Black Powder Guns

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Warning - Disclaimer!

This online museum is for display purposes only! We discourage the construction of home-made or experimental guns, as well as the making of gunpowder at home. These are not toys; they are extremely dangerous! These projects were designed and built by a person with extensive training in explosives and metallurgy.



This black powder mega gun was christened on a stormy June night in 2006 when, with the barrel turning in the lathe for a final dressing, stepping away briefly to get a tool, lightning struck, sending flames and smoke out of the lathe’s control panel. Initial fear turned into a wry grin… Thundaaah !

Thankfully, it only burned out a switch in the lathe that would little slow my progress to have the gun finished for our annual July Fourth shoot off.

With an eleven inch barrel bored to .96 caliber, it is designed to be as much as any man would want to try to hold on, yes, cling to when pulling the trigger. The barrel and action are made from 304-L stainless steel, thickness: 4.2 MM. The nipple holds a .209 primer. Another nipple was made that reliably fires match heads as a primer. Loads typically would go up to around 100 grains of either Hodgdon’s Triple Seven FFFG or home made FFF black powder followed by a patched section of 7/8” dowel, topped off with projectile loads (dowels, bolts, rocks, lighters etc.) of up to around 1000 grains. The shock would leave painful the shoulder, elbow, and the area between thumb and index finger. Three shots is about all the joy one could stand.

Thunder_exploded  ThunderStand

Thunder, exploded, with its Philipine mahogany stock. The action was crafted from the stainless barrel stock. The three firing nipples shown are designed to fire the gun with 209 shotshell primers, No.11 percussion caps, or strike-anywhere match heads.


The barrel of this fifty caliber hand-cannon was milled out of 1 1/2" forged axle stock. It fires 209 primers, with black powder charges of 50 grains, and ball, saboted, or slug loads of up to 350 grains.


This .96 caliber puntgun weighs 35 pounds, has a barrel length of 34", and is designed to fire huge shot or slug loads.


The pistol of Wild Bill Hickock, this is a finely crafted replica of a .44 cal Colt 1851 Navy cap and ball revolver. The cylinder is engraved with a scene from the Mexican-American War of the victory of the Second Texas Navy at the Battle of Campeche in May 16, 1843. The brass frame places it at the end of the Civil War, when the scarcity of iron led Confederate foundries such as Griswold & Gunnison, and Leech & Rigdon to use brass. It should be noted that the United States has fought more wars, and more soldier's lives have been lost during the era of black powder guns and cannon than with modern arms.


A rock tumbler with a rubber drum makes an excellent black powder mill, and can be used to make large quantities of black powder and pyrotechnics compounds from commonly available ingredients. About a dozen 50 caliber ball are placed in the drum with the ingredients, then the unit is placed in an explosion crucible. Power if switched on/off from a safe distance.

This is NOT the way you make FFFF black powder or primer, and definitely NOT for handling flash powder or any form of modern gunpowder or high explosive in any way.



Black Powder Heroes

Backyard shootin’ usually means grabbing your favorite guns, a pocket full of shells, and a walk down to the creek. But if you like to shoot the guns of the Old West or Revolutionary times, you’ll also carry a tackle box full of goodies to pack, load, clean and maintain your guns. Up till around the Civil War, shooting meant loading a charge of powder, then pushing a lead ball down the barrel, and finally precisely measuring and applying prime or cap, and at the end of the day, thorough cleaning was mandatory because of the highly corrosive nature of the black gunpowder that was used in those days.

Our Revolutionary heroes used these guns, as General Washington did, in the rain, the night, and across ice-clogged rivers. These brave and determined guys had to load and fire while under fire. They knew they had to get it right, and indeed they did, and won American independence. To shoot these guns today gives one an awe-inspiring peek back in time and an appreciation of the mettle these men were made of.


Some of the tackle that goes with black powder shooting. Primers, powders, ball, measuring tubes, cleaning kits, vegetable shortning, rags, gloves, as well as hearing and eye protection. Black powder residues are extremely corrosive, and guns need to be cleaned immediately after shooting, if not sooner. In very dry climates, such as the inter-mountain West, extra precautions are taken at all stages of handling the powder or primers, using a water mist sprayer to prevent static sparks.


Gas Guns


These gas guns fire oxy-propane, oxy-mapp gas, or oxy-hydrogen gas. They both fire 1/2 liter plastic drink bottles filled with the gasses. They utilize piezio-electric barbecue sparkers as triggers. The pistol's barrel is made from an empty 3" propane cylinder, with the spark electrodes located at the center of the base of the barrel. The bottle's cap is removed just prior to loading, and placed neck-first over the spark electrodes.

The rifle is loaded with a capped bottle of gas, then the snake fang style ignitor, with its two sharp points, is pushed into the side of the bottle through a hole in the barrel. The fang ignitor and its cable will whip around when the gun is fired, so hands must be out of reach when the trigger is pulled.


This propane cannon has an internally mounted sealed motor squirrel-cage fan that is used to clear the combustion chamber after firing. The fan also mixes the gas with the air in the combustion chamber before firing. This cannon fires propane/air only. Propane is combustible in air at a rate of a mere 8 to 12 percent gas volume. The cannon is not designed to fire hydrogen, or any gas mixed with pure oxygen. Visible in the foreground is the power pak, which has a metering bag in the blue cylinder with a plunger to measure the exact volume of propane. The unit also has batteries and wiring to supply the fan, as well as a an electronic spark igniter.

There is a huge difference between gasses. Hydrogen burns very rapidly for a gas, at about 375 miles per hour, compared to black powder, which burns at around 900 miles per hour, and modern gunpowder at about 1600 miles per hour. High explosives have burn rates upwards of 15,000 miles per hour. Hydrogen burns about three times as fast as propane; it goes off with a sharp crack, and sounds like a high power pistol, like a .45 ACP. The use of oxygen instead of air allows one to use about four times as much combustion gas, greatly increasing the explosive power for the same gas volume.


This oxy-hydrogen generator splits water to create a perfect mixture of hydrogen and oxygen. Inside each of the three pvc pipes, two stainless steel screens, separated by polypropylene landscape cloth, are rolled up to form closely spaced electrodes with very large surface areas. Each pipe draws about 400 amperes at 12 volts. In the photo, a battery is hooked up to one tube. Later, a power supply was constructed using large switching transisters and re-wound microwave tranformers to deliver a more optimal 3 or 4 volts, at very high amperage, to all three cylinders. This electro-chemical generator can produce a liter per minute of gas. It can also power an oxy-hydrogen torch, which can produce corrosion free brazes and soldering on such metals as copper, brass, and silver.


This cannon is made of pvc, and is purely decorative yard-art, but a firing tube made from an empty 3" propane cylinder can be placed inside the barrel to produce a loud report.


The Gun That Won The West, the Peacemaker, John Wayne's gun. Under its many endearing names, the classic 1873 Colt .45 Single Action Army is an American icon.