Nitro-Explosives: A Practical Treatise
by P. Gerald Sanford
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The operation is now stopped, the product allowed to cool, and the excess of nitric acid separated from it. The residue is then washed with hot water and very dilute soda solution, and allowed to solidify without purification. The solidifying point is 70 deg. C., and the mass is then white, with a radiating crystalline structure. Bright sparkling crystals, melting at 81.5 deg. C. may, however, be obtained by recrystallisation from hot alcohol. The yield is from 100 parts di-nitro-toluene, 150 parts of the tri-nitro derivative. Haeussermann states also that 1:2:4:6 tri-nitro- toluene can be obtained from ordinary commercial di-nitro-toluene melting at 60 deg. to 64 deg. C.; but when this is used, greater precautions must be exercised, for the reactions are more violent. Moreover, 10 per cent. more nitric acid is required, and the yield is 10 per cent. less. He also draws attention to the slight solubility of tri-nitro-toluene in hot water, and to the fact that it is decomposed by dilute alkalies and alkaline carbonates—facts which must be borne in mind in washing the substance. This material is neither difficult nor dangerous to make. It behaves as a very stable substance when exposed to the air under varying conditions of temperature (-10 deg. to +50 deg. C.) for several months. It cannot be exploded by flame, nor by heating it in an open vessel. It is only slightly decomposed by strong percussion on an anvil. A fulminate detonator produces the best explosive effect with tri-nitro-toluene. It can be used in conjunction with ammonium nitrate, but such admixture weakens the explosive power; but even then it is stated to be stronger than an equivalent mixture of di-nitro-benzene and ammonium nitrate. Mowbray patented a mixture of 3 parts nitro-toluol to 7 of nitro-glycerine, also in the proportions of 1 to 3, which he states to be a very safe explosive.

Faversham Powder.—One of the explosives on the permitted list (coal mines) is extensively used, and is manufactured by the Cotton Powder Co. Ltd. at Faversham. It is composed of tri-nitro-toluol 11 parts, ammonium nitrate 93 parts, and moisture 1 part. This explosive must be used only when contained in a case of an alloy of lead, tin, zinc, and antimony thoroughly waterproof; it must be used only with a detonator or electric detonator of not less strength than that known as No. 6.

Nitro-Naphthalene.—Nitro-naphthalene is formed by the action of nitric acid on naphthalene (C_{10}H_{8}). Its formula is C_{10}H_{7}NO_{2}, and it forms yellow needles, melting at 61 deg. C.; and of di-nitro-naphthalene (C_{10}H_{6}(NO_{2})_{2}), melting point 216 deg. C. There are also tri-nitro and tetra-nitro and [alpha] and [beta] derivatives of nitro-naphthalene. It is the di-nitro-naphthalene that is chiefly used in explosives. It is contained in roburite, securite, romit, Volney's powder, &c. Fehven has patented an explosive consisting of 10 parts of nitro-naphthalene mixed with the crude ingredients of gunpowder as follows:—Nitro-naphthalene, 10 parts; saltpetre, 75 parts; charcoal, 12.5 parts; and sulphur, 12.5 parts. He states that he obtains a mono-nitro-naphthalene, containing a small proportion of di-nitro-naphthalene, by digesting 1 part of naphthalene, with or without heat, in 4 parts of nitric acid (specific gravity 1.40) for five days.

Quite lately a patent has been taken out for a mixture of nitro- naphthalene or di-nitro-benzene with ammonium nitrate, and consists in using a solvent for one or other or both of the ingredients, effected in a wet state, and then evaporating off the solvent, care being taken not to melt the hydrocarbon. In this way a more intimate mixture is ensured between the particles of the components, and the explosive thus prepared can be fired by a small detonator, viz., by 0.54 grms. of fulminate. Favier's explosive also contains mono-nitro-naphthalene (8.5 parts), together with 91.5 parts of nitrate of ammonia. This explosive is made in England by the Miners' Safety Explosive Co. A variety of roburite contains chloro-nitro-naphthalene. Romit consists of 100 parts ammonium nitrate and 7 parts potassium chlorate mixed with a solution of 1 part nitro- naphthalene and 2 parts rectified paraffin oil.

Ammonite.—This explosive was originally made at Vilvorde in Belgium, under the title of the Favier Explosive, consisting of a compressed hollow cylinder composed of 91.5 per cent. of nitrate of ammonia, and 8.5 per cent. of mono-nitro-naphthalene filled inside with loose powder of the same composition. The cartridges were wrapped in paper saturated with paraffin-wax, and afterwards dipped in hot paraffin to secure their being water-tight. The Miners' Safety Explosives Co., when making this explosive at their factory at Stanford-le-Hope, Essex, abandoned after a short trial the above composition, and substituted di-nitro-naphthalene 11.5 per cent. for the mono-nitro-naphthalene, and used thin lead envelopes filled with loose powder slightly pressed in, in place of the compressed cylinders containing loose powder. The process of manufacture is shortly as follows:—132-3/4 lbs. of thoroughly dried nitrate of ammonium is placed in a mill pan, heated at the bottom with live steam, and ground for about twenty minutes until it becomes so dry that a slight dust follows the rollers; then 17-1/2 lbs. of thoroughly dry di-nitro-naphthalene is added, and the grinding continued for about ten minutes. Cold water is then circulated through the bottom of the pan until the material appears of a lightish colour and falls to powder. (While the pan is hot the whole mass looks slightly plastic and of a darker colour than when cold.) A slide in the bottom of the pan is then withdrawn, the whole mass working out until the pan is empty; it is now removed to the sifting machine, brushed through a wire sieve of about 12 holes to the inch, and is then ready for filling into cartridges. The hard core is returned from the sifting machine and turned into one of the pans a few minutes before the charge is withdrawn.

The ammonite is filled into the metallic cartridges by means of an archimedian screw working through a brass tube, pushing off the cartridges as the explosive is fed into them against a slight back pressure; a cover is screwed on, and they then go to the dipping room, where they are dipped in hot wax to seal the ends; they are then packed in boxes of 5 lbs. each and are ready for delivery. The di-nitro-naphthalene is made at the factory. Mono-nitro-naphthalene is first made as follows:—12 parts of commercial nitrate of soda are ground to a fine powder, and further ground with the addition of 15 parts of refined naphthalene until thoroughly incorporated; it is then placed in an earthenware pan, and 30 parts of sulphuric acid of 66 deg. B. added, 2 parts at a time, during forty-eight hours (the rate of adding H{2}SO{4} depends on the condition of the charge, and keeping it in a fluid state), with frequent agitation, day and night, during the first three or four days, afterwards three or four times a day. In all fourteen days are occupied in the nitration process. It is then strained through an earthenware strainer, washed with warm water, drained, and dried. For the purpose of producing this material in a granulated condition, which is found more convenient for drying, and further nitrification, it is placed in a tub, and live steam passed through, until brought up to the boiling point (the tub should be about half full), cold water is then run in whilst violently agitating the contents until the naphthalene solidifies; it can then be easily drained and dried. For the further treatment to make di-nitro-naphthalene, 18 parts of nitro-naphthalene are placed in an earthenware pan, together with 39 parts of sulphuric acid of 66 deg. B., then 15 parts of nitric acid of 40 deg. B. are added, in small quantities at a time, stirring the mixture continually. This adding of nitric acid is controlled by the fuming, which should be kept down as much as possible. The operation takes ten to twelve days, when 100 times the above quantities, taken in kilogrammes, are taken. At the end of the nitration the di-nitro-naphthalene is removed to earthenware strainers, allowed to drain, washed with hot water and soda until all acid is removed, washed with water and dried. The di-nitro- naphthalene gives some trouble in washing, as some acid is held in the crystals which is liable to make its appearance when crushed. To avoid this it should be ground and washed with carbonate of soda before drying; an excess of carbonate of soda should not, however, be used.

Electronite.—This is a high explosive designed to afford safety in coal getting. This important end has been attained by using such ingredients, and so proportioning them, as will ensure on detonation a degree of heat insufficient under the conditions of a "blown-out" shot, to ignite fire damp or coal dust. It is of the nitrate of ammonium class of permitted explosives. It contains about 75 per cent. of nitrate of ammonium, with the addition of nitrate of barium, wood meal, and starch. The gases resulting from detonation are chiefly water in the gaseous form, nitrogen, and a little carbon dioxide. It is granulated with the object of preventing missfires from ramming, to which nitrate of ammonium explosives are somewhat susceptible. This explosive underwent some exhaustive experiments at the experimental station near Wigan in 1895, when 8 oz. or 12 oz. charges were fired unstemmed into an admixture of coal dust and 10 per cent. of gas, without any ignition taking place. It is manufactured by Messrs Curtis's & Harvey Ltd. at their factory, Tonbridge, Kent.

