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cbw 10-20-2008 12:34 AM

Well I said I would write an article on gunpowder, lead and copper to make us all more informed about these items. Well all you going to get is gunpowder as my carpal tunnel is going to limit my article. I also said that I would plagiarize as much information as I could. Well let’s get going, first off ‘Gunpowder”. Information for this section was taken from a Material Safety DATA Sheet (MSDS) for modern smokeless powders manufactured for Winchester Smokeless Propellant Company.

Gunpowder is considered explosive (go figure) toxic, a blood toxin, and a skin and eye irritant. This is why it’s so important that you wash you hands after shooting, and before eating anything, I know the range I go to has signs posted and a washroom to allow for cleanup, if yours does not then you might want to think of bringing something to clean your hands off with after shooting.

What’s in gunpowder?

There are many chemicals in modern smokeless gunpowder a lot more the original Chinese mix I’m sure, presently it contains;; Nitroglycerin, Dibutyl phthalate, Polyester adipate, Ethyl Cetralite,, Ethyl Acetate, Diphenylamine, Nitrosodiphenylamine, Potassium nitrate, Tin dioxide, Graphite, Calcium carbonate and Nitrocellulose. Why do we care about all these chemicals? All of them are considered HAZARDOUS to your health. If fact upon contact with your skin you are to wash it off with water. How long do we have these chemicals in contact with our skin at the range? (And we bring this home to our families too)

The official rules for safe gunpowder storage!

Well your suppose to store it in a cool, dark, well vented area (does under my bed count). It has an unlimited shelf life as long as it does not exceed 100F. Any of you live in the Southwest USA or how about some of our new friends from the land down under? Do not expose it to direct sunlight, or shock. It will auto ignite at 394F. To extinguish a gunpowder fire use massive amounts of water, be sure that the powder fire does not also include an electrical fire, as electrocution is possible. Call 911, get everyone clear, stay back, let the professionals handle what is left.

First aid – Although the MSDS did not state this I feel as though the first aid information is for you re-loaders out there. I do not believe that just shooting at the range will put you in need of anything expect good hand washing, and washing your clothes is not a bad idea either.

Eyes – Immediately flush with water for at least 15 minutes lifting upper & lower eyelids, if your eyes keep bothering you see a Doctor.

Skin – Immediately flush for 15 minutes, call a DOCTOR, if you clothing has it on them make sure you wash them before you wear them next time.

Ingestion (eating) – Drink large quantities of water, induce vomiting, call a DOCTOR. Do not give anything by mouth if the person is unconscious or having convulsions.

Inhalation – If you’re dizzy or have a headache or are experiencing nausea, stop working immediately get into fresh air and call a Doctor,

How corrosive is gunpowder?
Years ago, back when buffalo roamed the plains, everyone shot black-powder rifles which absolutely positively had to be cleaned immediately after shooting, because black powder was (and is) such a corrosive substance that it would ruin the gun if the fouling were left in the barrel. Modern powder is not corrosive, and so it won't eat its way through the metal of your barrel if it gets left in there for awhile. The fouling can and often does affect gun reliability, however. Uncleaned guns are more apt to jam when you most need them. Because the crud can slow down the slide, dirty semi-automatic firearms are prone to failures to feed or failures to completely eject the spent cases. Uncleaned revolvers are prone to binding up, and the double-action trigger can become difficult or impossible to pull if the cylinder isn't turning easily. Poorly-cleaned or uncleaned firearms are thus far less reliable than their well-cleaned and properly lubricated counterparts.

How do I safely clean shooting residue from my Weapon(s)?
Rule One means that you never do anything with an allegedly unloaded gun that you would not do with it if you knew it was loaded. This is the cardinal rule, and all others follow naturally from it. So when you pick your gun up for the purpose of cleaning it, you treat it with every ounce of respect you would give it if you knew it was loaded and knew for certain that it would fire if the trigger were pulled.

