step is very crucial. You have to make sure to only put the right amount of black powder into your rifle. Putting only a few grams of black powder will affect the performance of your rifle, and putting too much of it might lead to serious injuries. There are available powder measures that you can use in order to perfectly determine the amount of black powder to use.
- Load black powder into your rifle
- After determining the right amount of black powder to use, carefully load this into your rifle through its muzzle. Just a reminder though – You should never put black powder into a rifle right after it has been fired. The reason for this is that there might still be some hot powder left in the muzzle, which could ignite the newly loaded black powder. If you need to shoot consecutive shots, then you must wipe off the insides of your rifle’s muzzle to ensure that there is no hot powder residue.
- Load the bullet (projectile)
- It’s important to use only the appropriate type of projectile compatible with your rifle. Otherwise, you might experience difficulties in firing the rifle, and this could even lead to serious injuries afterwards. Insert the projectile into your gun’s barrel, but make sure it isn’t that tight or loose.
- This is the last step in loading your rifle with black powder. It’s highly advisable to only do this when you’re already in hunting grounds. To prime your rifle, you need to open the breach and place the primer in its proper position. Make sure that the primer fits perfectly before you close the breach.
That’s it. You can now use your black powder rifles when you go out for a hunting session.
Best Black Powder Shotguns
Shotguns can also be loaded with black powder. Here are some examples:
Traditions Kentucky .50 Caliber Percussion Muzzleloader
- -Although this model often becomes an ornament on the wall, it’s actually very functional and is built with precise accuracy. It’s quite easy to use with its single trigger ignition. It comes as a kit, so you can assemble it on your own with the aid of some instruction manuals included in the package.
Best Black Powder Revolvers
Revolvers have been around for quite some time now. They’re highly favored by many Americans since they can come in very handy and can even be used as a concealed carry weapon.
Here are some black powder revolvers that you might like:
Uberti 1847 Walker .44 Caliber Revolver
- When it comes to revolvers, Uberti is probably one of the best weaponry you can find. This is by far the largest gun ever produced by the company. Uberti 1847 Walker is also very famous for having the largest storage for black powder that any revolver could ever have.
Pietta 1851 Confederate Navy (.44 Caliber Revolver)
- This is another classic revolver that can be charged by using black powder. It’s purely made of brass, which makes it durable and chic. Although the gun comes with cylinders, you can purchase spare cylinders for faster reloading.
Make The Most Of Your Black Powder Hobby
If you’re new to black powder guns, it’s essential that you find a local expert or black powder group in your area who can show you the ropes. Youtube just won’t cut it for this hobby.
Black powder hunting is a real sport and black powder marksmanship is a real martial art, and it’s important that you seek out expert training and advice, so that you can become as proficient in the use of black powder arms as possible, and enjoy this “not a firearm” hobby (in the case of antique replicas) for the rest of your life.