The History of Gunpowder

Part 1

Educational Video Series

The History of Gunpowder – Part 1

Welcome to Mission94 Firearms Education Center. We’re kicking off a new educational video series with a closer look at The History of Gunpowder. Chris, Mission94’s Chief Range Safety Officer, talks about this explosive substance and the impact made after its discovery in part one of a three-part series. 

Click to View Transcript


Enjoy fireworks on the 4th of July? How is this connected to practicing with your favorite firearm? You guessed it, gunpowder! Gunpowder is a unique substance with a variety of uses across many different industries. It’s used in fireworks, supplying the explosive power needed for dazzling displays. It’s also used in fertilizers, dyes, and pigments. And of course, gunpowder is used in specific types of ammunition for firearms. Let’s take a closer look at how all this started. 

Hi, I’m Chris, firearms instructor, chief range safety officer and Marine Corps Veteran with Mission94 Firearms Education Center. Welcome to our Educational Video Series. Today, let’s talk about this history of gunpowder.

Gunpowder changed the course of history, but did you know that it’s the result of an unexpected mistake? The earliest mention of gunpowder dates back to about 850 A.D. in ancient Chinese texts. Early chemists, or alchemists, were trying to create a potion that would increase a person’s lifespan. According to the texts, when the potion was heated, it created smoke and an unstoppable fire that ended up burning down the alchemist’s house.

Little did the alchemist know that his accidental invention would shape the world to come. What made up this potion that we now call gunpowder? Let’s take a look at the key ingredients. 

Gunpowder has three primary ingredients, saltpeter or potassium nitrate (75% by weight), charcoal (15% by weight), and sulfur (10% by weight).

But it requires more than just combining these ingredients to make gunpowder. 

These three ingredients go through a process where they are ground, mixed and dampened in certain ratios to create gunpowder. Together, these simple ingredients make a big impact on manufacturing, mining, cement production, construction and metallurgy. 

Prior to 1898, ‘real gunpowder’ which is also called, ‘black powder’ was used. Black powder created lower pressures than the smokeless version we use today – it’s only about 1/3 as powerful. We’ll discuss smokeless powder in a later episode.

Join us next time for part 2 as we dive deeper into the explosive journey of gunpowder. 

If you enjoyed this content and want to see more, hit the subscribe button. To learn more about Mission94 Firearms Education Center, our memberships, and our future training and education programs, visit Thank you for watching!

Stay Informed