Black Mag 3: Is it the Best Black Powder Substitute?

By Randy Wakeman

My adventure with Black Mag 3 began a few years ago, and my initial impression was less than delightful. It was a one-clump mess, and really could not be adequately tested. So, it wasn't. At that time, I wrote off BM3 as yet another in a long line of attempts at a better way to replace blackpowder, better than the viciously corrosive Pyrodex and the crud ring infested Triple Se7en. My initial attempts with the 'new' Goex Pinnacle showed some promise as long as you avoided the gravel mix of their "FFg," and their "shaving sticks." Sadly, the expected and promised improvements to Pinnacle never happened.

In retrospect, I suppose it was too much to hope for, as Goex has very little control of their own product: they just buy their stuff from "American Pioneer" and are subject to what sloppy manufacturing, quality control, and packaging American Pioneer inflicts upon them. The current "American Pioneer / Shockey's Gold" disaster seems to be just a continuation of a long line of smarmy product from the recent ancestors of what is now called American Pioneer: "Golden" Powder, "Legend Powder," and the patent-infringing "Clean Shot Technologies" that was swept out of business by Hodgdon, owner of the intellectual property of cylindrical muzzleloading pellets that drop freely down the bore.

That is the reason the sloppily packaged and crudely made Pinnacle, American Pioneer, and Shockey's Gold sticks shave parts of themselves away when you try to load them. They have to, to skirt Hodgdon's IP. Though I rarely agree with ridiculous ad-copy, it is hard not to appreciate that Hodgdon's "Square Peg, Round Hole, Bad Idea" ad is both amusing and all too true. In any case, a comparison of these propellants can be found here:

The crud ring of Triple Se7en continues to anger many shooters, and rots barrels as well-though not as quickly as Pyrodex or black powder. Olin's "Triple Se7en" 209 primers have helped, but not eliminated the hard, slag-like Triple Se7en fouling crud in many rifles. Reports of hang-fires with Triple Se7en primers have crossed my desk as well, though I personally have had no issues with them. Rumors of a new replacement for Triple Se7en, "White Hot," have circulated for some time-- but nothing has been released yet. Rumored to be a pellet only propellant, striving but not succeeding to eliminate the crud ring is apparently where it is at.

So, that brings us up to today. The issues with blackpowder are well-known, and availability has been a problem for a long time. People love pellets, but hate the smell and corrosiveness associated with sulfur enchanted substitutes. Folks like to be able to hit what they are shooting at, including the ability to cleanly take an animal at range-- and the anemic, erratic velocities of Shockey's Gold and American Pioneer along with their ability to clump up with any lube in the bore has been a real bummer for many. So, performance-minded hunters have, in large measure, opted for Triple Se7en loose powder: crud ring and all.

Current Black Mag 3 obsoletes Triple Se7en. What I have found, and what you can expect is consistency in velocity equal to Triple Se7en or better, and velocities that not only equal but exceed Triple Se7en when using volumetrically measured charges.

Black Mag 3 is clearly easier to ignite than Triple Se7en, dramatically easier than the pellets. There is no question about that, regardless of your ignition system. Where Triple Se7en may misfire, Black Mag 3 will go bang.

Black Mag 3 has no crud ring. You can forget the mandatory spit-patching after every shot with Black Mag 3: it is just load and shoot, load and shoot. It is far more accurately volumetrically measured than the rocky Shockey's Gold or American Pioneer, gives better velocities, and far more consistent velocities and accuracy.

Black Mag 3 is an ascorbic acid based propellant. Bullet lubes and oily bores are not recommended. However, I've found that BM3 does not clump up like Shockey's Gold, APP, or Pinnacle when used with a gun stored with Breakfree CLP as a bore protectant. One dry patch up and down the bore to grab excess lube, and you are good to go. The first shot tends to carry out any remaining lube, so from the second shot on you have no noticeable clumping.

Black Mag 3 is billed as "non-corrosive." Well, I won't go nearly that far. I've not tried to ruin a barrel with Black Mag 3, and it is quite obviously far less corrosive than Pyrodex and Triple Se7en. It just makes good sense to hit the barrel with sopping wet water patches until clean, dry patches, and then a patch of Breakfree CLP before putting the gun up.

Nothing beats smokeless powder in a muzzleloader specifically designed for its use, and that means the Savage 10ML-II. As a matter of fact, it was the great success of Savage Shooter Dennis Dudley and his NMLRA "Manufacturer's Cup" shooting team with Black Mag 3 in their Savage 10ML-II rifles that convinced me that Magkor's Black Mag 3 deserved a new, closer look. I'm glad for that: Dennis could not have been more right. This propellant is ideal for Savage 10ML-II enthusiasts that hunt in the few remaining states that don't understand smokeless powder.

Based on its accuracy, high velocity, consistent velocity, low corrosivity, true water-based cleanup, lack of fouling or crud rings, swab-free loading, and easy ignition-- Black Mag 3 is, with no question, the best blackpowder substitute that can be had today. More information can be found on Magkor's website:

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Copyright 2007, 2012 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.