Sprengel's Explosives.—This is a large class of explosives. The essential principle of them all is the admixture of an oxidising with a combustible agent at the time of, or just before, being required for use, the constituents of the mixture being very often non-explosive bodies. This type of explosive is due to the late Dr Herman Sprengel, F.R.S. Following up the idea that an explosion is a sudden combustion, he submitted a variety of mixtures of oxidising and combustible agents to the violent shock of a detonator of fulminate. These mixtures were made in such proportions that the mutual oxidation or de-oxidation should be theoretically complete. Among them are the following:—

1. One chemical equivalent of nitro-benzene to equivalents of nitric acid.

2. Five equivalents of picric acid to 13 equivalents of nitric acid.

3. Eighty-seven equivalents of nitro-naphthalene to 413 equivalents of nitric acid.

4. Porous cakes, or lumps of chlorate of potash, exploded violently with bisulphide of carbon, nitro-benzol, carbonic acid, sulphur, benzene, and mixtures of these substances.

No. 1 covers the explosive known as Hellhoffite, and No. 2 is really oxonite, and No. 4 resembles rack-a-rock, an explosive invented by Mr S.R. Divine, and consisting of a mixture of chlorate of potash and nitro- benzol. Roburite, bellite, and securite should perhaps be regarded as belonging to the Sprengel class of explosives, otherwise this class is not manufactured or used in England. The principal members are known as Hellhoffite, consisting of a mixture of nitro-petroleum or nitro-tar oils and nitric acid, or of meta-di-nitro-benzol and nitric acid; Oxonite, consisting of picric and nitric acids; and Panclastite, a name given to various mixtures, proposed by M. Turpin, such as liquid nitric peroxide, with bisulphide of carbon, benzol, petroleum, ether, or mineral oils.

Picric Acid, Tri-nitro-Phenol, or Carbazotic Acid.—Picric acid, or a tri-nitro-phenol (C{6}H{2}(NO{2}){3}OH)[2:4:6], is produced by the action of nitric acid on many organic substances, such as phenol, indigo, wool, aniline, resins, &c. At one time a yellow gum from Botany Bay (Xanthorrhoea hastilis) was chiefly used. One part of phenol (carbolic acid), C{6}H{5}OH, is added to 3 parts of strong fuming nitric acid, slightly warmed, and when the violence of the reaction has subsided, boiled till nitrous fumes are no longer evolved. The resinous mass thus produced is boiled with water, the resulting picric acid is converted into a sodium salt by a solution of sodium carbonate, which throws down sodium picrate in crystals.

Phenol-sulphuric acid is now, however, more generally used, and the apparatus employed for producing it closely resembles that used in making nitro-benzol. It is also made commercially by melting carbolic acid, and mixing it with strong sulphuric acid, then diluting the "sulpho- carbolic"[A] acid with water, and afterwards running it slowly into a stone tank containing nitric acid. This is allowed to cool, where the crude picric acid crystallises out, and the acid liquid (which contains practically no picric acid, but only sulphuric acid, with some nitric acid) being poured down the drains. The crude picric acid is then dissolved in water by the aid of steam, and allowed to cool when most of the picric acid recrystallises. The mother liquor is transferred to a tank and treated with sulphuric acid, when a further crop of picric acid crystals is obtained. The crystals of picric acid are further purified by recrystallisation, drained, and dried at 100 deg. F. on glazed earthenware trays by the aid of steam. It can also be obtained by the action of nitric acid on ortho-nitro-phenol, para-nitro-phenol, and di-nitro-phenol (2:4 and 2:6), but not from meta-nitro-phenol, a fact which indicates its constitution.[B]

[Footnote A: O. and p. phenolsulphonic acids.

C_{3}H_{4}(OH).SO_{3}H + 3HNO_{3} = C_{6}H_{2}(NO_{2})_{3}OH + H_{2}SO_{4} + 2H_{2}O. (Picric acid).]

[Footnote B: Carey Lea, Amer. Jour. Sci., (ii.), xxxii. 180.]

Picric acid crystallises in yellow shining prisms or laminae having an intensely bitter taste, and is poisonous. It melts at 122.5 deg. C., sublimes when cautiously heated, dissolves sparingly in cold water, more easily in hot water, still more in alcohol. It stains the skin an intense yellow colour, and is used as a dye for wool and silk. It is a strong acid, forming well crystallised yellow salts, which detonate violently when heated, some of them also by percussion. The potassium salt, C{6}H{2}(NO{2}){3}OK, crystallises in long needles very slightly soluble in water. The sodium, ammonium, and barium salts are, however, easily soluble in water. Picric acid, when heated, burns with a luminous and smoky flame, and may be burnt away in large quantity without explosion; but the mere contact of certain metallic oxides, with picric acid, in the presence of heat, develops powerful explosives, which are capable of acting as detonators to an indefinite amount of the acid, wet or dry, which is within reach of their detonative influence. The formula of picric acid is

C{6}H{2} (NO{2}){3} OH.

which shows its formation from phenol (C_{6}H_{5}OH.), three hydrogen atoms being displaced by the NO_{2} group. The equation of its formation from phenol is as follows:—

C{6}H{5}.OH + 3HNO{3} = C{6}H{2}(NO{2}){3}OH + 3H{2}O.

According to Berthelot, its heat of formation from its elements equals 49.1 calories, and its heat of total combustion by free oxygen is equal to +618.4 cals. It hardly contains more than half the oxygen necessary for its complete combustion.

2C{6}H{2}(NO{2}){3}OH + O{10} = 12CO{2} + 3H{2} + 3N{2}.

The percentage composition of picric acid is—Nitrogen, 18.34; oxygen, 49.22; hydrogen, 1.00; and carbon, 31.44, equal to 60.26 per cent. of NO_{2}. The products of decomposition are carbonic acid, carbonic oxide, carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen, and the heat liberated, according to Berthelot, would be 130.6 cals., or 570 cals. per kilogramme. The reduced volume of the gases would be 190 litres per equivalent, or 829 litres per kilogramme. To obtain a total combustion of picric acid it is necessary to mix with it an oxidising agent, such as a nitrate, chlorate, &c. It has been proposed to mix picric acid (10 parts) with sodium nitrate (10 parts) and potassium bichromate (8.3 parts). These proportions would furnish a third of oxygen in excess of the necessary proportion.

Picric acid was not considered to be an explosive, properly so called, for a long time after its discovery, but the disastrous accident which occurred at Manchester (vide Gov. Rep. No. LXXXI., by Colonel (now Sir V.D.) Majendie, C.B.), and some experiments made by Dr Dupre and Colonel Majendie to ascertain the cause of the accident, conclusively proved that this view was wrong. The experiments of Berthelot (Bull. de la Soc. Chim. de Paris, xlix., p. 456) on the explosive decomposition of picric acid are also deserving of attention in this connection. If a small quantity of picric acid be heated in a moderate fire, in a crucible, or even in an open test tube, it will melt (at 120 deg. C. commercial acid), then give off vapours which catch fire upon contact with air, and burn with a sooty flame, without exploding. If the burning liquid be poured out upon a cold slab, it will soon go out. A small quantity carefully heated in a tube, closed at one end, can even be completely volatilised without apparent decomposition. It is thus obvious that picric acid is much less explosive than the nitric ethers, such as nitro-glycerol and nitro-cellulose, and very considerably less explosive than the nitrogen compounds and fulminates.

It would, however, be quite erroneous to assume that picric acid cannot explode when simply heated. On the contrary, Berthelot has proved that this is not the case. If a glass tube be heated to redness, and a minute quantity of picric acid crystals be then thrown in, it will explode with a curious characteristic noise. If the quantity be increased so that the temperature of the tube is materially reduced, no explosion will take place at once, but the substance will volatilise and then explode, though with much less violence than before, in the upper part of the tube. Finally, if the amount of picric acid be still further increased under these conditions, it will undergo partial decomposition and volatilise, but will not even deflagrate. Nitro-benzene, di-nitrobenzene, and mono-, di-, and tri-nitro-naphthalenes behave similarly.

The manner in which picric acid will decompose is thus dependent upon the initial temperature of the decomposition, and if the surrounding material absorb heat as fast as it is produced by the decomposition, there will be no explosion and no deflagration. If, however, the absorption is not sufficient to prevent deflagration, this may so increase the temperature of the surrounding materials that the deflagration will then end in explosion. Thus, if an explosion were started in an isolated spot, it would extend throughout the mass, and give rise to a general explosion.

In the manufacture of picric acid the first obvious and most necessary precaution is to isolate the substance from other chemicals with which it might accidentally come into contact. If pure materials only are used, the manufacture presents no danger. The finished material, however, must be carefully kept from contact with nitrates, chlorates, or oxides. If only a little bit of lime or plaster become accidentally mixed with it, it may become highly dangerous. A local explosion may occur which might have the effect of causing the explosion of the whole mass. Picric acid can be fired by a detonator, 5-grain fulminate, and M. Turpin patented the use of picric acid, unmixed with any other substance, in 1885. The detonation of a small quantity of dry picric acid is sufficient to detonate a much larger quantity containing as much as 17 per cent. of water.

