Testing Medieval Gunpowder Recipes

The Historical Ordnance (HO) workshop, which is associated with the Middelaldercentret in Denmark has been meeting for several years to study the origin of gunpowder and its use in early gunpowder weapons.  In the following video, Robert Smith and other team members examine the effectiveness of various gunpowder recipes found in medieval manuscripts.

This group of scholars met at the Middelaldercentret once a year to conduct experiments with gunpowder and shooting experiments. The Danish Artillery School in Oxbøll hosted the shooting experiments and asssited in the documentation process by letting the group get access to the military radars.

After every session in Denmark a report of the experiments were made and publsihed on the webpage of the Middelaldercentret. Some important results were produced these first years. It was found that the medieval gunpowder recipies were nearly as effective as modern ones and furthermores it was obvious that these recipies were very specialized. Some were effective for propelling and arrow from a bronze gun, where it was possible to slowly build up presure, while others were effective shooting with other kinds of ammunition.

Another important thing the group worked with were the fact, that even though early on they had very effective gunpowder recipies, this new weapon didn´t dominate warfare until much later and the old mechanical arttillery existed side by side with this new and very effective weapon. The reason for this of course were that the europeans had problems getting the raw materials. Sulphur would come from Iceland and the salpetre in the beginning from Bengal in India, while the charcoal was commonly available.

Click here for more information about the Historical Ordnance (HO) workshop

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