If the Powder Explodes
You have observed that there is a considerable difference in the action of powder when it burns and when it explodes. As I said before, a slow, even-burning powder produces much the best result, while with a powder that explodes, or detonates as it is called—which means that all of the stored-up gases in it are set free at once—its ballistic value is not only very much less, but it sets up a quick pressure in the gun that usually is dangerous.
When the powder detonates instead of liberating its gases by slowly burning, the cause of it may often be traced to the use of a small-grain powder in a gun of large bore. Under these untoward conditions when the primer goes off the grains of powder nearest to it are lit and because of the high pressure of the gases set up by this too rapid ignition the grains nearest the bullet are forced up against the end of the latter and crushed.
When this takes place enough heat is developed to explode, or detonate, the forward grains with lightning-like rapidity; this in turn causes an excess of pressure at the bullet, which is often three times as great as that of a cartridge which explodes under normal conditions—that is, by the powder burning slowly—and as a result the barrel may be blown to pieces.
This is one of the reasons why cartridges should never be loaded by anyone except an experienced loader. To prevent detonating, the powder should be left loose in the shell, so that there is an air space between the powder and the bullet.
The air space naturally lessens the pressure on the forward grains of powder and in this way the risk of detonating and the disastrous results that sometimes follow are reduced to a bare possibility.
With smokeless, or nitro powders as they are called, the accidents that have occurred from detonating are usually caused by the amateur shell loader getting dense powder and bulk-for-bulk powder confused and using the former where he should have used the latter. To safeguard against all these things taking place, buy your ammunition ready-made and buy a make that is tried and true.
Collins, A. Frederick. Shooting, for Boys,. New York: Moffat, Yard and, 1917. Print.
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