It is chiefly due to French chemists (and to Dr Sprengel) that picric acid has come to the front as an explosive. Melinite,[A] a substance used by the French Government for filling shells, was due to M. Turpin, and is supposed to be little else than fused picric acid mixed with gun-cotton dissolved in some solvent (acetone or ether-alcohol). Sir F.A. Abel has also proposed to use picric acid, mixed with nitrate of potash (3 parts) and picrate of ammonia (2 parts) as a filling for shells. This substance requires a violent blow and strong confinement to explode it. I am not aware, however, that it has ever been officially adopted in this country. Messrs Designolles and Brugere have introduced military powders, consisting of mixtures of potassium and ammonium picrates with nitrate of potassium. M. Designolles introduced three kinds of picrate powders, composed as follows:—

____________ For Torpedoes For Guns. For Small and Shells. Ordinary. Heavy. Arms. ____ ___ ____ ___ Picrate of Potash 55-50 16.4- 9.6 9 28.6-22.9 Saltpetre 45-50 74.4-79.7 80 65.0-69.4 Charcoal ... 9.2-10.7 11 6.4- 7.7 ____ ___ ___ __ ___

They were made much like ordinary gunpowder, 6 to 14 per cent. of moisture being added when being milled. The advantages claimed over gunpowder are greater strength, and consequently greater ballistic or disruptive effect, comparative absence of smoke, and freedom from injurious action on the bores of guns, owing to the absence of sulphur. Brugere's powder is composed of ammonium picrate and nitre, the proportions being 54 per cent. picrate of ammonia and 46 per cent. potassic nitrate. It is stable, safe to manufacture and handle, but expensive. It gives good results in the Chassepot rifle, very little smoke, and its residue is small, and consists of carbonate of potash. It is stated that 2.6 grms. used in a rifle gave an effect equal to 5.5 grms. of ordinary gunpowder.

[Footnote A: The British Lydite and the Japanese Shimose are said to be identical with Melinite.]

Turpin has patented various mixtures of picric acid, with gum-arabic, oils, fats, collodion jelly, &c. When the last-named substance is diluted in the proportion of from 3 to 5 per cent. in a mixture of ether and alcohol, he states that the blocks of picric acid moulded with it will explode in a closed chamber with a priming of from 1 to 3 grammes of fulminate. He also casts picric acid into projectiles, the cast acid having a density of about 1.6. In this state it resists the shock produced by the firing of a cannon, when contained in a projectile, having an initial velocity of 600 metres. It is made in the following way:—The acid is fused in a vessel provided with a false bottom, heated to 130 deg. to 145 deg. C. by a current of steam under pressure, or simply by the circulation under the false bottom of a liquid, such as oil, chloride of zinc, glycerine, &c., heated to the same temperature. The melted picric acid is run into moulds of a form corresponding to that of the blocks required, or it may be run into projectiles, which should be heated to a temperature of about 100 deg. C., in order to prevent too rapid solidification.

When cresylic acid (or cresol, C_{6}H_{4}(CH_{3})OH.) is acted upon by nitric acid it produces a series of nitro compounds very similar to those formed by nitric acids on phenol, such as sodium di-nitro-cresylate, known in the arts as victoria yellow. Naphthol, a phenol-like body obtained from naphthalene, under the same conditions, produces sodium di-nitro- naphthalic acid, C_{10}H_{6}(NO_{2})_{2}O. The explosive known as "roburite" contains chloro-nitro-naphthalene, and romit, a Swedish explosive, nitro-naphthalene.

Tri-nitro-cresol, C{7}H{4}(NO{2}){3}OH.—A body very similar to tri- nitro-phenol, crystallises in yellow needles, slightly soluble in cold water, rather more so in boiling water, alcohol, and ether. It melts at about 100 deg. C. In France it is known as "Cresilite," and mixed with melinite, is used for charging shells. By neutralising a boiling saturated solution of tri-nitro-cresol with ammonia, a double salt of ammonium and nitro-cresol crystallises out upon cooling, which is similar to ammonium picrate. This salt is known as "Ecrasite," and has been used in Austria for charging shells. It is a bright yellow solid, greasy to the touch, melts at 100 deg. C., is unaffected by moisture, heat, or cold, ignites when brought into contact with an incandescent body or open flame, burning harmlessly away unless strongly confined, and is insensitive to friction or concussion. It is claimed to possess double the strength of dynamite, and requires a special detonator (not less than 2 grms. of fulminate) to provoke its full force. Notwithstanding the excellent properties attributed to this explosive, Lieut. W. Walke ("Lectures on Explosives," p. 181) says, "Several imperfectly explained and unexpected explosions have occurred in loading shells with this substance, and have prevented its general adoption up to the present time."

The Fulminates.—The fulminates are salts of fulminic acid, C{2}N{2}O{2}H{2}. Their constitution is not very well understood. Dr E. Divers, F.R.S., and Mr Kawakita (Chem. Soc. Jour., 1884, pp. 13-19), give the formulae of mercury and silver fulminates as

OC = N AgOC = N / Hg O and O / / -C = N AgC = N

whereas Dr H.E. Armstrong, F.R.S., would prefer to write the formula of fulminic acid


and A.F. Holleman (Berichte, v. xxvi., p. 1403), assigns to mercury fulminate the formula

C:N.O Hg C:N.O,

and R. Schol (Ber., v. xxiii., p. 3505),


They are very generally regarded as iso-nitroso compounds.

The principal compound of fulminic acid is the mercury salt commonly known as fulminating mercury. It is prepared by dissolving mercury in nitric acid, and then adding alcohol to the solution, 1 part of mercury and 12 parts of nitric acid of specific gravity 1.36, and 5-1/2 parts of 90 per cent. alcohol being used. As soon as the mixture is in violent reaction, 6 parts more of alcohol are added slowly to moderate the action. At first the mixture blackens from the separation of mercury, but this soon vanishes, and is succeeded by crystalline flocks of mercury fulminate which fall to the bottom of the vessel. During the reaction, large quantities of volatile oxidation products of alcohol, such as aldehyde, ethylic nitrate, &c., are evolved from the boiling liquid, whilst others, such as glycollic acid, remain in solution. The mercury fulminate is then crystallised from hot water. It forms white silky, delicate needles, which are with difficulty soluble in cold water. In the dry state it is extremely explosive, detonating on heating, or by friction or percussion, as also on contact with concentrated sulphuric acid. The reaction that takes place upon its decomposition is as follows:—

C{2}N{2}O{2}Hg = Hg + 2CO + N{2} (284)

According to this equation 1 grm. of the fulminate should yield 235.8 c.c. (= 66.96 litres for 284 grms.). Berthelot and Vicille have obtained a yield of 234.2 c.c., equal to 66.7 litres for one equivalent 284 grms.

Dry fulminate explodes violently when struck, compressed, or touched with sulphuric acid, or as an incandescent body. If heated slowly, it explodes at 152 deg. C., or if heated rapidly, at 187 deg. C. It is often used mixed with potassium chlorate in detonators. The reaction which takes place in this case is 3C{2}N{2}O{2}Hg + 2KClO{3} = 3Hg + 6CO{2} + 3N{2} + 2KCl.

On adding copper or zinc to a hot saturated solution of the salt, fulminate of copper or zinc is formed. The copper salt forms highly explosive green crystals. There is also a double fulminate of copper of ammonia, and of copper and potassium. Silver fulminite, C{2}N{2}O{2}Ag{2}, is prepared in a similar manner to the mercury salt. It separates in fine white needles, which dissolve in 36 parts of boiling water, and are with difficulty soluble in cold water. At above 100 deg. C., or on the weakest blow, it explodes with fearful violence. Even when covered with water it is more sensitive than the mercury salt. It forms a very sensitive double salt with ammonia and several other metals. With hydrogen it forms the acid fulminate of silver. It is used in crackers and bon-bons, and other toy fireworks, in minute quantities. Gay Lussac found it to be composed as follows:—Carbon, 7.92 per cent.; nitrogen, 9.24 per cent.; silver, 72.19 per cent.; oxygen, 10.65 per cent.; and he assigned to it the formula, C{2}N{2}Ag{2}O{2}. Laurent and Gerhardt give it the formula, C{2}N(NO{2})Ag{2}, and thus suppose it to contain nitryl, NO{2}.

On adding potassium chloride to a boiling solution of argentic fulminate, as long as a precipitate of argentic chloride forms, there is obtained on evaporation brilliant white plates, of a very explosive nature, of potassic argentic fulminate, C(NO{2})KAg.CN, from whose aqueous solution nitric acid precipitates a white powder of hydric argentic fulminate, C(NO{2})HAg.CN. All attempts to prepare fulminic acid, or nitro-aceto- nitrile, C(NO{2})H{2}CN, from the fulminates have failed. There is a fulminate of gold, which is a violently explosive buff precipitate, formed when ammonia is added to ter-chloride of gold, and fulminate of platinum, a black precipitate formed by the addition of ammonia to a solution of oxide platinum, in dilute sulphuric acid.

