Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: St. Louis, MO area.
Hi Ian. Happy New Year. And thanks for starting this Thread.
Collectors/Shooters in more modern times, from an historical standpoint, often refer to black powder generally in two catagories. The earlier powder is often called "meal" powder. The later variation (and more powerful) developed maybe sometime before the mid 19th Century (I think) is often refered to as "corn" powder. The corn powder being similar to what we see today. I have actually seen some of the original meal powder. It looks more like cake flour. It would be more susceptible to moisture and thus more prone to failure and unreliable ignition.
I have read that the old meal powder would often have to be re-mixed after transport. I have also read that much of the locally made powder in North Africa and the Indian Continent, even in the 19th Century continued to be made at a level and of a quality equal to that of Europe in the early to mid 16th Century. If this is true, then that would be a logical reason for their continued use of long barrels and heavier powder charges, thus requiring flasks/horns to carry larger quantities of powder.
You would think with all the British and French (seems French powder was admired during much of the 18th Century) influence and dominance in these regions that the better European made powder would have taken over. But since the locals were not allowed to own the latest (then) firearms, it would stand to reason they would not want them to have access to the better quality Europen made powder. Thus keeping the locals at a disadvantage.
Of course, I just speculating a bit here.
I've also read that if the early meal powder was compressed too tightly that it would not reliably ignite. Apparently requiring more oxygen to burn.
I think Philip's assertions are quite accurate and make complete sense to me.
The old meal powder would take longer to build up the gas pressure needed for reasonable velocity. Thus the need for longer barrels and heavier charges of powder. And larger quantities of powder in larger flasks.