G Laboratories Capable of Testing
The Committee on Smokeless and Black Powder was asked to identify at least three organizations capable of testing how markers or taggants affect the performance of black and smokeless powders (see Appendix B).
Types of Testing Needed
The tests necessary to quantify the performance of these powders fall into two broad categories: quality tests and ballistics tests. The first set of tests focuses on the chemical and physical behavior of the powder before it is loaded into ammunition or fireworks. Chemical tests include accelerated aging tests, stabilizer depletion tests, chemical reactivity tests, differential scanning calorimetry, and variable-temperature compatibility and stability tests. The physical tests include impact, friction, electrostatic discharge, impingement, critical height (to explosion), segregation, and flow/bulk density.1 Ballistics tests focus on the performance of the powders in standard usages, such as ammunition or fireworks. These tests include examination of chamber pressure, muzzle velocity, charge weight, muzzle flash, effect on gun wear (particularly barrel erosion), fouling of automatic and semiautomatic weapons, ignition reliability and timing, timing of maximum pressure, and overall action.2
Because of the specialized nature of manufacturing smokeless and black powders, all facilities that manufacture these powders also possess testing laboratories. These laboratories are used to confirm that the products meet the proper specifications. The required tests include quality (chemical and physical analyses, and thermal stability/compatibility) tests and ballistics (gun performance) testing. Few laboratories outside powder manufacturers have this same broad array of capabilities. Some may be able to carry out only the quality testing, which is chemically straightforward, while others, such as ammunition or gun producers, may have the facilities for just the ballistics tests.
Outside of the laboratories managed or supported by the producers and major commercial users of black and smokeless powders, most of the facilities with the relevant expertise are government owned or operated. The following list of laboratories capable of testing the effects of markers and/or taggants on propellants is representative, but not necessarily complete. The laboratories are listed for their capabilities related to quality and ballistics testing of powders.
U.S. Department of Defense
U.S. Army Research Laboratory (Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD)
U.S. Army Armament Research Development and Engineering Center (Picatinny Arsenal, Dover, NJ)
Naval Surface Warfare Center (Indian Head, MD)3
Naval Air Warfare Center (China Lake, CA)
Radford Army Ammunition Plant (contractor is Alliant; Radford, VA)
Lake City Army Ammunition Plant (contractor is Winchester; Independence, MO)
U.S. Department of Energy4
Los Alamos National Laboratory (Los Alamos, NM)5
Sandia National Laboratory (Albuquerque, NM)
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (Livermore, CA)
Canadian Explosives Research Laboratory, Natural Resources Canada (Ottawa)6
Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (Socorro, NM)7
Battelle Memorial Institute (Columbus, OH)
H.P. White Laboratory (Bel Air, MD)
Stresau Laboratory, Inc. (Spooner, WI)
Pyrolabs, Inc. (Whitewater, CO)
Rho Sigma Associates, Inc. (Whitefish Bay, WI)8
SRI International (Menlo Park, CA)
Additional Testing Needed
Thorough examination of the inclusion of markers or taggants in black and smokeless powders requires scientific testing in areas other than quality and ballistics testing (see statement of task in Appendix B). These areas include the following:
- Utility to law enforcement (blast survivability, ease of recovery and information retrieval);
- Environmental impact (toxicity, accumulation due to legal use of powders); and
- Countermeasures (ease of removal or destruction).
While testing in these areas is important, it is not necessary for such testing to occur at the same laboratories that test the quality and performance of powders. The committee expects that further independent laboratories will be identified where these types of tests could be conducted.