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Thread: How long does powder last?

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    Member IceKing02's Avatar
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    Default How long does powder last?

    If one's gunpowder is stored in a clean, dry, cool space (and inside of the container) how long will it last before one starts to see changes in the burning curve?
    How long before there is an appreciable change in the observed velocities of loaded rounds?

    Thanks in advance.

    IceKing02

  2. #2

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    I am using some powder (IMR 4831) that I bought over 30 years ago, 8 lb keg. It loads fine, though it is probably differnt than you would buy today, but even lot varies. never had powder go bad that was stored correctly.
    Jim

  3. #3

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    I'm using original 4831 left over from a couple of 100-pound kegs I bought in 1968. And it was surplus powder then- Korean war era, if I remember correctly. Loads chronoed today don't show any difference from loads chronoed from the same guns when I first got a chrono in the 70's.

    Keep it sealed and dry, and it should last at least 40 years, from my own experience.

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    Member Big Al's Avatar
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    You guys are vary lucky, I had a 50 lbs keg kick over on me of 4831, when I opened it up, it had a strange smell. I loaded 1,000 rounds of 30-06 using the old published load of 58 grains below Hornaday's 180 grain bullets.

    I loaded all this up for a bunch of Firemen that wanted to go on a large group hunt. Well we all headed out to the range, these Boys had as a group six different old sporterized Springfields and Enfields. They got set-up for one hundred yards, and let loose. Now there was a fair amount of wind from 3 o'clock. I'm walking along behind the boys thinking this is going to be fun getting these guys on paper. Ever time one of them would look up I asked how was it going, I got comments like "these are the most accurate loads I've ever shot". "These loads hardly kick at all"."Man, I wish I had ammo like this before". I had the spotting scope set-up and the groups were good.


    I was in a state of shock, I smelled a rat. Ever group looked small, now unlike the kind of groups you see as standard on the inter-net these were small considering the equipment these Boys had. I knew something was wrong, but I was confused by all that was happening.

    Down about 20 positions from us, a guy had an Oehler 33 set-up and was testing some loads. I grab the one rifle there that I knew (I built years ago) a hand full of shells, walked down and asked this young feller with the crony if I could pay him to test some loads for me?

    Well the out come was hair raising to say the least, for ten shots they averaged @ 1200 fps.

    Sufficient to say, I had a lot of work ahead of me.

    Nothing like pouring .60 cents a pound powder away on the lawn when powder then cost 12.00 a pound.

    All single base powder has a shelf life, except BALL POWDER. I won't get into the long drawn out procedure for making BALL, but it's made by melting stick powder.

    Dual base powder is good for longer than anyone knows.

    BALL POWDER has no known shelf life, could be good forever?

    Watch out for that ether smell, cause it ain't good!
    "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tryants." (Thomas Jefferson

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    Member jdb3's Avatar
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    The original lot of Unique is still around at the company and it is still within specs. They keep it underwater but it has been around for over 100 years and is still going strong. I guess it all depends on how you store it. Jim

  6. #6

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    Unique is yet another variety of powder, different from stick like 4831 and different from ball. Good thing it lasts a long time, cuzz the big cannisters just seem to last forever, no matter how fast you use it.

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    Member Big Al's Avatar
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    Unique, bulllseye, 2400 and many others that are double base (or dual base powders). They have no known shelf life. This covers the majority of handgun and shotgun powder(flake, disk).
    "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tryants." (Thomas Jefferson

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    I still am using powder with $8 a pound price tags on the canisters or cans. It works perfect,
    Now try to figure out how old it really is
    Tennessee

  9. #9
    Member Big Al's Avatar
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    Non surplus powder marked @ 2.50 a can for 2400 powder and 11 ozs cans of bullseye marked @1.98.these cans go back to the 1960's.
    "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tryants." (Thomas Jefferson

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    Member jdb3's Avatar
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    I'ts good to know that I'm not the only geezer on this forum. I remember $2.50 for pounds of powder. Jim

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    Member Big Al's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jdb3 View Post
    I'ts good to know that I'm not the only geezer on this forum. I remember $2.50 for pounds of powder. Jim

    Jim, I don't know if you can remember the deals that were all around back in the day? The Rifle Ranch in Prescott, Arizona had 100 pounds of powder (4350, 4831, 4895) your choice and 10,000 primers for a big 100.00 bucks.

    JUST makes a guy want to break down and sing memories, sweet memories. Doesn't it Jim?

    Or on the other hand, maybe it just tells us how little our money is worth today?
    "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tryants." (Thomas Jefferson

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    Quote Originally Posted by Big Al View Post
    Or on the other hand, maybe it just tells us how little our money is worth today?
    Unfortunately, I think that's the most accurate assessment!

