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Thread: Black vs Pyrodex vs Triple Se7en?

  1. #1
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    Black vs Pyrodex vs Triple Se7en?

    Hello,

    I'm sitting here reading all these arguments on the 'net about real black powder vs subs. So I went and looked at the actual ingredients, and here's what I found:

    Black powder is charcoal, sulfur, and potassium nitrate (but we knew that).

    Pyrodex is charcoal, sulfur, sodium nitrate, and potassium nitrate, with potassium perchlorate added.

    Triple Se7en is charcoal, potassium nitrate, and potassium perchlorate (Pyrodex without the sulfur).

    So it's basically the same stuff. Pyrodex contains an additional oxidizer, as does Triple Se7en, and the latter doesn't have sulfur. All contain a bit of graphite, likely to help flow, as most smokeless powders meant for reloading have it also.

    Can't find the MSDS on Shockey's Gold. I wonder if they're embarrassed to put it out there? It is extremely inconsistent and pretty good at making noise, but that's about it. Regardless, we know it's based on ascorbic acid, and probably has an oxidizer and binder in there too. But we'll leave it out of this because it's just not much good.

    So why the arguments? The Big 3 - Black, Pyrodex, and Triple Se7en powders - all share most of the same ingredients. Additionally, "real" black powder has historically contained less than the optimum amount of oxidizer at times (early pioneers would often urinate on it and let it dry as a chemical in urine is an oxidizer - they didn't know why it worked, but it did). Too, substitutions were made, for example, sodium nitrate would be used in place of potassium nitrate at times when the latter was scarce.

    True black has been more than one thing with more than one mixture - and in my mind, Pyrodex, if not Triple Se7en, would be close enough to the various mixtures to qualify as "true black" at one point or another in history.

    And I do have one related question as well: Potassium chlorate is a salt. IIRC, it's the same stuff given off by "corrosive" primers when they're fired. It's the salts which attract moisture and induce oxidization in barrels.

    How are these barrels safe? Doesn't seem they would be... unless the charcoal absorbs the moisture and holds it there.

    So the two questions are these:

    Why the arguments

    and

    how does a charged barrel not rust?

    Thanks,

    Josh
    Handguns and Ammunition

    Is it better to live by a corrupt society's standards rather than face persecution for not doing the same? This is the dilemma we now face. We must hold fast to our convictions as we confront this dilemma. Knowing one's self goes a long way in the crisis. - Me, Standup Philosopher

  2. #2
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    Potassium chlorate, KClO3, is the oxidizer in corrosive primers. The fired residue is potassium chloride, KCl.

    A loaded BP gun does not rust because the powder is dry; corrosion is mostly a solution process. I presume the ball seals the barrel against atmospheric humidity.

    I don't know why 777 is not corrosive being that it contains chlorate which will burn to chloride. Pyrodex IS corrosive if conditions are right, worse than real black.

    I never heard of a pioneer urinating on his powder. True, urine was considered a superior wetting agent for BP manufacture, preferably supplied by a wine-drinking monk. But if you have high levels of nitrates in your urine, you are a sick kitten.
    I have a few facts and a lot of opinions.

  3. #3
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    Seeing those ingredients, it makes you wonder why the ignition temperature of pyrodex is so much higher than black powder?
    In God we trust, everyone else we shall monitor.
    US Army, 1968-72. Americal Division, 196 LIB, RVN 1970

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    There may be something else in there to reduce its sensitivity so it can be shipped easier than real black.
    I have a few facts and a lot of opinions.

  5. #5
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    Thank you for the information.

    I'm going to try to get my hands on true black, but for now I had to go with Pyrodex just to get away from that Shockey's Gold stuff that came with the muzzleloader.

    I did see I made a typo: Pyrodex contains POTASSIUM NITRATE as well; I put sodium nitrate.

    I was thinking ahead to a future paragraph where I would address the sodium nitrate thing in old black.

    Sorry for the confusion.

    Thank you, again, for the info!

    Josh
    Handguns and Ammunition

    Is it better to live by a corrupt society's standards rather than face persecution for not doing the same? This is the dilemma we now face. We must hold fast to our convictions as we confront this dilemma. Knowing one's self goes a long way in the crisis. - Me, Standup Philosopher

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    Triple 7 is corrosive.
    I made the mistake of thinking it was not, cleaned a Remington it like a smokeless gun and left it out in the humid garage for awhile.
    It rusted all to heck.
    Had a tough time getting it apart.

  7. #7
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    Hello,

    Just got back in from shooting Pyrodex and cleaning the rifle just like I do my C&R firearms.

    First, this is how I cleaned it:

    1. Soapy water. I used to pour boiling water down the barrel, but I found that this does the trick just as well - or perhaps a bit better - if the patches are wrapped around a bronze brush and totally saturated. I did this two or three times.

