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mil surplus powder-disapointment

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by x_wrench, Jan 17, 2012.

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  1. x_wrench

    x_wrench Member

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    i thought i would look into this again. the last time i looked at it, i really did not know much about it. but after doing a lot of looking around and research, i thought, what the heck. well after looking on several sites (listed on google) i don't think i will. the amount of money they want for the majority of it is not much of a savings over what i already use. and if i figure in doing all the load re-development, i am not sure there would be any savings. i guess if you have already worked up loads for it, there is some savings, but i would have thought the prices (especially for pull down powder, that is who knows how old) would be a lot better than they are.
     
  2. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    I stopped purchasing surplus powders after half of all the surplus IMR 4895 I purchased went bad.

    That which I have left, I am shooting it up as fast as match schedules allow. Based on the dollar value I had to scrap, surplus powders are not a bargin.

    The first 16 lbs, I used up eight pounds quickly. For whatever reason, I pulled the bullets on some of that stuff and found green corrosion on the bases of the bullets.

    Similar to these pull down bullets from old US ammunition. Not the horrible one, but the small green spots.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I don't remember what US ammunition these came off, I pulled them decades ago, might have been WWII ammunition that came back from China.

    The last eight pounds, it sat around. When I opened the bottle top, it smelled bitter. Red dust flew around.

    I gave it to a machine gunner guy. He put it in the laundry room. Passing by the laundry room he tossed soiled shorts at the hamper, but missed. The short ended up on top of the powder bottle. Overnight, acid gas from the bottle ate holes in the shorts!! :what: This freaked my friend and he poured the stuff out over his lawn.

    Since then I have had more surplus 4895 powder from a different vendor go bad in the case. Green corrosion on the bottom of the bullets and cracked case necks.

    This powder never smelt bitter at all. I shot this powder in highpower matches and it shot exceptionally well, but case necks cracked after firing. I also received “funny” retorts and the occasional sticky extraction. The longer the ammunition sat around the more cases necks would split when fired. In time virtually all of the remaining 700 loaded cases experienced cracked case necks without the stresses of firing.

    From what I had read on the internet, which is a repeat of what is said in gun magazines, powder has an “indefinite” shelf life. Remember reading statements to the effect that powder lost energy as it got old, making it essentially benign.

    Then I ran into an Insensitive Munitions expert. This IM expert explained that powder deteriorates from the day it leaves the factory.

    Nitrocellulose decomposes through the reduction-oxidation process. Called Redox. The expert said “The molecular stability of the functional groups on the organic chain determine the life time of the nitrocellulose molecule.” All ionic compounds, water is the main offender because it is always in air, react with those bonds and accelerates the deterioration of the powder.

    The bottom line is that nitrocellulose is a high energy molecule that wants to become a low energy molecule.

    Heat accelerates the deterioration/decomposition of powder and the rate is directly proportional to the Arrhenius equation. If you read in the Insensitive munitions literature, you will see that they use high temperature to accelerate aging of smokeless propellants.

    Double based powders have a reduced lifetime compared with single base. Double based powders have nitroglycerin (NG) in the grain. Nitroglycerine remains a liquid and it migrates within the grain to react with the NO bonds on the nitrocellulose, increasing the rate of reduction-oxidation reaction. All ionic compounds react with those bonds and accelerate the deterioration of the powder. Rust is bad as ferric oxide is ionic. Water is polar covalent ion and it is ever present in the air.

    Section from the Propellant Management Guide:

    Stabilizers are chemical ingredients added to propellant at time of manufacture to
    decrease the rate of propellant degradation and reduce the probability of auto ignition during its expected useful life.

    As nitrocellulose-based propellants decompose, they release nitrogen oxides. If the nitrogen oxides are left free to react in the propellant, they can react with the nitrate ester, causing further decomposition and additional release of nitrogen oxides. The reaction between the nitrate ester and the nitrogen oxides is exothermic (i.e., the reaction produces heat). Heat increases the rate of propellant decomposition. More importantly, the exothermic nature of the reaction creates a problem if sufficient heat is generated to initiate combustion. Chemical additives, referred to as stabilizers, are added to propellant formulations to react with free nitrogen oxides to prevent their attack on the nitrate esters in the propellant. The stabilizers are scavengers that act rather like sponges, and once they become “saturated” they are no longer able to remove nitrogen oxides from the propellant. Self-heating of the propellant can occur unabated at the “saturation” point without the ameliorating effect of the stabilizer. Once begun, the self-heating may become sufficient to cause auto ignition.



