View Full Version : Science project help --- terminology for black powder proof gun --- links?

William Adams
04-21-2017, 10:32 AM
It's my understanding, that back in the days of black powder, the quartermaster would have a "proof gun" (this may not be the correct term), which was a pistol-like contraption which had affixed to it a lever and a scale which when loaded w/ a known weight of black powder would then provide a measurement of its relative strength / potency so that a given batch could be used safely / most effectively.

My son is building such a thing as his science project for the year, but I'm not finding any historical examples.

Does anyone have any references, links, or other helpful information? Just having the correct terminology might be helpful, since searching for "black powder proof gun" mostly turns up discussion of proof-firing a weapon and proof marks.

And searching with a clear mind reveals the term "eprouvette" (Fr. for test tube) and a useful link at: http://firearmshistory.blogspot.com/2012/10/testing-black-powder-quality.html

I'd still be glad of any other references or thoughts anyone might have....

Don Orr
04-21-2017, 12:57 PM
From what little I learned while building a replica of a Dutch ship and using their cannons, a gun of any type needed to be "proofed" before being put into service to make sure they didn't explode. They would be loaded with a specific amount of powder and fired under fairly controlled conditions. Our guns were cast bronze with a heavy stainless steel liner and we only used blank loads-no projectile. I doubt this is any help, but maybe if you search for proofing a gun it may lead you to something that is. It looks like you have already searched along those lines though. Or maybe approach it from the direction of the powder instead of the gun.

Bert Kemp
04-21-2017, 2:24 PM
maybe this will help

https://www.davide-pedersoli.com/rivista-dettaglio.asp/l_fr/idne_88/proofing-the-us-rifle-muskets-in-the-1860s-and-today.html (https://piratefashions.com/blogs/news/13069557-why-black-powder-proof-testing)

Jim Koepke
04-21-2017, 2:59 PM
Have you tried searching > testing homemade black powder <?

That brought up this article:


The testing part is further down the page.

Another link brought up this:

A common device used to do this was the eprouvette. This is a French word and these days it means a "test-tube", but in an earlier era it was used to also denote a device used to test and prove the strength of gunpowder.


It has some images of the devices used.

Searching > eprouvette < gets a lot of good hits.


Pat Barry
04-21-2017, 5:33 PM
Crazy to believe they will approve of a weapon for a science project. That's surprising in this day and age what with all the school violence.

Malcolm Schweizer
04-21-2017, 6:31 PM
I called our resident military expert, and he had heard of a "proofing round", and "proofing a gun" but not a "proofing gun." THAT DOES NOT MEAN IT DOESN'T EXIST... just saying he hadn't heard of it, but he was very interested in the idea if it did exist. A proofing round is a round of ammo loaded with a very precise, specific amount of powder, and specific weight of projectile for the purpose of proofing a gun, which is basically testing it to make sure it works. (in simple terms)

Charles is one of the board members on the non-profit historical trust for which I am president, and is an expert in military and naval history, as well as a really good guy. Keep us posted, and I agree with Pat- I am surprised they are allowing him to do this project, but that doesn't mean I disagree with it- just surprised that in this day and age someone hasn't gone ballistic (pun intended) over a project using guns.

William Adams
04-23-2017, 1:06 PM
My thanks to everyone, esp. Jim Koepke who found the link and the term I'd been looking for (and found after my initial post --- see my 9:36 a.m. edit).

"eprouvette" and http://firearmshistory.blogspot.com/2012/10/testing-black-powder-quality.html

and the additional link: http://www.skylighter.com/fireworks/how-to-make/high-powered-black-powder.asp which I'm sending to my son now.

It sounds a lot better when just described as "A device for testing the power of black powder, known by the French term for 'test tube', eprouvette."

Jim Koepke
04-23-2017, 2:39 PM
Crazy to believe they will approve of a weapon for a science project. That's surprising in this day and age what with all the school violence.

A black powder test instrument is not a weapon.

Most likely though it isn't something one would want in their carry on luggage when boarding a flight.


Pat Barry
04-23-2017, 6:17 PM
Yes, maybe so, but xplosives don't belong in schools any more than guns.

William Adams
04-23-2017, 11:25 PM
A typical laptop battery has an energy density approaching that of a hand grenade, and when shorted, and cause a significant amount of damage.

I suppose rocketry should not be on the curriculum either.

Let's just note that shooting is the only school sport which has never had an injury report in the U.S. and leave it at that.

Tony Pisano
04-24-2017, 1:14 AM
Back in the day, I did model rocketry for my science project, with engines that contained solid propellant and no one gave it a second thought. Also made a working sling as in David vs Goliath for project in English class. It's a shame we've reached this point of having such a crazy society. Good luck to your son on his project.

Mel Fulks
04-24-2017, 12:33 PM
The 11th edition of Encyclopidia Britannica has a lot of odd-ball stuff. Free on line

Mel Fulks
04-24-2017, 1:18 PM
Just checked it out myself. It mentions "wire screens" and "crusher gauges" for testing powders. Looks like they were more for development of formulas than batch testing.