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Can BP substitutes deteriorate

Discussion in 'Blackpowder' started by shooter_from_show-me, Apr 10, 2011.

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  1. shooter_from_show-me

    shooter_from_show-me Member

    Sep 24, 2010
    West Central Mizzou
    Can Triple Seven or Pyrodex go bad if store in a cool dry place such as you would with your smokeless powders? What would be the physical/visual signs of it gone bad?

  2. jbkebert

    jbkebert Member

    Jan 30, 2009
    The loose powder if sealed well will last a few years. I have a bottle of 777 that I have been shooting out of for the last 3 or 4 years. I just dump some into my powder horn and seal back up.

    The pellets seem to go to heck fairly fast. From one year to the next the seem to deteriorate and crumble apart. I really don't care for the pellets but they are nice for a quick reload. My two rifles seem to prefer loose powder for accuracy.
  3. rocky branch

    rocky branch Member

    Apr 11, 2009
    I found a half full can of pyrodex I had thrown into the back of a shed about 15 years ago.
    I checked to see nobody was looking and loaded some into a.58 Rem I had just got.
    Fired three cylinders with no problem.
    Can went back where it came from.
    Hate that stuff-it's unholy.

    I have black powder just as old that works fine.
  4. Donny

    Donny Member

    Sep 22, 2006
    I had a quarter pound of Pyrodex P that took a few years to get through. It still ignited OK but when I chronied the loads I used it for the velocities were way down. I tossed it and opened a fresh can. I don't think BP will do that but I don't know for sure. Now I just make sure I get out and shoot and avoid stockpiling more than a few pounds of the stuff.

  5. BHP FAN

    BHP FAN Member

    Sep 23, 2008
    Northern California
    Pyrodreck works wonderfully as fertilizer. Other than that, I have no use for the stuff. It clumps, loses power, and as far as I can tell, it's more corrosive the Holy Black. Oh, and it smells like burning plastic....I realise this is a personel prejudice, and that some folks just can't get real black powder locally, but I figure that's why they make Triple Seven.
  6. FiveStrings

    FiveStrings Member

    Jul 14, 2009
    Western PA
    When I got my Walker a couple of years ago my dad gave me a bunch of his old C&B gear, including about a half-pound of Pyrodex P that had to be vintage 1982. It was clumped up pretty solid, but I loosened it up and shot it. It did fire, but compared to new Pyrodex, it was pretty squibby, like most of the "boom juice" had dried up.

    Some of you guys with your Pyrodex prejudice crack me up. That stuff works just fine for me. I got no complaints with it.
  7. srwshooter

    srwshooter Member

    Apr 16, 2011
    i was told by hodgegon that 777 was 10 times more likely to draw moisture then pyrodex. i shoot nothing but blackhorn 209 in my triumph.
  8. 45-70 Ranger

    45-70 Ranger Member

    Dec 16, 2010
    Pyrodex will break down quickly, I've been told

    Here's my two cents worth...

    A chemical whiz that I know stated the following on powder (he's a shooter by the way):

    Black Powder is made from natural based compounds and due to that fact it will take decades if not centuries for it to break down to it's natural elements if stored with some care.

    Case in point, while I was gunsmithing over the past 40 plus years, a customer came in with an 1861 Springfield that was found in his closet. The weapon was loaded. I asked if he had loaded this rifle, but was told that it has not been fired since great grandpaw put it up after the war. I can only assume he ment the Civil War. Pulling the old oxidized bullet, I found some nice black powder in the chamber. A little of it was placed on the ground and it touched off like it was brand new when the match hit it. There was a 60 gr. charge in the weapon and I managed to get most of it out of the bore intact. It was not clumped up or appeared to be going bad in any way.

    The chemist said that the chemicals used to produce Pyrodex has properties that allow it do break down quickly. His testing was that it will start to go after a year or more and will be almost at 50% of its power in under 10 years. He stated that most nitro based smokless powders have a shelf life of about 10 years as well. He surmized that the Pyrodex mix was made with that shelf life in mind. His thoughts on the matter was that the powder makers figure that their product will be used much faster than that and the customer will not have any need to worry.

    Personal time spent with Pyrodex has proven his thought to be correct in that I have some Pyrodex made in the early 80s that is clumped, powered to dust in parts, and will not provide more than a gentle boom when used in a weapon at the proper charge. It had weakened a lot in the time I've had it.

    Tripple Seven came out after my friend did his studies and thus I have no hard data on that powder. I believe since the chemicals in 777 are far different than the others, it might last longer than most. It's carbon compound is sugar based and not from charcoal (wood) and having no sulpher in it, the chemical reaction in it will tend to more like the smokless powders with a longer shelf life than most BP subs. Having the sugar based carbon in it allows for less residue in the weapon after burning and will leave only about 50% of fouling in the bore. Using less 777 in the weapon to get the same velocity thus will leave less fouling than the equal amount of BP and its subs. A plus to the sugar base is that when burned, it leaves a semi-moist fouling that serves in part, as a form of its own lub. I look upon this as a plus in how it performs in my weapons.

