Monday, November 19, 2007

Other Voices---Black Powder: Then and Now

Black Powder: Then and Now--- A note from the Civil War Discussion Online Group member and author Joseph Bilby

"The main differences between black powder today and black powder of the Civil War era and, especially, the post-CW late 19th century, is the availability, upon the commercial or sporting market of the era, of a number of different types of black powder, with differences in fouling reduction and 'clean' shooting, often due to the type of wood used in the charcoal element and the purity of the postassium nitrate.

Actually, we have seen, in recent years, a return to that sort of choice, with cleaner burning black powder, like the imported Swiss powder now available to shooters again. The differences between today's GOEX powder, the most common available, which uses the old Dupont formula, and Civil War era military powder are, I believe, minimal, although an exact comparison is impossible. Ballistics tests I conducted with a modern chronograph give the same velocity to a Minie ball reported at the time, when they used a ballistic pendulum.

Having said that, there were problems with different lots of powder supplied to the Union army during the war, with some seeming to foul more than others, and give a bit more or less velocity than others. Both sides agreed that Confederate powder made at the Augusta mill was the best powder in service, and shot the cleanest. For more on this, see my forthcoming (plug -plug)Small Arms at Gettysburg out at the end of the month." ----Joe Bilby Small Arms at Gettysburg: Infantry and Cavalry Weapons in America's Greatest Battle, Joseph G. Bilby, Hardcover, 288 pages, Westholme Publishing, $29.00, Release date December 18, 2007

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