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Gunpowder, also called black powder, is a mixture of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate. Gunpowder can be made just using potassium nitrate and charcoal (or alternatively without charcoal), but without the sulfur (or coal), the powder is not as strong. It burns rapidly, producing a volume of hot gas made up of carbon dioxide, water, and nitrogen, and a solid residue of potassium sulfide.[1] Because of its burning properties and the amount of heat and gas volume that it generates, gunpowder has been widely used as a propellant in firearms and as a pyrotechnic composition in fireworks. The term gunpowder also refers broadly to any propellant powder. Modern firearms do not use the traditional gunpowder (black powder) described in this article, but instead use smokeless powder. Antique firearms or replicas of antique firearms are often used with black powder substitute.

Gunpowder is classified as a low explosive because of its relatively slow decomposition rate and consequently low brisance. Low explosives deflagrate at subsonic speeds. High explosives detonate, producing a supersonic wave. Ignition of the powder packed behind a bullet must generate enough pressure to force it from the muzzle at high speed, but not enough to rupture the gun barrel. Gunpowder is thus less suitable for shattering rock or fortifications, where high explosives such as TNT are preferred.


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