    Last edited: Apr 17, 2011
  9. shunka

    shunka Member

    Mar 18, 2009
    My Dear Ranger -

    Please allow me to begin with the following caveats:
    - No Offense intended,
    - not trying to be argumentative, just offering discussion
    - I am not a chemist, don't care to be, carbon rings make my head spin.
    My experience with real BP matches yours - I too have found old charges in modern repro's that were still live, and one charge in an old original barrel of which a sample of the charge "puffed" quite nicely (barrel was over 100 years old, no one knows who loaded the charge or how old it was) .

    It is now my practice to treat every ML barrel as loaded until proven otherwise, and to soak any obstruction in oil liberally from both ends until any work it done.
    Whilst I will use Pyro when BP is unavailable, I have no experience with deterioration thereof....
    Your chemist friend opined:
    >He stated that most nitro based smokless powders have a shelf life of about 10 years as well.

    (first please reread the above caveats)
    With no offense intended, my experience differs greatly.

    - I recently found I have what is left of a keg of Unique from my days of attempting to shoot with a trap club. The Remnants of Said Keg is (are?) now over 30 years old. Some .38 and .45 handloads I made recently with this powder are as accurate, and have same apparent ballistics as loads made with fresh powder just purchased.

    I do not have a chrony, but I don't see much point in measuring the velocity since the empiracle evidence of the 2 loads (new powder vs old ) hitting the same point of aim at 60 feet would imply little if any deterioration.

    - I would expect your chemist's assertion should also apply to deterioration of powder in old cartridges. I have old cartridges I have loaded that are still hitting the same point of aim at 100 yards, and I believe many of us have and are still willing to shoot Mil Surp cartridges of 50-80 years of age....

    I therefore humbly submit that deterioration of powder is more complicated than simple age, and has more to do perhaps with extreme conditions of variables such as temperature, humidity, etc.

    as an example I once shot a batch of milsurp US WW1 ammo that was as good as "new", that had been documented as properly stored in a cool dry area; and in the same session shot some cheap Brazil cartridges that had experienced, shall we say, "extremely suspect storage conditions".

    That Brazil ammunition gave me my first ever experiences of hangfires.
    after the third hangfire I took the R/O's offer of pulling the bullets and disposing of the powder.

    your milage may vary
  10. J-Bar

    J-Bar Member

    Nov 24, 2010
    Springfield, MO
    I like Pyrodex, and have used it in cowboy action shooting cartridges, shotshells, and percussion revolvers. I have not observed clumping or deterioration that has been claimed by others.

    Curious about this, I e-mailed the Hodgdon Company, and received the following reply from Mike Daly, the company service manager. I have no financial interest in Hodgdon, this was for my own information:

    "Pyrodex is a slightly modified black powder. It loads like black powder, it smokes like black powder and the shelf like is like black powder. The shelf life of black powder and Pyrodex depends on 1 thing, moisture. As long as these powders are kept free from moisture, they will not change performance and they will last many. many years. There are samples of black powder over 200 years old that still test perfectly. We occasionally shoot Pyrodex that is 25, 30, up to 35 years old and it still works fine. The reason is that both Pyrodex and black powder are simple mechanical mixtures, they are not reacted chemical compounds. There is nothing in them to react or degrade unless the powder is contaminated by outside materials or exposed to moisture. If the lids are kept tightly in place, no contamination can take place.

    Mike Daly
    Customer Service Manager
    Hodgdon Family of Fine Propellants
    Hodgdon Smokeless Powder
    IMR Powder Company
    Winchester Smokeless Propellants
    GOEX Blackpowder"

    Maybe you guys should screw the jar lid on a bit tighter, or maybe not leave it in a flask or powder measure too long...