    The Armed Forces have stockpile surveillance programs but each Service does theirs a little differently. If you want to see all the different tests the military uses to determine propellant characteristics, look at Mils Std 286 Propellants, Solid: Sampling, Examination and Testing to be found at https://assist.daps.dla.mil/quicksearch/.

    If you look, you will find aging tests. One common test is for powder to be kept at 65 C until it fumes. It if fumes within 30 days it is checked for stabilizer or scrapped.

    The Navy expert told me a few ways the Navy samples its powders and propellants. If the powder is outgassing nitric gas (as determined by change of color of methly violet paper in contact with the powder (Methly Violet test, or Talliani test)), the stuff is tested to see how much stabilizer is left. If the amount is less than or equal to 20%, the lot is scrapped.

    Scrapping powders and propellants with this percentage of stabilizer appears to be consistent across all services.

    Pages 5-11 of the 2003 Army Logistics Propellant Management Guide provide the protocols for testing and subsequent actions for their Stockpile Propellant Program. Basically, all propellant lots are tracked. The trigger for investigation is: "When Master Sample Stability Failure Occurs"

    The Navy expert provided 'rules of thumb' concerning when to expect problems with double based and single based propellants. The rules of thumb are: Double based powders and ammunition are scrapped at 20 years, single based 45 years. In his words “These 'rules of thumb' are particularly useful when the protocol fails. The protocol can easily fail when workmanship or good housekeeping measures are not followed during manufacture of propellant and/or rocket motor or during storage of the weapon system components, respectively.”

    I don’t know all the reasons for the appearance of the surplus powders on the market, but it is reasonable to assume, until proven otherwise, they were scrapped because they were too old to keep in inventory.

    More to read if you wish:

    www.dtic.mil/dticasd/sbir/sbir031/n154.doc

    http://www.almc.army.mil/alog/issues/JulAug08/propellant_stab_eq.html

    An example of powder that went bad in the can:

    http://thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?p=4702804#post4702804
     
  3. USSR

    USSR Member

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    Well, I have had much better results than SlamFire1. I have nearly 50# of surplus IMR4895 from 3 seperate lots, and none of it has gone bad. A proper storage environment probably being the key. As to your question regarding the economic feasibility, x_wrench, I would not be buying surplus powder at the current prices, as there simply is not enough of a difference price-wise between surplus and commercial powder to warrant it. When I bought mine, the last of the USGI .30-06 was being demilled, and I paid about $78 per 8# cannister of IMR4895. Sadly, those days are gone.

    Don
     
  4. RustyFN

    RustyFN Member

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    I'm still buying surplus. H-335 from Powder Valley is $129 for 8 pounds and WC-844 is $85 for 8 pounds. For me $44 cheaper for each 8 pound jug is well worth it.
     
  5. Cmeboston

    Cmeboston Member

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    I just bought 16lbs of surplus 846 and have been very happy with the results. The powder looks good, smells good, and meters excellent. I've shot it out of my .308 m1A, 30-30 Winchester 94 and my JC Higgins 30-06 with great results.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  6. kingmt

    kingmt Member

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    I use pulldown powder but the last WC 844 & WC 846 I bought was at $10lb. Now that it is at $12.50lb I don't buy it any more. I try to stay under $8lb & buy up when I get it around $4lb. I only have less then 14lb of canister powder & the rest is pulldown(around 24 jugs). I doubt I ever use it all but maybe my kids won't have to buy any.
     
  7. Cmeboston

    Cmeboston Member

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    $13 a pound is better than $30, that's what we pay for imr or hogdon around here. And honestly off hand I can't tell the difference. Bench rest may be another story but I don't have a "precision" rifle.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  8. RustyFN

    RustyFN Member

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    You can get it at Pat's reloading for $10.62 per pound, $85 for 8 pounds. Just curious why $12.50 per pound isn't worth it when H-335 cost $16.13 per pound.
     
