Plastic gun powder bottles in a house fire.


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Ignition Override
October 21, 2013, 12:47 AM
How severe are the explosions when stored in the original 1-lb. bottles, or in an 8-lb. jug?
The question regards IMR 4064 etc, and let's use about 15 pounds total as an example, stored together in an open cardboard box for the sake of discussion/polite debate.

What if they were spread out at intervals of a few feet between any two containers?
The thread about ammo primers-"Cartridge falls..."- being struck accidentally includes a link
(thanks, Queen Of Thunder) to videos of burning ammo cases tested by fire fighters, or boxes hit by a .308 bullet from a rifle. I noticed nothing about bottles of gunpowder when skimming through it.

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zxcvbob
October 21, 2013, 12:52 AM
It wouldn't explode.

303tom
October 21, 2013, 12:55 AM
It would just burn through the Plastic Bottles & burn up....................

Ignition Override
October 21, 2013, 12:56 AM
And so the gunpowder would be just a fire "accelerant" which increases the temperature?

morcey2
October 21, 2013, 12:59 AM
Black powder will explode. Gunpowder (nitrocellulose/nitroglycerine) won't. The containers they come in, whether plastic or metal, are designed to rupture at relatively low pressures and the powder just burns. The powder can serve as a little bit of an accellerant, but not an explosive. If you put it in the wrong type of container, however, the container can "explode" as a result of the pressure inside it from the burning powder.

The propane tank on your BBQ is orders of magnitude more dangerous than gunpowder.

Matt

rodregier
October 21, 2013, 01:03 AM
In the original factory packaging, smokeless powder is a flammible solid, not an explosive.
That packaging is designed to vent, not build up pressure.

You'll get a really scary fireball, but no explosion. If you were close when it ignited you would likely get flash burns.

OTOH, propane cylinders or gasoline are much more dangerous.

Ideal storage outer container for smokeless powder provides a barrier against radiant heat, but no containment.

http://www.saami.org/specifications_and_information/publications/download/SAAMI_ITEM_200-Smokeless_Powder.pdf

"...11-3.7
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 resi-
dences where kept in a wooden box or cabinet having walls of at least
1 in. (25.4 mm) nominal thickness."

I would note that:

Having at least one wall of the container with weak fastening (say double-sided tape) would ensure that if the contents reach defligration temperature the pressure would be released...

hovercat
October 21, 2013, 01:05 AM
It would burn like a flare. Powder containers are designed to fail before enough gas/heat/pressure builds up to increase the burn rate.
Check the regs, but I think that you may need to build a powder magazine for that much powder.

twofifty
October 21, 2013, 01:10 AM
The powder would burn once it reaches ignition temperature.
This would quickly generate large volumes of very hot gases.

I imagine that with enough powder (beyond the federal storage limits) stored in a small room with door closed, the gas volume could pressurize the room and blow the windows or possibly the door.

edit: whether the windows or door blow out or not, anything combustible in that room would reach its own ignition temperature: carpet, furniture, drapes, clothes, wood trim. A human or pet would not survive the temp spike or the toxic gases.

Ignition Override
October 21, 2013, 03:05 AM
Thanks very much.
If I decide to buy an extra large jug (or several 1-lb. bottles) in the future, any new jug(s) would be stored in a different room.

RetiredUSNChief
October 21, 2013, 04:27 AM
Black powder does NOT "explode".

Whether black powder or gunpowder, in plastic containers (which do absolutely nothing to contain the force of the chemical reaction long enough to build up an explosive force), the powder will just burn rapidly. VERY rapidly, but that's all.

Still releases a lot of heat in an extremely short period of time, though, and quite dangerous for that.

jmr40
October 21, 2013, 08:42 AM
Just FYI. I know some guys who store their powder, and large amounts of loaded ammo in a separate storage building. Most fire departments policy is to back away from a house fire containing large amounts of loaded ammo cooking off or if gunpowder is stored inside. They will stay outside and prevent it from spreading to other buildings, but not go inside.

