75 yards Yugo Mil Surplus Ball
The modern age of firearms can be traced to the development of “Smokeless” or “White Powder” made from the 1849s to the introduction of a working propellant in 1884. Development of smokeless powders started in explosives and moved to small arms through artillery. Firearms had by this time been in use for some 500 years using black powder as a propellant. Though widely use there were problems with black powder, as a small arms propellant.
Black Powder is somewhat unstable, corrosive and dirty in that it leaves a heavy corrosive residue in the barrel after being fired. The ability of black powder to ignite via a spark or static electricity discharge was also a concern. The fouling and corrosion properties of black powder were serious limitations in muzzle loading and breech loading small arms. By the American Civil war there had been many developments in black powder production and bullet design that lessened the effect of fouling, however fouling was still a major problem. Better production controls in the powder manufacturing process insured a more constant propellant and could reduce.the amount of solid particle fouling. While bullet designs including the Mini ball could function in fouled barrels or actually scrape away some of the fouling in the loading process. Another property of black powder was the smoak, the high amount of unburned particulate matter meant a lot of smoak. That could give away a shooters position, obscure the target or decrease battlefield visibility.
The loading of black powder into fixed ammunition did increase the rate of fire and ease loading, but it did not otherwise detract from the other negative properties of black powder.
The smokeless age was borne in 1884 with the introduction of “Poudre B” an invention of Paul Vieille. The new smokeless powder was three times as powerful as black powder and greatly reduced fouling and corrosion, though the chemicals in the primers were still corrosive. With advances in smokeless powder being made by Alfred Nobel and others the end of the black powder muzzle loaded small arms age was at hand.