Although most Americans don’t know this, gunpowder can be made at home too.
Actually, what you can make is black powder, not today’s modern “smokeless powder.” Black powder doesn’t have as fast a burn rate; so will provide a lower muzzle velocity, but in an emergency it is usable.
Here’s how to do it…
To make black powder, you simply need to follow these steps:
1. Finely grind potassium nitrate (otherwise known as saltpeter), charcoal and sulfur.
2. Mix the powdered charcoal and sulfur at a ratio of 60% charcoal to 40% sulfur. Be sure to mix thoroughly.
3. Chill 600 ml or 2-1/2 cups of rubbing alcohol for every 100 grams of the charcoal/sulfur mix you are using.
4. Measure out 300 grams of potassium nitrate for every 100 grams of the charcoal/sulfur mix you are using.
5. Heat 40 ml of purified water to boiling for every 100 grams of potassium nitrate you are using. Dissolve the potassium nitrate in the boiling water, stirring continuously.
6. Slowly stir the charcoal/sulfur mix into the boiling water, mixing it thoroughly with the potassium nitrate.
7. In a well ventilated area, pour the boiling mixture into the chilled alcohol in a heat resistant bucket or pot. Stir together thoroughly.
8. Chill this mixture to 32oF or 0oC as quickly as possible. The faster it chills, the more potent the black powder will be.
9. Once chilled, filter the mixture through a piece of cheesecloth, squeezing to remove as much liquid as possible. If you don’t have cheesecloth, any piece of cloth will do. Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands.
10. Spread the resulting wet material out on paper to dry in the sun. Do not dry all the way, merely to the point of being slightly damp.
11. Press the damp powder through a wire screen or sieve to remove any lumps. It is useful to have several different sizes of screen, so that you can filter it through finer and finer levels. Finer powder will burn more evenly.
12. Spread the finished black powder in the sun to dry fully. Store in a sealed container to keep moisture out.
Since this is homemade black powder, you have no way of knowing ahead of time exactly what the burn rate will be. You will probably need to use more of it in your cartridges than you would of commercially available smokeless powder.
Some experimentation will be required to find a good charge for your cartridges.
Be careful about this, working your way up to a good charge, rather than starting high and working your way down.
One precaution you need to be aware of with black powder is that it is corrosive when fired. So always be sure to clean your guns after firing rounds loaded with black powder. Failure to do so will cause pitting of the barrel.
Give it a try. I think you’ll be surprised how satisfying it can be…