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    Default Powder life is unpredicable

    I have a large selection of various powders some I've had for 40 years or so and I've have had a number of cans go bad on me. It was all stored together in facotry containers generally at room or cooler temperatures. Some of the powder was given to me and was of unknown orgin however so I don't know the history prior to me adquiring the powder. I also have some surplus military ammo approaching a 100 yrs old still with good powder.

    Fresh powder will generally have a scent of ether and acetone - solvents used in the manufacturing. When it firsts starts to go bad it starts to smell of acetic acid- vinegar - and has a fine rustly powder when you pour it out of the can. The container will also start to rust internally if it is metal. At this point dump it on the garden.

    I've actually shot some '06 I loaded and shot immediately that with 4895 that was just starting to go bad and it seemed to fire just fine although I didn't check the velocity.

    I recall that several of the cans that went bad were Hodgons surplus ball powders but I've had some single base DuPont stick powders go bad also. I don't recall any double base powders going bad But I haven't kept any records either.

  14. #14
    Member IceKing02's Avatar
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    Default This proves that time is relative...

    Heck, guys, I was just really wondering if the six or seven cannisters of powder that I have would last a "couple three" years. If I can get 10-30years out of it then I'll be more likely to buy up some less used powders for the rifles I'm reloading...

    Thanks again and Happy Thanksgiving--gobble, gobble!

    IceKing02

  15. #15

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    I've had some unopened cans of IMR 4831 go bad on me. Brownish dust on the power and the can turned a bit rusty inside like another member already stated. I had these cans of 4831 for about 15 years before I noted the deterioration. So from my experience, powder can go bad within one's life of use.

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    I had a couple of old "AMMO MART" Unique 14 oz. cardboard cans given to me. I opened one, and it was bad. Smelled like oranges, fine rusty colored dust. Nifty old cans, though!!

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    Default Pics of old AMMO MART Unique powder can

    Couple of shots. Main body is cardboard, top and bottom is tin.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails HPIM0054.jpg   HPIM0053.jpg  

  18. #18
    Member Darreld Walton's Avatar
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    Default Jeeze, I must be ancient...

    Quote Originally Posted by Big Al View Post
    Jim, I don't know if you can remember the deals that were all around back in the day? The Rifle Ranch in Prescott, Arizona had 100 pounds of powder (4350, 4831, 4895) your choice and 10,000 primers for a big 100.00 bucks.

    JUST makes a guy want to break down and sing memories, sweet memories. Doesn't it Jim?

    Or on the other hand, maybe it just tells us how little our money is worth today?
    I bought my frist 1100 Remington when J&G Rifle Ranch was still in Montana!.....

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    Quote Originally Posted by tvfinak View Post
    ......fresh powder will generally have a scent of ether and acetone - solvents used in the manufacturing. When it firsts starts to go bad it starts to smell of acetic acid- vinegar - and has a fine rustly powder when you pour it out of the can. The container will also start to rust internally if it is metal. At this point dump it on the garden.

    I recall that several of the cans that went bad were Hodgons surplus ball powders but I've had some single base DuPont stick powders go bad also. I don't recall any double base powders going bad But I haven't kept any records either.
    You are correct about the acidic odor of bad powder and the rust color and rusted can. Powder will also cake together (especially ball). Some powders will become sticky and acidic when bad and some can swell and bulge the container, I've seen all these symptoms. The smell of ether or solvents is normal it is the pungent acidic odor that is bad.

    Also ball (spherical) powder is all double based nitro-cellulose and nitro-glycerin. Single base is nitro cellulose only. Some extruded and flake powders are also double based. Ball powder will and does go bad as quickly as any and are generally more sensitive to storage temperature. Storage conditions make all the difference. Powder made since WWII has a stabilizing agent added to prolong it's shelf life. Cool and dry must be followed for prolonged storage. The effect of heat on powder is accumulative. Moisture must be kept from powder. Trapped moisture in a container will cause it to break down and any rust (iron oxide) will speed up this decomposition.

    Under what most would consider normal residential climate, smokeless powder will last for decades. The new plastic jugs are a great benefit. They seal out moisture with no chance for rust. Cardboard kegs absorb moisture and can be gone in a couple of years in a warm, damp basement.

    I don't usually keep powder long enough to let it go bad, it is one of those things that isn't on my worry list. I will say it is much better to buy several small containers than one big keg for long storage because if only small portition starts to go the rest will go with it quickly. The eight pound plastic jugs will last a loooooong time.
    Is there nothing so sacred on this earth that you aren't willing to kill or die for?



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    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    If you knew you were going to be putting powder away for awhile, think about dropping a desiccant packet in the container before sealing it up. That will eliminate any moisture within the can and leave you only the storage temperature to worry about.
    Winter is Coming...

    Go GeocacheAlaska!

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