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How To Make Gunpowder Step By Step: At Home in 30 Minutes

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How To Make Gunpowder

Gunpowder, or as it’s also commonly known black powder, and has a lot of uses when it comes to survival and learning how to make gunpowder can be a valuable skill.

It’s not just the stuff that makes your firearm work. gunpowder was invented by the Chinese of the 9th century as a simple mixture of 3 different ingredients. Without their invention, we would probably still be shooting with bow and arrow.

To make gunpowder at home you need to make a mixture of 75% potassium Nitrate (saltpeter), 15% charcoal and 10% sulfur. Next, grind the ingredients one by one into fine powder, then mix the ingredients together. Lastly, pour the mixture into a fine mesh to remove large chunks. That’s it! Read the complete article for some necessary safety precautions and more info about gunpowder.

The ratio may differ depending on the use of the mixture. Blasting powder uses these three ingredients in a 70/14/16 mixture for instance and is use to pulverize rocks.

You can use homemade black powder to create effective signals when you’re lost, you can use it to gain access to certain areas due to its explosive properties, and you can use it in your weapons. What you probably didn’t know about black powder is that you can make it with materials that are fairly easy to find in nature. 

The quality and performance of homemade gun powder is questionable when compared to commercially manufactured gunpowder, but it may be your only option when things really get rough. So, I’m going to teach you how to make black powder. note that this tutorial doesn’t create the smokeless powder that is used in modern weapons. I’m not sure that you can use black powder to reload moderns cartridges. but I have heard of people doing this.

It’s not complex, but it can be dangerous. Using the wrong mixtures can turn your muzzle loaded gun into a explosive.

Please, read the safety disclaimer thoroughly before deciding to follow this tutorial, and only use the knowledge it provides in a legal manner. 

What You’ll Need: The Formula

The formula used to make gunpowder needs to be followed precisely. Incorrect measurements of any of the components can easily create a volatile and unpredictable product.

The formula is as follows:

  • 75 percent potassium nitrate (Salt peter or “niter”)
  • 15 percent charcoal
  • 10 percent sulfur

What You’ll Need: The Tools

In a pinch, all of these tools can be replaced with primitive alternatives, but it’s best to use the proper materials, and I suggest that you get your hands on the following tools before something happens. 

  • Digital Ounces Scale: This will allow you to know exactly how much of an ingredient you’re using, and it’s crucial for making high-quality black powder. You really don’t want to just guess how much of an ingredient you’re adding.
  • Two Glass Or Plastic Mixing Containers: Clean mixing containers are necessary. You need something to hold the ingredients, and you don’t want your mix to get contaminated. 
  • Plastic Spoon: This will be used to stir the mixture and transfer the ingredients during the process.
  • Blunt Object: You’ll need a blunt object to crush the saltpeter into a usable powder. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy like a mortar and pestle or ball mill. It just needs to be able to properly crush stuff.
  • Fine Mesh Sieve: The mix will have clumps when you first mix all of your ingredients. A sieve made from a fine mesh will allow you to get rid of those clumps.

What You’ll Need: Ingredients

I’ve already mentioned the actual ingredients in the section that covers the formula for black powder, but there are a few ways that you can get these ingredients naturally.

If you procrastinate, you might not have all of the ingredients when a disaster situation starts.

It’s also possible that you might end up far away from your prepping stockpile.

So, I want you to know how to acquire these items naturally. 

Potassium Nitrate

Potassium Nitrate crystal in a petri dish
Potassium Nitrate crystals

You can buy this in most stores as common stump remover is almost pure saltpeter and comes as a finer powder instead of the more granular pellets, or you can decide to open up cold packs to get to the sodium nitrate or ammonium nitrate and water inside, which can be used to make saltpeter. But some use urea so check before you buy.

Saltpeter is commonly mined in caves as it occurs naturally, but if you prefer to make your own entirely from scratch, you can also make it in a fairly disgusting way.