    Jan 9, 2008
    What I'm typing here is the truth..I have containers of Triple Seven 3fff and a scant few containers of BlackMag3 left over. They still shoot just fine. I used to use BlackMag3 exclusively until it went off of the market several years ago. (at least Cabela's was no longer carrying it) I switched over to TS3fff and have never went back to BM3. These full un-opened containers of TS3fff and BM3 are (some of them) well over 11 years old. I think for sure that some of the BM3 is well over 13 years old. The reason I know they still work good is because I am careful (very careful) to keep my stock rotated and last week I opened up one of my oldest containers of TS3fff (purchased from Cabela's around 2000 or 2001) I made 6 shots out of a .44 carbine and it shot just fine; full power and all. I then opened up a container of BM3 that had already been opened a few years ago and ran through my ball mill for about 40 minutes or so and shot just fine. This container of BM3 was purchased from Cabela's somewhere around 1988 or 1989. I made 6 shots from the same carbine with it last week to. It shot just fine; full power and all. My target in both cases was 3 2x4's nailed together and placed at about 35 meters from where I stood in my doorway and fired. In each case the balls passed through and tore splinters loose from the back of the 3rd 2x4 as big around as a regular wooden pencil....I have kept 3 of my revolvers and a carbine loaded for months here without firing them, although I do change caps about every 3 to maybe 5 or six weeks just to be on the safe side in case I should really need one of them. I shoot them out every few months and clean them good and then carefully reload them. Sometimes I might put a little Crisco over the balls and sometimes I might take a notion to use some of the over powder wads I got from Cabela's. I have had NO PROBLEMS. IF the powder DID lose a little punch it has been so little that I couldn't tell and I was checking last week just for that..I have a few containers of American Pioneer my sister gave me. It is getting pretty old but I have never opened any of it up but I'm sure that if I did then it would shoot just as good as American Pioneer is supposed to, however good that is supposed to be. I can't speak for anything except TS3fff and BM3 but as far as I can tell, if one will take care of these powders and keep them dry they will have no problems with them. Hell, I'vd got TS3fff in a Walker adjustable flask hanging on the wall right now. Still almost 1/3 full and I have shot out of that same flask of powder (full when I started) for well over 2 years and it still shoot's just fine with no problems....
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2011
  12. ColtPythonElite

    ColtPythonElite Member

    Jan 8, 2011
    I have at least two open cans of Pyrodex that are over 10 years old. I used them this year to check the zero on my rifle. It shot like always.
  13. Beach-Crow

    Beach-Crow Member

    Mar 28, 2011
    I know that I am a renegade, reprobate, and a noobie moron, but I seriously love Pyrodex 2F Select RS. I use it in my walker with outstanding results and the clean-up is minimal. I plan to use it in my 1861 Springfield also. However, I must admit that I have VERY limited access to the holy black because of my location and the outrageous hazmat shipping charges. After a one hundred mile trip to a gun-store I don't feel as I can turn my nose up at a usable synthetic for historic or neurotic reasoning.:banghead:

    I am working on the logistics of conjuring up some holy black in my work-shop soon and that may completely change my mind for ever :rolleyes:
  14. 45-70 Ranger

    45-70 Ranger Member

    Dec 16, 2010
    Well fellas, I was just passing along what a guy with a degree advised me. I'm no chemist either. Now I do have some old DuPont BP from the 60's and some from the 70's that I will use just every so often to get a wiff of my earlier days.....just a wiff....

    But I have had some old Bullseye that came in the little square paper and tin canisters from the 60's as well. (older guys like me will remember that stuff) I tried a bit with a .38 Spl. with some made last year. They popped the same. So my time as a class 6 ammo mfg. in the 80's and early 90's I carried a huge policy to cover any legal actions from customers. I used as fresh a powder as I could get to keep the insurance firm happy too! The chemist was a shooter in Ft. Worth and he related that info to me when he found that I was doing ammo mfg. and his advise was, I can only surmize, was to keep me on my toes!

    I take no offense as it was not my study on powder and it's chemical make up. I had a shop, not a lab...Shucks, I just loaded the stuff! My degree is in law, not in chemicals...{big grin here!}

  15. ZVP

    ZVP Member

    May 20, 2010
    Guys thank you very much for this information! As a newbie to the hobby of Black Powder shooting I have had many unanswered questions about shelf-life and "loaded' life of both substitute and Black Powder propellants!
    It appears that origonal Black Powder should be the propellant of choice for most applications.
    In my case my State has very regulative laws controlling transportation of Propellants and it is very difficult to buy "real" Black Powder within 100 miles of my home! It is relatively easy to find substitute powder, even at Bass-Pro's who ocasionally has Black Powder. California regulations are strict and pricey. Most distributers don't want the additional hassles and just dont stock the stuff.
    I have long wondered about long-term revolver loads and from what I have read here, the Caps are the component that deteriorates. Simply changing to fresh Caps every few weeks aparentlly keeps loads fresh and ready for use.
    I wonder about the effect of Lubed Wads on the Propellant? Do they break down and contaminate the powder? Since they normally are connsumed in the firing process I doubt that they would contaminate the charges. Has anyone done any long-term tests on Pistol Wads?
    Thanks again for all this good information!
  16. damoc

    damoc Member

    Apr 6, 2008
    just bumping this because

    I just shot through a couple of cylinders loaded with old pyrodex (6 months left in a loading flask) and noticed a considerable loss of power 36 cal with 15 grains bounced of a piece of pine at 10 yards.