They are not really concerned about explosions or being hit by rounds cooking off. Those wouldn't do much damage anyway. The concern is that a small, easily controlled fire could quickly accelerate endagering firefighters inside the home. They will risk their lives to save other lives that are inside a burning building, but won't put themselves in a dangerous situation to save property.

TRX
October 21, 2013, 11:01 AM
If you pour a pile of smokeless powder in your hand and light it, it just goes "fwoosh" and leaves some soot on your hand. If you have a bunch of powder in a cabinet or locker, it might blow the door open, but other than being flammable, smokeless doesn't do much unless it's confined so it can build up pressure.

Loose loaded ammunition thrown into a campfire will generally blow the case much further than the bullet, which is usually heavier than the case. In my opinion, your primary danger would be of a flying case putting your eye out.

I've seen ventilated mesh ammo lockers, which I expect would let the propellant gas out while retaining any flying bits safely.

hso
October 21, 2013, 01:31 PM
Others have answered the question, but for a video on the topic look at the sticky at the top of the forum on this topic.
http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=687125

MachIVshooter
October 21, 2013, 03:45 PM
OTOH, propane cylinders or gasoline are much more dangerous.

This. The plumbing torch or 5 gallon gas can in your garage are a far greater hazard than smokeless gunpowder.

My neighbor is a firefighter, and the many cans of powder and thousands of rounds of ammunition in my basement don't scare him. The 4' tall, 8" diameter acetylene tank in my shop does.

rcmodel
October 21, 2013, 05:31 PM
If you pour a pile of smokeless powder in your hand and light it, it just goes "fwoosh" and leaves some soot on your hand.You must have very tough hands!!

Don't try this at home kids!!

rc

MI2600
October 22, 2013, 12:39 AM
Since we''re on the topic of powder/reloading supplies, what about primers?

zxcvbob
October 22, 2013, 12:44 AM
Since we''re on the topic of powder/reloading supplies, what about primers?


Mayonnaise jar, or coffee can? ;)

Ankeny
October 22, 2013, 11:30 AM
I am the Incident Safety Officer and a Battalion Chief for a rural fire district in central Wyoming comprising 6,000 square miles. I have seen ammunition cook off on several occasions and it is really not an issue to firefighters wearing appropriate PPE. Likewise when a reloading room with "normal" quantities of smokeless powder burns.

I have also done some unscientific tests with smokeless powder. A proprieter of a small ammunition remanufacturing business passed away several years ago. He had large quantities of powder of unknown age and several large containers of mystery smokeless powder with quetionable labels. We disposed of several small containers inside of a "burn building" used for training. Single one pound cans are no big deal.

On the flip side, we placed approximately 16 pounds of smokeless powder in a five gallon bucket, then placed the bucket in a 55 gallon drum, the ensuing fireball was very impressive.

As far as whether or not the initial attack company chooses an offensive (interior attack), vs. a defensive (exterior attack), that decision will most likely depend on factors other than the contents of your reloading room, such as buildig construction, per cent of involvement, btu vs. gpm, and so forth. However, if a fire extends into a storage area containing large amounts of powder stashed away, when things start cooking off an interior crew may or may not withdraw depending on how tenable the heat situation is at the time.

Frankly, if powder and small arms ammo starts cooking off, I will direct a fire stream (if appropriate) into the area working under the assumption that there could be a gun safe in the room.

Ken451
October 22, 2013, 02:07 PM
Most fire departments policy is to back away from a house fire containing large amounts of loaded ammo cooking off or if gunpowder is stored inside. They will stay outside and prevent it from spreading to other buildings, but not go inside.

BTDT, we had our guys moving the powder out. I was up venting the roof. It was an old farmhouse used by our PD for reloading. Some ammo cooked off IIRC.

"Hatcher's Notebook" addresses ammo in a fire (as well as powder). Without a barrel to confine the pressures, the brass ruptures long before the projectile is fired.

Primers will pop off. But the mass of the brass cup is so low, there is very little energy for it to go far or penetrate anything and certainly not decent protective gear.

When I was a firefighter, a bigger concern was propane and gasoline. Although rare, a car gas tank is more of a threat than a few pounds of smokeless powder. Or welding tanks. Acetylene is what scares me these days.

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