Fulminating silver is a compound obtained by the action of ammonia on oxide of silver. It is a very violent explosive. Pure mercury fulminate may be kept an indefinite length of time. Water does not affect it. It explodes at 187 deg. C., and on contact with an ignited body. It is very sensitive to shock and friction, even that of wood upon wood. It is used for discharging bullets in saloon rifles. Its inflammation is so sudden that it scatters black powder on which it is placed without igniting it, but it is sufficient to place it in an envelope, however weak, for ignition to take place, and the more resisting the envelope the more violent is the shock, a circumstance that plays an important part in caps and detonators. The presence of 30 per cent. of water prevents decomposition, 10 per cent. prevents explosion. This is, however, only true for small quantities, and does not apply to silver fulminate, which explodes under water by friction. Moist fulminates slowly decompose on contact with the oxidisable metals. The (reduced) volume of gases obtained from 1 kilo. is according to Berthelot, 235.6 litres. The equation of its decomposition is C{2}HgN{2}O{2} = 2CO + N{2} + Hg.

Fulminate of mercury is manufactured upon the large scale by two methods. One of these, commonly known as the German method, is conducted as follows:—One part of mercury is dissolved in 12 parts of nitric acid of a specific gravity of 1.375, and to this solution 16.5 parts of absolute alcohol are added by degrees, and heat is then slowly applied to the mixture until the dense fumes first formed have disappeared, and when the action has become more violent some more alcohol is added, equal in volume to that which has already been added. This is added very gradually. The product obtained, which is mercury fulminate, is 112 per cent. of the mercury employed. Another method is to dissolve 10 parts of mercury in 100 parts of nitric acid of a gravity of 1.4, and when the solution has reached a temperature of 54 deg. C, to pour it slowly through a glass funnel into 83 parts of alcohol. When the effervescence ceases, it is filtered through paper filters, washed, and dried over hot water, at a temperature not exceeding 100 deg. C. The fulminate is then carefully packed in paper boxes, or in corked bottles. The product obtained by this process is 130 per cent. of the mercury taken. This process is the safest, and at the same time the cheapest. Fulminate should be kept, if possible, in a damp state. Commercial fulminate is often adulterated with chlorate of potash.

Detonators, or caps, are metallic capsules, usually of copper, and resemble very long percussion caps. The explosive is pure fulminate of mercury, or a mixture of that substance with nitrate or chlorate of potash, gun-powder, or sulphur. The following is a common cap mixture:— 100 parts of fulminate of mercury and 50 parts of potassium nitrate, or 100 parts of fulminate and 60 parts of meal powder. Silver fulminate is also sometimes used in caps. There are eight sizes made, which vary in dimensions and in amount of explosive contained. They are further distinguished as singles, doubles, trebles, &c., according to their number. Colonel Cundill, R.A. ("Dict. of Explosives"), gives the following list:—

No. 1 contains 300 grms. of explosive per 1000. " 2 " 400 " " " " " " 3 " 540 " " " " " " 4 " 650 " " " " " " 5 " 800 " " " " " " 6 " 1,000 " " " " " " 7 " 1,500 " " " " " " 8 " 2,000 " " " " "

Trebles are generally used for ordinary dynamite, 5, 6, or 7 for gun-cotton, blasting gelatine, roburite, &c.

In the British service percussion caps, fuses, &c., are formed of 6 parts by weight of fulminate of mercury, 6 of chlorate of potash, and 4 of sulphide of antimony; time fuses of 4 parts of fulminate, 6 of potassium chlorate, 4 of sulphide of antimony, the mixture being damped with a varnish consisting of 645 grains of shellac dissolved in a pint of methylated spirit. Abel's fuse (No. 1) consists of a mixture of sulphide of copper, phosphide of copper, chlorate of potash, and No. 2 of a mixture of gun-cotton and gun-powder. They are detonated by means of a platinum wire heated to redness by means of an electric current. Bain's fuse mixture is a mixture of subphosphide of copper, sulphide of antimony, and chlorate of potash.

In the manufacture of percussion caps and detonators the copper blanks are cut from copper strips and stamped to the required shape. The blanks are then placed in a gun-metal plate, with the concave side uppermost—a tool composed of a plate of gun-metal, in which are inserted a number of copper points, each of the same length, and so spaced apart as to exactly fit each point into a cap when inverted over a plate containing the blanks. The points are dipped into a vessel containing the cap composition, which has been previously moistened with methylated spirit. It is then removed and placed over the blanks, and a slight blow serves to deposit a small portion of the cap mixture into each cap. A similar tool is then dipped into shellac varnish, removed and placed over the caps, when a drop of varnish from each of the copper points falls into the caps, which are then allowed to dry. This is a very safe and efficacious method of working.

At the works of the Cotton-Powder Company Limited, at Faversham, the fulminate is mixed wet with a very finely ground mixture of gun-cotton and chlorate of potash, in about the proportions of 6 parts fulminate, 1 part gun-cotton, and 1 part chlorate. The water in which the fulminate is usually stored is first drained off, and replaced by displacement by methyl-alcohol. While the fulminate is moist with alcohol, the gun-cotton and chlorate mixture is added, and well mixed with it. This mixture is then distributed in the detonators standing in a frame, and each detonator is put separately into a machine for the purpose of pressing the paste into the detonator shell.

At the eleventh annual meeting of the representatives of the Bavarian chemical industries at Regensburg, attention was drawn to the unhealthy nature of the process of charging percussion caps. Numerous miniature explosions occur, and the air becomes laden with mercurial vapours, which exercise a deleterious influence upon the health of the operatives. There is equally just cause for apprehension in respect to the poisonous gases which are evolved during the solution of mercury in nitric acid, and especially during the subsequent treatment with alcohol. Many methods have been proposed for dealing with the waste products arising during the manufacture and manipulation of fulminate of mercury, but according to Kaemmerer, only one of comparatively recent introduction appears to be at all satisfactory. It is based upon the fact that mercuric fulminate, when heated with a large volume of water under high pressure, splits up into metallic mercury and non-explosive mercurial compounds of unknown composition.

In mixing the various ingredients with mercury fulminate to form cap mixtures, they should not be too dry; in fact, they are generally more or less wet, and mixed in small quantities at a time, in a special house, the floors of which are covered with carpet, and the tables with felt. Felt shoes are also worn by the workpeople employed. All the tools and apparatus used must be kept very clean; for granulating, hair sieves are used, and the granulated mixture is afterwards dried on light frames, with canvas trays the bottoms of which are covered with thin paper, and the frames fitted with indiarubber cushions, to reduce any jars they may receive. The windows of the building should be painted white to keep out the rays of the sun.

Mr H. Maxim, of New York, has lately patented a composition for detonators for use with high explosives, which can also be thrown from ordnance in considerable quantities with safety. The composition is prepared as follows:—Nitro-glycerine is thickened with pyroxyline to the consistency of raw rubber. This is done by employing about 75 to 85 per cent. of nitro-glycerine, and 15 to 25 per cent. of pyroxyline, according to the stiffness or elasticity of the compound desired. Some solvent that dissolves the nitro-cotton is also used. The product thus formed is a kind of blasting gelatine, and should be in a pasty condition, in order that it may be mixed with fulminate of mercury. The solvent used is acetone, and the quantity of fulminate is between 75 to 85 per cent. of the entire compound. If desired, the compound can be made less sensitive to shocks by giving it a spongy consistency by agitating it with air while it is still in a syrupy condition. The nitro-glycerine, especially in this latter case, may be omitted. In some cases, when it is desirable to add a deterring medium, nitro-benzene or some suitable gum is added.

The method of preparing a blasting charge is as follows:—A piece of Bickford fuse of the required length is cut clean and is inserted into a detonator until it reaches the fulminate. The upper portion of the detonator is then squeezed round the fuse with a pair of nippers. The object of this is not only to secure that the full power of the detonator may be developed, but also to fix the fuse in the cap (Fig. 34). When the detonator, &c., is to be used under water, or in a damp situation, grease or tallow should be placed round the junction of the cap with the fuse, in order to make a water-tight joint. A cartridge is then opened and a hole made in its upper end, and the detonator pushed in nearly up to the top. Gun-cotton or tonite cartridges generally have a hole already made in the end of the charge. Small charges of dry gun-cotton, known as primers, are generally used to explode wet gun-cotton. The detonators (which are often fired by electrical means) are placed inside these primers (Fig. 35).

One of the forms of electric exploders used is shown in Fig. 36. This apparatus is made by Messrs John Davis & Son, and is simply a small hand dynamo, capable of producing a current of electricity of high tension. This firm are also makers of various forms of low tension exploders. A charge having been prepared, as in Fig. 34, insert into the bore-hole one or more cartridges as judged necessary, and squeeze each one down separately with a wooden rammer, so as to leave no space round the charge, and above this insert the cartridge containing the fuse and detonator. Now fill up the rest of the bore-hole with sand, gravel, water, or other tamping. With gelatine dynamites a firm tamping may be used, but with ordinary dynamite loose sand is better. The charge is now ready for firing.



Smokeless Powder in General—Cordite—Axite—Ballistite—U.S. Naval Powder—Schultze's E.G. Powder—Indurite—Vielle Poudre—Rifleite— Cannonite—Walsrode—Cooppal Powders—Amberite—Troisdorf—Maximite— Picric Acid Powders, &c., &c.

