Origins of Gunpowder

Warfare has seen many weapons such as the musket and the cannon. These inventions have frightening explosive power. Their use has changed history;without them, we would certainly be living in a different world today. Of course, each of these weapons is or originally was fueled by gunpowder. Therefore, gunpowder can be considered one of the most influential creations of all time.

What is Gunpowder Made of?

Gunpowder is a blend of saltpeter, sulfur and charcoal. When its particles are combusted, they release these chemicals in the form of gases. The chemicals then expand and combine. The standard formula for creating gunpowder is 12.5 parts sulfur and 12.5 parts charcoal for every seventy-five parts saltpeter. The quality of gunpowder is judged by its uniformity and firmness.

  • How Gunpowder is Made: An article about the ingredients in gunpowder and some changes that can be made to affect its functionality.

  • Roots of Rocketry: The invention of gunpowder and how it eventually escalated to rocket projectiles.

  • All About Gunpowder: Some history on gunpowder and plenty of information on how it is manufactured today.

The Invention of Gunpowder

Contrary to the beliefs of some people, gunpowder was not developed by Western Europeans but rather by the Chinese. In the ninth or tenth century, Chinese alchemists mixed saltpeter, sulfur and charcoal in one of their many attempts to create the elixir of life. They quickly discovered that this combination of ingredients was highly explosive. As a result, they called it Huoyao, or Fire Medicine. Of course, the term gunpowder wasn’t used until the invention of the gun some centuries later. The Chinese spent the next four hundred years perfecting the concoction, figuring out the right amounts of each ingredient to include. Although it can be proven that the Chinese used gunpowder for festivities, there is also considerable evidence that suggests they saw its military benefits from the moment they invented it. European guns didn’t appear in historical documents until around 1326.

  • Gunpowder: A brief abstract on the history of gunpowder.

Early Uses of Gunpowder

In the tenth century, very soon after gunpowder was invented, it was already being used for warfare. Forces would attach small bamboo-wrapped packages of the powder to their arrows and ignite it before launching it against the enemy. With the invention of the cannon, the battering ram and the catapult became obsolete. Armies no longer had to chisel away at walls. They could tear through with just a few explosive cannon balls. Another item that gunpowder was used for was bombs. Oil-fueled bombs had already existed for some time but using gunpowder allowed for smaller, more versatile explosives. For the first time, bombs could be thrown. Of course, the item we most commonly associate gunpowder with is the gun. War factions needed to develop new and improved tactics when guns were introduced to the battlefield. They could no longer simply charge at their enemies because bullets could pierce armor.

  • Gunpowder and Firearms: A list of some of the early uses of gunpowder including incendiary arrows and bombs.

  • Technology during the Song: Information surrounding the role of gunpowder in the thirteenth century battles between the Song Dynasty and the Mongols.


Modern Uses of Gunpowder

The invention of the gun changed not only warfare, but conquest. When Europeans sailed to the Western Hemisphere, guns gave them the upper hand in fighting the native peoples. Spain conquered much of South America using guns to defeat the Incas and Aztecs. England, France and other European nations used guns against the Native Americans to claim their land. This world, taken at gunpoint, is the one we live in today. In our world, fireworks, the original use for gunpowder, are still used frequently. As for guns, companies have developed other ways for them to fire. However, many advanced guns still use the concoction. It is important never to mix types of powder. Smokeless is not compatible with black powder.

  • Explosives: This article has discussed gunpowder from about 800AD through its first few centuries of use. This resource should fill in the gaps between then and now.

Which of the following is NOT one of the "Three Ws" that should be included in every hunting plan?

What firearm you are hunting with.
Who you are with.
When you are returning.
Where you are going.


What technique can be described as "slow, patient movement of the hunter into shooting position after game has been located"?

Stand Hunting
Still Hunting


Which species is there federal hunting laws for?

Wood Duck
Ring-knecked pheasant
Snowshoe hare
White-tailed Deer


Which field carry provides the most firearm control?



Which choice is NOT recommended when approaching downed wildlife?

Approach quietly from behind.
Poke animal gently with a stick.
Touch the eye gently, if there's no reaction, animal is usually dead.
Shoot it again before approaching to make sure it is dead.


What is the technique known as "driving"?

One hunter sitting in a blind waiting for game to come along.
One hunter moving slowly and patiently into shooting position after game has been located.
One or more pushers walk through an area trying to move game ahead of them into areas wehre blockers are waiting.
One hunter driving a vehicle and a second hunter in the back set shooting through the open window.


Scouting an area you want to hunt should include:

Walk around the area on opening day with your firearm or bow.
Walk around the area looking for animal movements and signs.
Look at maps and aerial photos of the area.
Answers B and C.


Which of the following is NOT a reason why you should develop a hunting plan for every hunt?

So friends and family know how to contact you in case of emergency.
So you can use your hunting plan to start a fire if you get lost.
So fellow hunters know where you are located.
So friends and family know where you can be found in case of a hunting accident.


Which of these items should be on every checklist included in your hunting plan?

Hunting license


Which of these does NOT violate a hunting safety rule?

Carrying a loaded firearm in a vehicle.
Keeping your finger on the trigger while stalking game.
Two hunters shooting at the same game.
Identifying what lies beyond an identified target.