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Surplus powder question

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Littlewolf, Oct 12, 2012.

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  1. Littlewolf

    Littlewolf Member

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    At a recent gun show, a vendor had various military surplus powders for sale. I understand these are canister powders and the same powder (WC844 for example) will not be consistent from lot to lot. The question is this, should each 8 pound container sold by the vendor be tested to work up an appropriate load OR could it be assumed that all the WC844 powder sold by this vendor on the given date was of the same lot? None of the 8 pound jugs is marked with a lot number so one cannot tell if it was from the same cannister.
    I typically prefer to buy a brand name powder which is more likely to be consistent from lot to lot. My understanding is that military surplus powder may have significant variations.

    LittleWolf
     
  2. GLOOB

    GLOOB Member

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    I've never purchased surplus powder before. I woulda thought it would be marked with a lot number, just like cannister powders. Even if it's pull down powder, seems like whoever divided the kegs into jugs woulda put a lot number on them.

    Even if you got unmarked jugs or even known different lots, you could mix them together real well before you started working up a load.
     
  3. 41 Mag

    41 Mag Member

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    With Surplus powders in general they are "NON CANISTER" powders and you can never assume anything, and checking your loads is much easier than removing blown cases or worse. They are blended up in ton sized batches for a specific criteria, and then used as such. Most of it is pull down but some is listed as new never used. If it wasn't used there is a reason, and it is usually due to it not meeting the specific criteria of the end user, being either faster or slower, or not hitting the correct pressure curve.

    Personally I have several jugs of surplus which was purchased for specific purposes. Once they are gone I will find something else to use. At the time of purchase they wee still a "good" deal.

    There are several folks selling the surplus powders in bulk, any of which your gunshow fellow could have purchased from or even all of them. If I WERE going to purchase it I would certainly be asking from where it came as well as when. If you have that you could contact the original seller and at least get a general idea of the burn rate, (faster or slower).

    With the surplus stuff you have to also be watchful of things like temperature sensitivity, pressure spikes and even deterioration, as in some cases you simply have no clue as to when it was manufactured or how it has been stored. Years ago when it was $40-75 per 8# jug verses the higher prices of canister grade stuff it was a bit easier to swallow if you got a jug and found it wasn't going to work out for you, or ti headed south before you got to the bottom of the jug. Nowadays however with most of it hitting $100 or so per jug the factory fresh canister powders aren't so much over priced and knowing exactly what your getting to me is far more valuable.

    There are thousands of folks out there who have loaded who knows how many rounds with it however, and are plenty happy with it. Like I mentioned I have several different jugs of it myself and use it quite frequently. Just thought I would add the info on it.
     
  4. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Member

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    If the powder you buy has no lot number you have to treat each jug as a different lot and work up data accordingly. It may work out that you get lucky and they are from the same lot but you can't assume that without it being marked. Sorry but then again, I think you already knew this just by the way you asked the question... lol
     
  5. FROGO207

    FROGO207 Member

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    The surplus that I buy usually have a lot # on them. Still I will at least work up in 3 steps to the load I use when starting a new jug---always.:scrutiny: Just me:) also I do the same thing with same lots of regular propellant. I would recommend a full workup of each jug of unmarked surplus propellant for your safety. YMMV
     
  6. kingmt

    kingmt Member

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    I wouldn't buy it if it didn't have lot numbers. Sounds like someone sloppy did it. It is hard to find a good deal on the stuff anymore. Most of what I have which is over 100# I gave about $4# for & none was over $10#.
     
  7. Littlewolf

    Littlewolf Member

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    Appreciate the responses. My thoughts were in agreement with GLOOB in that mixing the same powder type such as WC844 into one well blended mass would be the best way to make several jugs consistently the same. It is understood that a workable load must be worked up from there. The reason to consider pulldown powder is that it currently is half the price of brand named powder (at least in our area).
     
