Smokeless powder in stock
Smokeless powder in stock consists of nitrocellulose (single-base powders), frequently combined with up to 50 percent nitroglycerin (double-base powders), and sometimes nitroglycerin and nitroguanidine (triple-base), corned into small spherical balls or extruded into cylinders or flakes using solvents such as ether. Other minor ingredients, such as stabilizers and ballistic modifiers, are also added. Double-base propellants are common in handgun and rifle ammunition. Triple-base propellants are more common in artillery guns.
The reason that they are smokeless is that the combustion products are mainly gaseous, compared to around 55% solid products for black powder (potassium carbonate, potassium sulfate, etc).
Smokeless powder in stock burns only on the surfaces of the granules, flakes, or cylinders – described as granules for short. Larger granules burn more slowly, and the burn rate is further controlled by flame-deterrent coatings which retard burning slightly. The intent is to regulate the burn rate so that more or less constant pressure is exerted on the propelled projectile as long as it is in the barrel so as to obtain the highest velocity. Cannon powder has the largest granules, up to thumb-sized cylinders with seven perforations (one central and the other six in a circle halfway to the outside of the cylinder’s end faces). The perforations stabilize the burn rate because as the outside burns inward (thus shrinking the burning surface area) the inside is burning outward (thus increasing the burning surface area, but faster, so as to fill up the increasing volume of barrel presented by the departing projectile). Fast-burning pistol powders are made by extruding shapes with more area such as flakes or by flattening the spherical granules. Drying is usually performed under a vacuum. The solvents are condensed and recycled. The granules are also coated with graphite to prevent static electricity sparks from causing undesired ignitions.