The progress made in recent years in the manufacture of smokeless powders has been very great. With a few exceptions, nearly all these powders are nitro compounds, and chiefly consist of some form of nitro-cellulose, either in the form of nitro-cotton or nitro-lignine; or else contain, in addition to the above, nitro-glycerine, with very often some such substance as camphor, which is used to reduce the sensitiveness of the explosive. Other nitro bodies that are used, or have been proposed, are nitro-starch, nitro-jute, nitrated paper, nitro-benzene, di-nitro-benzene, mixed with a large number of other chemical substances, such as nitrates, chlorates, &c. And lastly, there are the picrate powders, consisting of picric acid, either alone or mixed with other substances.

The various smokeless powders may be roughly divided into military and sporting powders. But this classification is very rough; because although some of the better known purely military powders are not suited for use in sporting guns, nearly all the manufacturers of sporting powders also manufacture a special variety of their particular explosive, fitted for use in modern rifles or machine guns, and occasionally, it is claimed, for big guns also.

Of the purely military powders, the best known are cordite, ballistite, and the French B.N. powder, the German smokeless (which contains nitro- glycerine and nitro-cotton); and among the general powders, two varieties of which are manufactured either for rifles or sporting guns, Schultze's, the E.C. Powders, Walsrode powder, cannonite, Cooppal powder, amberite, &c., &c.

Cordite, the smokeless powder adopted by the British Government, is the patent of the late Sir F.A. Abel and Sir James Dewar, and is somewhat similar to blasting gelatine. It is chiefly manufactured at the Royal Gunpowder Factory at Waltham Abbey, but also at two or three private factories, including those of the National Explosives Company Limited, the New Explosives Company Limited, the Cotton-Powder Company Limited, Messrs Kynock's, &c. As first manufactured it consisted of gun-cotton 37 per cent., nitro-glycerine 58 per cent., and vaseline 5 per cent., but the modified cordite now made consists of 65 per cent. gun-cotton, 30 per cent. of nitro-glycerine, and 5 per cent. of vaseline. The gun-cotton used is composed chiefly of the hexa-nitrate,[A] which is not soluble in nitro- glycerine. It is therefore necessary to use some solvent such as acetone, in order to form the jelly with nitro-glycerine. The process of manufacture of cordite is very similar, as far as the chemical part of the process is concerned, to that of blasting gelatine, with the exception that some solvent for the gun-cotton, other than nitro-glycerine has to be used. Both the nitro-glycerine and the gun-cotton employed must be as dry as possible, and the latter should not contain more than .6 per cent. of mineral matter and not more than 10 per cent. of soluble nitro-cellulose, and a nitrogen content of not less than 12.5 per cent. The dry gun-cotton (about 1 per cent. of moisture) is placed in an incorporating tank, which consists of a brass-lined box, some of the acetone is added, and the machine (Fig. 29), is started; after some time the rest of the acetone is added (20 per cent. in all) and the paste kneaded for three and a half hours. At the end of this time the Vaseline is added, and the kneading continued for a further three and a half hours. The kneading machine (Fig. 29) consists of a trough, composed of two halves of a cylinder, in each of which is a shaft which carries a revolving blade. These blades revolve in opposite directions, and one makes about half the number of revolutions of the other. As the blades very nearly touch the bottom of the trough, any material brought into the machine is divided into two parts, kneaded against the bottom, then pushed along the blade, turned over, and completely mixed. During kneading the acetone gradually penetrates the mixture, and dissolves both the nitro-cellulose and nitro-glycerine, and a uniform dough is obtained which gradually assumes a buff colour. During kneading the mass becomes heated, and therefore cold water is passed through the jacket of the machine to prevent heating the mixture above the normal temperature, and consequent evaporation of the acetone. The top of the machine is closed in with a glass door, in order to prevent as far as possible the evaporation of the solvent. When the various ingredients are formed into a homogeneous mass, the mixture is taken to the press house, where in the form of a plastic mass it is placed in cylindrical moulds. The mould is inserted in a specially designed press, and the cordite paste forced through a die with one or more holes. The paste is pressed out by hydraulic pressure, and the long cord is wound on a metal drum (Fig. 38), or cut into lengths; in either case the cordite is now sent to the drying houses, and dried at a temperature of about 100 deg. F. from three to fourteen days, the time varying with the size. This operation drives off the acetone, and any moisture the cordite may still contain, and its diameter decreases somewhat. In case of the finer cordite, such as the rifle cordite, the next operation is blending. This process consists in mounting ten of the metal drums on a reeling machine similar to those used for yarns, and winding the ten cords on to one drum. This operation is known as "ten-stranding." Furthermore, six "ten-stranded" reels are afterwards wound upon one, and the "sixty-stranded" reel is then ready to be sent away, This is done in order to obtain a uniform blending of the material. With cordite of a larger diameter, the cord is cut into lengths of 12 inches. Every lot of cordite from each manufacturer has a consecutive number, numbers representing the size and one or more initial letters to identify the manufacturer. These regulations do not apply to the Royal Gunpowder Factory, Waltham Abbey. The finished cordite resembles a cord of gutta-percha, and its colour varies from light to dark brown. It should not look black or shrivelled, and should always possess sufficient elasticity to return to its original form after slight bending. Cordite is practically smokeless. On explosion a very thin vapour is produced, which is dissipated rapidly. This smokelessness can be understood from the fact that the products of combustion are nearly all non-condensible gases, and contain no solid products of combustion which would cause smoke. For the same muzzle velocity a smaller charge of cordite than gunpowder is required owing to the greater amount of gas produced. Cordite is very slow in burning compared to gunpowder. For firing blank cartridges cordite chips containing no vaseline is used. The rate at which cordite explodes depends in a measure upon the diameter of the cords, and the pressure developed upon its mechanical state. The sizes of cordite used are given by Colonel Barker, R.A., as follows:—

For the .303 rifle .0375 inch diameter. " 12 Pr. B.L. gun .05 " " " .075 " " 4.7-inch Q.F. gun .100 " " 6-inch Q.F. gun .300 " " heavy guns .40 to .50 "

For rifles the cordite is used in bundles of sixty strands, in field-guns in lengths of 11 to 12 inches, and the thicker cordite is cut up into 14-inch lengths. Colonel Barker says that the effect of heat upon cordite is not greater as regards its shooting qualities than upon black powder, and in speaking of the effect that cordite has upon the guns in which it is used (R.A. Inst.) said that they had at Waltham Abbey a 4.7-inch Q.F. gun that had fired 40 rounds of black powder, and 249 rounds of cordite (58 per cent. nitro-glycerine) and was still in excellent condition, and showed very little sign of action, and also a 12-lb. B.L. gun that had been much used and was in no wise injured.

[Footnote A: The gun-cotton used contains 12 per cent. of soluble gun-cotton, and a nitrogen content of not less than 12.8 to 13.1 per cent.]

In some experiments made by Captain Sir A. Noble,[A] with the old cordite containing 58 per cent. nitro-glycerine, a charge of 5 lbs. 10 oz. of cordite of 0.2 inch diameter was fired. The mean chamber crusher gauge pressure was 13.3 tons per square inch (maximum 13.6, minimum 12.9), or a mean of 2,027 atmospheres (max. 2,070, min. 1,970). The muzzle velocity was 2,146 foot seconds, and the muzzle energy 1,437 foot tons. A gramme of cordite generated 700 c.c. of permanent gases at 0 deg. C. and 760 mm. pressure. The quantity of heat developed was 1,260 gramme units. In the case of cordite, as also with ballistite, a considerable quantity of aqueous vapour has to be added to the permanent gases formed. A similar trial, in which 12 lbs. of ordinary pebble powder was used, gave a pressure of 15.9 tons per square inch, or a mean of 2,424 atmospheres. It gave a 45-lb. projectile a mean muzzle velocity of 1,839 foot seconds, thus developing a muzzle energy of 1,055 foot tons. A gramme of this powder at 0 deg. C. and 760 mm. generates 280 c.c. of permanent gases, and develops 720 grm. units of heat.

[Footnote A: Proc. Roy. Soc., vol. lii., No. 315.]

In a series of experiments conducted by the War Office Chemical Committee on Explosives in 1891, it was conclusively shown that considerable quantities of cordite may be burnt away without explosion. A number of wooden cases, containing 500 to 600 lbs. each of cordite, were placed upon a large bonfire of wood, and burned for over a quarter of an hour without explosion. At Woolwich in 1892 a brown paper packet containing ten cordite cartridges was fired into with a rifle (.303) loaded with cordite, without the explosion of a single one of them, which shows its insensibility to shock.

With respect to the action of cordite upon guns, Sir A. Noble points out that the erosion caused is of a totally different kind to that of black powder. The surface of the barrel in the case of cordite appears to be washed away smoothly by the gases, and not pitted and eaten into as with black powder. The erosion also extends over a shorter length of surface, and in small arms it is said to be no greater than in the case of black powder. Sir A. Noble says in this connection: "It is almost unnecessary to explain that freedom from rapid erosion is of very high importance in view of the rapid deterioration of the bores of large guns when fired with charges developing very high energies. As might perhaps be anticipated from the higher heat of ballistite, its erosive power is slightly greater than that of cordite, while the erosive power of cordite is again slightly greater than that of brown prismatic. Amide powder, on the other hand, possesses the peculiarity of eroding very much less than any other powder with which I have experimented, its erosive power being only one-fourth of that of the other powders enumerated."

