A LIVING HISTORY BLOG.

18TH CENTURY LIVING HISTORY IN AUSTRALIA.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Gunpowder, Then and Now. Paper Cartridges.

After posting my video on how I make paper cartridges for my fusil, I got this message:

"The British Military load for the brown bess was 125g of powder with an extra 40 grains for the pan for a total of 165g per cartridge. the powder from the original cartridge I saw was course like 1f, Ive fired this combo from a repro french 1727 and it shoots well using the 1f as the priming powder, the only draw back is it burns slow in the pan so you have to watch your follow through".

Gunpowder now is not the same as gunpowder 300 years ago. I personally would not be loading 125 grains in any hand held gun. Whether or not it is proofed for such a load is not the point, the point is that there is no need for such a high load as this with modern gunpowder.
1Fg is cannon grade gunpowder, and I have no idea what it was doing in an original 18th century Brown Bess cartridge, unless (a) it was a mistake, or (b) they had run out of the regular gunpowder. Either way, just because it was done, does not mean that you should do it!
For those of you not familier with modern gunpowder/Black Powder, 1FG is a large grained gunpowder made for cannons. 2Fg is generally for any caliber over .45 but can be used in smaller calibers. 3Fg is for .45 caliber & smaller, but can be used in larger calibers with a load adjustment, i.e. the smaller the grains of powder, the higher the internal pressure. So if you are using a recommended load of 2Fg, DO NOT use the same load when using 3Fg. Use less. 4Fg is made these days as a priming powder. 4Fg is a very fine grain gunpowder and should NEVER be used as a main charge. You may also find it interesting to know that 300 years ago there were no priming horns made or used for hand held guns/rifles. The same gunpowder used as a main charge, was also used to prime the pan of the flintlock.
1Fg being a large grained gunpowder used only in cannons, would be very slow to burn if used for priming. I really can't see the British army and navy using 1Fg gunpowder as a standard in the Brown Bess. 


Long Land pattern Brown Bess.



Paper cartridges made for smoothbore muzzle-loading guns.



7 comments:

Dave White said...

Interesting. 40 grains for priming? Seems excessive. Will a Bess pan even hold 10 grains?

Keith H. Burgess said...

I totally agree Dave, perhaps the whole 40 grains was not used, it says they included an extra 40 grains, but does not say they used it. This could be allowing for spillage in a stressful combat situation.
Keith.

TheDave570 said...

Hi Keith
here in the US, cannon grade black powder is a different granulation than 1F. It comes in a different container and is much more course. I use and have used 1F in all my weapons. I have several Snider-Enfields and of course a EIC Bess, and M1777 Charleville along with a couple of 2 groove Brunswicks. I do NOT use the original loads called for in their manual of arms as it is a waste of powder. I also make my own black powder. After a lot of trial and error on screen sizes, I have come up with a screen size close enough to 1F and it burns excellent. BTW, I never use sulfur. It was used in days of old to slow down the burn. Also 40 grains was used because in the heat of battle most would be spilt before they ever got the pan primed !!!!

Keith H. Burgess said...

Thank you for the feedback Dave, much appreciated. I did know one can make gunpowder without sulphur, but I have never tried it & wondered how it would work as a priming powder. I must get around to making some & try it out.
Thanks again.
Regards, Keith.

TheDave570 said...

Keith: Yes it can be used for priming but burns very fast. In my flintlocks i use 1/2 of the pan applied to the right side of the pan to make it jump, as it were, to the vent. The formula is 75% willow char to 25% potassium nitrate. If you google fireworks, you can find as much of the materials as you need for sale on the net. I make my own charcoal but buy the saltpeter. I use stale urine instead of water. that being that there is potassium nitrate in solution.I never mix dry only wet. I spread it out to dry in the sun then use the nylon window screen as it won't spark, to work through the screen holes. It doesnt seem to matter if the granules are uneven or not, once compressed in the barrel it burns great!

TheDave570 said...

BTW, leaving out the sulfur makes the powder almost smokeless !!!!

Keith H. Burgess said...

Thank you Dave, much appreciated.
Regards, Keith.