Difference Between Gunpowder and Black Powder

The introduction of gunpowder was in China, and soon after its discovery, gunpowder was made available to the world for the use of firearms.


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The Chinese were always ahead of the rest of the world in creating and coming out with innovative ideas, and gunpowder was one of them.

It was during the 9th century when some Chinese alchemists searched for a potion.

They thought they were making a material that would give rise to immortality, but instead, they discovered a way to create fireworks and gunpowder.

The invention was a huge achievement during the time because people used it in firearms or hunting for protection.

On the other hand, black powder is a deflagrating explosive. Black powder is mostly used in fireworks, fuel for rockets, and many other uses.

Key Takeaways

  1. Gunpowder and black powder are types of explosive powder developed at different times.
  2. Gunpowder is a mixture of saltpeter, sulfur, and charcoal and was developed in the 9th century in China for military use.
  3. Black powder combined saltpeter, charcoal, and sulfur and was developed in the 14th century in Europe for firearms and mining.

Gunpowder vs. Black Powder

Gunpowder, also known as smokeless powder, is a modern form of explosive widely used today and much more stable than black powder. Black powder, also known as gunpowder, was the first dangerous to handle explosives ever used and has been used for over a thousand years.

Gunpowder vs Black Powder

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Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonGunpowderBlack Powder
DefinitionIt is a chemical explosive mixed with chemical substances like saltpeter, sulfur, and charcoal.This is also a traditional type of gunpowder mixed with chemical substances like potassium nitrate or sodium nitrate with charcoal and sulfur.
UsesGuns, Blasting purposes in mining areas.Because of its high sensitivity to spark is mostly used for ignition charges, fuses, primers, and blank-fire charges in the military.
Discovered ByChineseChinese
Used Today inThe gun powder has now been replaced by smokeless powderThe military people, ignition charges, and for other purposes still use it
Smoke ReleasedGunpowder releases less smoke in the air when it is in useBlack powder releases a lot of smoke in the air when used.
OdourOdourlessLittle smell (mostly charcoal)
Purity Refined and PureLess refined and less pure

What is Gunpowder?

In simple words, gunpowder is a chemical mixture used by ancient people in firearms, mostly for killing animals and for protection.

The invention of gunpowder was a huge achievement for China because gunpowder was used widely all over the world.

In other words, the discovery changed the world and became used for almost every weapon used in wars.

Not only firearms, but gunpowder was also used in hand grenades, arrows, rifles, and cannons. Thus their usage and demand increased day by day.

Now, imagine a world without gunpowder.

What if the Chinese never invented gunpowder? Then, today, the chemical and weapon industry would have had a huge effect, and there would be several other things that never would have happened.

Gunpowder’s ingredients include potassium nitrate, charcoal, and sulfur. Now, each element used for making gunpowder has a significant role.

Potassium nitrate, which plays the most crucial role, supplies oxygen to the burning. On the other hand, charcoal provides fuel for burning, and Sulphur strengthens the fuel.

‘Huo Yao,’ which means gunpowder in Chinese, had a major advantage when it was discovered.

Other than using gunpowder for firearms, it was also used for blasting coal mines and increasing the speed of several construction businesses.


What is Black Powder?

Black powder was also called gunpowder by the ancient people, but it is somewhat different from gunpowder.

Black Powder is a mixture of chemical substances like potassium nitrate or sodium nitrate, sulfur, and charcoal used for fireworks.

Since 90% of their components are similar to those used in gunpowder, they are somewhat similar. However, black powder cannot be used for some purposes.

You cannot use black powder as a substitute for gunpowder because the black powder does not have as much capability as gunpowder.

However, the black powder can be substituted with Blackhorn 209.

Black powder can be damaged by moisture which will affect its burning power. Black powder is less pure than gunpowder, and black powder smells of charcoal when used.

Black powder’s invention was only suitable for signal flares, rockets, and special effects for films and movies.

black powder

Main Difference Between Gunpowder and Blackpowder

  1. Gunpowder and Black Powder ingredients are almost similar but have different uses.
  2. Gunpowder is mostly used in firearms, whereas Black powder is mostly used for lighting flares, fireworks, rockets, etc.
  3.  There is no smoke when you use gunpowder, whereas Black powder releases a lot of smoke.
  4. Gunpowder has less or no odor, whereas Black powder has a charcoal smell.
  5. Black powder is sensitive to sparks and dies easily when lit, but the gun powder does not die easily.
Difference Between Gunpowder and Black Powder


  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780444423559500086
  2. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00414-014-1064-3
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