TABLE GIVING SOME OF SIR. A. NOBLE'S EXPERIMENTS. ____________ VELOCITIES OBTAINED. ____________ In a 40 In a 50 In a 75 In a 100 Cal. Gun. Cal. Gun. Cal. Gun. Cal. Gun. _____ __ __ __ __ Foot Secs. Foot Secs. Foot Sees. Foot Secs. With cordite 0.4 in. diam. 2,794 2,940 3,166 3,286 " " 0.3 " 2,469 2,619 2,811 2,905 " ballistite 0.3 in. cubes 2,416 2,537 2,713 2,806 " French B.N. for 6-inch guns 2,249 2,360 2,536 2,616 " prismatic amide 2,218 2,342 2,511 2,574 _____ __ __ __ __ ENERGIES REPRESENTED BY ABOVE VELOCITIES. ____________ Foot Tons. Foot Tons. Foot Tons. Foot Tons. Cordite 0.4 inch 5,413 5,994 6,950 7,478 Ballistite 0.3 inch cubes 4,227 4,754 5,479 5,852 French B.N. 4,047 4,463 5,104 5,460 Prismatic amide 3,507 3,862 4.460 4,745 _____ __ __ __ __

And again, in speaking of his own experiments, he says: "One 4.7-inch gun has fired 1,219 rounds, and another 953, all with full charges of cordite, while a 6-inch gun has fired 588 rounds with full charges, of which 355 were cordite. In the whole of these guns, so far as I can judge, the erosion is certainly not greater than with ordinary powder, and differs from it remarkably in appearance. With ordinary powder a gun, when much eroded, is deeply furrowed (these furrows having a great tendency to develop into cracks), and presents much the appearance in miniature of a very roughly ploughed field. With cordite, on the contrary, the surface appears to be pretty smoothly swept away, while the length of the surface eroded is considerably less."

The pressures given by cordite compared with those given by black powder in the 6-inch gun will be seen upon reference to Fig. 39, which is taken from Professor V.B. Lewes's paper, read before the Society of Arts; and due to Dr W. Anderson, F.R.S., the Director-General of Ordnance Factories.

It has been found that the erosive effect is in direct proportion to the nitro-glycerine present. The cordite M.D., which contains only 30 per cent. nitro-glycerine, gives only about half the erosive effect of the old service cordite. With regard to the heating effect of cordite and cordite M.D. on a rifle, Mr T.W. Jones made some experiments. He fired fifty rounds of .303 cartridges in fifteen minutes in the service rifle. Cordite raised the temperature of the rifle 270 deg. F., and cordite M.D. 160 deg. F. only.

With regard to the effect of heat upon cordite, there is some difference of opinion. Dr W. Anderson, F.R.S., says that there is no doubt that the effect of heat upon cordite is greater than upon black powder. At a temperature of 110 deg. F. the cordite used in the 4.7-inch gun is considerably affected as regards pressure.

Colonel Barker, R.A., in reply to a question raised by Colonel Trench, R.A. (at the Royal Artillery Institution), concerning the shooting qualities of cordite heated to a temperature of 110 deg. F., said: "Heating cordite and firing it hot undoubtedly does disturb its shooting qualities, but as far as we can see, not much more than gunpowder. I fear that we must always expect abnormal results with heated propellants, either gunpowder or cordite; and when fired hot, the increase in pressure and velocities will depend upon the heat above the normal or average temperature at which firing takes place." Colonel Barker also, in referring to experiments that had been made in foreign climates, said: "Climatic trials have been carried out all over the world, and they have so far proved eminently satisfactory. The Arctic cold of the winter in Canada, with the temperature below zero, and the tropical sun of India, have as yet failed to shake the stability of the composition, or abnormally injure its shooting qualities." Dr Anderson is of opinion that cordite should not be stored in naval magazines near to the boilers. Professor Vivian B. Lewes, in his recent Cantor Lectures before the Society of Arts, suggests that the magazines of warships should be water- jacketed, and maintained at a temperature that does not rise above 100 deg. F.

Axite.—This powder is manufactured by Messrs Kynock Limited, at their works at Witton, Birmingham. The main constituents of cordite are retained although the proportions are altered; ingredients are added which impart properties not possessed by cordite, and the methods of its manufacture have been modified. The form has also been altered. Axite is made in the form of a ribbon, the cross section being similar in shape to a double- headed rail. It is claimed for this powder, that it does not corrode the barrel in the way cordite does, that with equal pressure it gives greatly increased velocity, and therefore flatter trajectory. That the effect of temperature on the pressure and velocity with axite is only half that with cordite. That the maximum flame temperature of axite is considerably less than that of cordite, and the erosive effect is therefore considerably less. That the deposit left in the barrel after firing axite cartridges reduces the friction between the bullet and the barrel. It is therefore practicable to use axite cartridges giving higher velocities than can be employed with cordite, as with such velocities the latter would nickel the barrel by excessive friction. It is also claimed that the accuracy is greatly increased. The following results have been obtained with this same time, and under the same conditions:—

Axite Cartridges with 200-grain bullets. Velocity 2,726 F.S. Pressure 20.95 tons.

Axite Cartridges with 215-grain bullets. Velocity 2,498 F.S. Pressure 19.24 tons.

Axite Service Cartridges. Velocity 2,179 F.S. Pressure 15.76 tons.

Cordite Service Cartridges. Velocity 2,010 F.S. Pressure 15.67 tons.

Five rounds from the Service axite and Service cordite were placed in an oven and heated to a temperature of 110 deg. F. for one hour, and were then fired for pressure. The following results were obtained:—

Axite. Cordite. Before heating 15.76 tons per sq. in. 15.67 tons per sq. in. After " 16.73 " " 17.21 " "

Increase .97 = 6.1% 1.54 = 9.8%

Average Velocities— Before heating 2,150 F.S. 2,030 F.S. After " 2,180 " 2,090 "

Increase 30 F.S. = 1-1/2% 60.0 F.S. = 3%

In order to show the accuracy given by axite, seven rounds were fired from a machine rest at a target fixed at 100 yards from a rifle. Six of the seven shots could be covered by a penny piece, the other being just outside. In order to ascertain the relative heat imparted to a rifle by the explosion of axite and cordite, ten rounds each of axite and cordite cartridges were fired from a .303 rifle, at intervals of ten seconds, the temperature of the rifle barrel being taken before and after each series:—


With axite was 71 deg. F. With cordite was 89 deg. F. Difference in favour of axite 18 deg. F. = 20.2%

The lubricating action of axite is shown by the fact that a series of cordite cartridges fired from a .303 rifle in the ordinary way, followed by a second series, the barrel being lubricated between each shot by firing an axite cartridge alternately with the cordite cartridge. The mean velocity of the first series of cordite cartridges was 1,974 ft. per second; the mean velocity of the second series was 2,071 ft. per second; the increased velocity due to the lubricating effect of axite therefore was 97 ft. per second. This powder, it is evident, has very many very excellent qualities, and considerable advantages over cordite. It is understood that axite is at present under the consideration of the British Government for use as the Service powder.

Ballistite.—Nobel's powder, known as ballistite, originally consisted of a camphorated blasting gelatine, and was made of 10 parts of camphor in 100 parts of nitro-glycerine, to which 200 parts of benzol were then added, and 50 parts of nitro-cotton (soluble) were then steeped in this mixture, which was then heated to evaporate off the benzol, and the resulting compound afterwards passed between steam-heated rollers, and formed into sheets, which were then finally cut up into small squares or other shapes as convenient. The camphor contained in this substance was, however, found to be a disadvantage, and its use discontinued. The composition is now 50 per cent. of soluble nitro-cotton and 50 per cent. of nitro-glycerine. As nitro-glycerine will not dissolve its own weight of nitro-cotton (even the soluble variety), benzol is used as a solvent, but is afterwards removed from the finished product, just as the acetone is removed from cordite. About 1 per cent. of diphenylamine is added for the purpose of increasing its stability.

The colour of ballistite is a darkish brown. It burns in layers when ignited, and emits sparks. The size of the cubes into which it is cut is a 0.2-inch cube. Its density is 1.6. It is also, by means of a special machine, prepared in the form of sheets, after being mixed in a wooden trough fitted with double zinc plates, and subjected to the heating process by means of hot-water pipes. It is passed between hot rollers, and rolled into sheets, which are afterwards put through a cutting machine and granulated. Sir A. Nobel's experiments[A] with this powder gave the following results:—The charge used was 5 lbs. 8 oz., the size of the cubes being 0.2 inch. The mean crusher-gauge pressure was 14.3 tons per square inch (maximum, 2,210; minimum, 2,142), and average pressure 2,180 atmospheres. The muzzle velocity was 2,140 foot seconds, and the muzzle energy 1,429 foot tons. A gramme of ballistite generates 615 c.c. of permanent gases, and gives rise to 1,365 grm. units of heat. Ballistite is manufactured at Ardeer in Scotland, at Chilworth in Surrey, and also in Italy, under the name of Filite, which is in the form of cords instead of cubes. The ballistite made in Germany contained more nitro-cellulose, and the finished powder was coated with graphite. Its use has been discontinued as the Service powder in Germany, but it is still the Service powder in Italy.

