Colorful shotshell powder

While not having a great deal of interest in shotgun shells, I do find them accumulating from time to time. I was making this shell inert and was surprised at the color of the powder. Does anyone know what powder this is, and when it was produced? The headstamp on the shell is W. HODGSON No 12 RIPON.

What is the headstamp on this shell? I presume it is English, as Ripon is a town in Harrogate, North Yorkshire.

The headstamp is W.HODGSON No 12 RIPON.


Get your hands on a copy of Sharpe’s COMPLETE GUIDE TO HANDLOADING. Chapters 13 thru 18 cover the manufacture of powder. Look especially at the chapters on the first smokeless powders. You’ll find that they came in a variety of colors. On page 160 there is a short description of Du Pont Empire shotgun powder which was manufactured between 1908 and 1914. It’s described as smooth spherical purple grains.

That’s the only powder that I saw with a purple color but I didn’t read the entire 5 chapters in detail There may have been others.

I can’t say that Du Pont Empire is what is in your shells. And I saw no reference to Hodgson, which was probably the shot-shell manufacturer.

There is a Ripon in CA. I mention this only because one of my best shooting buddies is from Ripon and our own Gourd lives close by. I believe it is the Pistachio capital of the world and boasts the worlds largest municipal water tank. That’s your history lesson for today.

I did see one reference that warned not to touch or breath the fumes from ANY purple shotgun powder. But, it’s too late for that now, isn’t it. ;) ;)


In the book “Collecting Shotgun Cartridges” by Ken Rutterford there is the following in the section for “Firms of the British Isles and their Cartridges”:

W. HODGSON, Ripon, Yorks
Business: Gunmaker
Cartridges: The Rapido
Example: 12 ga. Brown Quality. Printing on tube “W. Hodgson. Gunmaker. Ripon. BL. 8; Pr. SBI; St W”

Thanks for the powder information and the timely warning regarding the powder fumes. I’m feeling a bit lightheaded but will try to press on.

This Ripon is definately in England; W. Hodgson was a gunmaker there. I suspect this shell with the proprietary headstamp was made by Eley or Kynoch.

Just as an aside, early Peyton powder was green. This did not last long, as black powder was black, and with everyone being used to that, the company was asked to use a coating upon the green grains to make them black. Somewhere, I have a reference to this. If you pull apart early Krag cartridges, (and probably other early smokeless cartridges) and look closely at the powder, you can see little bits of green beneath the black coating.


It wouldn’t surprise me if this powder contains the salt potassium permanganate (KMnO4). That’s a strong oxidizing agent, producing oxygen when it’s heated. Pure potassium permanganate is dark purple but it gives a bright purple color to other components in a mixture.
To check the presence of potassium permanganate, dissolve a small amount of the powder in a liter of water. If the solution turns bright purple, it’s almost definitely the cause of the potassium permanganate. I’m going to think of a more reliable check.
Indeed, you should avoid breathing in the combustion fumes or touching this salt. Just handle with care like all other chemical ammunition components and do not sniff or eat it :-)

Thijs–a better test for potassium permanganate (KMnO4) is to take a few grains of the purple powder and add a drop of glycerin. If it is potassium permanganate (KMnO4), it will burst into flame in just a few seconds.

I have carried these two chemicals (in seperate containers, well apart from each other) on hiking trips for years. It will start even wet wood on fire quite reliably.

Actually, what a simple idea it is to have different coloured powders. I had never thought of it before but its perfect.

When you consider the real and ever present danger of getting powders mixed up by mistake because they all look so similar its a no brainer.

Why did they never do it?


This spontaneous combustion property of a mix of glycerin and potassium permanganate can be very unpredictable. It depends on temperature, agitation, ratios of the mix etc. If the mix is confined a violent explosion can result, be careful.


The idea of various different colours to identify powders cannot be done on many powders because they are graphite coated to aid smooth flow and metering. Sometimes a few coloured granules are added as in the powders such as “Red Dot”, “Blue Dot”.


Hi Ron,

Indeed, the combination of KMnO4 and glycerin is an excellent firestarter. I usually use it for igniting thermite :-D
This works only well with relatively pure KMnO4 and glycerin. If the KMnO4 is not present in excess (most likely the case in this powder, regarding the color), the oxidation of the glycerin will probably be too slow to actually burn. However, it’s worth the try. IF the powder contains KMnO4 at all!

Ray, You almost got it correct Ripon CA is the Almond capital of ther world. Pistachio’s are grown a little farther south in the Big Valley. Have a show display trophy that has a 30 Krag sectioned cartridge on it the Peyton powder does have a slight green “flavor” to it. KMno2 must not be too poisonous as in my youth they used to use it as a cure for ringworm. Wish I had more than 1 Creaner shotshell would be fun to see what powder he used. Creaner was a local gunshop/commercial waterfoul hunter back in the days it was legal. He loaded and sold shotshells with his own top wads to other hunters.


They would certainly run out of colours long before they ran out of powders but a bit of vegetable dye in the mix just to add a bit of tint was what I had in mind.

Also, does BlueDot/RedDot/GreenDot actually contain coloured granules? I can’t remember clearly but I don’t recall seeing it. They are basically shotgun/pistol powders and I only buy rifle powders these days and use mainly Vhit.

Going back to guy’s original question - Du Pont Empire shotgun powder (the purple stuff) is said to be "essentially pure nitrocellulose containing barium or other metallic nitrates". I don’t know if that’s the same as potassium permanganate that Thijs suggested. It also was designed by “Curtis & Harvey of the Du Pont organization in England”.

As Vince said, there are simply too many powders in this day and age to ID them by color. Many do have subtle shades of black, gray, or green but those are the result of the manufacturing process and the color may change from lot to lot. Those colored powders of yesteryear were mostly sales gimmicks and some of them worked. Red Dot has always been a very popular shotgun powder due in no small part to it’s appearance, I’m sure. And yes, it does contain little flakes of red powder.


The early lots of Hercules Reloader 7 , RL-11 and RL-21 rifle powder had coloured markers in the powder .

I will take a photo tomorrow .


Hercules Reloader 21

Note the green and red coloured grains of powder.