mil surplus powder-disapointment


January 17, 2012, 08:11 AM
i thought i would look into this again. the last time i looked at it, i really did not know much about it. but after doing a lot of looking around and research, i thought, what the heck. well after looking on several sites (listed on google) i don't think i will. the amount of money they want for the majority of it is not much of a savings over what i already use. and if i figure in doing all the load re-development, i am not sure there would be any savings. i guess if you have already worked up loads for it, there is some savings, but i would have thought the prices (especially for pull down powder, that is who knows how old) would be a lot better than they are.

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January 17, 2012, 09:08 AM
I stopped purchasing surplus powders after half of all the surplus IMR 4895 I purchased went bad.

That which I have left, I am shooting it up as fast as match schedules allow. Based on the dollar value I had to scrap, surplus powders are not a bargin.

The first 16 lbs, I used up eight pounds quickly. For whatever reason, I pulled the bullets on some of that stuff and found green corrosion on the bases of the bullets.

Similar to these pull down bullets from old US ammunition. Not the horrible one, but the small green spots.

I don't remember what US ammunition these came off, I pulled them decades ago, might have been WWII ammunition that came back from China.

The last eight pounds, it sat around. When I opened the bottle top, it smelled bitter. Red dust flew around.

I gave it to a machine gunner guy. He put it in the laundry room. Passing by the laundry room he tossed soiled shorts at the hamper, but missed. The short ended up on top of the powder bottle. Overnight, acid gas from the bottle ate holes in the shorts!! :what: This freaked my friend and he poured the stuff out over his lawn.

Since then I have had more surplus 4895 powder from a different vendor go bad in the case. Green corrosion on the bottom of the bullets and cracked case necks.

This powder never smelt bitter at all. I shot this powder in highpower matches and it shot exceptionally well, but case necks cracked after firing. I also received “funny” retorts and the occasional sticky extraction. The longer the ammunition sat around the more cases necks would split when fired. In time virtually all of the remaining 700 loaded cases experienced cracked case necks without the stresses of firing.

From what I had read on the internet, which is a repeat of what is said in gun magazines, powder has an “indefinite” shelf life. Remember reading statements to the effect that powder lost energy as it got old, making it essentially benign.

Then I ran into an Insensitive Munitions expert. This IM expert explained that powder deteriorates from the day it leaves the factory.

Nitrocellulose decomposes through the reduction-oxidation process. Called Redox. The expert said “The molecular stability of the functional groups on the organic chain determine the life time of the nitrocellulose molecule.” All ionic compounds, water is the main offender because it is always in air, react with those bonds and accelerates the deterioration of the powder.

The bottom line is that nitrocellulose is a high energy molecule that wants to become a low energy molecule.

Heat accelerates the deterioration/decomposition of powder and the rate is directly proportional to the Arrhenius equation. If you read in the Insensitive munitions literature, you will see that they use high temperature to accelerate aging of smokeless propellants.

Double based powders have a reduced lifetime compared with single base. Double based powders have nitroglycerin (NG) in the grain. Nitroglycerine remains a liquid and it migrates within the grain to react with the NO bonds on the nitrocellulose, increasing the rate of reduction-oxidation reaction. All ionic compounds react with those bonds and accelerate the deterioration of the powder. Rust is bad as ferric oxide is ionic. Water is polar covalent ion and it is ever present in the air.

Section from the Propellant Management Guide:

Stabilizers are chemical ingredients added to propellant at time of manufacture to
decrease the rate of propellant degradation and reduce the probability of auto ignition during its expected useful life.