  8. kingmt

    kingmt Member

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    It is hard to mix dry powders to a perfect blend.
     
  9. GLOOB

    GLOOB Member

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    ^ It would require a little creative thinking, for sure. How many pounds of powder can you fit in your tumbler? :) Yeah, it might not be worth it.
     
  10. kingmt

    kingmt Member

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    I was thinking about that myself or a concert mixer. ;-)
     
  11. Ken70

    Ken70 Member

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    I read somewhere the military will take samples out of each batch of ammo and run tests on the powder; whether it's starting to breakdown. The stuff that is still "safe" but getting near the end will be a lot of the pull down powder you'll see. It's OK to use, just don't make the ammo you plan for long term storage out this powder. More useful for blasting ammo that you use in the next year or so....
     
  12. Elkins45

    Elkins45 Member

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    If the seller is a reputable guy he should be able to tell you where the powder came from and if it's all part of the same lot. Many of those sellers buy big lots and repackage them themselves.
     
  13. blarby

    blarby Member

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    If he can chime in, Ditchtiger has a lot of experience with milsurp powders.

    His experience as related to me was all positive... mebbe we can sir him up outta the cage.....
     
  14. Hondo 60
    • Contributing Member

    Hondo 60 Member

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    As Gloob suggested in post#2...

    If you buy several canisters of the same powder, go ahead & mix 'em.
    That way you work it up once.

    I even do that for new powder.
    If I buy 3 bottles, I mix all 3 together.
    That way I don't have to worry about Lot numbers.
     
  15. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    Absolutely true. Pull down powder came from ammunition that exceeded its shelf life. The "Go", "No Go" criteria is less than 20% of the original stabilizer left in the gunpowder. Under good storage conditions double based powders are expected to last 20 years and single based 45 years. That WC powder is double based.

    Under less than good storage conditions, the shelf life can be a few years. See table one in this publication for how heat ruins powder.

    Surveillance and in-service proof - the United Nations

    http://www.un.org/disarmament/conva...20-Surveillance_and_In-Service Proof(V.1).pdf


    By the way, exposure to hot conditions raises pressures in ammunition. That surplus gunpowder could have spend the last ten years cooking its way in the Iraqi sunlight.

    This is the result of an accelerated aging test:

    INVESTIGATION OF THE BALLISTIC AND CHEMICAL STABILITY OF 7.62MM AMMUNITION LOADED WITH BALL AND IMR PROPELLANT

    Frankfort Arsenal 1962

    3. Effects of Accelerated Storage Propellant and Primer Performance

    To determine the effect of accelerated isothermal storage upon propellant and primer performance, sixty cartridges from each of lots E (WC 846) and G (R 1475) were removed from 150F storage after 26 and 42 weeks, respectively. The bullets were then removed from half the cartridges of each lot and from an equal number of each lot previously stored at 70F. The propellants were then interchanged, the bullets re-inserted, and the cases recrimped. Thus, four variations of stored components were obtained with each lot.

    Chamber pressures yielded by ammunition incorporating these four variations were as follows. These values represent averages of 20 firings.



    Pressurevariationsduetostoragetempertures-1.jpg


    As for lots, the lot numbers on surplus powders were created by the vendor who demilled the cartridges or the vendor who bought the drums. The powder in the drums could be from WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, Panama Invasion, Iraqi War 1, ammunition, all mixed together. There is no reason to assume pull down powder is by year, or by anything but what random bunches of cases were pulled to fill that drum.

    Always assume that different jugs of surplus powder have a different burn rate. I found that with surplus IMR 4895, loads with one "lot" would blow primers if I duplicated data from another "lot"

    I bought surplus before I found that powder had a shelf life. I have had to toss about half of all the surplus IMR 4895 I bought because it went bad. It either fumed or caused case neck cracks in loaded ammunition.

    For that reason, if surplus powder is a third of new, it might be worth buying, if it is more than half, it is not worth the risk.
     
