red dust from 1990's powder

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by notropis, Jul 4, 2014.

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  1. notropis

    notropis Member

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    I opened an ammo can (with a good seal) and broke a seal on a "new" can of IMR 4320. Red dust comes from the powder when I dispense. The powder smells good but I understand this (red dust) may be a sign of old powder and I should not use?

    I'd sure hate to toss out a can of powder I just opened but I'd rather not waste time and energy trying to develop a load with bad powder.

    What should I do?
     
  2. John C

    John C Member

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    Is the inside of the can rusty? Also, a picture of the powder poured out on a white sheet of paper would help immensely.
     
  3. 243winxb

    243winxb Member

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    Powder

    USE AT YOUR OWN RISK. Neither the writer, The High Road, nor the staff of THR assume any liability for any damage or injury resulting from use of this information.
    I am currently shooting some IMR 4198 Dupont with the redish dust. I feel it comes from the can. Most will blow away, if poured from container to container. When done, put in a plastic powder container. The correct plastic container type is marked on the bottom HDPE. Even this IMR 4895 powder looked & smelled ok, but just to much rust. Other 4895 cans are ok. [​IMG][/URL][/IMG] [​IMG][/URL][/IMG] [​IMG][/URL][/IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2014
  4. notropis

    notropis Member

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    The inside of the can does have a small bit of rust visible at the top of the can.
    I use a Lyman 55 measure. When I use the "knocker", red dust coats the top of the measured powder.

    When I pour the powder on paper, it looks fine. The paper looks cruddy afterwards and so does the funnel used to put the powder back in the can.

    I have attached a few cell phone photos of the powder, paper and funnel.

    When you said rust, I thought you were being optimistic at best. I then decided to test the debris on the paper, and sure enough, it is attracted to a magnet. It is rust.
    IMAG0355.jpg

    IMAG0356.jpg

    IMAG0358.jpg
     
  5. Otto

    Otto Member

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    Call Hodgdon.
     
  6. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    Toss it in the lawn.

    The powder is breaking down, and the rust inside the can is caused by the nitric acid fumes coming off of it.

    The inside of a powder can simply does not turn into rust dust unless the powder is breaking down.

    No reason to call Hodgdon either.
    IMR powder hasn't been sold in metal cans for many years now.

    It comes from Hodgdon in plastic cans that cannot rust.

    It's not their fault.
    Time marches on.

    And it apparently did in this case.

    rc
     
  7. NCsmitty

    NCsmitty Member

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    I would mark a suitable container, and pour the powder in a kitchen sieve to remove as much rust as possible, because it doesn't look too bad, and try to salvage it. Point being, get it out of the rusting can.
    I had some old IMR3031 that did the same thing, and I was able to salvage it. It still works fine.


    NCsmitty
     
  8. notropis

    notropis Member

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    I can't disagree with you rcmodel. The outside of the can is pristine. It has however been kept in a cool basement inside a sealed ammo can. I find it hard to believe (or at the least very disappointed) the powder has broken down so quickly under ideal conditions. If this were kept in a polyethylene container (as all are these days), it would still be bad, but without any indication.

    This must mean the loaded ammunition is all those brass cases have spoiled as well. What the heck?! We've always been told ammunition last a REALLY long time. A couple of months ago, I shot 22LR from the 60's. All went bang and grouped as well as fresh stuff at 100 yards.

    IMAG0359.jpg
    IMAG0360.jpg
     
  9. Blue68f100

    Blue68f100 Member

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    I would toss it, lawn fertilizer. The nitro is breaking down which has created an acid vapor that has attacked the metal can. The high humidity in the basement did not help the situation any. Even though the powder was kept cool away from heat it will still break down over time. The metal cans were all they had when I start loading in the 70's. The iron oxide is an abrasive so I would be very leary of running down the barrel of my gun. The power burning may only make it worst on the barrel.
     
