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Shelf life of primers and powder?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Monkeyleg, Jul 31, 2007.

  1. Monkeyleg

    Monkeyleg Mentor

    Dec 25, 2002
    Decatur, AL
    It's been a long, long time since I've been shooting any reloads. So long that it's been a long time since I've been reloading.

    I have plastic jugs of powder in a cabinet in the basement. They're all one-pound containers, as I keep the larger containers upstairs where the humidity level is lower. For the containers that are in the basement cabinets, I put a plastic bag over each, and then use a rubber band at the neck to seal them as much as possible.

    In our kitchen, above the refrigerator, is a cupboard where I keep the primers. I can't even count the number of primers I have.

    I'm just curious: how long do powder and primers last under reasonably stable temperatures and humidity? What about match primers? Do they degrade in any way?

    Thanks for any replies.
  2. Bazooka Joe71

    Bazooka Joe71 Senior Member

    Aug 21, 2006
    Southern Indiana
    Take this FWIW, because I'm not totally sure, but I've heard anywhere from 10+ years for powder, and unlimited(at least your lifetime) for most new(er) primers.
  3. ftierson

    ftierson Member.

    Sep 17, 2004
    Colorado Springs, CO
    I'm currently loading and shooting some Dupont IMR-4320 that I bought in 1970...

    It acts exactly the same now as it did then...

  4. SDC

    SDC Senior Member

    Jan 8, 2003
    People's Republic of Canada
    As long as it's stored in a cool, dry place that isn't subject to extremes in temperature or humidity, it should last practically forever. You might want to find another place for your primers, though, since appliances put out a fair amount of heat.
  5. kellyj00

    kellyj00 Active Member

    Apr 12, 2007
    I'm not sure if the plastic bag/rubber band is necessary, but it doesn't hurt anything.

    I don't think smokeless powder takes on water like black powder did.
  6. The Bushmaster

    The Bushmaster Mentor

    Jan 29, 2005
    Ava, Missouri
    Powder and primers last forever as long as they are stored properly. I know of people that are still shooting WW-I .30-06 ammunition.
  7. ReloaderFred

    ReloaderFred Mentor

    Apr 28, 2005
    Oregon Coast
    If your powder is in original plastic jugs, then it's not really that old. I'm still loading Bullseye powder in cardboard tubs with the slip top. This stuff is at least 25 years old and shoots just like the day it came off the assembly line. After cardboard containers, then metal cans were used. Plastic is the present container of choice. I've even got some IMR 4831 that's WW II surplus that's packed in paper bags with a roll top seal.

    Same for primers. I recently loaded some shotgun primers from the 1960's and they shot just fine.

    Proper storage is the key and it looks like you've done pretty well with that, but the refrigerator does produce heat in the cooling process, so you might want to move those primers to another location.

    To test your primers, just load some in empty cases and see if they go off without any powder or bullet in the case. A few of those will tell you whether they're still good or not. Just be aware that primers fired in this manner will back out of the primer pocket and bind up a revolver, but this is normal, since that's what primers do in any ammunition. It's the pressure from the burning powder that drives the case back onto the primer during the firing process.

    Hope this helps.

  8. Citroen

    Citroen Member

    Jul 4, 2007
    Charlotte, NC
    Longer than 20 years

    Last year I finished loading from a can (the cardboard cylinder with the pull out plastic top) of Bullseye. I bought it in 1986. Shot fine. I recently finished up a can of Winchester 452 that was in a metal can with a screw top cap - also shot just fine. In fact the 452 is some of the best shooting powder I ever used and I hate it was discontinued. I finished up a batch of 10,000 Federal Large Pistol primers in the old red boxes that were not packed sideways - bought them in the early 1980s.

    Both the primers and the powder had been stored in my attic (115 plus degrees in the summer) due to some personal crisis and no space in the living quarters.

    I would not recommend attic storage but age does not seem to matter for components or loaded ammunition.

    Charlotte, NC
  9. uk roe hunter

    uk roe hunter Member

    Jun 30, 2006
    primers are fine.... old powder?

    I have been reloading only a couple of years. When i first started i used some old nobel powder from the 70s. I also believed it to be fine. I was never very pleased with my accuracy and i noticed that sometimes in loads that were worked up and below book max i was getting pressure signs in one round but not the next. this, of course, was badly effecting my accuracy. It all depends what you want. if you are happy to do some plinking and pull the trigger then cool, after all componants are cheap in america.I wasn't happy with it so i bought some new powder and the accuracy is far better, consistancy better and cleaner powder too. I would worry that loads that are near max will have too much pressure sometimes
  10. HoleShot

    HoleShot New Member

    Jul 31, 2007
    Kannapolis, NC
    Monkeyleg, does your old powder look and smell like its alright? I got quite a bit of old pistol and rifle powder at an estate auction when my neighbor passed away and from what I can tell it looks good. Some old Bullseye in the old metal pop top can and an unopened container of H-110 dated 1978 look and smell like they were bought yesterday and they were stored in a wooden cabinet in a storage building outside. Haven't loaded any of it up yet though.
  11. Ed Gallop

    Ed Gallop New Member

    Jan 8, 2007
    Stuart, VA
    A few years ago I responded to a call from a construction crew that dug up a WW2 bomb apparently dropped from a Japanese plane over Anchorage, Alaska. Explosive experts advised that the bomb may be more unstable than it was over a half century ago. It never goes bad. If excessive moisture exist it doesn't matter once it dries out. I keep about 12 to 15 pounds of powder in an old safe on the floor of the garage in case of a fire but the pimers are in a box. I have nearly 2,000 primers. Not sure if a primer explosion that large would be a danger to firemen. Ed.

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