Q:

How do you make gunpowder?

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Quick Answer

Make gunpowder by combining saltpeter, sulfur and charcoal. This method produces a gunpowder that burns slowly and evenly and is appropriate for use in firecrackers or other pyrotechnics. Making explosive gunpowder requires grinding the ingredients together for a long period of time, but because the mixture can explode at any time, this method requires a remotely operated gunpowder mill.

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Full Answer

Each of the three ingredients required to make gunpowder is readily available from retail stores. Saltpeter is often sold as liquid stump remover at garden supply stores. However, using it for gunpowder requires evaporating the liquid until only solid saltpeter remains. Sulfur is also available from garden centers, as it lowers the pH of soil. Making gunpowder requires high-quality charcoal, as briquettes and other compressed varieties contain binders and fillers that interfere with the gunpowder mixture.

The type of gunpowder this method produces is commonly known as black powder. Black powder, which was the first type of gunpowder developed, has since been replaced by more explosive mixtures. Black powder burns very dirtily, producing a great deal of smoke and leaving behind carbon residue inside of firearms. These properties make black powder most suitable for pyrotechnic use and as a propellant in muzzle-loading firearms. Black powder is unsuitable for use in modern firearms, as it is less explosive than modern gunpowder and can clog or damage internal components.

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