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Thread: Basic Powder Storage Question

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    Default Basic Powder Storage Question

    Just curious about having too much smokeless powder on hand? How much is considered too much to safely have in the loading room of a residential home?

    Just asking for opinions from others. It seems like as one progresses in this hobby, the powder stores go up and up from catching a sale, wild hairs to try something different, aquiring new weapons to load for. Seems like before you know it, there is 20 or 30 pounds of powder. I always figured if stored properly in original containers, cool and dry, separate from primers, it was relatively safe barring a home fire.

    I once knew an old reloader who taught my dad, I bet he had way over 100 pounds of various powders, most in huge kegs. He reloaded for several shooting clubs and the local LE folks. He also had more safes and gun cabinets full of weapons than most gun stores stock!

    Thanks for the opinions. Great forum here!

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    interesting topic.. and I dont have a good answer for you. for me I guess, i treat it just like any other flamable material in the house. cool, dry, and away from any source of ignition. before I moved, all of my powder was in the garage.. unfortunatly I have not had the time or funds to set up a new reloading area, so all of my stuff, powder and primers included are boxed and stacked up in an unused bathroom.. currently the best of several bad storage options. To tell you the truth, I have several welding set-ups, and the compressed gas cylinders actually cause me more concern than smokeless powder, as do gas cans, paint thinners etc. Powder doesnt make any fumes...

    still though, the "rule" for a hose fire with our family is, and always has been, GET OUT, and leave the fire fighting to the pro's. Of course if it ever happend, I would be moraly ablidged to tell them about all the powder and other stuff in the house... chances are they would then just let her burn... I guess that's what I send that check off to State Farm for every month...
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    A quick search netted the following information:


    The laws governing powder storage nationally state that if you're going to store over 20 lbs of powder for your personal use in a residence, you need a wooden box or cabinet with a nominal thickness of no less than 1 inch. Storing more than 50 lbs of powder in your residence is in violation of the law.

    Is the requirement for wood a precaution against sparks?

    The concept of the box is that it should not be able to withstand much pressure before it opens; that's why a wooden box is desirable. If there is a fire, what does it matter if the box burns or not? The idea is that, if there is a fire, the powder storage box won't become a bomb.


    Personally I just keep it cool, dry and in a dark part of the house that is unused, it does just fine. The climate in my part of the country is very dry. I have no plans on long term storage at this time. If that changes I will come up with a better idea.


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    A wooden box huh.... You mean storing all of my powder in old 25lb propane bottles is a bad idea?

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    marshall; i wasn't aware of a law governing private storage of smokeless powder and can't imagine how it could be enforced. however no question that it is a "flamable solid" and it will burn. if a match is thrown into a can of powder it will go out. i don't believe that smokeless powder ( unlike black powder ) will explode without an explosive ignition such as a blasting cap.

    primers are another matter.
    happy trails.
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    Quote Originally Posted by pinehavensredrocket View Post
    marshall; i wasn't aware of a law governing private storage of smokeless powder and can't imagine how it could be enforced. however no question that it is a "flamable solid" and it will burn. if a match is thrown into a can of powder it will go out. i don't believe that smokeless powder ( unlike black powder ) will explode without an explosive ignition such as a blasting cap.

    primers are another matter.
    While difficult to police, the enforcement aspect would easily rear its head in the aftermath of a fire. In addition to civil litigation, failure to comply could make a person criminally liable in the event of an accidental death related to the fire.
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    Yea, I reckon stuff like that is what I would be worried about (accidental death in the event of a fire). I'm not a big powder horder, but it does accumulate easily. I also like buying several pounds of matching lot numbers of powder I have loads worked up for.

    Currently storing powder in a steel cabinet, fairly heavy guage steel, a truck tool storage box with lockable latch. I put some cheap foam board to line the inside just because I had some left over from a project and for insulation. My loading room is in a basement where the temp doesn't get much over 55 degrees unless I am down there with the heater going (a sealed electric oil radiater heater for safety). I have read about not storing powder in air tight lockers due to the bomb aspect in a fire, but then I see where Cabela's sells steel powder storage cabinets??? I know many folks just store powders out on shelves. I could always do that I guess, but I sure would hate for the wife to slip down to my reloading man cave and see all that powder I've bought!

