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Thread: Anyone try loading guncotton? Heres my results

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    Anyone try loading guncotton? Heres my results

    I made some gun cotton to burn, but then was thinking about if it was a practical propellant in place of powder. I loaded some in 9mm and ran it throug the Uzi. I figured the uzi was the best bet as it can handle the +p++ loads some folks use, and I had no idea what actual pressures I would be running. Nitro cellulose burns quite fast, so figured it wouldnt be to far off for a pistol powder.
    My first tests I did not chronograph. They were 6 grains of cotton with a 90 grain hornady xtp bullet. Judging from the sound (all tests were done using a suppressor) my pressures were all over the place (mainly on the subsonic side) and it wasnt ejecting very far (i was loading singles). I was tamping the cotton in with a allen wrench as even as I couldand I figured the bullet was not completely compressing the charge. Hence the erratic "sound".
    Felling better about still having a face and not blowing it off, I loaded some more and chronied them. I loaded the 90gr with 7 gr of cotton this time hoping to get a more consistent burn. I loaded some 115gr fmj with 6 grains to see how that goes. Here are my results (they come out of the chrony in .pdf).

    Forgot to mention. I did load all 5 of each string in a mag to check reliability. The 90 gr with 7 gr of cotton cycled quite well in the Uzi. The 115gr with 6 gr did not cycle well at all. It was all failure to feed.
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    Not for reloading. Nitrocellulose is very reactive, especially when unwashed. Unlike modern propellants or cordite, it lacks stabilizers, so storage is a concern.

    I've reloaded with various powders recovered from milsurp ammo, I've also tried cordite, but some folks avoid the aforementioned completely as it burns quite hot and can cause firecracking in barrels.

    Your experiment is interesting though. Thanks for sharing!

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    Interesting!

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    I read a little on the hazards associated with nitrocellulose. According to what I had read, it can spontaneously combust if not washed properly, ie there are pockets of acid still active when dry (goes off at room temperature then). What I am doing is washing it with a multi pan process. The first wash is dropping the acid cellulose into a solution of warm water and baking soda. I do that for about 3 washes (when it is no longer a violent foaming mess). Then I wash it with regular tap water.

    I am thinking about making some press kind of thing to semi pelletize it for a more consistent burn. A side experiment will be using it as a lacquer. Which I will also be testing making lacquer solids and testing the flammability/viability of those as a proppelent. If any of those experiments are successful I may experiment with a necked casing. Probably 300 blackout. As it sits right now, I dont see that as a option because of the compression issue.
    I also plan on experimenting with nitrating sawdust. I heard that all forms of cellulose can be nitrated.
    Doing a cost analasys, this is not a cost effective replacement for commercial powder (and it is not as good, just because of the compression issue). But it is quite easy to make at home if for one reason or another powder was absolutely unavailable.

    I do remember about barrel cracking from cordite. When you tried loading it were you able to monitor any of the data? I have always wondered how consistent it would burn, as from what I understand it looks like uncooked spaghetti noodles. So the burn wouldnt be as consistent as we are all used to with our modern powders.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ericthered View Post
    I read a little on the hazards associated with nitrocellulose. According to what I had read, it can spontaneously combust if not washed properly, ie there are pockets of acid still active when dry (goes off at room temperature then). What I am doing is washing it with a multi pan process. The first wash is dropping the acid cellulose into a solution of warm water and baking soda. I do that for about 3 washes (when it is no longer a violent foaming mess). Then I wash it with regular tap water.

    I am thinking about making some press kind of thing to semi pelletize it for a more consistent burn. A side experiment will be using it as a lacquer. Which I will also be testing making lacquer solids and testing the flammability/viability of those as a proppelent. If any of those experiments are successful I may experiment with a necked casing. Probably 300 blackout. As it sits right now, I dont see that as a option because of the compression issue.
    I also plan on experimenting with nitrating sawdust. I heard that all forms of cellulose can be nitrated.
    Doing a cost analasys, this is not a cost effective replacement for commercial powder (and it is not as good, just because of the compression issue). But it is quite easy to make at home if for one reason or another powder was absolutely unavailable.

    I do remember about barrel cracking from cordite. When you tried loading it were you able to monitor any of the data? I have always wondered how consistent it would burn, as from what I understand it looks like uncooked spaghetti noodles. So the burn wouldnt be as consistent as we are all used to with our modern powders.
    I'm sure you know, but use a non-sparking material for the press

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    Aye. What I have been using for black powder is aluminum dies that I shaped on my mini lathe. Been using those in a balljoint press (basically a glorified C clamp). Kind of what I am thinking for this is more of something that would use leverage to put pressure down. Then possibly have multiple small holes with aluminum stakes that press into them that make small pellets. Just had the thought that I could make something work to use my single stage reloading press do the job.
    For safety and formability I plan on pressing the cotton while it is still wet. If that stuff is just slightly dampish it doesnt like to burn very well.

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    I plan to see my father this weekend, he's much more knowledgeable about this kind of stuff than I am. About all I can say for sure is that some method of applying consistent pressure to your "pill press" will yield more consistent results. (I learned this in the Military; back when Pharmacists made their own compounds, they had to ensure that the tablets were firm enough not to crumble, and also to dissolve at a predictable rate)

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    Another quick note: back in the 90s(?), Phil Spangenberger did an article about black powder loads in a MAC 10. Pretty interesting read, and the pictures were great!

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    Good thought on uniform pressure. It gave me a thought. The reloading press has a thread in handle. So i can get a bolt of the same threads and weld another bolt to the head so I can use a torque wrench as my reloading press handle. Would have to do some rough figuring to find out what torque setting would work best. Another thought that I had, that would simplify the 9mm process (wouldnt work for any knecked cartridges) would be to just make a ram die that just packs the 9mm shell. Might do something like that for the pistol.

    I looked up the Phil fella but couldnt find anything about the bp mac 10. I did see somewhere once where someone tried it out of a glock or something. That particular fellow couldnt get it to cycle if I remember right. A blow back action would probably be more conducive to the propellant.

    I made another batch of nitro, but it flopped (didnt nitrate long enough). Havent had a chance this weekend to fix the last batch and make more.

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    Ok, I saw my father today and had a chance to ask him about it. His first suggestion was buy a can of powder and be done with it. He did also say that, by volume, guncotton is 2 the pressure of regular gunpowder, also burns extremely fast, and is highly corrosive. He said that it can stabilized with organic solvent, but he doesn't know the exact process, but that's how companies improved it during the process of gradually coming up with modern powders.
    I'm sure you know that guncotton was used for blasting in mines, and it can spontaneously detonate at approximately 300f, so cook-off in a closed bolt system is a real concern.

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    Good to know about the pressure estimate. I was not aware of the corrosiveness. My main reason for the experiment was to see if a substitute could be made for powder if for one reason or another it was absolutely unavailable and I needed meat for the table. Realistically that wouldnt be a issue that I would most likely personally be in the position of.
    The cookoff would probably most definitely be a thing.

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    If it's a shtf thing, I'd personally make Black Powder. Much more stable long term, less pressure, not hard to make, easy to get the components, and tons of loading data out there. However, guncotton is interesting also.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sniperdoc View Post
    Another quick note: back in the 90s(?), Phil Spangenberger did an article about black powder loads in a MAC 10. Pretty interesting read, and the pictures were great!
    I'm still chuckling at a mental image of what that must look like. A freakin' smoke machine!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fulliautomatix View Post
    I'm still chuckling at a mental image of what that must look like. A freakin' smoke machine!
    It really was!

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