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Direct synthesis of silicon carbide (SiC) nanopowders (size 50–200 nm, BET ~20 m2/g) in SiC system is conducted in an inert atmosphere (argon) using a self-propagating high-temperature synthesis (SHS) approach. A preliminary short-term (e.g., minutes) high-energy ball milling (HEBM) of the initial mixture, which involves pure Si and C powders, is used to enhance system reactivity. Two conditions of HEBM with different force fields (17G and 90G) are applied and the results are compared. The influence of HEBM's conditions on the microstructure of mechanically treated mixtures and combustion products is also investigated and discussed. Obtained results suggest that by changing the intensity of mechanical treatment one may prepare a completely amorphous reactive mixture containing carbon and silicon, or gradually change the ratio of (Si/C)–SiC phases and finally produce pure silicon carbide powder during the milling process. The influence of HEBM on the combustibility of the Si/C mixture possesses a critical character: the self-sustained reaction becomes feasible only after a critical time of ball milling (i.e., 10 min for 90G; 30 min for 17G). Comparison of the microstructures for as-milled and as-synthesized powders reveals that for all investigated conditions the morphologies of the as-milled reactive Si/C media are essentially the same as that for SiC combustion products. The mechanism for direct synthesis of SiC by combustion reaction is also proposed.