    2. Rinsed it out in the same manner, using regular hot water.

    3. Ran some dry patches down the bore to dry it out, and did the same with the nipple and drum.

    4. Applied lanolin. This has become a favorite of mine for bore conditioning, water repelling, and getting past rust.

    5. Ran a dry patch down the barrel to get rid of the excess lanolin.

    I've never had a firearm thus treated rust.

    Observations:

    First, this rifle LOVES Pyrodex and round balls. I was shooting at 30 yards or so working up loads for squirrel. It shot pretty much at the same place with 30gns to 90gns (the highest I tried) at that range. Twenty grains dropped the ball quickly, but was still good to 30yds.

    Offhand groups were pretty much one hole with the same charge. Hate to say it, but I shoot this rifle more instinctively and just better from a non-rested standing position than any of my modern rifles. I will have to shoot for 50yd groups again - I bet they come in near 1/2".

    I LOVE the smell of Pyrodex - which I'm guessing is real similar to the smell of true black.

    I did have a spent cap land on my right hand - it's a downside of being a lefty shooting a righty lock I guess - and it seared the skin pretty good. Probably will scar. I'll wear it with pride

    I have six balls left. A gent from another board is sending me a .490" T/C round ball mould. That will be real nice to have as I cast for my .45acp and do have some pure lead ingots. Got to thinking that it would take me about an hour to shoot up those remaining six balls though - while I could do 200 round of aimed .22LR with my "squirrel sniper" heavy barreled Savage MkII in about the same time.

    I don't care about price per shot; if I shoot right, I won't be able to use ammo up near as fast!

    The Pyrodex just makes me hungry to try true black. If this rifle can shoot this much better with Pyrodex than with that Shockey's Gold stuff, I wonder if it would do even better with true FFg..?

    Hmmm...

    Josh
    Handguns and Ammunition

    Is it better to live by a corrupt society's standards rather than face persecution for not doing the same? This is the dilemma we now face. We must hold fast to our convictions as we confront this dilemma. Knowing one's self goes a long way in the crisis. - Me, Standup Philosopher

  8. #8
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    Can't find the MSDS on Shockey's Gold. I wonder if they're embarrassed to put it out there? It is extremely inconsistent and pretty good at making noise, but that's about it.
    JSG is a very good, clean burning and consistent powder. JSG likes a tight sabot seated very hard on the powder. When you can feel the powder compress you have it right. Some of my best groups have been fired using JSG.

  9. #9
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    I have tried Pyrodex P and Jim Shockey's Gold in my 1858 Remington. The Pyrodex P was dirtier but much more powerful and satisfying that the JSG. A .44 Cap and Ball has about the same power as a modern .38 Special, it needs all the power it can get and JSG does not deliver.

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    From experience with reenacting, I can tell you that NONE of the substitutes to date will go off unconfined, you need real black powder to do that.

    Reenacting means using blanks with NO wadding on top of the charge, not even paper. You tear the paper cartridge tail off, pour the charge down the barrel and discard the rest of the paper cartridge.

    Then you pick up the rifle, smack the barrel to seat the powder to the breech plug and prime it.

    NONE of the substitutes will fire in this condition, they usually just gum up and make a mess down in the bore that is hard to get out.

    Buckshot

  11. #11
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    Urinating on the powder & then letting it dry will leave a residue of UREA NITRATE in the powder thus increasing it's power. Folks drinking wine and/or eating plenty of red meat will have more nitrites (that convert to nitrate) in their urine.

    Doc

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  12. #12
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    Potassium chlorate is a salt. IIRC,
    Technically, Potassium Nitrate and Sodium Nitrates are salts as well. KClO3 is the salt of Chloric acid and KNO3 the salt of nitric acid. Please note that Nitric is the stronger acid so it's salts tend to be more corrosive. When KClO3 and KClO4 release their oxygen they leave Potassium Chloride, the kissing cousin to common table salt and is more corrosive than the by-product of alkaline Nitrates.

    Sodium Nitrate was used as an alternate because of cost not availability. NaNO3 is easily converted to KNO3 by displacement with any Potassium salt.

    While black powder is a stoichiometric mixture without incorporation the elements of the mix do not interact properly. Using a water based high nitrogen solution such as urine dissolves the KNO3 allowing the chemical to better fit into the pores of the charcoal allowing for a more efficient reaction i.e. more powerful powder. After incorporation and corning was developed in the 18th century stopgap measures such as urinating the mix were no longer needed.