  16. GLOOB

    GLOOB Member

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    What the original source(s) are doesn't matter. The point is that if the two jugs have the same lot number, you can presume they were filled from the same trough. You would then only have to work up one time to get a reasonable assurance that the other jug will act pretty much the same. I'm sure there are some morons out there, but most vendors who demil a ton of cartridges aren't going to put 5 different kinds of powder in five different jugs and mark them all with the same lot number. It's usually going to mean that w/e junk they put from w/e multiple sources in one jug, it's the same junk in the other.

    The lot number on a canister powder serves the same purpose. The only reason it is there is to tell you that what's in one jug of powder is from the same batch as another, or not.

    I do the same thing with my reloads when I make large batches that won't be shot up in the near future. I mark that batch with the date. No matter how many individual boxes/bags I keep that batch of ammo in, it is all marked with the same number. It doesn't matter to me what the actual date was when I reloaded it (at least not in the next 30 years). The number just serves to show me which reloads were made in the same batch (regarding die settings, powder throw, components, humidity that day, or whatnot). Even if I was too lazy to record, say, OAL, all I have to do it measure a few cartridges, and I'll know what the rest are. So the lot number is extremely useful, even if it doesn't tell me the specs of the load. A random number would serve me just as well, and I have indeed sometimes marked my reloads with a random lot number, just because.
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2012
  17. Swampman

    Swampman Old Fart

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    I would strongly suggest that anyone attempting to mix different lot numbers use a glass mixing container and stir with a wooden spoon to avoid static electricity
    I would also urge that no one use a brass tumbler to mix powders since most tumbler bowls are plastic and can build up a static charge from the friction of the contents being tumbled. The static charge could conceivably cause ignition of the "fines", wiith disastrous results.
    in addition, tumbling could also remove deterrent coatings on the powder causing pressure spikes.
     
  18. jcwit

    jcwit Member

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    Ahhhhh! They ship powder in plastic containers, right?

    Not going to happen any more than tumbling loaded rounds being detrimental.
     
  19. hentown

    hentown Member

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    I'm using 844, exclusively, now for .223 reloading. I'm loading a little heavier than I do when I'm loading H335. Friend of mine is a commercial ammo manufacturer, and he gets his 844, which is what he uses for .223, from the same supplier I use.

    Best deal I ever got on rifle powder was back when you could get 8# of AA2200 data powder for $48, shipped. I finally ran out about a year ago.
     
  20. Swampman

    Swampman Old Fart

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    jcwit-
    The term "plastic" covers a lot of territory. When Alliant or Hodgdon buy powder containers they don't just say "send us some plastic bottles", they specify HDPE containing graphite. This allows the powder bottle to release any static charges built up by the powder they contain (which also contains graphite, partly to keep it free flowing and prevent clumping, but also for its ability to conduct static electricity). The HDPE used to package powders is also formulated so that it doesn't react with powder or the solvents it contains. For more info on this, read Skeeter Skelton's "Skeeter's Cowkiller Loads".

    If you want to blend powder in plastic bowls or use a case tumbler to do so, knock yourself out, but a glass or ceramic bowl, stirred with a wooden spoon, WILL NOT build up a static charge, the plastic that you seem to prefer can.
    I'm not saying that use of a plastic container to mix powder is going to instantly cause it to burst into flames, but when you consider that kitchen type plastics aren't designed to reduce static OR resist chemical attack by powder, I can't understand why anyone would use it rather than glass or ceramic, unless they object on some sort of moral or religious grounds. There's no benefit to using a plastic bowl (unless you have some that you haven't mentioned) and several possible downsides.

    Mixing large quantities of powder loose in a tumbler seems like an even worse idea. I submit that if you used this method and something went seriously wrong, you'd earn at least a runner up position on this years Darwin awards.

