- Black powder —invented by the Chinese foundation in the 9th Century —was the only widely-known and used practical explosive until the 18th Century . However, it is now primarily only used for fireworks , model rocket engines and in reproduction weapons.
- Smokeless powder replaced black powder as a propellant at the end of the 19th Century and is used in all modern guns .
Both forms of gunpowder burn, producing a subsonic deflagration wave rather than the supersonic detonation wave which high explosives would produce. This reduces peak pressures in a gun, but makes it less suitable for shattering rock or fortifications . However, black powder was, for a few centuries, the only blasting agent available.