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    Quote Originally Posted by HUNTERKJL View Post
    Y I have read about not storing powder in air tight lockers due to the bomb aspect in a fire, but then I see where Cabela's sells steel powder storage cabinets??? I know many folks just store powders out on shelves.
    The metal powder storage boxes I am familiar with are designed to blow apart in case of an explosion. It's really not a matter of air tight being the issue as much as it is you want a lightly constructed box of whatever material so that there is little resistance in the event of an explosion. The more strongly the explosion is contained the more potentially catastrophic.

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    Quote Originally Posted by marshall View Post
    A quick search netted the following information:


    The laws governing powder storage nationally state that if you're going to store over 20 lbs of powder for your personal use in a residence, you need a wooden box or cabinet with a nominal thickness of no less than 1 inch. Storing more than 50 lbs of powder in your residence is in violation of the law.

    Is the requirement for wood a precaution against sparks?

    The concept of the box is that it should not be able to withstand much pressure before it opens; that's why a wooden box is desirable. If there is a fire, what does it matter if the box burns or not? The idea is that, if there is a fire, the powder storage box won't become a bomb.


    Personally I just keep it cool, dry and in a dark part of the house that is unused, it does just fine. The climate in my part of the country is very dry. I have no plans on long term storage at this time. If that changes I will come up with a better idea.

    You have a link for "the laws"? Otherwise heresay.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1Cor15:19 View Post
    While difficult to police, the enforcement aspect would easily rear its head in the aftermath of a fire. In addition to civil litigation, failure to comply could make a person criminally liable in the event of an accidental death related to the fire.
    As well as give your home owners insurance a way not to pay for your fire. Of course after the fire they are gonna be hard pressed to prove what you had unless you tip your hand . . . knowledge is power.

    Yes that is the Federal law for smokeless, 50lbs total properly stored as I learned back when we were doing group powder buys and some suppliers want your business/FFL info to ship over 50lbs to a home address. BATFE website used to cover it on their FAQ page along with the particulars on box building but last I looked it was gone. There are different requirements for black powder also because itís classed as an explosive not a flammable.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nitroman View Post
    You have a link for "the laws"? Otherwise heresay.
    Nitroman,

    I'm not one to be called a hearsay-er. I was just trying to keep it short and simple. Here is the information that you seek. Look at 13-3.7, these are Federal laws, Alaska may be different, not sure if states can override feds.

    Cheers,


    13-3 SMOKELESS PROPELLANTS:

    13-3.1 Quantities of smokeless propellants not exceeding 25 lb (11.3 kg), in shipping containers approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation, shall be permitted to be transported in a private vehicle.
    13-3.2 Quantities of smokeless propellants exceeding 25 lb (11.3 kg) but not exceeding 50 lb (22.7 kg), transported in a private vehicle, shall be transported in a portable magazine having wood walls of at least 1 in. (25.4 mm) nominal thickness.
    13-3.3 Transportation of more than 50 lb (22.7 kg) of smokeless propellants in a private vehicle shall be prohibited.
    13-3.4 Commercial shipments of smokeless powder for small arms which has been classed in Division 1.3 shall be permitted to be reclassed as Division 4.1 Flammable Solid for transportation purposes for shipment by motor vehicle, rail car, vessel, or cargo-only aircraft, subject to the conditions stated in the U.S. Department of Transportation "Hazardous Materials Regulations," 49 CFR 173.171.
    13-3.5 Commercial shipments of smokeless propellants exceeding 100 lb (45.4 kg) or not packaged in accordance with the regulations cited in 13-3.4 shall be transported in accordance with the U.S. Department of Transportation regulations for Class B propellant explosives.
    13-3.6 Smokeless propellants shall be stored in shipping containers specified by U.S. Department of Transportation Hazardous Materials Regulations.
    13-3.7 Smokeless propellants intended for personal use in quantities not exceeding 20 lb (9.1 kg) shall be permitted to be stored in original containers in residences. Quantities exceeding 20 lb (9.1 kg), but not exceeding 50 lb (22.7 kg), shall be permitted to be stored in residences where kept in a wooden box or cabinet having walls of at least 1 in. (25.4 mm) nominal thickness.
    13-3.8 Not more than 50 lb (22.7 kg) of smokeless propellants, in containers of 1 lb (0.45 kg) maximum capacity, shall be displayed in commercial establishments.
    13-3.9 Commercial stocks of smokeless propellants shall be stored as follows:
    (1) Quantities exceeding 50 lb (22.7 kg), but not exceeding 100 lb (45.4 kg), shall be stored in portable wooden boxes having walls of at least 1 in. (25.4 mm) thickness.
    (2) Quantities exceeding 100 lb (45.4 kg), but not exceeding 800 lb (363 kg), shall be stored in nonportable storage cabinets having walls of at least 1 in (25.4 mm) thickness. Not more than 400 lb (181 kg) shall be permitted to be stored in any one cabinet, and cabinets shall be separated by a distance of at least 25 ft (7.63 m) or by a fire partition having a fire resistance of at least 1 hour.
    (3) Quantities exceeding 800 lb (363 kg), but not exceeding 5,000 lb (2268 kg), shall be permitted to be stored in a building, provided the following requirements are met:
    (a). The warehouse or storage room shall not be accessible to unauthorized personnel.
    (b). Smokeless propellant shall be stored in nonportable storage cabinets having wood walls at least 1 in. (25.4 mm) thickness and having shelves with no more than 3 ft. (0.92 m) of separation between shelves.
    (c). No more than 400 lb. (181 kg) shall be stored in any one cabinet..
    (d). Cabinets shall be located against the walls of the storage room or warehouse with at least 40 ft (12.2 m) between cabinets.
    (e). The separation between cabinets shall be permitted to be reduced to 20 ft (6.1 m) where barricades twice the height of the cabinets are attached to the wall, midway between each cabinet. The barricades shall extend at least 10 ft. (3 m) outward, shall be firmly attached to the wall, and shall be constructed of 1/4 in. (6.4 mm) boiler plate, 2 in. (51 mm) thick wood, brick, or concrete block.
    (f). Smokeless propellant shall be separated from materials classified by the U.S. Department of Transportation as flammable liquids, flammable solids, and oxidizing materials by a distance of 25 ft. (7.63 m) or by a fire partition having a fire resistance of at least 1 hour.
    (g). The building shall be protected by an automatic sprinkler system installed in accordance with NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems.
    (4) Smokeless propellants not stored in accordance with 13.3.9 (1), (2), and (3) shall be stored in a Type 4 magazine constructed and located in accordance with Chapter 8.
    Reprinted from NFPA495-85, Standard for the Manufacture, Transportation, Storage and Use of Explosive Materials, © 2001, National Fire Protection Association, Quincy , MA 02269 . This reprinted material is not the complete and official position of the NFPA on the referenced subject, which is represented by the Standard in its entirety.
    Along with the responsibilities of proper storage and handling of smokeless propellants, comes an equal consideration, and that is the storage and handling of modern sporting ammunition primers. While these guidelines are available several places on the web, we have chosen to include them here as well for your reference, and your safety.

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    I've studied on the dangers of smokless powder in the past, and IIRC, it's not ANYTHING like Black Powder, which seems to be explosive, whether it's confined, or not.

    Smokeless Powder is hard to ignite, but burns fast, and HOT. It doesn't build up much pressure unless it's confined.

    If you have a huge amount stored in your house, it could be a danger to a Fireman, because of the intense, heat, and flame, rather than the effect of a Bomb.