As nitrocellulose-based propellants decompose, they release nitrogen oxides. If the nitrogen oxides are left free to react in the propellant, they can react with the nitrate ester, causing further decomposition and additional release of nitrogen oxides. The reaction between the nitrate ester and the nitrogen oxides is exothermic (i.e., the reaction produces heat). Heat increases the rate of propellant decomposition. More importantly, the exothermic nature of the reaction creates a problem if sufficient heat is generated to initiate combustion. Chemical additives, referred to as stabilizers, are added to propellant formulations to react with free nitrogen oxides to prevent their attack on the nitrate esters in the propellant. The stabilizers are scavengers that act rather like sponges, and once they become “saturated” they are no longer able to remove nitrogen oxides from the propellant. Self-heating of the propellant can occur unabated at the “saturation” point without the ameliorating effect of the stabilizer. Once begun, the self-heating may become sufficient to cause auto ignition.

The Armed Forces have stockpile surveillance programs but each Service does theirs a little differently. If you want to see all the different tests the military uses to determine propellant characteristics, look at Mils Std 286 Propellants, Solid: Sampling, Examination and Testing to be found at

If you look, you will find aging tests. One common test is for powder to be kept at 65 C until it fumes. It if fumes within 30 days it is checked for stabilizer or scrapped.

The Navy expert told me a few ways the Navy samples its powders and propellants. If the powder is outgassing nitric gas (as determined by change of color of methly violet paper in contact with the powder (Methly Violet test, or Talliani test)), the stuff is tested to see how much stabilizer is left. If the amount is less than or equal to 20%, the lot is scrapped.

Scrapping powders and propellants with this percentage of stabilizer appears to be consistent across all services.

Pages 5-11 of the 2003 Army Logistics Propellant Management Guide provide the protocols for testing and subsequent actions for their Stockpile Propellant Program. Basically, all propellant lots are tracked. The trigger for investigation is: "When Master Sample Stability Failure Occurs"

The Navy expert provided 'rules of thumb' concerning when to expect problems with double based and single based propellants. The rules of thumb are: Double based powders and ammunition are scrapped at 20 years, single based 45 years. In his words “These 'rules of thumb' are particularly useful when the protocol fails. The protocol can easily fail when workmanship or good housekeeping measures are not followed during manufacture of propellant and/or rocket motor or during storage of the weapon system components, respectively.”

I don’t know all the reasons for the appearance of the surplus powders on the market, but it is reasonable to assume, until proven otherwise, they were scrapped because they were too old to keep in inventory.

More to read if you wish:

An example of powder that went bad in the can:

January 17, 2012, 09:47 AM
Well, I have had much better results than SlamFire1. I have nearly 50# of surplus IMR4895 from 3 seperate lots, and none of it has gone bad. A proper storage environment probably being the key. As to your question regarding the economic feasibility, x_wrench, I would not be buying surplus powder at the current prices, as there simply is not enough of a difference price-wise between surplus and commercial powder to warrant it. When I bought mine, the last of the USGI .30-06 was being demilled, and I paid about $78 per 8# cannister of IMR4895. Sadly, those days are gone.


January 17, 2012, 10:07 AM
I'm still buying surplus. H-335 from Powder Valley is $129 for 8 pounds and WC-844 is $85 for 8 pounds. For me $44 cheaper for each 8 pound jug is well worth it.

January 17, 2012, 10:07 AM
I just bought 16lbs of surplus 846 and have been very happy with the results. The powder looks good, smells good, and meters excellent. I've shot it out of my .308 m1A, 30-30 Winchester 94 and my JC Higgins 30-06 with great results.

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January 17, 2012, 10:20 AM
I use pulldown powder but the last WC 844 & WC 846 I bought was at $10lb. Now that it is at $12.50lb I don't buy it any more. I try to stay under $8lb & buy up when I get it around $4lb. I only have less then 14lb of canister powder & the rest is pulldown(around 24 jugs). I doubt I ever use it all but maybe my kids won't have to buy any.

January 17, 2012, 10:30 AM
$13 a pound is better than $30, that's what we pay for imr or hogdon around here. And honestly off hand I can't tell the difference. Bench rest may be another story but I don't have a "precision" rifle.

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January 17, 2012, 10:34 AM
Now that it is at $12.50lb I don't buy it any more.

