Which came first? - Smokeless Powder Development


All my life I have been told that the French invented smokeless powder and used it in their rifles in 1888. I have just read that the Schultz powder ( Captn E. Schultz of the Austrian Army ) was made in 1864, wood pulp introduced in 1869 and later nitrated in 1883 to a true smokeless powder. So who was really first?


Schulze Powder, based on partial Nitration of Wood Pulp, was still a Mixture of ingredients, not a true “Colloidal” Smokeless Powder. IN any case, Schulze Powder was classed as “Semi-smokeless” ( NOT as smokey and fouling as “pure” Black Powder, a little more than Poudre B ( for “Blanche”, or white) developed by Vielle from nitration of Cotton fibres followed by plastisizing the result, and rolling it out into thin sheets, which where then sliced and cut like short diamonds of Pasta. ( admittedly the slicing principle was the same, and the Kneading machines were variations of Pasta Making and Bakery machines.

Of course this was the result of the work of Ascanio Sobrero ( Chemist in Turin) who first made Nitro-Glycerin; Guncotton was similarly developed by Schoenbein in Germany, but it was Vielle and his French team who took the Guncotton process and made it safer and more reliable to make Smokeless Powder.( both double base ( NG +NC) and single base (NC only) It was these developements which found that the ideal Nitration fraction of Cotton-Cellulose was around 14% “N” content…Not too unstable, capable of being worked when dissolved in acetone, and just the right “explosiveness” to create a “progressive Pressure rise”, and not a detonation.

Of course, later work in the field by the US (Dupont), Germany (DWM) etc, improved the production and the Burning characteristics of smokeless Powders.

Doc AV


Than you for the answer DocAV. The book on powders I read was published in 1917 here in the USA.The author did not have his facts right, but I had no way to prove otherwise.