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    That is some good info Marshall. I guess I need to learn the power of Google! Anyways, I have well under the 50 pound mark. Looks like I should build me a nice wooden cabinet to store my powder and use my heavy guaged steel truck utility box for something else. It is quite solid and locks up tight when latched. I'm thinking that in the event of a house fire that made it down into my man cave, it could be trouble for a fire fighter. Or, maybe I should just start loadin up more ammo and get out to the range more often! I'm sure the practice would do me good.

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    13-3.8 Not more than 50 lb (22.7 kg) of smokeless propellants, in containers of 1 lb (0.45 kg) maximum capacity, shall be displayed in commercial establishments.
    13-3.9 Commercial stocks of smokeless propellants shall be stored as follows:
    (1) Quantities exceeding 50 lb (22.7 kg), but not exceeding 100 lb (45.4 kg), shall be stored in portable wooden boxes having walls of at least 1 in. (25.4 mm) thickness

    Obviously these laws are either outdated or totally ignored by every gun store I have ever visited. I vote for being outdated. Go to your local Sportsman Warehouse or Cabelas and you will see these "rules" are not followed in the least. If there were still laws in effect the local fire marshals would of stopped stores from displaying hundreds of pounds at a time in anything from 1 pound to 8 pound containers.
    Tennessee

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    According to my uncle (44 year full time Phoenix firemen) and brother (26 years) smokeless powder and loose ammo is no more a danger to firefighters than canned goods, hairspray, or the stuff found in every house. They both say they have been hit many times by ammo cases and a can of beans is far worse through the heavy turnouts. Powder just burns off and is over before itís any threat unless you happen to be standing on it when it goes. However they both do fear a loaded gun lying around a burning house shooting them by getting hot enough to go off . . . and if they see a muzzle loader they will leave the building to burn because there is likely black powder someplace. Smokeless is not much real risk to firemen, itís just another dumb law written by people that donít understand the stuff they are legislating but assume they do and make a law anyway.
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    I agree Randy,

    I've seen more than 50 pounds in a few private shops and I've seen over a 1000 pounds in a local suppliers place that I frequent. I believe we all break a rule or two every once and a while.

    Perhaps your local fire department will know the correct answer in your local area. Businesses are checked periodically for compliance.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pinehavensredrocket View Post
    marshall; if a match is thrown into a can of powder it will go out. i don't believe that smokeless powder ( unlike black powder ) will explode without an explosive ignition such as a blasting cap.
    Be careful with that thought and please don't try it. Last year I ruined a pound of RL-15 when I poured a large amount of Varget in to the same container. I had both containers on the bench at the same time and before I caught the error I had dumped the powder measure quantity into the wrong container. Lesson learned, never leave multiple containers in the loading area.

    I kept the mix and use it fill small film containers, the old 35mm type with a plastic lid. I toss a few of them into my back pack for fire starters when out camping or hunting. Just pill up the small branches, sticks and logs put the powder under the pile and light with a match. It starts a fire with no problem at all.

    I figure I have a lot of fire starter for future use and didn't feel that dumping 2 pounds of smokeless in the trash was a good idea. I had visions of the local garbage truck going up in flames as he was driving down the street.

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    I can't imagine anyone throwing a match in a can of powder!!! A match most certainly will ignite powder, and powder has it's own oxygen, so once lit it will not go out.

    Smokeless powder is classified as a propellent, it burns fast and hot, and when contained will build high pressures. I don't believe it can burn fast enough to cause a deflagration or explosion the same way black powder can, but I don't believe one should cavaliarly think that smokeless powder shouldn't be carefully stored away from ignition sources.

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    It will definately burn. I was foolish evough to burn 2 pounds of powder in a brush pile to get rid of it, 1 Unique and 1 Bullseye, about 6 years ago before I PCS'd up here thinking that the powder was older, (it was probably less than 10 years old) and that I could not legally transport it up. Those days are over and I never disguard powder unless it has deteriorated and I have never had that happen. If not confined, it just produces a big flash and heat and like Marshall has stated makes a good fire starter.

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    The national fore code talks about smokeless powder storage. Alliant, IMR,
    W/W list the storage requirements in their loading guides

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