Old Powder


January 25, 2013, 06:39 PM
My wife just picked up her fathers reloading equipment.

A couple of old presses and a bunch oh misc. stuff. 8mm,38-55,.222,44mag, .357mag,30-30......

And a whole lot of shot gun reloading stuff. Looks like he reloaded old shotgun shells. I didn't know they were reused.

Anyway, the powder and primers is likely from the late '60's. Does it degrade with time?

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January 25, 2013, 07:11 PM
I have always read that as long as the powder and primers have been kept away from moisture they will last forever. The powder should have a sulfer like smell to it if it is good.

40 rod
January 25, 2013, 07:16 PM
I still use components from the 60s no problems. but if I was loading for SD or LE I would want new primers.

January 25, 2013, 07:30 PM
Depends on the storage, you may want to give this a read (http://www.rifleshootermag.com/2012/11/26/how-to-determine-gunpowder-shelf-life/) with a focus on this part:

You can tell if a can of powder is good or bad by giving its contents a sniff test. If the smell ranges from no detectable odor to resembling alcohol, ether or acetone (from its solvent content), it is okay. If you get a terribly unpleasant, acidic odor that fries your nasal passages, extreme deterioration has taken place. The odor is difficult to describe, but my nose says the experience is quite a bit like taking a strong whiff of the fumes produced by muriatic acid.

Any change—regardless of whether it is physical, chemical or otherwise—indicates time for disposal. If a brown or rust-colored fume escapes from the container when you open it, the powder is unsuitable for use. The plastic cap on one of the containers of powder that went bad on me was originally blue in color, and the chemical changes that took place inside had actually bleached it snow white. Sudden rusting of the metal cap of a container is also a sure sign of bad things going on inside.

Personally I have no problem loading old powder that has been unopened and well stored. The basic sniff test works well so give it a whiff.


January 25, 2013, 07:52 PM
The powder should have a sulfer like smell to it if it is good.My god man!
Have you ever in your life even smelled any kind powder??

If it smells like sulfur, it is either very low grade black powder?
Or it is smokeless powder about 50 years past when it first started going South!

Good smokeless powder should smell like either / acetone solvent, with no rust or red dust in the can.

If it doesn't?
Pour it on the yard, or down the stool if you don't have a yard.


January 26, 2013, 01:45 PM
I'll open them later today. I am cleaning everything today.

January 26, 2013, 02:18 PM
You can dispose of bad gunpowder by various means. I generally just pour it in a long thin line and light one end. It goes "fizzle...foof" turns into grayish smoke.

There's no explosion and very little flame. However, it does generate large volumes of hot gas, so light one end at arm's reach. Otherwise, you might frizzle your eyebrows.

I had a couple of pounds of black powder that had gotten wet. It didn't worth worth a hoot after it dried out. My wife reasoned that charcoal and potassium nitrate would be good for her flowers, so she put it in her flowerbed. Didn't hurt anything as far as I could see, but it ended my plan to bury the can in the ground and set it off with a model rocket igniter...

January 26, 2013, 03:20 PM
He knows what he is talking about.
Good powder has no odor or a solvent like odor and is not brown or rust colored. If it smells pungent acidic or sour, then it is degrading.

If in doubt, pour it out! Dont take any chances with lodging bullets in your barrel. Lightly spread it on your lawn, it will fertilize your grass or flush it...

You shouldnt be using any components that you are not 100% sure of. You need to trust the source.

January 26, 2013, 09:03 PM
Color and smell are your friends when determining if powder has gone bad. If it does not smell like new powder. Usable powder should smell like acetone or cheap nail polish remover. Color should look like black pencil shavings with no red or orange traces.

January 26, 2013, 09:06 PM
If stored temp controlled probably good. If not caked up or looks like mud and your still unsure I will pay shipping if you don't want to risk it. Haha.

January 26, 2013, 09:23 PM
If the powder smells like a burnt out muffler bearing, shoot it. If it's not clumped up I would relegate it out to plinking ammo. :)

January 26, 2013, 09:27 PM
If you load a couple with minimum load, if it has gone bad the worst case is a pop from the primer, stuck bullet and dirty gun. Odds of looking like Wiley Coyote are pretty slim.

January 27, 2013, 12:22 PM
My greatest concern would be whether any of it had been repackaged or mixed. If that factor is OK, then just listen to all thats been said, its good info(except the sulphur part).

Float Pilot
January 27, 2013, 04:38 PM
My oldest powder is currently some stuff from 1971. My oldest loaded ammo is from the 1930s. they all work just fine.

I have had some bad powder in the past and I have obtained mystery powder in the past as well. I just mark it as such and save it in a different place for making load noises on New Years eve....

February 19, 2013, 08:12 PM
I quoted that wrong thanks RCmodel... I went back to the books and read that again and it is like RCmodel said. I am new to reloading still learnig... According to the book as long as it stays in a cool,dry,dark place it will stay good forever. It also says that the granules will break down a lot of times if going bad.. It will be more powdery than granulated.

February 19, 2013, 08:32 PM
Some years back I picked up some old powder at a couple small out-of-the-way shows. Other than seeming just a little light on power - like it needs an extra 2-3 tenths, it's been fine. I worked it up like anything else, assuming the worst and eventually finding loads in the upper middle ranges that work well for plinking.

February 19, 2013, 08:56 PM
I hope not everyone follows the advice on a majority of the replys here.

With that said do as rcmodel says, he is the man with experience here, and his knowledge seems boundless.

February 19, 2013, 11:59 PM
Good powder has no odor or a solvent like odor
Have any of you guys ever used Varget?

February 20, 2013, 01:26 AM
Have any of you guys ever used Varget?
ive dealt with varget, h335 and win748 for rifle. all have a very strong and distinct solvent smell. with these, ive found that if they arent sealed, the smell wears off pretty quickly. opening a can full of loose 223 ammo has a pretty strong smell as well. win231/hp38 on the other hand has very little if no smell at all.

February 20, 2013, 02:54 AM
I've used all 3 of those powders. I've cracked open 8 cans of H335. I have found the odor of my H335 (and one can of W748) to be mild and unremarkable. Solventy, I guess. Same as for Unique, H110, HP38, Autocomp. I don't notice any smell when I'm loading it. But my one can of Varget is really pungent. I smell it while loading. I smell it while firing, even. Outdoors. Maybe it's off? I suppose it may just vary, batch to batch.

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