There are some differences between black powder and smokeless powder that will be describe shortly in this article.
Black powder (the “original propellant”) is very pressure sensitive, produces a lot of smoke when ignited, and is not very efficient (meaning it takes a lot more to produce the gas to propel a slug). It is the old charcoal, sulfur, saltpeter mix that the Chinese invented a thousand years ago. It’s common “gunpowder”. It burns badly and creates huge amounts of smoke. When it burned, only produces propellant gases with approximately 35% of it’s mass. 65% of the mass of this powder, when burned, becomes useless solid byproducts in the gun barrel and in the air. If that’s not “burns badly” in your opinion, perhaps you need to go back to the third grade again, bud? Your comprehensive skills are obviously lacking.
Smokeless powder is composed of two basic materials. One is nitrocellulose and the other is nitroglycerine. Some smokeless powders are made of only one of these materials and is called a single base powder. Others are composed of a mixture of both components and are called double based powders. The reason for using mixtures of the two components is to control their burning rates. Faster burning powders are used for shotguns and handguns. The slower burning powders are used for rifle powders.
Smokeless powders are all progressive burning powders. That means that as the pressure within the cartridge increases, so does the burning rate. It produces a more gentle acceleration than does black powder and achieved much greater final pressures and higher total velocities. Black powder burns at the same rate regardless of the increasing pressure. The maximum pressure is reached more quickly but is significantly less than smokeless powder. These lower total pressures of black powder are the reason that we cannot use smokeless powder in a gun designed for black powder. We will blow it up and ourself along with it.
For more information about smokeless powder, please visit Smokeless Powder website.
Takumi Fujiwara, North of Malaysia, Electrical Engineering Student.