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explosive mixture; its most common formula, called "black powder," is a combination of saltpeter, sulfur, and carbon in the form of charcoal. Historically, the relative amounts of the components have varied. An increase in the percentage of saltpeter (potassium nitrate) increases the speed of combustion. In the past gunpowder was widely used for blasting and for propelling bullets from guns but it has been largely replaced by more powerful explosivesexplosive,
substance that undergoes decomposition or combustion with great rapidity, evolving much heat and producing a large volume of gas. The reaction products fill a much greater volume than that occupied by the original material and exert an enormous pressure, which can be
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. Another form of powder containing potassium chlorate instead of the nitrate is commonly used in fireworks and in matches. The origin of gunpowder was probably Chinese, for it seems to have been known in China at least as early as the 9th cent. and was there used for making firecrackers. There is evidence suggesting that it came to Europe through the Arabs. Roger Bacon was long credited with inventing it because a formula for making it is given in a work attributed to him, and some German scholars have credited its invention to the alchemist-monk Berthold Schwarz. However, it is now generally agreed that gunpowder was introduced and not invented in Europe in the 14th cent. Its use revolutionized warfare and ultimately played a large part in the alteration of European patterns of living up until modern times. Gunpowder was the only explosive in wide use until the middle of the 19th cent., when it was superseded by nitroglycerine-based explosives.


A black or brown explosive mixture of potassium nitrate, charcoal, and sulfur; originally, it was made in powder form, now generally in grains of various sizes.


Ichabod Crane’s favorite steed. [Am. Lit.: Washington Irving “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”]
See: Horse
References in periodicals archive ?
My two suitcases, my lap top and my son's back pack were unloaded and taken to a location where they went through a machine, opened and checked carefully and then a rod with a white piece of material on the top was rubbed all over the bags and checked in a machine that determines if there was any gun powder residue.
From gun powder to the automobile to the computer, every advance in human technology has been co-opted for criminal use and required law enforcement authorities to evolve the means and resources to counteract them.
Australian and other foreign experts who took part in the investigation agree that a North Korean torpedo caused the Cheonan to sink and that this is the smoking gun following various pieces of the torpedo and traces of gun powder that had been gathered so far.
They recovered ammunition, a revolver, several air guns, a CS gas cannister, a bullet press, empty shells, gun powder, pistols, a double-barrelled shotgun and a cross-bow.
George Lyon, an inept highwayman whose pistol once failed while he attempted to rob a coach in the rain because he allowed his gun powder to get wet is also featured, as is Isaac "Ikey" Solomon, widely considered to be the inspiration for the Dickens' character Fagan, and Roderick McLean, who attempted to assassinate Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle with a pistol.
DO any of your readers know and can tell me if there are any cellars or vaults within the confines of the Houses of Parliament as I have a load of gun powder I'd like to get rid of.
The potatoes were dry as a peace protestor's gun powder.
After watching the mono-syllabic Vietnam veterante areople's heads off with his bare hands and heal his wounds by pouring gun powder into them, they didn't fancy their chances.
May 20, 1994: Officers acting on a tip off from Haase searched an address in Heathwaite Crescent, Norris Green, and found 600 bullet cases, bullet heads, gun powder and a bullet press.
A statement posted on the Defense Ministry's website said police seized a cache of explosives, including 40 bags of gun powder, explosive devices, hand grenades, machineguns and gas cylinders during the raid.
As a Greenpeace activist once said, "Targeting brands [reputations] was like discovering gun powder for environmentalists.
Barry George, 47, was jailed for life for the BBC star's killing on the evidence of a tiny speck of gun powder residue on his clothes.