French powder tins

I know it’s not really ammunition, but liked to show these tins.
Also can someone explain me the No.2 and No.3
What do they mean?
How old are these tins?
I reckon the color of the print is an indication of the type of powder?
Blue is superfine
Red is fine
Green is extra fine.

Are other colors known?

The top picture shows three tins of angouleme No.3 superfine.
They have different types of print and price!
Is this just a difference in time, or has the.difference also got something to do with taxes??

Regards rené


Howdy René
I have no answer to your questions but here are the 4 tins I have, with the Pont-De-Buis being white.
I notice your large print Saint-Chamas, is green while mine is blue & that the other looks orange?

Hi Pete,

Thanks for the picture.
Indeed the colors on mine are green and orange like.
It seems that all these tins came from one factory, I used to have one from Esquederes also and it had the same tin.
The pont - de - buis I have only seen in these larger type tins, not in the smaller ones.

regards rené

Hi Rene,

On English tins the number relates to the grain size and I think that it is the same on French tins. I will dig out an old catalogue when I get chance and confirm or deny that comment, or I am sure JP will tell us. The grain size would then control the burn rate/strength of the powder.


Picture added of tins nomenclature;

So the numbers do relate to the grain size suitable for the different bore sizes.


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all these powder tins come from different factories located in difference cities :
Toulouse, Angouléme, Saint Chamas, Vonges, Sevran Livry

Powder in France was till a very recent year a government monopole.

N°1,2 or 3 means the grain size


Very nice collections!
Approx how old are these?

Because of the government monopoly the marketing of the powder was ruled by official decrees.

And therefore we know the year of the launching on the market of the different powders.

  • Before February 1886 : 3 types of black powder : fine, superfine, extra fine

  • January 1883 : poudre pyroxylée (smokeless powder)

  • February 1886 : 8 kinds of black powder : poudre ordinaire (N° 0,1,2,3), poudre forte (N°1,2,3,4), poudre speciale

  • January 1890 : poudre pyroxylée (smokeless powder) for riffled barrel : BN

  • April 1891 : 8 kinds of poudre pyroxylée (smokeless powder) :S (N°1,2), J(N°0,1,2,3), P(N°1,2)

  • November 1897 : 2 kinds of poudre pyroxylée (smokeless powder) : M, R

  • December 1899 : poudre pyroxylée (smokeless powder) : T

This info can help you to give you the year of some undated catalogues.

The year of stopping the manufacture of such or such powder is less accurate because depending of the catalogues.
The best approximation of the years range for each powder is :

  • poudre BN : 1890 to 1913

  • poudre S : 1891 to 1913

  • poudre J : 1891 to 1914. About 1920 and 1921 I don’t know. What is sure is the fact it didn’t exist anymore in 1922

  • poudre P : 1891 to ? : Very short time due to many accidents including the explosion of the powder factory of Monges. About 1892, 1893 and 1894 I don’t know. What is sure is the fact it didn’t exist anymore in 1895.

  • poudre M : 1897 to 1925. After I have to spend a lot of time in my library

  • poudre R : 1897 to 1906. About 1907 and 1908 I don’t know. What is sure is the fact it didn’t exist anymore in 1909.

  • poudre T : 1899 to 1925. And a long time ago after.


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Hi jp and mike,

Thank you very much for your help.
This helps a lot for me.

Regards rené

great information JP thanks much!

Thank you, JP.