Old powder

Discussion in 'Reloading' started by Gray R, Apr 27, 2014.

  1. Gray R

    Gray R Well-Known Member

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    Hey guys. Odd question but here it goes. I was diggin around in my grandfathers gun room yesterday and I found about ten pounds of various different pistol
    And rifle powders that he didn't even know he had so he gave them to me. A lot of them are still sealed and sound like they shake loose and aren't clotted up or anything, but the kicker is that the price tags vary from $2.50 for a pound to about $12 a pound. Which got me wondering how long does powder last? And before anyone has a seizure reading this I am not going load any I'm just curious. Thanks in advance
     
  2. gohring3006

    gohring3006 Well-Known Member

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    I love those prices lol. If its sealed it could be ok but personally I wouldn't trust it I was always told to look for rusty discoloration (redish brown color)
     

  3. Gray R

    Gray R Well-Known Member

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    You mean discoloration in the powder itself?
     
  4. gohring3006

    gohring3006 Well-Known Member

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    yes, the powder will oxidize and rust I was told it has a small amount of iron or some sort of iron element I would test on a piece of white paper
     
  5. Edd

    Edd Well-Known Member

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    DANGER: Old Gunpowder Can Kill You - Ron Spomer Outdoors

    But what do you do with a canister of old gunpowder? According to Chris Hodgdon of the Hodgdon Powder Company in Shawnee Mission, Kansas, the powder in the canister shown here is WWII surplus likely manufactured way back in the 1930s or 1940s, then packaged and sold by his company in the 1950s or early 1060s. Mr. Hodgdon went on to write that the stuff in the can is “probably good if [it was] properly stored. Check for deterioration by three factors: strong smell, rust colored kernels (or rusty dust) and warm to the touch. [If] Any of these are present GET RID IF IT. Old powder makes great fertilizer for the lawn.”
     
  6. J E Custom

    J E Custom Well-Known Member

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    The best way I know to determine if the powder is unsafe is to smell it. if it smells like acid then it has gone bad.

    If it is in the old paper cans it has probably gone bad and will show signs of rust on the lids.

    Being old dose not make it bad only the method of storage and the amount of air aloud to inter
    the container. (Number of times it was opened).

    Cartridges can be over 100 years old and still work well because they were sealed well.

    One of my best powders has been H4831 that was un-loaded 20mm rounds from WW2 that got Hodgdon started in the powder business.

    With age it seems to mellow a bit until it starts to break down and turn corrosive (Hence the smell
    of acid).

    So If it stills smells fresh and shows no signs of brake down It should be good to use. As always
    with any new/old batch of powder, start low and work up.

    J E CUSTOM
     
  7. gohring3006

    gohring3006 Well-Known Member

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    on Edds reference to "danger old powder can kill you" I chuckled and thought "danger new powder can also kill you" lol.
     
  8. Gray R

    Gray R Well-Known Member

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    Haha yeah I agree. I try to be cautious with powder of any age. Only
    One or two have been opened so I doubt they'd be any good but the rest I think are sealed. I'm not going to use them, I'd rather have a batch of my grandads stuff on my component bookshelf. I appreciate the info though
     
  9. g0rd0

    g0rd0 Well-Known Member

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    the opened cans ditch.
    The sealed cans, this is what I would do. Find an old lyman book (60's or 70's vintage) use the start load and put a few together now invite you inlaws to the range to introduce them to shooting. Have them fire them off, if everything goes well and your inlaws had a good time great. If on the other hand a bad bang happens no problem Win Win!:D
    Seriously though, ditch the opened cans, give the sniff test to the sealed cans and use the start load data on the cans that pass the sniff test
     
  10. Edd

    Edd Well-Known Member

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    Post some pictures of the cans. They might have some value empty.
     
  11. Gray R

    Gray R Well-Known Member

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    Haha while the relatives idea is very tempting I think
    I'm gonna bench it all and keep my grandads stuff. Maybe if I ever do a dream hunt use some for the nostalgia value. Who knows!
     
  12. J E Custom

    J E Custom Well-Known Member

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    All powders have a shelf life and must be disposed of when it goes bad.

    If you are not going to use it, I would suggest you dispose of it safely before it becomes a safety hazard. Keep the empty containers for nostalgia and enjoy there prices and the fact that your grandfather once used them.

    It "will" go bad with enough time and become a hazard so "Use it or lose it".

    I have bullets that have the price still on the boxes that cost less than $3.00 for a box of 100
    (Those were the good old times) but bullets have a great shelf life, unlike powder and primers.

    Just a recommendation

    J E CUSTOM
     
  13. Gray R

    Gray R Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for the heads up I'll go ahead and do that. And man I can't imagine paying 3.00 for a box of 100. I'd apart be able
    To afford to shoot then!
     
  14. Kennibear

    Kennibear Well-Known Member

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    The smell test is a little iffy because the residual solvent is mistaken as an "acid" smell when it is just a burning solvent effect on your nose.

    Best way to test powder I have found is to take a brand new clean sheet of copy paper right from the ream and pour a generous amount of the powder in the middle. Roll it around on the paper for a few seconds and then cup the paper and pour the powder back into the can. In daylight (because it is a whole spectrum light source) look at that paper compared to another clean piece from the same ream. Gray is okay but even a hint of brick colored red is bad ju ju. This trick will identify even the slightest trace of red.

    This method will tell you if powder has gone bad (deteriorated) sooner than you can smell the acid formation. By the time the powder has developed an acrid odor it has been gone a long time.

    If the cans were opened and resealed right away they might still be okay. Heat is the #1 powder killer, not air. If the powder shows no rusty dusty on the paper I would try some loads reduced 10%. If they don't show high pressure then start working up slowly as usual. I have some double based flake powders that are thirty years old (I bought new off the gunshop's shelves) that are still fine. I test them regular and they are in partially used cans that are opened and resealed many times. The Bullseye is in the old snap cap metal can! Double base powders are a little more stable than single based.

    As far as how old is too old? The oldest smokeless (Nitrocellulose/ Nitroglycerin double based flake) is Unique first made by Laflin & Rand which became Hercules which became Alliant. Some of it has been stored UNDERWATER since the 1890's when it was made. Almost 120 years later it is still the same!

    Something to think about....

    KB