[Footnote A: Proc. Roy. Soc., vol. lii., p. 315.]

U.S. Naval Smokeless Powder.—This powder is manufactured at the U.S. Naval Torpedo Station for use in guns of all calibres in the U.S. Navy. It is a nitro-cellulose powder, a mixture of insoluble and soluble nitro- cellulose together with the nitrates of barium and potassium, and a small percentage of calcium carbonate. The proportions in the case of the powder for the 6-inch rapid-fire gun are as follows:—Mixed nitro-cellulose (soluble and insoluble) 80 parts, barium nitrate 15 parts, potassium nitrate 4 parts, and calcium carbonate 1 part. The percentage of nitrogen contained in the insoluble nitro-cellulose must be 13.30+-0.15, and in the soluble 11.60+-0.15, and the mean nitration strength of the mixture must be 12.75 per cent. of nitrogen. The solvent used in making the powder is a mixture of ether (sp. gr. 0.720) 2 parts, and alcohol (95 per cent. by volume) 1 part. The process of manufacture is briefly as follows:[A]—The soluble and insoluble nitro-cellulose are dried separately at a temperature from 38 deg. to 41 deg. C., until they do not contain more than 0.1 per cent. of moisture. The calcium carbonate is also finely pulverised and dried, and is added to the mixed nitro-celluloses after they have been sifted through a 16-mesh sieve. The nitrates are next weighed out and dissolved in hot water, and to this solution is added the mixture of nitro-celluloses and calcium carbonate with constant stirring until the entire mass becomes a homogeneous paste. This pasty mass is next spread upon trays and re-dried at a temperature between 38 deg. and 48 deg. C., and when thoroughly dry it is transferred to the kneading machine. The ether- alcohol mixture is now added, and the process of kneading begun. It has been found by experiment that the amount of solvent required to secure thorough incorporation is about 500 c.c. to each 500 grms. of dried paste. To prevent loss of solvent due to evaporation, the kneading machine is made vapour light. The mixing or kneading is continued until the resulting greyish-yellow paste is absolutely homogeneous so far as can be detected by the eye, which requires from three to four hours. The paste is next treated in a preliminary press (known as the block press and is actuated by hydraulic power), where it is pressed into a cylindrical mass of uniform density and of such dimensions as to fit it for the final or powder press. The cylindrical masses from the block press are transferred to the final press, whence they are forced out of a die under a pressure of about 500 lbs. per square inch. As it emerges from the final press the powder is in the form of a ribbon or sheet, the width and thickness of which is determined by the dimensions of the powder chamber of the gun in which the powder is to be used. On the inner surface of the die are ribs extending in the direction of the powder as it emerges from the press, the object of these ribs being to score the sheets or ribbons in the direction of their length, so that the powder will yield uniformly to the pressure of the gases generated in the gun during the combustion of the charge. The ribbon or sheet is next cut into pieces of a width and length corresponding to the chamber of the gun for which it is intended, the general rule being that the thickness of the grain (when perfectly dry) shall be fifteen one-thousandths (.015) of the calibre of the gun, and the length equal to the length to fit the powder chamber. Thus, in case of the 6-inch rapid-fire gun the thickness of the grain (or sheet) is 0.09 of an inch and the length 32 inches. The sheets are next thoroughly dried, first between sheets of porous blotting-paper under moderate pressure and at a temperature between 15 deg. C. and 21.5 deg. C. for three days, and then exposed to free circulation of the air at about 21.5 deg. C. for seven days, and finally subjected for a week or longer to a temperature not exceeding 38 deg. C. until they cease to lose weight.

[Footnote A: Lieut. W. Walke, "Lectures on Explosives," p. 330.]

The sheets, when thoroughly dried, are of a uniform yellowish-grey colour, and of the characteristic colloidal consistency; they possess a perfectly smooth surface, and are free from internal blisters or cracks. The temperature of ignition of the finished powder should not be below 172 deg. C., and when subjected to the heat or stability test, it is required to resist exposure to a temperature of 71 deg. C. for thirty minutes without causing discoloration of the test paper.

W.A. Powder.—This powder is made by the American Smokeless Powder Company, and it was proposed for use in the United States Army and Navy. It is made in several grades according to the ballistic conditions required. It consists of insoluble gun-cotton and nitro-glycerine, together with metallic nitrates and an organic substance used as a deterrent or regulator. The details of its manufacture are very similar to those of cordite, with the exception that the nitro-glycerine is dissolved in a portion of the acetone, before it is added to the gun-cotton. The powder is pressed into solid threads, or tubular cords or cylinders, according to the calibre of the gun in which the powder is to be used. As the threads emerge from the press they are received upon a canvas belt, which passes over steam-heated pipes, and deposited in wire baskets. The larger cords or cylinders are cut into the proper lengths and exposed upon trays in the drying-house. The powder for small arms is granulated by cutting the threads into short cylinders, which are subsequently tumbled, dusted, and, if not perfectly dry, again placed upon trays in the drying- house. Before being sent away from the factory, from five to ten lots of 500 lbs. each are mixed in a blending machine, in order to obtain greater uniformity. The colour of the W.A. powder is very light grey, the grains are very uniform in size, dry and hard. The powder for larger guns is of a yellowish colour, almost translucent, and almost as hard as vulcanite. The powder is said to be unaffected by atmospheric or climatic conditions, to be stable, and to have given excellent ballistic results; it is not sensitive to the impact of bullets, and when ignited burns quietly, unless strongly confined.

Turning now to the smokeless powders, in which the chief ingredient is nitro-cellulose in some form (either gun-cotton or nitro-lignine, &c.), one of the first of these was Prentice's gun-cotton, which consisted of nitrated paper 15 parts, mixed with 85 parts of unconverted cellulose. It was rolled into a cylinder. Another was Punshon's gun-cotton powder, which consisted of gun-cotton soaked in a solution of sugar, and then mixed with a nitrate, such as sodium or potassium nitrate. Barium nitrate was afterwards used, and the material was granulated, and consisted of nitrated gun-cotton.

The explosive known as tonite, made at Faversham, was at first intended for use as a gunpowder, but is now only used for blasting.

The Schultze Powder.—One of the earliest of the successful powders introduced into this country was Schultze's powder, the invention of Colonel Schultze, of the Prussian Artillery, and is now manufactured by the Schultze Gunpowder Company Limited, of London. The composition of this powder, as given in the "Dictionary of Explosives" by the late Colonel Cundall, is as follows:—

Soluble nitro-lignine 14.83 per cent. Insoluble " 23.36 " Lignine (unconverted) 13.14 " Nitrates of K and Ba 32.35 " Paraffin 3.65 " Matters soluble in alcohol 0.11 " Moisture 2.56 "

This powder was the first to solve the difficulty of making a smokeless, or nearly smokeless powder which could be used with safety and success in small arms. Previously, gun-cotton had been tried in various forms, and in nearly every instance disaster to the weapon had followed, owing to the difficulty of taming the combustion to a safe degree. But about 1866 Colonel Schultze produced, as the result of experiments, a nitrated wood fibre which gave great promise of being more pliable and more easily regulated in its burning than gun-cotton, and this was at once introduced into England, and the Schultze Gunpowder Company Limited was formed to commence its manufacture, which it did in the year 1868. During the years from its first appearance, Schultze gunpowder has passed through various modifications. It was first made in a small cubical grain formed by cutting the actual fibre of timber transversely, and then breaking this veneer into cubes. Later on improvements were introduced, and the wood fibre so produced was crushed to a fine degree, and then reformed into small irregular grains. Again, an advance was made in the form of the wood fibre used, the fibre being broken down by the action of chemicals under high temperature, and so producing an extremely pure form of woody fibre. The next improvement was to render the grains of the powder practically waterproof and less affected by the atmospheric influences of moisture and dryness, and the last improvement to the process was that of hardening the grains by means of a solvent of nitro-lignine, so as to do away with the dust that was often formed from the rubbing of the grains during transit.

Minor modifications have from time to time also been made, in order to meet the gradual alteration which has taken place during this long period in the manufacture of sporting guns and cartridge cases to be used with this powder, but through all its evolution this Company has adhered to the first idea of using woody fibre in preference to cotton as the basis of their smokeless powder, as experience has confirmed the original opinion that a powder can be thus made less sensitive to occasional differences in loading, and more satisfactory all round than when made from the cotton base. The powder has always been regulated so that bulk for bulk it occupies the same measure as the best black powder, and as regards its weight, just one half of that of black.