  10. jeeptim

    jeeptim Member

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    I am the most frugel (cheap) reloader but safety first. In the past few years I have used powder from the 50s but it looked and smelled ok. This can I would TOSS!!
     
  11. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    I understand, you are experiencing denial at this particular moment. Who wants to toss out gunpowder they have kept nicely stored for the last two decades? No one!

    Now if we could afford a half million dollar gas chromatograph, such as this one made by the Dutch Company TNO,
    https://www.tno.nl/downloads/DV2_05d012_Stability_of_gunpropellants.pdf

    You could test the amount of stabilizer left in the gunpowder and follow these criteria:

    Ammunition Surveillance Procedures SB 742-1
    https://acc.dau.mil/adl/en-US/238111/file/68728/SB%20742-1%20AIN47-13A.pdf

    Chapter 13 Propellant and Propelling Charges ,
    page 13-1

    WARNING

    Nitrocellulose-based propellant can become thermally unstable as the age. The normal aging process of the propellants involves deterioration of the nitrocellulose with an accompanying generation of heat. At some point, the propellant may reach a state where heat is generated faster than it can be dissipated. The accumulation of heat can lead to combustion (autoignition). Chemical stabilizers are added to propellants to slow the aging process. In time, the stabilizer levels will drop to a point where the remaining effective stabilizer (RES) is not sufficient to prevent an accelerating rate of decomposition. When this point is reached, the propellant may autoigniet, with possible catastrophic results to property and life. Monitoring the stability level of each propellant lot is essential for continued safe storage.

    Page 13-5 , Table 13.2 Propellant Stability Codes.

    Stability Category A 0.30 or more Percent Effective Stabilizer
    Acceptable stabilizer loss: safe for continued storage

    Stability Category C 0.29-0.20 Percent Effective Stabilizer
    Significant stabilizer loss. Lot does not represent an immediate hazard, but is approaching a potentially hazardous stability condition. Loss of stabilizer does adversely affect function in an uploaded configuration. Disposition instructions will be furnished by NAR. All stability category “C” assests on the installation must be reported in writing…
    One year after becoming stability category “C” a sample of the bulk propellant lot or the bulk-packed component lot will be retested. If the lot has not deteriorated to category “D”, it will be retested each year until it has been expended, or it has deteriorated to category “D”, at which point it will be demilitarized within 60 days.

    Stability Category D Less than 0.20 Percent Effective Stabilizer
    Unacceptable stabilizer loss. Lots identified as stability category “D” present a potential safety hazard and are unsafe for continued storage as bulk, bulk-packed components , or as separate loading propellant chargers. Bulk propellant, bulk –packed components and separate loading propelling charges will be demilitarized within 60 days after notification of category “D” status. ​


    Gunpowder is a complex mix, all of it made under different conditions, and gunpowder varies considerably in shelf life. A rule of thumb is 20 years for double base and 45 years for single based powders, assuming no exposure to heat. This rule will be wrong more than it will be right. This Dutch brochure touches on the heat aspect

    https://www.tno.nl/downloads/Lifetime%20prediction%20of%20ammunitions.pdf

    But because Gunpowder has an unpredictable lifetime, first World Militaries educate experts to test their stockpiles to determine if the nitrocellulose propellants are still safe to store. Army 89 Bravo’s take classes, get certifications, http://www.armywriter.com/NCOER/89B.htm
    This is a symposium presentation showing what one company was doing to prove that their product could meet lifetime expectations. The sort of guys who go to these symposiums are Insensitive Munitions experts.
    http://www.imemg.org/res/IMEMTS%202006_Shachar_paper_post.pdf

    This is all informational and of no use to you for your powder issue. Your tin of powder has given you direct evidence of powder breakdown. That red dust could be rust, could be powder. Rust accelerates the breakdown of gunpowder as do all ionic chemicals. Water is a polar molecule and the ionized oxygen end breaks down gunpowder. When gunpowder reaches the end of its life, a couple of dangerous phenomena happen: The first is pressure spikes. Old gunpowder does not burn evenly, just look at that dust for example, there is so much surface area the burn rate is going to spike on ignition. Just look at coal dust explosion videos if you don’t think organic dust will explode. The older the powder gets the more likely you will encounter pressure problems, some of which might blow your gun into pieces. The next problem is auto ignition. Old gunpowder gets hot, and it self ignites. The greater the bulk of gunpowder, the worse the chance of auto ignition. No one should ever pour their 8 pounds jugs of powder into 5 gallon buckets and store them in the attic. That is a house fire waiting to happen.

