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Thread: Unique Powder question

  1. #1

    Default Unique Powder question

    No guesses please.

    I need a 100% sure answer.
    Last year, I bought out a friend's reloading supplies. There are two ea. 3/4 cans full of Unique powder. One is Hercules in the old style cardboard can and the other is Alliant and in the newer plastic can . I think that they are probably the same, but I'm not a big pistol /shotgun guy and not 100% sure. Anyone know?

  2. #2
    Member Float Pilot's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Kachemak Bay Alaska


    According to a super old Speer manual UNIQUE propellant was introduced in 1890 by the Laughlin and Rand Powder Company under the name Infallible.

    I have some very old open cans (cardboard) of Unique and it seems to develope different velocities and pressure than the new stuff.

    Around the year 2000 or so, Alliant changed the formula in Unique to make it cleaner burning. I think they also made it a touch hotter. I am seeing 75 fps more velocity in light 38 special loads using the new powder compared to the old Hecules powder. Plus the groups opened up some.

    I also just tossed a can from the 1970s becuase the flakes were starting to look odd.

    I hope this helps

    Since you did not open or control the cans of powder I would be very, very cautious.

    Maybe for some light loads, but I would not go anywhere near a max load.

    Do not mix and match your handloads with both types of Unique. Treat them as different powders, they are.
    Floatplane,Tailwheel and Firearms Instructor- Dragonfly Aero
    Experimental Hand-Loader, NRA Life Member

  3. #3

    Default Powders

    I would dispose of the powders and avoid the potential hazards that second hand powders can cause.
    Train today to succeed tomarrow

    US Army Miltary Police

    Watch your speed ( Chronographs work great! )

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2005


    I've burned a lot of Unique since around 1966. I'll say I agree with Float Pilot.

    The two different cans can still be used (assuming not contaminated in some way) but difinately do not mix them and use them as if they were from very different lots, which they are.

    I have some dozen or so cans of opened and used powder that, with some loading equipment, I am selling for an Army widow friend of mine. The powder hasn't been used for over a year but is still good but very hard to sell because folks think it may be bad or don't know the history. I do. So I understand BW's position on it but if you know it to be uncontaminated and it has no odor of deteriorating powder then it is usable. They are two different lots. Generally Unique is used in moderate loads and there is some room for error so I wouldn't worry about it. Follow a good loading manual. If on the other hand you think it may not be as marked or have some other malady, I wouldn't risk digits and eyes for $10 worth of powder.
    Is there nothing so sacred on this earth that you aren't willing to kill or die for?

  5. #5
    Member Big Al's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007


    Deteriorating double base powder?

    This is a new one for me. I have never heard of double base powder going bad with age.

    It's always the single base powders that are age sensitive.

    Powders that are not age sensitive are ball powders and have no known shelf life. Ball powders are made from single base stick powder and melted chemically and reformed to spherical.

    I'm having trouble remembering which double base powder that was made in one huge batch that took decades to sell off. The powder used the same data for years.
    "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tryants." (Thomas Jefferson

  6. #6
    Member stevelyn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Fairbanksan in Aleutian Hell


    Unique has been around since 1890 and Alliant has some of the original batch stored in water that they light off a sample of every now and then as a control sample.

    When Alliant changed Unique to make it burn cleaner they didn't mess with the recipe. They changed the shape and thickness of the flakes to make it burn more readily. It still has the same burning rate.

    However, any previously opened canister of powder that you haven't had exclusive control of should be dumped and replaced.
    Now what ?

  7. #7

    Default powder

    The fellow that the powder came from is very meticulous and says that he has never put powder back into a can or played screw around with the cans or reused them.

    I wish that I hadn't thrown out those metal IMR cans and the metal FFF black powder pound can. I think that some folks collect them. I do have some Winchester metal cans if anyone has just got to have them.


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