Difference Between Gunpowder and Black Powder

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

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 were in search of a potion.

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

During the time the invention was a huge achievement because people used it in firearms or hunting and for their protection purposes.

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

Gunpowder vs Black Powder

The difference between Gunpowder and Black powder is that they have their separate uses for people. Gunpowder is used in firearms whereas black powder is used for flares, fireworks because they are very sensitive to flame and spark.

Gunpowder vs Black Powder

Comparison Table

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

What is Gunpowder?

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

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

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

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

Now, just imagine a world without gunpowder.

What if gunpowder were never invented by the Chinese then today the chemical and the 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 sulphur. Now, each of the elements used for making gunpowder has a significant role to play when it is being used.

The Potassium nitrate, which plays the most crucial role supplies oxygen to the burning. Charcoal, on the other, hand provides the fuel for the burning and Sulphur makes the fuel stronger.

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

Well, 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, sulphur, and charcoal that was used for fireworks purposes.

Since 90% of their components are similar to the components used in gunpowder so they are somewhat similar. However, the 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 that much capability as gunpowder has.

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 has a smell of charcoal when it is used.

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

black powder

Main Difference Between Gunpowder and Blackpowder

  1. Both ingredients of Gunpowder and Black Powder are almost similar but they have got 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 from them.
  4. Gunpowder has got less or no odour whereas Black powder has got a charcoal smell in them.
  5. Black powder is sensitive to spark and dies easily when it is 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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