    Last week I finally poured out 16 pounds of surplus IMR 4895 I purchased in 2005. The stuff smelled sweet but year old loaded ammunition would crack every case neck after firing. The stuff was outgassing nitric acid gas, below any levels I could smell, but I did not trust the stuff and out it went.

    So, to recap, old gunpowder is a risk. You could load the stuff and go out and test. I have shot old gunpowder that had some dust, things were not bad, in fact, it shot well. But now, I would pour the stuff out as I know what I am dealing with. My tolerance for risk has really dropped in my dotage as I have used up most of my nine lives; not sure how many I have left.
     
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  12. W.E.G.

    W.E.G. Member

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    I would not use that powder if it were going to go in ammo that might be stored for a long time.

    If I were going to shoot the ammo promptly, I WOULD NOT HESITATE to load and test a small batch. If it gave good results, I would shoot the rest of it, and I would not lose one minute's sleep over it.

    My bet is it will work just fine.
     
  13. notropis

    notropis Member

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    I've decided not to use the powder. I see no point in wasting time working up loads with this stuff.

    I do see some inherent problems with this scenario though. The powder smelled like new. The powder looked great until metering and the rust dust was evident. This powder degradation would never have been known if this powder were stored in polyethylene containers. That is a problem. I'm sure people everywhere are shooting powder in this condition stored in poly jars. How do average people know when using poly jars?

    Just to clarify a couple of points:
    This powder was stored in a cool dry place. Ambient moisture played no role in this, as evident by the exterior of the container shown above.
    The red dust was attracted to a magnet - period. It was rust.

    So this begs a couple of questions...Which powders are more stable? Is IMR4320 particularly susceptible to rapid degradation?
     
  14. Otto

    Otto Member

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    The first line of numbers is the packaging date.
    The second line is the Lot number.
    It appears to be packaged in 1992 but was probably manufactured even earlier.
    Only Hodgdon would know it's actual age.

    Your powder is deteriorating and could actually self-ignite within the can given enough time....that's rare, but it's been known to happen.

    Rather than take my word on that, call Hodgdon and ask them.
    With luck, they may even replace it for you.



    IMAG0359.jpg
     
  15. witchhunter

    witchhunter Member

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    If you use this powder to work up a load, when you run out, the new stuff will not be the same. Huge waste of time, my luck it would shoot great and the new stuff wouldn't be even close!
     
  16. 243winxb

    243winxb Member

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    Last edited: Jul 5, 2014
  17. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    Everything I saw in that SAAMI video was self contained ammunition, I did not see any bulk powder tossed in the fires. I would have liked to see what would have happened with primers. Small arms cartridges are less risky than artillery cases. I would liked to have seen what would have happened with artillery shells, grenades, anti tank rockets, etc. Artillery shells contain pounds of powder, would have been interesting to see them ignite.

    All that was ever needed to be known about the stability of smokeless propellants was determined prior to WW2. Since most of these documents are paper, not on the web, you have to go to a library to read them. More focused study on smokeless propellant stability occurred after the 1926 Lake Denmark explosion (next door to Picatinny Arsenal) when an explosive depot explosion leveled buildings within a 3000 foot radius. Ten Marines died in the explosion and 20 Naval Crosses were awarded

    This time-temperature curve for gunpowder ignition came from:

    The Stability of Smokeless Powder G. C. Hale, Chief Chemist Picatinny Arsenal , May-Jun 1932 Army Ordnance

    Cellulose nitrate is one of the least resistant explosives used in our military ammunition; since the stability of smokeless powder is determined by the stability of the cellulose nitrate in it, the powder itself consequently has relatively low resistance to heat.