You can get it at Pat's reloading for $10.62 per pound, $85 for 8 pounds. Just curious why $12.50 per pound isn't worth it when H-335 cost $16.13 per pound.

January 17, 2012, 10:41 AM
I can get it at $5 a lb and I have plenty of it. That said, I am a dealer of pulled bullets so I get a rather good deal on the powder. In fact, I'm pretty sure if I begged long enough I could get it for free. Powder takes up a ton of room and does not sell for as much as bullets do. Bullet pullers just want to get rid of it. What you are paying for when you buy surplus powder is mostly shipping from the puller to the dealer and then from the dealer to you. Hasmat regulations are to blame for the price.

January 17, 2012, 05:13 PM
I can get other powder that I like better for less that I get more rounds out of.

Why pay more for less.

January 17, 2012, 05:28 PM
Please enlighten the rest of us as to what powder and where. I'm sure the other members would like to know also.

January 17, 2012, 06:19 PM
I'm working my way through several hundred pounds of pulldown 4895, 844 and 846. Works fine for me. I agree that the prices have skyrocketed lately, but that's called supply and demand. Years ago powder was cheap. Those days are gone and thanks to politicians we'll probably never see those prices again.

January 17, 2012, 07:29 PM
I paid about $78 per 8# cannister of IMR4895. Sadly, those days are gone.

I suppose if you look hard enough you can find powder at around $10-12 per pound. My friend and I just bought a 44 pound canister of mil surplus long range match powder (equivalent of Reloader 15) for $11 per pound. We have shot up about 6 pounds of the powder already and have found it to perform the same or nearly the same as the Reloader 15 at $20 a pound and that's without hazmat or shipping or taxes, so it's a substantial savings if you shoot a lot. Haven't had any issues with the powder. If you are interested in contacting the fellow from whom we bought this powder, let me know and I will pass along his email to you.

January 17, 2012, 10:16 PM
I have about 1200 pound left

January 17, 2012, 10:33 PM
Thanks for your offer, Jasper1573, but I've got enough IMR4895 to last me a lifetime. If your powder is pulldown from M118 LR ammo, then that indeed is good powder.


January 17, 2012, 11:18 PM
Can you even get surplus 4895 any more?

January 18, 2012, 12:16 AM
Can you even get surplus 4895 any more?

The Russian equivalent is.

January 18, 2012, 12:23 AM
I have about 1200 pound left

If indeed that is a fact and not a typo or an exaggeration I sure hope for your sake you're meeting federal and state requirements for the storage of over 1/2 ton of gunpowder.

January 18, 2012, 01:08 AM
I'm happy with mil-surplus and not all of it is from pull down.

January 18, 2012, 01:53 AM
dlm37015 buying in bulk does make the price come down is that 1200lb left over from a ton? Is 37015 your zip code? Let me know if you need any help shooting it up. I will work for powder.

January 18, 2012, 07:41 AM
Can you even get surplus 4895 any more?

No. The last I saw of it was in 2005.


January 18, 2012, 07:52 AM

If your talking to me I get most of my powder from . My favorite is hard to find so if you see it let me know. It is a very fast 50cal powder called 10B101. It doesn't work worth a crap in a powder drop but works fin in a dispenser. Also favor WC Blank. i had to pay $10lb for it but it is worth it. I bought him out on this & should have enough for my grandkids.

I buy 6-12 8lb jugs at a time so I can get as much as possible on one hazmat. I ether mix or match my orders.

The trade off is most of my powder doesn't have data. I work up my own & this is the fun of reloading for me.

January 18, 2012, 10:37 AM
It's not that powder prices went up, the Dollar value went down.

January 18, 2012, 11:09 AM
If indeed that is a fact and not a typo or an exaggeration I sure hope for your sake you're meeting federal and state requirements for the storage of over 1/2 ton of gunpowder.

Maybe it is down in the basement next to his lead casting equipment!

Can you even get surplus 4895 any more?

Pat's reloading had some when he was at Commercial Row during 2011 Camp Perry.