Rule Two means that when you carry your gun to the cleaning area, you maintain constant awareness of where the muzzle is pointing. Just because you are preparing to clean the gun does not mean that it is no longer a gun. Rule Two also means that when you are ready to disassemble the gun, you do not point it at your dog, your left hand, your firstborn child, or at the expensive wide screen TV you cannot afford to replace. You never allow the firearm to point at anything you are not willing to destroy, nor at any human beings who aren't on your better-off-dead list.

Rule Three means that even after you have removed the magazine and made sure the chamber doesn't contain a live round, you still do not put your finger on the trigger until you have deliberately picked out the optimal spot for a bullet to land. The firearm must not be pointed in some random direction when you pull the trigger. Rather, you have deliberately considered which spot in the area would be the most acceptable place to put a bullet, and you point your firearm at that spot and at that spot only before you ever allow your finger to rest upon the trigger.

Rule Four means that when you choose that spot, you'd darn well better remember that interior walls don't stop bullets. If you need to build a solid backstop in order to have a safe place to disassemble firearms in your home, you do so.

Bob Wright 10-29-2008 02:49 PM

I keep waterless hand cleaner and some paper towels in my shooting kit and clean up after firing. But its the grime from bullet lube and maybe lead oxide that is the most offensive. The hand cleaner is made by Permatex, and found at Auto Zone stores. Before leaving the range I wash up in then men's room, using Fast Orange for soap.

As to black powder fouling, actually the fouling protected the bore to a degree, from the effects of the mercury in the primers. It did build up and was one of the main obstacles to making repeating arms at the time. Not until smokeless powders came into use were semi-auto and full auto arms practical.

And, it was the mercuric primers that led to the belief that smokeless powder was more corrosive than black powder. Early high velocity rifles suffered pitted bores, at first attributed to smokeless powder. Later it was determined that without the powder fouling, the mercury attacked the steel. To appreciate this effect, look at an old cap lock rifle that has seen considerable use-the area around the nipple is badly eroded from mercury.

As to extinguishing a powder fire, I've never found this necessary, as it burns out so quick no one has ever had time to douse it. Powder fires often occur at ranges where unburned powder collects in front of the firing line, and drainage usually deposits the powder in the drainage area. Wetting doesn't affect its flammability, its combustable when dried out.

Incidentally, smokeless powder is considered a propellant, not an explosive.

Bob Wright

cbw 10-30-2008 10:12 PM


Glad to hear that your taking actions to get the powder off of your hands. Spread the word to other shooters to make them and their familys safe too.

I shamelessly took the information for most of my article from Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and The Winchester Smokeless Gun power web area. If you think that gunpowder is a propellant rather then a explosive that's up to you, it certainly propels lead!

The facts on the MSDS is what all Firefighters and HAZMAT teams are going to go by when they respond to an incident with it, of course common sense comes into play too.

Now I will agree with you in small quantities, you certainly will not have enough time to douse a fire out with copious quantities of water as it burns to fast. But what I and the MSDS is truly talking about is a large quantity of the stuff and it is explosive! I know you watched RAMBO! Really it is.

Glad that you read the article and took the time to provide some feedback to me. Hope all is well with you , and enjoy this forum, I know that I do!

Bob Wright 10-31-2008 02:47 PM

Odd that you mention Winchester. On the back of a can of Winchester 231 it states, in effect, "Smokeless powder is not considered an explosive......but in certain cases can explode." The DOT does not consider smokeless powder an explosive when shipped in apporved shipping containers. Gunpowder tends to burn rather than detonate, as Dynamite or TNT.

I have worked around something far more explosive than gunpowder-grain dust.

Bob Wright

cbw 10-31-2008 11:06 PM

I'm bleeding with ya brother, coal dust, I've seen it go.:eek:

cpttango30 11-02-2008 04:57 PM

Nice arrrrtical I have neverrrrr washhhhheeeeedddd my hands after rrrrrrrreeeeloading Maybbbbbbby tttttttttthatttttt is why I hhhhhhave this stttttttttttttanggggge ttttttttickkkkk.

I gggggguesssssssssss I shhhhhhhhoulddddddd sssssssttttttttttarttttt waaaaaasssssshhhhhing my hhhhhhhhhands.

cbw 11-03-2008 12:52 AM

Thanx for the feedback, guess I should have written it soooonnnneerrr :)

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