How should H4895 powder smell?


June 7, 2013, 11:12 AM
The great ammo shortage has me conducting an inventory of my powder. As I don't shoot much in the way of rifles I have some powder still in the metal containers.

I just opened a new metal can of H4895. I'm not sure of it's age but 15 - 20 years would not surprise me. I brought the powder new and never opened it. When I opened it today the lid was so tight I used pliers to loosen it and it had the wax paper seal in place. I looked inside to inspect the contents and it has a strong petro chemical??? (for lack of better word) smell. What got my real attention is near as I can tell there looks to be what may be small rust like spots on the inside of the can. (It is real hard to get a strong light inside the can).

The outside of can is in excellent condition. No rust, dents, etc. The powder has been stored inside the house most of the time.

The powder looks fine, pours fine and meters well in the powder measure. I am loading a cast bullet about 2.7 gr. above the starting load (and 8 gr. below max) recommended by Hodgdon so there should be lots of room for safety if the powder burns inconsistently.

For comparsion I opened a can of 3031 which has a similar but milder smell. The 3031 is also in a 8# metal can vs. the 1# can of H4895 and, of course, is from a different manufacturer..

I loaded a few rounds for testing. If I have no issues with the test rounds is there any reason not to finish using it?

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June 7, 2013, 12:01 PM
I loaded a few rounds for testing. If I have no issues with the test rounds is there any reason not to finish using it?

Nope. Sealed cannister, strong chemical smell - go for it.


June 7, 2013, 12:06 PM
Solvent/petrochemical smell is fine. If it's got an acrid, acidic smell, it's fertilizer. If there's reddish brown powder/specks/fumes, dump it immediately.

Shelf life, properly stored (cool/dry) should be on the order of 50 years.

June 7, 2013, 12:12 PM
Like heaven...

June 7, 2013, 01:10 PM
Only in jest, worry about how it burns and not how it smells.

June 7, 2013, 01:17 PM
Use it. I just opened a 1lb metal can of IMR 4198 (old Dupont). There are rust spots inside the can & brown/redish dust when poured. Outside i let the wind blow the dust away as i poured powder from one container to another. Loaded and shot in a 223 rem. All is working ok. I did notice that the previous lot number is different. With the measure set at the same volume, the new rusty powders weight was lighter on the scale. ( click for larger photo.

June 7, 2013, 01:17 PM
I love the smell of 4895 in the morning.

Smells like...victory.


June 7, 2013, 02:27 PM
It does have a "potent" aroma.:) I left some in my powder measure in small to medium size room and you can really smell it more than say handgun powders like HP38, Bullseye etc.

June 7, 2013, 04:00 PM
Blast away. You are good with that powder. happened to me with FFFG black powder last weekend at a show. 3lbs for 27.00 i got 6 lbs of it. all the tins were hard(couldnt squeeze them much) so i took the hardest one, that was hard to squeeze (figuring it was opened and then put the lid on super tight) and took the cap off. loaded my in-line with 100gr, packed my 250gr sabot in it, 209 primer, and pulled the trigger. Smoke and bang. happy happy happy

June 7, 2013, 10:06 PM
small rust like spots on the inside of the can.If it is indeed rust, that is not a good sign. Powder has a solvent smell, but not an acidic smell. Smell some other newer powders to get an idea of the correct smell.

I opened a can of 3031 which has a similar but milder smell. That is a good sign. :)

June 7, 2013, 10:37 PM
Powder is washed in Ether solvent, or acetone solvent as a final cleansing to get all the nitric acid and water out of it.

If it smells like an old time hospital operating room?
That's Ether.

And that's good fresh powder.

If it smells like your vinaigrette salad dressing + 10, or your car battery when you take the caps off and inhale a real deep whiff?
That's acidic, and that's bad!

Your powder is done gone south on you.


June 7, 2013, 11:04 PM
Here's how I know the difference -

I find the smell of good powder pleasing, and want to take another whiff or two because it smells so good.

Powder that has gone bad burns your nose a bit, kind of like horseradish, and I don't want to inhale that deeply through my nose again.

June 8, 2013, 10:44 AM
Using Winchester large rifle primers from 1994 everything went bang just fine.

The shooter on the hand is another issue.

June 8, 2013, 10:51 AM
I got a chuckle from the descriptions of what is a good smell and what is not. All very good and descriptive.

June 8, 2013, 12:30 PM
I use 1994 WAP in all my pistol calibers. Many pounds of it.

Still Shooting
June 8, 2013, 04:03 PM
I recently pulled bullets on a few rounds of .270win that I loaded in 1976. The smell of ether was still in there, so I stopped pulling and started shooting. Can't argue with sub-moa accuracy! -But if I have old ammo, I like to pull a couple of bullets and check for that smell...

June 8, 2013, 11:09 PM

Thats some pretty good shooting my friend, either target, LFT or RT. Thats what I was trying to accomplish on my last jaunt to the range the other day, when you have to walk 100 yards to see the little hole, you know you did good then! :cool:

June 9, 2013, 09:24 AM
Kind of funny, I always think Power Pistol smells alot like pepper. Even thought about shaking some on five separate tomato sandwiches at .6gr intervals to see which one went down the fastest.

June 9, 2013, 10:39 AM
How should H4895 powder smell?

That acetoney, chemically finish you are referring to ?

That my friend, is victory :D

June 9, 2013, 12:28 PM
I don't know what causes the smell. Could be solvents used in the process, could be the stabilizer, which is often ethyl centralite.

Ethyl Centralite is a commonly used stabilizer for single, double and triple base propellants. Ethyl Centralite is converted to a variety of nitro urea, aniline and nitrosamine derivatives after reaction with the NOx produced as gunpowder deteriorates.

Gunpowder is a complicated mix of things, but as it ages the smell goes from the “ether” smell to a neutral smell, then when the stabilizer is seriously depleted, what you will smell is fuming red nitric acid gas. Fuming red nitric acid gas is an extremely unpleasant smell.

June 9, 2013, 01:08 PM
I run through powder pretty quickly, and I never have anything around more than a year or so. I keep my bulk reloads in GI ammo cans, and a few hundred rounds of .30-06 will offgas enough of that solvent smelling stuff to almost knock you over when you open the can. I think it accumulates less in the powder cans since they aren't quite as airtight.

I'm pretty sure it's part of the government plot to make powder and primers time sensitive, which is why I reload with my tinfoil underwear on. ;)


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