He claimed to have recent production surplus powders, but you know, I only bought bullets and primers.

January 18, 2012, 11:16 AM
kingmt, right you are, gibrass aka Jeff Bartlett is a good man to deal with, excl. pricing and pleasent to work with. I've also used him for years.

January 18, 2012, 11:30 AM
hitech ammo has pretty good prices on pulldown. and if you buy 4 8lb jugs they waive the hazmat fee. I haven't ordered from there yet, but probably will be.

January 18, 2012, 11:57 AM
I order from him often. I shoot a lot of his bullets. This is where I got the WC846 & WC 844. He offers more now then he did last year.

January 19, 2012, 01:38 AM
I have ordered a lot of stuff from Hi-Tech ammo. They are good folks. The prices are up right now but they were pretty cheap a few years ago.

The price on there pull down bullets for 5.56mm is still a good deal. Add to it the they ship in an ammo can (or at least did a year ago when I orderd 3000 of em) and your getting that in the cost as well.

The powders seem to be allmost as much as buying new powder now a days. So in most cases I would weigh the differance in cost of new or pull down and go from there. If pull down 4895 is $95 for 8# and I can get brand new 4895 in an 8# for $140? I would work the numbers and see what works out the best.


January 19, 2012, 06:29 AM
I ordered about 7K from him about a year ago. I didn't get a ammo can but I got several hundred bullets free. Almost an extra 1K made up from all the different calibers I ordered & a bag they put in of the wrong thing. He sent the right ones ASAP & had me keep the others. That of course was 500 of the almost 1K.

I have talked to him alot & ordered a good bit of his stuff. He is really top notch.

I really wish I could meet some of these guys I do business with because they are so good. I wish the local guys were better to do business with.

January 19, 2012, 07:07 AM
Can you even get surplus 4895 any more?

Pat's reloading had some when he was at Commercial Row during 2011 Camp Perry.

In watching Pat's website over the past several years, at times, he has had a listing for 4895, then below it saying it is Russian. While it may be the equivalent burn-rate-wise to IMR4895 and be a good powder, it is certainly not surplus IMR4895.


February 2, 2012, 12:46 PM
Can you even get NEW H4895 in it anymore? I can't even find it in 8 lb jugs new. Everywhere I look they're on back-order.

February 2, 2012, 07:27 PM
I've not tried the Russian 4895 but I've heard it's good. I have used the Russian Unique (Salut powder) and I can't tell it from Unique except it meters a thousand times easier and it's far more accurate metering, and cleaner burning. I wish I had bought a lot more of it.

41 Mag
February 3, 2012, 03:25 AM
While I haven't purchased in quite the bulk as some, I have used several of the surplus powder over the past 10 or so years. So far I haven't had anything go bad or produce anything out of the ordinary when loaded and stored for a while.

My uses have been mainly with the WC-860, and WC-870 for magnum calibers, but I have also run through some of the Salut, and a cople of jugs of the WC-297.

When I was looking to replace my stock of 296 I compared the prices and couldn't pass up trying the 297 for half the price of standard 296. It has been wonderfully accurate in my magnum revolvers, and with the lot I have is only slightly slower per caliber and weight of charge compared to my last lot of 296.

I do agree with what has been said about storage however, but I also have had newer off the shelf canister powders go south in a relatively short period of time as well, stored in the same areas as what my surplus has been stored in.

Like has been mentioned the prices have gone through the roof over the past few years, but if you find something you know your going to burn a lot of in a particular caliber, and the comparison saves you extra cash over the standard product, then why not give it a try. To me 5-10 dollars isn't going to do it, but 1/4 or more of the price on an 8# lot after shipping will at least get my attention.

February 3, 2012, 03:39 AM
Can you even get NEW H4895 in it anymore? I can't even find it in 8 lb jugs new. Everywhere I look they're on back-order.
Powder Valley ( has H4895 in stock in 1 and 8 lb containers for $19.75/$139.50.

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