The military use of smokeless powder dates from 1886, at which time Vieille introduced into the French service the gelatinized gun-cotton which, with slight variations, constitutes the smokeless Powder of all countries to-day. It is true that England, Italy and Germany, for navy powders, mix nitro-glycerine with the guncotton to form their several powders, but the basis for all of them is gun-cotton dissolved in a suitable solvent (of which there are several), shaped to the desired form in its plastic condition, and then freed from nearly all of the solvent by drying.
The solvent employed for non-nitro-glycerine powders is a mixture of ethyl ether with ethyl alcohol. The process of eliminating the solvent reduces the former to a negligible quantity, while from 2 1/2 to 6 per cent of the latter remains after prolonged drying. This variation in quantity is a function of the least dimension of the finished grain; its further reduction is extremely difficult, and as will be shown further on may not be desirable.