Volume 47, Issue 6 (November 2002)
A Quantitative Comparison of Smokeless Powder Measurements
Measurements of the type and concentration of propellant and stabilizer additives in smokeless gunpowder are used by forensic scientists investigating the source of explosives and by military laboratories assuring the safety and efficacy of munitions. The National Institute of Standards and Technology recently assessed the state-of-the-practice of smokeless powder measurements through an international measurement comparison exercise. We here present results provided by the five participants (of 20 total) reporting quantitative as well as qualitative values for two handgun reloading powders. All five of these participants reported values for nitroglycerin (NG), ethyl centralite (EC), diphenylamine (DPA), and N-nitrosodiphenylamine (NnDPA). Several participants additionally reported the concentrations of secondary stabilizer decomposition products. The unstable NG propellant additive appears to be more susceptible to method-specific calibration biases then are the stabilizer additives. All results from one participant were strongly biased relative to those of the other four. The within-participant measurement uncertainties for all analytes were self-reported to be 1 to 5% relative; among the four concordant participants, the measurement ranges are 5 to 10% relative. There was little consistency among the participants as to what components of measurement variance were included in their uncertainty statements. A discussion of the certainties in these measurements and factors that affect the accuracy of gunpowder additive determinations is presented.