  9. longdayjake

    longdayjake Member

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    I can get it at $5 a lb and I have plenty of it. That said, I am a dealer of pulled bullets so I get a rather good deal on the powder. In fact, I'm pretty sure if I begged long enough I could get it for free. Powder takes up a ton of room and does not sell for as much as bullets do. Bullet pullers just want to get rid of it. What you are paying for when you buy surplus powder is mostly shipping from the puller to the dealer and then from the dealer to you. Hasmat regulations are to blame for the price.
     
  10. kingmt

    kingmt Member

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    I can get other powder that I like better for less that I get more rounds out of.

    Why pay more for less.
     
  11. jcwit

    jcwit Member

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    Please enlighten the rest of us as to what powder and where. I'm sure the other members would like to know also.
     
  12. medalguy

    medalguy Member

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    I'm working my way through several hundred pounds of pulldown 4895, 844 and 846. Works fine for me. I agree that the prices have skyrocketed lately, but that's called supply and demand. Years ago powder was cheap. Those days are gone and thanks to politicians we'll probably never see those prices again.
     
  13. Jasper1573

    Jasper1573 Member

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    I suppose if you look hard enough you can find powder at around $10-12 per pound. My friend and I just bought a 44 pound canister of mil surplus long range match powder (equivalent of Reloader 15) for $11 per pound. We have shot up about 6 pounds of the powder already and have found it to perform the same or nearly the same as the Reloader 15 at $20 a pound and that's without hazmat or shipping or taxes, so it's a substantial savings if you shoot a lot. Haven't had any issues with the powder. If you are interested in contacting the fellow from whom we bought this powder, let me know and I will pass along his email to you.
     
  14. dlm37015

    dlm37015 Member

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    I have about 1200 pound left
     
  15. USSR

    USSR Member

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    Thanks for your offer, Jasper1573, but I've got enough IMR4895 to last me a lifetime. If your powder is pulldown from M118 LR ammo, then that indeed is good powder.

    Don
     
  16. BBDartCA

    BBDartCA Member

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    Can you even get surplus 4895 any more?
     
  17. jcwit

    jcwit Member

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    The Russian equivalent is.
     
  18. jcwit

    jcwit Member

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    If indeed that is a fact and not a typo or an exaggeration I sure hope for your sake you're meeting federal and state requirements for the storage of over 1/2 ton of gunpowder.
     
  19. twohightech

    twohightech Member

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    I'm happy with mil-surplus and not all of it is from pull down.
     
  20. twohightech

    twohightech Member

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    dlm37015 buying in bulk does make the price come down is that 1200lb left over from a ton? Is 37015 your zip code? Let me know if you need any help shooting it up. I will work for powder.
     
  21. USSR

    USSR Member

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    No. The last I saw of it was in 2005.

    Don
     
  22. kingmt

    kingmt Member

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    jc

    If your talking to me I get most of my powder from gibrass.com . My favorite is hard to find so if you see it let me know. It is a very fast 50cal powder called 10B101. It doesn't work worth a crap in a powder drop but works fin in a dispenser. Also favor WC Blank. i had to pay $10lb for it but it is worth it. I bought him out on this & should have enough for my grandkids.

    I buy 6-12 8lb jugs at a time so I can get as much as possible on one hazmat. I ether mix or match my orders.

    The trade off is most of my powder doesn't have data. I work up my own & this is the fun of reloading for me.
     
  23. 4895

    4895 Member

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    It's not that powder prices went up, the Dollar value went down.
     
  24. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    Maybe it is down in the basement next to his lead casting equipment!

    Pat's reloading had some when he was at Commercial Row during 2011 Camp Perry.

    He claimed to have recent production surplus powders, but you know, I only bought bullets and primers.
     
  25. jcwit

    jcwit Member

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    kingmt, right you are, gibrass aka Jeff Bartlett is a good man to deal with, excl. pricing and pleasent to work with. I've also used him for years.
     
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