Black powder is an explosive material for purposes of federal explosives laws and regulations.
However, the law exempts from regulation commercially manufactured black powder in quantities not exceeding 50 pounds (as well as percussion caps, safety and pyrotechnic fuses, quills, quick and slow matches, and friction primers) intended to be used solely for sporting, recreational, or cultural purposes in antique firearms as defined in 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(16) or in antique devices exempted from the term "destructive device" in 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(4).
Regardless, persons engaged in the business of importing, manufacturing, or dealing in black powder in any quantity must have a federal explosives license, and comply with recordkeeping, storage and conduct of business requirements.
[18 U.S.C. 841(c), 841(d), 845(a)(5); 27 CFR 555.11: definitions of "explosives" and "explosive materials", 555.141(b)]
Thank you for the reference! There's another forum that I'm a member of on which there is a 200+page thread on how to make your own powder. If I understand it correctly, you are allowed to make your own powder, for your own personal consumption, without federal licensing, as long as you don't supply it to anyone else. Is that correct?
It is not a violation of Federal Law to make black powder for sporting or educational purposes. The Federal Government allows you to possess up to 50 lbs. (total)
So if you had five pounds of commercial powder, and then made 50 lbs. of powder, you would be five pounds over the Federal Government limit.
You cannot trade it away, nor give it away, nor sell it.
Now when it comes to illegal or unlawful, you also have your state, your county, and municipal regulations that will mean you are breaking the law while the Feds won't care.
AND THEN for folks who are legal at all levels when making it..., are they complying with state, county, municipal laws when it comes to possession and storing it ??? There are folks that might be in a situation where they are told "Nope, not illegal here it make some Black Powder", only to find out that they made too much OR, for what they made they needed some special (and normally expensive) storage arrangement.
There are several layers to check. Even if you don't make it yourself. For example where I live because I'm in a Townhouse, and not a single family home, my storage limit is different and less than were I in a SFH.
And that, with the reply about the fed regulation, pretty much covers this entire question