    Fig 1 is a curve establish by plotting the time require for spontaneous explosion or ignition of a small sample of the standard smokeless powder against various temperature to which the powder was exposed.
    From the slope of the curve it is indicated that as the time required for ignition is greatly increases within and below the lower range of temperatures used.


    Time-TemperaturetoCombustGunpowder_zpsb2561489.jpg

    As stabilizer depletes, and deterioration accelerates, the internal temperatures of gunpowder will rise, reaching the auto ignition temperature. This is assuming it is not stored in conditions, such as the arctic, or a refrigerated unit, that keeps the temperatures cold. I don’t know how cool it has to be to keep old smokeless propellants from auto combusting. If a microspot within the propellant hits the auto combustion temperature, all of it will combust. Ambient temperatures don’t have to be 150 C, 170 C, etc, for the stuff to ignite, just the internal temperatures.

    If the gunpowder is fuming red nitric acid gas, it should be disposed of immediately. It is a fire hazard. One should be very lery of surplus gunpowder as the stuff was disposed because some trained individual determined it was unsafe to store and probably unsafe to shoot.

    The observations in this thread are worth noting, the poster's conclusion not to worry about it, I don't agree:

    http://www.ar15.com/archive/topic.html?b=6&f=3&t=248538

    http://forums.gunboards.com/showthread.php?52892-Warning-surplus-IMR-5010-powder-users

    1. 10-02-2009, 11:02 AM#6
    Cincinnati Kid
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  18. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    Single based powders have a little more than twice the shelf life of double based, the nitroglycerine in double based powders attacks the double bonds in nitrocellulose.

    But, outside of that general statement, the lifetime of gunpowder is “indeterminate”. That is, you can’t accurately predict a time/date for its shelf life. How it was made, whether they did a good job at the factory, you don’t know.

    I do wish manufacturer's put a "best by" date on their cans, but that would cut into profits as reloaders would get might not want to pay full price for old gunpowder and ammunition. If you notice in the popular press, gunwriters continually reassure us that the lifetime of gunpowder is infinite. If these guys could have been Brain Surgeons or Chemists, they would gone into those professions, instead, they don’t have the intelligence, education or background to understand much beyond their color circles and not to touch the burner on the stove. They were picked for their ability to promote sales and repeat without question what the gun industry wants them to print. Basically, they are sock puppets.
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2014
  19. 243winxb

    243winxb Member

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    Mixed 2 different IMR powders by accident and ........

    I took a 1 lb can of IMR Dupont powder and put a cannon fuse through the cap into the powder. When lit, the cap popped off. Looked like a giant sparkler about a foot long. No explosion or detonation. Unstable powder that is breaking down would seem to be very different. When in doubt, thow it out.
     
  20. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    The can did what it was supposed to do: pop at low pressures and vent the contents. Now, if you had been adventurous, and poured that pound of powder into something thick walled, like galvanized pipe, installed galvanized end caps with a tiny ignition hole, I have faith you would have gotten a much larger bang. Didn’t the Boston Marathon terrorists use a pressure cooker and gunpowder?

    When you examine SAAMI storage recommendations, powder is to be stored in facilities that fail at low pressures, and vent quickly. I don't agree with storing gunpowder in hard shell things like inoperable refrigerators, steel footlockers, etc.

    Old gunpowder will pressure spike in a rifle cartridge but I don’t know if any kaboom with it will be all that different from new powder.

    Two thumbs up!
     
  21. Drail

    Drail Member

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    +1 on all the above.
     
  22. Rottweiler

    Rottweiler Member

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    Sprinkle it around your tomato plants. They will thank you for it
     
  23. notropis

    notropis Member

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    Tomatoes don't need a ton of nitrogen. In fact, too much will inhibit fruit production.
     
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