Is Blackhorn 209 really a Smokeless Powder?

    This interesting article was written by Dr. Jim and Mary Clary. I reproduced it below in full. The original article can be downloaded from their Manzano Valley Outdoors website [PDF link].

    Blackhorn 209 is Smokeless Powder

    Dr. Jim and Mary Clary

    Manzano Valley Outdoors


    When it was introduced in 2007-2008, Blackhorn 209 was hailed as the ultimate black powder substitute. Just what everyone had been waiting for: Easy loading, shot after shot, with no swabbing and rapid cleanup, with very little fouling of the barrel. It was almost too good to be true.

    Everyone who shot this powder raved about its accuracy. There is no denying that if you shoot loose powder and want the option of firing multiple times without swabbing, Blackhorn 209 is the ultimate.

    However, one thing has puzzled a lot of folks. The folks at Western recommend a nitro- solvent for cleaning, rather than soap and water. If this was a conventional black powder sub, why was a nitro-solvent recommended for cleaning? The answer was there all along, but ignored by everyone: Blackhorn 209 is a nitrocellulose smokeless powder! As such, it is prohibited in ASSRA sanctioned matches.

    Western Powders has succeeded in producing a smokeless powder in a configuration and formulation that allows for volumetric measurement of loads without running the risk of high pressure. For that, they deserve credit and accolades from muzzleloader shooters.

    I can only assume that Western s reasons for not labeling Blackhorn 209 as a smokeless powder is the fact that most muzzleloader rifles, with the notable exception of the Savage 10ML, are not strong enough for regular smokeless powder. And, if folks know that Blackhorn was smokeless, many muzzleloader shooters would not buy it. As such, I understand Western s desire not to label Blackhorn 209 is a nitrocellulose smokeless powder.

    Western also claims that Blackhorn 209 has absolutely none of the corrosive effects of black powder and most black powder subs. However, an independent spectrographic and gas chromatograph analysis of Blackhorn 209 by C. Rodney James in 2009 revealed that it is a nitrocellulose base powder with potassium nitrate and sulfur added. The latter two compounds can combine during ignition to form potassium sulfate and possibly potassium trioxide which readily combine with water in air to form sulfuric acid.

    Therefore, unless they have changed their formulation in the past twelve months and removed the sulfur, Blackhorn 209 has some of the same corrosive components of conventional black powder.

    With all of the above having been said: Blackhorn 209 is an excellent propellant. It allows the hunter to develop precise loads for unsurpassed accuracy and concurrent knockdown power. Just be sure to clean your rifle after every use, as you would with any corrosive powder.

    Steve Johnson

    I founded TFB in 2007 and over 10 years worked tirelessly, with the help of my team, to build it up into the largest gun blog online. I retired as Editor in Chief in 2017. During my decade at TFB I was fortunate to work with the most amazing talented writers and genuinely good people!