I didn’t say this was going to be a fun process.

During the times when settlers were exploring the United States, they would use stale urine and manure or bat guano to naturally create their own saltpeter.

To do so, you just have to mix urine and manure, add water to the mixture and mix it well to start the chemical reaction. Then lay it out on a tray and allow to dry completely.

Over time, a white crust will form on top of the disgusting mess. That crust is potassium nitrate, and it’ll get the job done in a real emergency. If you’ve ever lived on a cattle farm, you’ve probably seen it a few times where the cows hang out.

However, I highly suggest that you just buy the stuff from a store while you can. It’s more reliable, and it’s a lot less messy.

Next up are the charcoal and sulfur.

Charcoal

Making charcoal is almost an initiation ritual for bushcrafters. Preppers that focus on tactical tools and other modern things might not know how to make it, though.

All you have to do is burn a soft wood of choice like willow (hard wood contains to much ash), and allow it to cool. You’ll get a much larger yield of charcoal if you burn the wood in a sealed camp pot or metal drum.

That prevents the fire from burning the wood into ashes, and almost all of your wood will be turned into homemade charcoal. 

That requires more wood because you still have to build a fire, to cook your soft wood with.

But if you rather buy the ingredients you might want to look into activated charcoal to use in gunpowder.

It’s more expensive since it has medical applications, but it’s already ground into powder that you can use. And if you’re in a pinch, any material that burns can be used as a substitute for charcoal like sugar.

Sulfur

volcanic terrain with a yellow sulfur deposit
A Sulfur deposit

Sulfur can be purchased from nearly any gardening store.

However, it’s a fairly common mineral in the wilderness.

It can be found in caves, rock formations, and other places. 

Sulfur has a very distinct smell. So, you can typically smell it when you’re near it. 

Safety First

It’s common knowledge that gunpowder isn’t exactly safe.

Commercial gunpowder is often protected by graphite and other materials to keep it from accidentally igniting, but you won’t have access to that stuff in a emergency situation.

Homemade gunpowder can be extremely volatile, and even static electricity is enough to ignite it sometimes. To prevent that from happening, you need to wear personal protection equipment and don’t wear anything that might produce a spark and store the components separately until you’re ready to use them.

What you’ll need:

  • Eye Protection: Goggles or safety glasses are necessary to keep you from damaging your eyes. Even small explosions can permanently blind you. 
  • Gloves: You do not want gunpowder residue on your hands if accidentally ignite your batch of gunpowder. Wear thick gloves to put a barrier between you and any ignited gunpowder.
  • Dust Mask: This is just to keep you from inhaling gunpowder. You’ll be crushing each ingredient into a fine powder. That powder can be inhaled very easily, and it’s not good for your health. Some methods even produce toxic gas. So, it’s important to wear a mask.
  • Ventilation: Don’t work in your bedroom. You need to make gunpowder in a well-ventilated area. Some methods produce toxic fumes, and ventilation will keep you from entering an early grave.
  • Common-Sense: Don’t do anything stupid. If you’re a smoker, wait until you’re finished with your project before lighting up a cigarette. Don’t do anything that generates static electricity, either. In fact, just refrain from doing anything that produces heat or electricity. That’s just common sense. 
  • Proceed With Caution: I’ve warned you that this is dangerous at times. If you don’t heed that warning, that’s your own fault. If you’re really wanting to make your own gunpowder, it’s important that you do so while fully accepting the risks of doing so. 

How To Make Gunpowder

Now, we can finally talk about actually making black powder.

I want everyone to be fully aware of the risks involved before you start trying to do any of this. Modern manufacturing has reduced all of the risks, but you won’t have that benefit when you make it yourself.

It is very possible that you’ll start your own survival situation if you don’t follow directions carefully. 

Gather The Ingredients

Gathering the ingredients is obviously the first step if you want to make gunpowder. If you’re smart, you’ll purchase everything at the store. 

It’s just easier. 

