This news appeared a few days ago in Field & Steam: GOEX black powder may disappear because Hodgdon is shutting down its sole plant. To quote the article:
“Given the fact that GOEX black powder is generally regarded as the best black powder currently made, its disappearance will be a terrible thing. Fortunately, there are a few other manufactures of black powder that are still in business. And, if you are of the resourceful, pioneering, or prepper nature, you can make your own black powder. Just be careful you don’t blow up your kitchen—actions like that tend to unsettle the neighbors and local authorities.”
I want to touch on this – not many of us use black-powder weapons, whether muzzle-loaders or classic cap and ball (or even early cartridge) pistols. BUT not from where (I hope) the readers expect.
Before I talk about that rifle in the picture – which is NOT the black powder musket it appears to be – let us talk a tiny bit about black powder.
Black powder is one of those “ancient technologies” that has taken major strides in recent years. The use of stainless steel for black powder weapons is just one of many advances which makes this material viable for use in the 21st Century and beyond. With or without a massive collapse.
The greatest disadvantage (once you address corrosion and cleaning) is the signature: there is a reason we almost all switched to smokeless powder. Except that there ARE many circumstances in which powder smoke is not really a concern – and some in which it is a definite advantage.
I do not know if anyone has yet used modern 3-D printing systems to manufacture black powder: I would bet that several people have. But there may be some great advantages, and even advances, by doing so, over traditional methods. But that is not the gist of this commentary.
Instead, let us talk about the Girandoni AIR rifle, way back in 1804 to 1806. (And before and since.)
Consider the painting below, and the historical article it accompanies.
The Girandoni Repeating Air Rifle has fascinated my older son for years. A product of EIGHTEENTH CENTURY technology, it was superior to every firearm of its day, and probably at least until the development and manufacture of the revolver (1836) – if not still until the 1860s or later. Yes, even the now-famed Ferguson Rifle.
I do not know if anyone has put forth a serious effort to reengineer this air rifle. The reasons for various militaries to reject it are – at least by 21st Century standards – stupid, even crazy. “It is too complex for simple soldiers to understand.” “It is too fragile.” These and other excuses were demonstrated in the early years of the 19th Century to be bogus, but I wonder if there were not other, truer reasons that governments – especially the imperial monarchies of Europe – basically buried the entire idea.
Like the fact that the supply chain for the Girandoni was far simpler and FAR less costly that that supplying the Napoleonic era armies and their muzzle-loading muskets and few rifles of the day. So that peasants and rebels would find it far easier to keep the weapon useful and able to kill the king’s soldiers. All you needed was lead round balls. No powder, no primer, no wadding. Just the ability to maintain and repair a very simple machine and the arm strength to pump the air into the stock.
And NO powder signature. And NO loud gunshot. And able to be reduced in size by partial disassembly and reassembly to allow at least some concealment.
I don’t know if anyone ever devised a pistol version of this, although there are many variants that have been proposed over the years. There are rumors of kits, but I have not actually seen any. If you are interested, learn more here.
But again, back to the point: the Girandoni is NOT the only choice – there are MANY excellent air-guns out there, modern manufacturing materials and techniques have produced many weapons that can complete with “actual” firearms. The array of .177-caliber air and CO2 powered guns is quite fascinating. And offer the same advantages – cheaper and easier to buy (or make), store and ship ammo. Clean. Silent. Repeaters. (Of course, CO2 guns are highly dependent on a good supply chain.) Not necessarily for pitched or long-distance battles. But very useful for home defense and street fighting.
And for longer distance, harder-hitting, and even armor-penetrating (human and vehicle)? New technology now in development – often by basement and garage inventors – off advantages. Rail-guns and their cousins are one example. Liquid and gas-fueled “guns” and related weapons. And of course, rocket guns so beloved of science-fiction writers and readers. There are more.
All of which can point to this fact: the more governments try to suppress firearms, the more incentive to produce OTHER weapons to replace firearms. (AND the more encouragement to produce “illegal” (but NOT immoral!) firearms themselves.) To haters of liberty and hoplophobes and hoploclasts, this is terrifying, but inevitable. For which we can all be thankful to the Lord. Liberty will win out!
As a youngster, I owned a Crossman 600, a semi-auto CO2 pistol that could deliver 10 .22 caliber pellets on target in 3 seconds. It was a marvel.