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As a kid in high school, a long time ago, my best friend and I would make our own black powder to shoot our golf ball cannon at his families chicken coop. Put holes in it and the chickens did not lay eggs for a day or two. One day in our lab in the basement of his family home, we had a quart jar of powder with no cover and Rich was smoking a Kool cigarette hanging from his mouth as he grabbed the jar of powder, a spark from his smoke landed in the powder. I was trapped in this little lab, 6ft wide by 12 ft long and one entrance, so I thru myself under the work bench waiting for an explosion. He was scared stiff and held on to the jar as it became this giant sparkler until the glass got so hot, the bottom dropped out with about the remaining 1/3 of powder which became a giant ball of sparkles. Point is: it did not explode as it was not packed with anything. He burned his hand a bit and I nearly crapped my pants. His Mom on the other hand freaked out and the lab closed down. Stupid kids! Man them golf balls could wreak destruction on what they hit, though. How did we get to be adults? Our next adventure was making homebrewed napalm. That was interesting.
The reason I believe, that we escaped with our lives is because we did not finely grind the charcoal and sulfur and we had a very loose, dry mix which will not burn fast, hence, the giant sparkler and not an explosion.
 

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MY take as to damage and possibility revolves around a bit of spilled powder (smokeless) laying on the bench, tools, floor etc and a ignition source? cigarette, water heater , furnace pilot light, etc.as Powder is already a flammable and oxidizer it being split and left on surfaces making it basically an explosive type dust that could easily explain the big boom to me, again just speculation on my part.

View attachment 482110
I'm thinking the same thing, more or less.

Start with ignoring little safety rules like not storing primers and powder together or storing everything on the bench top 'where it's easy to get to', add some sloppy powder handling- like your spill- and detonate a primer for your ignition and you too can have a heck of a fire.
 
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sorry, that is not from a bit of spilled smokeless powder and some primers. pour out s big fat line of 4895 or unique and touch it off. it will be an impressive burn, but a burn. do the same with a bit of black powder, a Small bit....
 

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Even smokeless lightly confined won't explode like that. Witness loaded ammo that cooks off in a fire...ruptures the case and nothing more. A black powder explosion would have been obvious by the smell. That looks more like a gas explosion. Blaming the reloading process/equipment is a convenient excuse.
 

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Even smokeless lightly confined won't explode like that. Witness loaded ammo that cooks off in a fire...ruptures the case and nothing more. A black powder explosion would have been obvious by the smell. That looks more like a gas explosion. Blaming the reloading process/equipment is a convenient excuse.

could be a gas explosion but then again there is that SMELL?
all this leads to why i think it might have been an accumilation of smokeless powder (Dust) that was allowed to build up on surfaces.
ever notice how Smokeless Powder is stored in retail stores?
on shelves in the open, and in containers that will melt or easily blowout before pressure builds.
Black Powder --in a powder safe normally and many times in metal cans.
as mentioned above i have been in rooms with live ammo that burned off a great many times, typically the case splits and there is a little flash but the case flies , the projectile being the heaviest pretty much just stays in place.
Again experience, if you haven't been around such or not familiar with stuff then you don't know what to expect.
Smokeless Powder is a granular flammable basically--kind of like solid gasoline!
 

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Hickok45 does a nice little demo of the differences between black & smokeless powder. Fast forward to 10 on the video scale (about 2/3 the way through) to get to the real test.

 

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Maybe, maybe not. Seems like a bit of a big presumption. The smell would dissipate al most as fast as the smoke - within a few minutes.
I'm wondering if the guy might have been loading some cowboy/vintage cartridges with black powder - like 45 Colt maybe.
We wont know unless he man's up.
 

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