What Is Smokeless Gun Powder?

Do you own a gun? If yes, do you make it a point to follow gun safety rules? Are you storing your gun powder separately? This article will give you a brief on gun powder or what’s commonly known as smokeless powder.


What Is Smokeless Powder?

Smokeless powders are a new breed of gunpowder, replacing the old type, which is the black powder. These are also called propellants. Unlike the latter, smokeless powders produce only a little amount of smoke and sometimes they are not even visible.

man firing pistol

Smokeless powders are a combination of chemicals that burn under controlled conditions. These are designed to create energy that can shoot a bullet from a gun.

There are several three types of smokeless powders, but they share common characteristics. Smokeless powders are flammable. They are designed to burn efficiently and vigorously when ignited.

Unlike burning paper, smokeless powders can burn without being exposed to oxygen in the air. Why? It’s because these have their own built-in oxygen which allows them to burn on their own.

That is also the reason why they can burn inside the chamber of a firearm which happens to be an enclosed space.

Once smokeless powders reach a certain temperature, ignition occurs. This can easily happen when they are exposed to certain conditions. A flame, spark, or heat from hot plate or fire can ignite smokeless powders.

Smokeless powders produce gas of high temperatures when they burn. If these burn in a confined space, extra pressure will be exerted on the surrounding structure.

While this may be so, it is possible to keep the pressure under control if extra space available in the area is available. The same thing happens if gas has a way of escaping from the space.

Smokeless powders should not be mistaken to other explosives like dynamite or blasting gelatin. They do not detonate like high explosives even though they share the same type of chemicals.


Burn rate is controlled in smokeless powders, the rate of which is the same when in the open or inside a gun.

When it burns in an unconfined space, smokeless powders produce orange flame. Its smoke, often light brown, can have this toxic smell. It can burn the skin and will leave a residue of ash or burned powder.

Under pressure, smokeless powder will produce little smoke with little to no residue. Its burning rate is proportional to the pressure applied. When this type of gunpowder burns inside a confined container, the gas pressure created will make the container burst. In short, it creates an explosion.

This is the main reason why the government imposed certain requirements in shipping these. Containers will be tested in actual fires before they can be approved for use. Approved containers will have seams that split open or lids that pop up during these tests.

Storage Considerations for Gun Powders

Remember that gun powder is flammable. It’s very important that these should be kept away from the likes of sparks, flames, and high temperatures.

Storage containers should be made of insulating materials. This is to ensure that you prevent exposure to external heat sources. Moreover, smokeless gun powders continue to burn once they are ignited. This action generates gas pressure.


Approved containers are ideal because these open up at low internal pressures. The risk of bursting or sudden ruptures is minimal compared to ordinary containers. Similarly, storage spaces for smokeless powders should be made of the same materials. Here are some considerations:

These should be made of fire resistant and heat insulating materials. This will ensure added protection against external heat. There must be a vent to let the gas out in case there is an accidental ignition.

Just in case a small tightly enclosed storage enclosure is loaded to full capacity, the walls should expand or move outwards, releasing the pressure.

Proper Storage

Smokeless powder should be stored in a cool, dry place. This should be free from anything that would ignite it. The likes of flames, hot water heater, and furnaces are off limits in the storage area.

The storage should be far away from the rays of the sun. Things that require mechanical components or hear are also prohibited in the storage area. You will need to check if there is heat or sparks from overloaded electrical circuits.

Solvents, highly combustible materials, and flammable gasses should not be stored together with smokeless powder to prevent ignition. These are to be kept in approved containers especially when shipping these in another location.

Prohibit people from smoking inside the storage area as well as within the vicinity. Place a "no smoking” sign in the areas that surround it.


Just like the container, the cabinets used inside the storage area should be made of insulating materials. Ideally, these should have weak seams, walls, or joints to allow room for venting.

Storing smokeless powders in small containers is better than keeping them cooped up in a single large container. Old or deteriorated powder should be destroyed immediately. You will recognize them by their acidic odor or reddish brown smoke.

Keep the storage area clean at all times. There should be no spills and this should be free of trash and other flammable materials.

Final Verdict

Gun powders require special containers because when ignited, they can create extra pressure. Ordinary containers will explode when gun powders burn inside them. Similarly, the storage area and cabinets should be made of heat insulating materials.​

Have a gun? Then get yourself educated with its risks. Know as many safety measures as possible so that you and your family will be protected at all times.​

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