    I expect it suffered extremes of both heat and cold but dang never had that
    kind of trouble with real or 777.

    back into the fresh stuff now and all is well
  17. 44 Dave

    44 Dave Member

    Apr 9, 2012
    Northern Wisconsin
    I have been using some .41 rimfires from the 30's, have to clean the corrosion off to chamber them in the old Derringer but that black powder is still good.
  18. Patocazador

    Patocazador Member

    Jul 8, 2012
    Central Florida
    I had 2 "cans" (cardboard) of Pyrodex P that sat in my garage for 20 years. It wouldn't go off or even burn. I threw it out. I had one can of Pyrodex RS that was just as old and it did go off but I found it to be like a squib load so threw it on my pepper plants.

    I have shot nothing but real black powder or Blackhorn 209 for a long time.
  19. rodwha

    rodwha Member

    Oct 28, 2011
    Some fellows that use mostly T7 in their pistols for hog hunting came up with the idea of putting desiccant packs into an opened bottle of T7 figuring it's likely that humidity is what effects it. It's the only powder I've heard to commonly lose power over time. I've done this myself figuring it certainly can't hurt anything. But a bottle of powder doesn't usually last but maybe 6 months or so.
  20. Pancho

    Pancho Member

    Oct 23, 2007
    Southwestern, Ohio out in the country about 40 mil
    OH BOY, this is a discussion that will never end and that's a good thing. BP will last forever but it is hard to come by and a hazard to keep in large quantities (try giving your Ins. guy a good reason why the backside of your house caught fire and is now two counties away). BP subs are readily available, you don't have to store quantities of the stuff to avoid hazmat fees, but they are new kids so must be proved as to their properties to damage our guns or be stable in storage.
    What I'm saying is that prove it to yourself, what could happen to one of our members in arid Arizona won't apply to one in Alabama. How you can or must store it is everything.
  21. Bibbyman

    Bibbyman Member

    Dec 11, 2013
    I did a lot of shooting for many years but got out of it for at least 20 years. I'm back in again and having a great time. I've got a bushel of old powder I'm using up. I had two cans of Goex BP - each about half full - I've loaded in shotshells and shot away. I've found 5 jars of Pyrodex - 3 opened and 2 unopened. I'm working at using up the open jars. Two of the Pyrodex RS jars had plastic snap on funnel lids. One of the Goex cans had a plastic funnel lid that had lost it's cap. I found some pea sized clumps in the Pyrodex jars that I just pinched to crumble.

    Although I don't have new powder to compare with, all has shot as expected. One load did show more strength than the others. I figured it was the last clean out of the Goex Fg can that was mostly fine dust instead of small gravel. I thought at the time I should have pitched that load.

    I've got a full, unopened jar of RS and another of Select. After that's used up, I'll go back to black. Grafs is just 20 minutes from us and has a good variety of black powder.

    On another old powder story, my Dillon had been setting for over 20 years with Unique in the measure. I just adjusted the charge and went back to using it. I then used up the rest of the can that was no telling how old but it was in a cube can with snap on metal lid. It shot fine. I have another 8lb canister that has to be 20 plus years old that I didn't even remember having. I was pleased to find it hadn't been opened.

    All this powder was stored in a room that we don't heat or cool so temperature ranges from 50-100 degrees. Humidity is up and down but often high.
  22. 351 WINCHESTER

    351 WINCHESTER Member

    Mar 19, 2007
    I loaded my Ruger with 3f 777 about 2 years ago. 45 grs. behind a .457 rb. I capped it with cci no 11 and it was stored in our home a/c. This year during ml season I thought it a good idea to fire it "just in case". The first 5 chambers did not set off the caps. Chamber 6 went off, but was weak. I recapped and the other 5 went off, but were weak also. I reloaded with fresh powder (from the same factory container) and all went off really strong like they should. I've been wondering if I didn't dry the cylinder after cleaning and loaded it while contaminated with oil? I will never know, but I'm still scratching my head. I have much to learn.
  23. Palehorseman

    Palehorseman Member

    Feb 28, 2009
    No matter how stored, faux BP life is limited, if kept dry, real BP life is forever.
  24. BullSlinger

    BullSlinger Member

    Aug 17, 2013
    Rural New Mexico
    I loaded a revolver with Pyrodex P and capped it. Left if for two years then went out and fired it. All fired with the regular boom. I don't have problems with the subs, I do understand that they will break down over time, just don't know how long of a time.
  25. BowerR64

    BowerR64 Member

    Aug 1, 2013
    if its stored will it soak up water threw out the whole bottle of powder? or just whats on top?

    What if you just shake it every so often to keep it stired up.

    Phil said once that black will seperate. The smaller granuals will settle at the bottom or vise versa
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