    Why don't you try contacting the manufacturers of several brands of tumblers and see how many would advise/approve of using their product to mix bulk powder?
    I'm guessing it'll be a very short (like nonexistent) list.

    I may be a overly cautious, but I also avoid handling bulk powder on cold, low humidity days, if I get shocked when I touch a doorknob, I'm not going to pick that day to blend or repackage a bunch of powder.
    In addition, I always wear safety glasses while at the reloading bench, even when I'm just trimming unprimed cases, so maybe I'm just a wimp.
     
  21. blarby

    blarby Member

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    So, yet another use for old powder bottles.

    Mixing surplus military pulldown powders.

    And I thought I was cool for taking the labels off of Hodgdons powder bottles and making bumper stickers out of them.

    Huh.

    Moving along........ Lemme throw my coppers in, because its late, and I'm bored.

    I think if you asked anyone if they should mix powders period, regardless of what you were gonna do it in- except in an unbelievably tooled up laboratory testing environment, with proper pressure testing equipment for the results.... you'd probably get a similar result.

    Making a test run for each lot of powders in 5 whole grain weight increments takes what.......... 10 rounds, 2 for each grain weight ?

    If you really wanted to, you could just use 2 grain weights, something near max, and something near min- of what you ASSUME this powder is, and call it good.

    4 whole cartridges- wow. The last milsurp powder I saw came in 8 Lb jugs...that 4-20 rounds not a substantial investment either way.... even if you only got it in 1 pound bottles.

    You aren't making "sniperrific" ammo out of this bulk, probably degrading as we discuss this, military pulldown powder anyway.

    I think mixing "hypothetically powder type A, of assumed origin and date of manufacture and decomposition" with "hypothetically powder type B, of assumed origin and date of manufacture and decomposition" gets you "hypothetically powder type AB, of assumed origin and date of manufacture, and now completely unknown decomposition and stability" Nothing more, possibly something less. It certainly does not give you a better powder "D" of known and calculated properties.

    If you did this with my baking flours- I would throw you out of my kitchen, and not make you bread ever again.

    I say "hypothetically" because unless its got a powder factory sealed stamp on it, thats all it is- hypothetically AA2500, or bulletpumper800x, or whatever you either assume, or deduce, it to be. I would trust a 3rd-6th party vendors' sticker/stamp application monkey about I___I <- that far. And thats assuming you trust the monkey's banana thrower of a source.



    Meh, again, its only 2 coppers- YMMV.
     
  22. jcwit

    jcwit Member

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    Are you implying I'm mixing powders? Never said I did or that I intended to do so, all I said is that they ship powder in plastic bottles, nothing less, nothing more.

    Glass can and does at times build up a static charge, at least I've seen grains of powder clinging to the sided of the glass container I was using, mayhap I'm one in a million. Remember rubbing a glass rod with a piece of fur in elementary science?

    Never mentioned any kind other than what the manufactures ship powder in.

    So? I wear safety glasses whenever I'm awake, they're called prescription glasses and in todays world are required to be safety glass or its equivalent.

    Hey, If you wish to blend powder, stir powder or whatever, have at it, store it in any form of container you wish. It least now I know "I guess" that they use graphite to make powder bottles black, maybe. Must be true, I read it on the internet.
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2012
  23. jcwit

    jcwit Member

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    Yup, Yup, and Yup!

    Only time I ever mix powders, if you want to call it that is when I have a few grains of powder "A" and I pour it into a new bottle of powder "A". By a few grains I mean 2 to 3 grains by weight. I seriously doubt 2 to 3 grains added to 7000 grains and shook up is going to change anything to any measurable amount. But I might be wrong for the first time.
     
  24. hentown

    hentown Member

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    I just can't imagine any good reason for mixing different types of powders. There are so many good powders available, with which one can do just about anything, relative to load development, that mixing powders just seems spurious to me.
     
  25. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Member

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    Spurious indeed and most probably very dangerous.
     
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