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Olde Eynsford Black Gun Powder

A premium quality, American-made black powder

 

Over time black powder devolved from one of the most important commodities on Earth to something that only a ragged few used in muzzle-loaders. Declining use led the quality of black powder to slip from extraordinary to indifferent. But over the last few decades there has been a resurging interest in black powder and also an increase in the number of knowledgeable individuals who place high demands on powder.

I think we can safely say that the GOEX black powder made after the firm’s move to Louisiana many years ago fell into the “indifferent” category. Enter Hodgdon Powder Company and its historic demand for quality in all things it sells. Hodgon bought GOEX and began to stabilize and improve the quality and uniformity of the brand to its historic standard. And then they did something extraordinary: They struck out in the direction of 1880! With an eye to the influence of the long-dead British Empire, they created the Olde Eynsford brand of powder and offered it in three granulations: 1½ Fg, FFg and FFFg.

 

 

Generally modern black powder has been highly inferior to late 19th-century “best quality” English black powders such as Curtis’s & Harvey’s, Kynoch and others. Those powders were: very clean burning, very strong, very uniform and very consistent. The No. 6 grain drove bullets of the Express cartridges to velocities some 200 feet-per-second faster than are attainable with “modern” black powder. The No. 6 and other granulations also gave a clean burn that allowed fine accuracy over long strings of firing, and they did so in a variety of cartridges right down to the small rounds used in rook rifles. The accuracy those powders provided in “long-bullet” target rifles at 1,000 yards and more demonstrated uniformity that was legendary.

Making a vintage black powder Express double rifle “regulate” is one of the more difficult things we ask from black powder. This is the supreme test where the weight of the powder charge at times approaches half the weight of the bullet. The original velocities obtained in such rifles ran from 1750 to 2000 fps. Cases were filled with only minimal room for wadding, and they burned 100-plus grains of powder in the .40- to .50-caliber barrels. To regulate a double rifle, the bores needed to remain relatively clean during extended firing with no buildup of hard fouling that would damage bullets or paper patches. Recoil and barrel-time needed to be adjusted so that both barrels would shoot to the same point of impact as if they were one.

To shorten the story to its essence, I shot a .450 x 3¼-inch Express rifle with the standard load of 120 grains of Olde Eynsford 1½FG powder and 270-grain bullets. It easily placed four shots in 4 inches at 100 yards. Velocity was just under 1800 fps in the relatively short, 26-inch barrels. To test another facet of vintage double rifles, I also shot a Greener 12-gauge double rifle with a standard charge of 4-drams of FFFg and round balls. This old friend shot exactly to the sights, regulated perfectly and – like the .450 – looked almost clean after extended firing.

In another direction, I loaded some 10-gauge shot shells with a standard load of 4¼ drams (117 grains) of powder and 1¼ ounces of shot. Aside from the necessary use of plastic cases, the load was as historically accurate as possible. The wads were card and lubricated fiber with a roll crimp. It has generally been necessary to use fine granulations to get the desired velocity in big bores, but Olde Eynsford 1½ Fg performed exceptionally well. The load was right on specification at 1200 fps, and the patterns were wonderful.

So at the end of the day we have something that I think is very valuable: high-quality, American-made black powder. “American made” may one day be even more important than national pride would indicate. It does not have to be imported. For those concerned about a reliable source of powder in case of an “emergency,” black powder comes about as close to being a universal powder as can be found. While it is far less than perfect in modern rifle cases, it will make them go bang and direct a bullet well. In handguns, it offers a re-creation of the past with only a modest compromise on velocity. In shotguns, it will do about anything that can be asked.

Below are some sample pressure and velocity data logged recently in the Hodgdon laboratory with Olde Eynsford powder. Of particular interest may be the modest velocity gain and high pressure realized by the improper use of fine granulation FFFg in big British cartridges.

 

**Hodgdon Powder Company Olde Eynsford Data 2015

Cartridge Powder/Grains Velocity (fps) Pressure (PSI)
.470 aka .500/.470 1½ Fg/129 1721 24,800
FFg/129 1677 27,300
FFFg/129 1729 30,200

Primer: Federal 215.
Bullet: Cast Performance 375-grain .476 gas-check, two .060” wads.
C.O.L. 3.595 inches.
24-inch barrel (***Expect about 100- to 120-fps increase with 28-inch barrels).

Cartridge Powder/Grains Velocity (fps) Pressure (PSI)
.500 x 3-inch BPE 1½ Fg/120 1527 24,600
FFg/120 1529 25,400
FFFg/120 1604 28,800

Primer: Federal 215.
Bullet: Cast Performance 435-grain .512 gas-check, two .060” wads.
C.O.L. : 3.395 inches.
24-inch barrel (***Expect about 100- to 120-fps increase with 28-inch barrels).

** The purpose of the above data is to illustrate the changes in pressure and velocity with changes in powder granulation. They are not intended to duplicate or illustrate correct loads for vintage rifles.

 

Cartridge Powder/Grains Bullet Weight Velocity (fps)
12-Gauge (Greener) 4 Drams (108 grains) O.E. FFFg 600 grains 1372 fps

Federal paper cases, 2.5-inch.
Wads: .135” nitro card plus two Ox Yoke Wonder Wads.
Bullet: .735 Lyman round-ball mold, pure lead.
Primer: Federal 209.
No powder compression.
Roll crimp.
C.O.L. : 2.320 inches.

For comparison, shown on the right is my old standard 10-gauge load. As wonderful and successful as this load is, black beats it hands down.

Powder 117 Grains O.E. 1½ Fg 29.5 grains SR 7625
Primer Federal 209A primer Federal 209A primer
Wadding Card/fiber wads Remington plastic wad.
Shot 1¼ ounce shot 1¼ ounce shot
Velocity Mean 1198 fps 1162 fps
Velocity S.D. 4 fps 14 fps
Pressure 5800 psi 7700 psi
Pressure S.D. 200 psi 600 psi