Black Powder in the Modern World

Guest post by Richard Douglas

It’s important to realize the dangers associated with using black power and smokeless powder. Please seek the appropriate training and knowledge before attempting to use either. The below is for informational purposes only.

Right now you can go to the store and buy boxes of rounds already packed with primer and gunpowder, but let’s say you found yourself in a different situation. Maybe you’re a historian or a curator at a museum.

Maybe you’re in an apocalyptic event and fired the last round you had looking down the scope of your rifle. Whatever the reason, you might need to reload your brass casing and don’t have the means to make gunpowder. The good news is that black powder is possible to make as an alternative, but the bad news is that you can’t use just any brass cartridge.


There is one glaring con to dealing with black powder: Danger. While the biggest concern with gunpowder is getting the formula right and keeping open flame away, black powder is a whole different level of anxiety.

Black powder, when loaded wrong or put into the wrong casing, can blow up your weapon. Likewise, it can fire and jam the brass against the barrel. Either way the outcome is far from ideal, so before you try to reload your AR pistol with black powder you might want to think twice.


The formula for black powder is similar to gunpowder, so some modern casings can handle it. The general rule of thumb with a few exceptions is that the brass casing can be loaded with black powder if it was previously used in that capacity.

Several shotguns, older rifles, and large-caliber pistols started out firing black powder when they were invented, so there are many gun enthusiasts that still exclusively load them with black powder. A lot of the weapons are lever-, pump-, or bolt-action, with an extreme few semi-auto weapons being included.

Before you attempt to load your cartridge with black powder, you might want to check what your weapon originally fired. Examples of casings that started out with black powder are .45, .38, .32, and some .22, but all of these are weapon-specific.

Don’t Smoke

A safer alternative to straight black powder is smokeless powder, which was the next evolution before gunpowder took over. It was smokeless powder that allowed for the production of semi-auto and full-auto weapons.

The amount of powder and the ingredient mixture is different enough that it’s less volatile to work with and fits many more weapons. Basically, smokeless powder is a lot less likely to take off your hand if you load it in the wrong cartridge by accident.

Take a Class

Whether you’re a prepper with a doomsday kit, a historian, or just want to learn something cool, you might want to look into local gun clubs. There are several that hold classes on loading with black powder and what weapons and calibers are safe.

They’ll also teach the safe storage of powder and firearms, because different areas have regulations on how much powder you can have in your home. If you take a class or don’t, be safe with your handling of black powder and always research if your cartridge and weapon can safely fire it.

Author Bio:

Richard Douglas is a long-time shooter, outdoor enthusiast and technologist. He is the founder and editor of Scopes Field, and a columnist at The National Interest, Cheaper Than Dirt, Daily Caller and other publications.

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