Alas, Capt. Kirk’s muzzle-loading bamboo gun would more likely have killed Kirk himself then the Gorn attacking him—or at least, so said the Mythbusters a while back. For those who haven’t seen arguably the best episode of Star Trek TOS (Arena), the plot is as follows: An alien race wants to test humanity by pitting Kirk against another alien, called a Gorn, in a fight to the death. The Gorn is bigger and stronger, but Kirk wins the day by finding and mixing together saltpeter, sulfur, and charcoal into black powder, loading them into a bamboo tube, and, using diamonds as ammunition, shooting and killing the Gorn.
The Mythbusters set about testing the theory and found that it didn’t work. They handmade some half-decent gunpowder, but it didn’t have enough force to fire anything, and if it had, the bamboo tube couldn’t contain the explosion. The Mythbusters discovered the exploding bamboo would have been more likely to kill Kirk then the gorn.
But it’s possible the Mythbusters didn’t use optimal ingredients in their low-energy gunpowder.
Like, maybe they used bad charcoal. Ulrich Bretscher is a retired Swiss chemist who turned his discipline and training to the art of homemade black powder, and he says the charcoal is the key element in determining the effectiveness of the gunpowder.