  13. #13
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    Triple 7 is corrosive.
    I made the mistake of thinking it was not, cleaned a Remington it like a smokeless gun and left it out in the humid garage for awhile.
    It rusted all to heck.
    Had a tough time getting it apart.
    My experience with T7 has been that the burnt residue sucks moisture right out of the air. Run a dry patch on a jag down a barrel and leave the patch laying out for awhile and you'll find that it gets damp.
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  14. #14
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    Urinating on gunpowder (black powder) will get you wet, soggy powder and ruin it.
    It took a year or so to create saltpeter under the old method of relying upon bacteria that feed upon organic material and excrete saltpeter.
    Urinating into prepared gunpowder would contaminate and weaken it. You'd have to wait a year or more for a tiny portion of the urine to be transformed into saltpeter, while the rest of the urine would remain as a contaminant.

    From Gunpowder - Alchemy, Bombards and Pyrotechnics: The History of the Explosive that Changed the World by Jack Kelly, published in 2004:

    "Observers saw sal petre ... forming in white crusts on stone walls ... the salt formed on the walls and floors of privies and stables ... but the natural supply was meager. Every kingdom was hard-pressed to produce enough of the crucial substance.
    Craftsmen of the late 14th century began to create the same conditions artificially."

    Kelly writes that saltpeteter plantations sprang up, which were little more than elaborate compost heaps. It was not a difficult process, requiring a covered pit or cellar and a supply of organic material. Manure and dead animals were plentiful in the Middle Ages.

    "A saltpeter recipe from 1561 suggests mixing human feces, urine, 'namely of those persons whiche drink either wyne or strong bear,'" Kelly writes.

    The knee-deep pile must be sheltered from rain, so its saltpeter doesn't get leached out, and turned regularly. After a year or so, saltpeter would form as a white crust on the top of it.

    "The prescription for the piss of boozers was not fanciful," Kelly writes. "The metabolization of alcohol produces urine rich in ammonium, a food that nitrate microbes thrive upon. Gunpowder makers had to process a hundred pounds of scrapings to yield a half pound of good saltpeter."

    When the white crust had formed, workers leached water through the rotting organic material to dissolve the nitrates, then reduced the water by boiling or evaporation to obtain the crystals. This produced calcium nitrate, which had a bad propensity of absorbing moisture from the air. In those days, gunpowder's three finely ground ingredients -- charcoal, sulfur and saltpeter -- were mixed by hand into an equally fine powder. It was not the granulated, graphited form we know today.
    Because this fine powder presented a larger surface area, it absorbed moisture readily. This was a major problem when powder had to be transported or stored on ships, or in humid climates. Gunners would open a keg to find it a hard, clumpy mass. Undoubtedly, some of the nitrates were absorbed into the wood of the casks.
    Later, powder makers learned to slightly moisten the fine powder, roll it into balls ranging from the size of pebbles to bread loaves, and then grind it (very carefully) into the granulated form we know. This granulated gunpowder presented a smaller surface area and better resisted the absorption of moisture.
    Though water was used, brandy was also used because it was thought to remove impurities. Human urine, particularly that of a Catholic Bishop who drank, was also used.
    But note: these were solely wetting agents and their composition had no effect on the strength of the powder. The same benefit could be had from plain water.

    Gunpowder - Alchemy, Bombards & Pyrotechnics by Jack Kelly is a book that should be on every shooter's shelf. It's fascinating, often humorous and covers a topic that is worthy of a 10-part documentary TV series.
    "And therein did I see an ugly cat. Blue smoke. Brimstone. Holes in paper. And this ugly cat was much amused." --- the prophesies of Gatodamus (1503 - 1566).

  15. #15
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    My Contribution to BP Education

    Sorry, I can't afford to post color photos, ha ha. For one thing it is a true man indeed, or woman, who takes pride in a small burn from a cap, ah yes, but now to business:

    I learned from an old master who sold me guns and taught me to make ammunition and repair my own guns. My favorite is a colt sixty one that I have shot so much I had to rebuild. Of course the fact that I use a bit too much powder now and then might not help.

    At any rate, I like genuine black powder but with some piss and moaning I'll use t7, which is nice and powerful and works fine. After shooting, which I dont do for accuracy but for the bang and smoke, I take the gun apart and swash the whole thing with peroxide, the 99 cent stuff that comes in the brown bottle. It emediately breaks down the residue, and it did this with black powder as well. Then I power spray it all with carb cleaner, wipe it down and it sparkles. I also shoot the carbie cleaner up into the guts fo the gun. I go as far as taking the ignition points out here and there and cleaning the threads. Once reassembled I squish the grease all over the balls and rotate the cylinder for a nice flat affect and rub the gun down. That's the easiest and most affective way I've been shown to do it. A guy named Lee at the now sold Terrell Gun shop taught me all that.

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