Gunpowder  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Gunpowder, also called black powder, is a mixture of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate. Known in Chinese as "Huo Yao", it is one of the Four Great Inventions of ancient China. It burns rapidly, producing volumes of hot solids and gases which can be used as a propellant in firearms and as a pyrotechnic composition in fireworks. The term gunpowder also refers broadly to any propellant powder. Modern firearms do not use the traditional gunpowder (black powder) described in this article, but instead use smokeless powder. Antique firearms or replicas of antique firearms are often used with black powder substitute.

Gunpowder is classified as a low explosive because of its relatively slow decomposition rate and consequently low brisance. Low explosives deflagrate at subsonic speeds. High explosives detonate, producing a supersonic wave. The gases produced by burning gunpowder generate enough pressure to propel a bullet, but not enough to destroy a gun barrel. This makes gunpowder less suitable for shattering rock or fortifications, where high explosives such as TNT are preferred.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Gunpowder" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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