The process of manufacture of this powder is briefly as follows:—

Wood of clean growth is treated by the well-known sulphite process for producing pure woody fibre, which is very carefully purified, and this, after drying, is steeped in a mixture of nitric and sulphuric acids, to render it a nitro-compound and the explosive base of the powder. This nitro compound is carefully purified until it stands the very high purity requirements of the Home Office, and is then ground with oxygen-bearing salts, &c., and the whole is formed into little irregular-shaped grains of the desired size, which grains are dried and hardened by steeping in a suitable solvent for the nitro compound, and after finally drying, sifting, &c., the powder is stored in magazines for several months before it is issued. When issued, a very large blend is made of many tons weight, which ensures absolute uniformity in the material.

There is in England a standard load adopted by every one for testing a sporting powder; this charge is 42 grains of powder and 1-1/8 oz. No. 6 shot—this shot fired from a 12-bore gun, patterns being taken at 40 yards, the velocity at any required distance.

The standard muzzle velocity of Schultze gunpowder is 1,220 feet per second.

The mean 40 yards ditto is 875 feet per second.

The mean 20 yards ditto is 1,050 feet per second.

The internal pressure not to exceed 3.5 tons.

This Company also manufactures a new form of powder, known as Imperial Schultze. It is a powder somewhat lighter in gravity; 33 grains occupies the bulk charge, as compared with the 42 grains of the old. It follows in its composition much the lines of the older powder, but it is quite free from smoke, and leaves no residue whatever.

The E.G. Powder.—This is one of the oldest of the nitro powders. It was invented by Reid and Johnson in 1882. It is now manufactured by the E.G. Powder Company Limited, at their factory near Dartford, Kent, and in America by the Anglo-American E.G. Powder Company, at New Jersey. The basis of this powder is a fine form of cellulose, derived from cotton, carefully purified, and freed from all foreign substances, and carefully nitrated. Its manufacture is somewhat as follows:—Pure nitro-cotton, in the form of a fine powder, is rotated in a drum, sprinkled with water, and the drum rotated until the nitro-cotton has taken the form of grains. The grains are then dried and moistened with ether-alcohol, whereby the moisture is gelatinised, and afterwards coloured with aurine, which gives them an orange colour. They are then dried and put through a sieve, in order to separate the grains which may have stuck together during the gelatinising process.

Since its introduction soon after 1881, E.G. powder has undergone considerable modifications, and is now a distinctly different product from a practical point of view. It is now and has been since 1897 what is known as a 33-grain powder, that is to say, the old standard charge of 3 drams by measure for a 12-bore gun weighs 33 grains, as compared with 42 grains for the original E.G. and other nitro powders. This improvement was effected by a reduction of the barium nitrate and the use of nitro- cellulose of a higher degree of nitration, and also more gelatinisation in manufacture. The granules are very hard, and resist moisture to an extent hitherto unattainable by any "bulk" powder.

Irregularities of pressure in loading have also a minimum effect by reason of the hardness of the grains. The colouring matter used is aurine, and the small quantity of nitrate used is the barium salt. The powder is standardised for pressure velocity with Boulenge chronograph,[A] pattern and gravimetric density by elaborate daily tests, and is continually subjected to severe trials for stability under various conditions of storage, the result being that it may be kept for what in practice amount to indefinite periods of time, either in cartridges or in bulk without any alteration being feared. The E.C. powders are used in sporting guns. No. 1 and No. 2 E.C. are not at present manufactured, E.C. No. 3 having taken their place entirely. Since 1890 these powders have been manufactured under the Borland-Johnson patents, these improved powders being for some time known as the J.B. powders. The E.C. No. 1 was superseded by the E.C. No. 2, made under the Borland-Johnson patents, and this in its turn by the E.C. No. 3 (in 1897).

[Footnote A: Invented in 1869 by Major Le Boulenge, Belgian Artillery. It is intended to record the mean velocity between any two points, and from its simplicity and accuracy is largely employed. Other forms have been invented by Capt. Breger, French Artillerie de la Marine, and Capt. Holden, R.A.]

Indurite is the invention of Professor C.E. Munroe, of the U.S. Naval Torpedo Station. It is made from insoluble nitro-cotton, treated in a particular manner by steam, and mixed with nitro-benzene. The Dupont powder is very similar to Indurite. M.E. Leonard, of the United States, invented a powder consisting of 75 parts of nitro-glycerine, 25 parts of gun-cotton, 5 parts of lycopodium powder, and 4 parts of urea crystals dissolved in acetone. The French smokeless powder, Vielle poudre (poudre B), used in the Lebel rifle, is a mixture of nitro-cellulose and tannin, mixed with barium and potassium nitrates. It gives a very feeble report, and very little bluish smoke. The Nobel Company is said to be perfecting a smokeless powder in which the chief ingredients are nitro-amido- and tri- nitro-benzene. C.O. Lundholm has patented (U.S. Pat, 701,591, 1901) a smokeless powder containing nitro-glycerine 30, nitro-cellulose 60, diamyl phthalate 10 (or diamyl phthalate 5, and mineral jelly 5). The diamyl phthalate is added, with or without the mineral jelly to nitro-glycerine and nitro-cellulose.

Walsrode Powder.—The smokeless powder known as Walsrode powder consists of absolutely pure gelatinised nitro-cellulose, grained by a chemical not a mechanical process, consequently the grains do not need facing with gelatine to prevent their breaking up, as is the case with many nitro powders. For this same reason, as well as from the method of getting rid of the solvent used, the Walsrode has no tendency whatever to absorb moisture. In fact, it can lie in water for several days, and when taken out and dried again at a moderate temperature will be found as good as before. Nor is it influenced by heat, whether dry or damp, and it can be stored for years without being in the least affected. It is claimed also that it heats the barrels of guns much less than black powder, and does not injure them.

The standard charge is 30 grains, and it is claimed that with this charge Walsrode powder will prove second to none. A large cap is necessary, as the grains of this powder are very hard, and require a large flame to properly ignite them. In loading cartridges for sporting purposes, an extra felt wad is required to compensate for the small space occupied by the charge; but for military use the powder can be left quite loose. The gas pressure of this powder is low (in several military rifles only one- half that of other nitros), and the recoil consequently small; and it is claimed that with the slight increase of the charge (from 29 to 30 grs.) both penetration and initial velocity will be largely increased, whilst the gas pressure and recoil will not be greater.

This powder was used at Bisley, at the National Rifle Association's Meeting, with satisfactory results. It is made by the Walsrode Smokeless and Waterproof Gunpowder Company. The nitro-cotton is gelatinised by means of acetic ether, and the skin produced retards burning. The nitro-cotton is mixed with acetic ether, and when the gelatinisation has taken place, the plastic mass is forced through holes in a metal plate into strips, which are then cut up into pieces the size of grains. The M.H. Walsrode powder is a leaflet powder, light in colour, about 40 grains of which give a muzzle velocity of 1,350 feet and a pressure of 3 tons. It is, like the other Walsrode powders, waterproof and heat-proof.

Cooppal Powder is manufactured by Messrs Cooppal & Co. at their extensive powder works in Belgium. It consists of nitro-jute or nitro- cotton, with or without nitrates, treated with a solvent to form a gelatinised mass. There are a great many varieties of this powder. One kind is in the form of little squares; another, for use in Hotchkiss guns, is formed into 3-millimetre cubes, and is black. Other varieties are coloured with aniline dyes of different colours.

Amberite is a nitro-cellulose powder of the 42-grain type of sporting gunpowders, and is manufactured by Messrs Curtis's & Harvey Limited, at their Smokeless Powder Factory, Tonbridge, Kent. It consists of a mixture of nitro-cellulose, paraffin, barium, nitrate, and some other ingredients. It is claimed for this powder that it combines hard shooting with safety, great penetration, and moderate strain on the gun. It is hard and tough in grain, and may be loaded like black powder, and subjected to hard friction without breaking into powder, that it is smokeless, and leaves no residue in the gun. The charge for 12 bores is 42 grains by weight, and 1-1/8 oz. or 1-1/16 oz. shot. The powders known as cannonite[A] and ruby powder, also manufactured by Messrs Curtis's & Harvey Limited, are analogous products having the same general characteristics.

[Footnote A: For further details of cannonite, see First Edition, p. 181.]

Smokeless Diamond, also manufactured by the above mentioned firm, is a nitro-cellulose powder of the 33-grain type of sporting gunpowders. It was invented by Mr H.M. Chapman. The manufacture of Smokeless Diamond, as carried out at Tonbridge, is shortly as follows:—The gun-cotton, which is the chief ingredient of this powder, is first stoved, then mixed with certain compounds which act as moderators, and after the solvents are added, is worked up into a homogeneous plastic condition. It then undergoes the processes of granulation, sifting, dusting, drying, and glazing. In order to ensure uniformity several batches are blended together, and stored for some time before being issued for use.

It is claimed for this powder that it is quick of ignition, the quickness being probably due to the peculiar structure of the grains which, when looked at under the microscope, have the appearance of coke. The charge for a 12 bore is 33 grains and 1-1/16 oz. shot, which gives a velocity of 1,050 feet per second, and a pressure of 3 tons per square inch.

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