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Gunpowder is a substance which burns very rapidly and is used as a propellant in firearms . There are two types:

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.

Although historically gunpowder has meant black powder, as in the Gunpowder plot , modern references usually imply smokeless powder when referring to the propellant in small arms .

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