Old Powder


February 21, 2008, 02:20 PM
I have been lucky to get a box of powder and bullets from a man who is no longer reloading. There are a number of 1 lb. metal cans of IMR powder that appear to have been stored in the garage as the tops are very dirty. I was concerned this powder may not be good. I opened 4 sealed cans and the powder looks good and has a nice ether smell. Based on this information, do you think this powder is good?

I'm going to sell what I don't use and I'll post on THR first. I've got some IMR 3031, 6mm and 25 caliber rifle bullets (quantity to be determined - some shiney and some tarnished but good), .307 bullets (.307 Winchester??), and some .308 150 gr. bullets that I think would be good for lever actions.


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February 21, 2008, 02:31 PM
If it still smells good, it probably still is good.

Look for rust around the lids.
If the powder has started to break down, there is possibly some rust starting to develop there.


February 21, 2008, 03:30 PM
I purchased some estate sale 60's vintage IMR 3031. I opened the cans and poured the stuff out, looking for red dust. And found some.

I noticed that the inside of the cans had lost most of their plating.

The powder does not smell acrid, I can't remember if it has a ether smell.

I have shot it up, and it shot well. Very well in 308 Winchester. A load of 39.5 grains with a 168 Sierra/Nosler LC CCI#34 shot very well out to 300 yards.

I loaded up about 2 pounds of the stuff and shot it up quickly. Still have a pound left.

I do not know of a simple way to tell if old powder is just starting to deteriorated. When it is at the end of its life, you get a bitter acrid smell and lots of red dust. However, I have loaded surplus 4895 that looked good, smelled good, and the stuff deteriorated in the case. Took about a year. I found that case necks cracked on firing, and given more time, case necks just cracked on unfired ammunition. Pulled bullets showed green corrosion on the bottoms.

Funny darn thing though, that powder shot well, even up to the point that I poured it out on the lawn.

In my opinion, any powder older than 20 years is getting real iffy, real suspect. Now I have fired some outstanding groups with 1960's vintage 4895, but that does not mean that all 20-40 year old powder is still worth reloading.

Grandpa Shooter
February 21, 2008, 04:02 PM

Amazes me how people call 20 year old powder "old" and 20 year old kids "young".

Well kept powder at 20 is still young and some of the 20 yr olds who have ruined themselves with drugs and alcohol are old.

I'll take old powder anytime.:D

February 21, 2008, 04:14 PM
Using primers and powder purchased in 1991.

Some of the anvils fell out on the CCI primers, but the ones that held together work great.

February 21, 2008, 04:21 PM
I'm with you Grampa Shooter, 20 years ain't nothin' . ;)

February 21, 2008, 05:21 PM
I have just acquired some old IMR powder. I loaded up some 45s with PB and will know pretty soon how good it is. It appears and smells perfectly fine.

February 21, 2008, 05:32 PM
I'm using some H-380 that is priced $1.95. Can looks good and it runs my 8mm/150 gr. out at 2950 fps. MMMMMMMMMMMMM good!!!!!!!!!!!!!

February 21, 2008, 07:29 PM
Heck, and I thought $2.95 was cheap!

February 21, 2008, 11:31 PM
Thanks for the input! I'll load some up and hopefully chronograph to see if the different powders work well.

If these cans had been stored properly I would have checked them but otherwise have not been concerned.


February 22, 2008, 12:06 AM
I have some H4831 that was sold packaged in paper sacks for $1.00 a pound . Purchased at Bi-Mart in Corvallis , Oregon in 1970. Stuff is still good.

February 22, 2008, 01:20 AM
I don't have any powder marked under $9.99 but if I did I would use it. (as long as it looked and smelled OK) I may be old but I lived in NY City most of my life!! (no guns allowed there so there's no reason to reload! LOL)

Doug b
February 22, 2008, 11:19 AM
In my estimation it's heat + time that destroys powder. If it smells bad or looks bad don't use it it's not worth it, we all know that.If it has been subjected to heat over 80 degrees for a long period of time be cautious, if it has been subjected to extended periods of time at 90 degrees or more I wouldn't use it.

February 22, 2008, 11:38 AM
I inherited a bunch of powder from a friend's dad who stopped reloading.

Unique, 4227, 4895, 4064, 748, 760. Many cans had $4.95 price stickers.

Some of the IMR cans had been opened, and the powder had a reddish gray hue with lots of fine dust. I burned it.

The sealed cans were just fine. Nice ether smell, shiny black granules. I've been using it with no problem.

I've used up a pound and a half of Unique in .45 and .357 so far with no issues.

I have some Accurate 3100 I bought 20 years ago. The remaining powder looks normal and makes accurate .30-'06 ammo.

When in doubt, of course, throw it out. Compare to fresh powder of similar type, e.g. flake to flake, extruded to extruded. If they look and smell alike, ther're good to go.

February 23, 2008, 01:40 AM
Don't throw it in the garbage or burn it, throw it in the garden because it makes good fertilizer.

February 23, 2008, 02:02 AM
My Dad was one of those guys that when he got a deal, he stocked up. About '52 or '53 he got a deal on some powder and bought 750 pounds. That's a lot of rifle powder. He used it till he went under in '90, then I continued. Finally finished it all up about 2 years ago. All that time, never any problem, over 50 years.

Oh, and I just recently shot some old military surplus '06 ammo that was headstamped '46. I don't think the powder had been changed out!!! Worked just fine.

February 23, 2008, 10:12 AM
I have some NORMA powder that has a price tag of $2.25. Early 1960's I would say. It is a metal can and has light red dust on the powder. Smell good and shoots great. I just finished a 20lb keg of IMR4895 that I bought in mid 1980's. It was also in a metal canister. It also had red rust dust on the powder and It also shot GREAT.

I have found that all powder in metal cans will eventually get "red dust" on the powder. The dust is rust from inside the can. Each time a can is opened the powder absorbs a little moisture from the air. This moisture eventually attacks the inside of the can. As long as the powder smell like ether it's good to shoot.

February 23, 2008, 02:49 PM
Hey, the Navy was using 40+ year old powder in the main guns of the battleships during the deployment of the New Jersey when she "lobbed" a few rouinds into Lebanon that weighed as much as a volkswagen. That was 1983-84. By then the powder for these guns was out of production and powder that had been stored on barges for years was being used.

February 29, 2008, 09:44 PM
I loaded some 200gr. swc's with the old PB powder and they shoot really well. Very little smoke and the powder measures very consistantly. I may have to purchase some new when I use up the old supply.

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