Considering all of the ingredients are sold in bulk, it’s also cheaper than you’d think.

 If you’re using this information long after a survival situation has started, and you didn’t bother to buy anything, you can use the methods that I described earlier to acquire these ingredients.

Grind It

You want to grind the ingredients into a fine powder with a blunt object. This is something that will take a little bit of time.

You don’t want to generate static electricity because each component is dangerous on its own, and you need to grind the components individually. To grind it, just pour an ingredient into one of your containers, and smash it with a blunt object until it’s a powder.

It may take a while, but that is how all spices were made hundreds of years ago.

I think you can handle it. 

Mix It Up

Now, you need to mix the powdered ingredients.

To do so, you need to pour each ingredient into one of your containers, and slowly stir the concoction until it’s evenly blended.

start by mixing the charcoal and sulfur together and after that is properly mixed add the saltpeter.

Don’t take any shortcuts during this phase. You want to mix these ingredients so that they’re blended well. 

Get Rid Of The Chunks

This is technically the last step in the process. All you have to do is pour your mix into a fine mesh to sift out all of the chunks.

No matter how hard you try to crush everything, there will be chunks of potassium nitrate left over. To sift the mix, pour it into a fine mesh, and keep the mesh over a gathering container.

You might need to gently shake it to get all of the good black powder to fall through.

After you’ve done that, you can discard the chunks, and you’re ready to go. 

Let Sparks Fly

Sifting your black powder is technically the last step, but I highly recommend that you test a portion of your batch before you rely on it. Gunpowder ignites in a flash, and it disappears just as quickly.

To properly test it, it’s always a good idea to create a small line of your gunpowder mix, and you can simply hold a lighter or match to it.

This is extremely dangerous if you didn’t follow safety protocols.

So, do this at your own risk.

If you made the gunpowder properly, you should see it light up almost instantly, and it should burn out just as quick.

It shouldn’t explode if you mixed it right, but it will once you reload a bullet with it or jam it in a container to make a firework for signalling.

Final Thoughts on Homemade Gunpowder

black powder isn’t just used for bullets. It’s used for signalling, fire ignition, explosives, and other stuff. 

If you know how to make gun powder naturally, you’re a step above other preppers that solely rely on gun stores and other conveniences.

With this knowledge, you can use one of man’s most important inventions without any modern conveniences. However, it is extremely dangerous when you try to make it improperly.

I highly suggest that you follow all safety rules that are involved, and you should always follow the law when partaking in such activities.

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5 thoughts on “How To Make Gunpowder Step By Step: At Home in 30 Minutes”

  1. This is very useful information and the process is explained well.
    I would suggest using a grounding strap to the wrist when preparing and mixing the ingredients.
    Questions:
    1. Will a wooden spoon work as well as a plastic spoon?
    2. Should the ingredients be sifted prior to and after mixing?
    3. Can you use a coffee grinder to pulverize the ingredients?
    4. What is the best wood to use for charcoal? I have pine, elm and birch.
    4. For storage, what container do you recommend?

    Thanks.
    Paul

    Reply
    • Hi paul.

      Using a grounding strap in the process can work out great. thanks for the tip!

      as for your questions.

      1. yes. a wooden spoon will do just as well. But I use plastic as it is disposable. I don’t want to use a spoon I used for this process for something else.

      2. sifting prior shouldn’t be required as you will ground is down. but you could sift it to filter foreign objects from it. sifting after grounding is a must as you will most likely leave some large shucks behind.

      3. as long as it gives you a fine powder it should work. I haven’t used one myself though. I wouldn’t want to use a coffee grinder that i use for this project for something else just like the spoon.

      4. any softwood will work. in your case, pine will do.

      5. airtight jars or plastic containers so that moisture won’t ruin it.

      Reply
      • I would be concerned using two plastics to mix due to the possibility of static buildup and discharge. Grounding strap is always a good idea in my mind.

        Reply

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