Testing gunpowder - The HuntingPA.com Outdoor Community
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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-05-2019, 12:03 AM Thread Starter
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Testing gunpowder

I have a lot of old gunpowder, some of it has not been open. Is there any way I can "test" it to determine if it is safe to use.
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-05-2019, 12:15 AM
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How old is old?
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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-05-2019, 03:49 AM
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No. I answered this on another site a few months ago. Back about 1965, I bought 2 lbs. of an unknown smokeless powder from a friend who inherited it, when his uncle died. It came from a 50 lb. container with no markings. Back then, Dupont was manufacturer of a lot of powders. I sent them a small sample and asked them to tell me what it was. They responded saying it would need to be subjected to a "bomb" test. They would put a measured amount of the unknown powder in a sealed water proof container, and ignite it under water.
Their instruments would tell them what it is. Their charge to do this was astronomical.



The 2 pounds I bought fertilized my garden.

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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-05-2019, 09:27 AM
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If it has a redish cast or redish looking dust on it do not use it as such. I have never done this but I have read articles that say if you take old granular powder with that redish cast and rinse the dust off in water then spread it out and let it dry it will be fine to use. If it does not have the redish cast and smells normal I would use it. I still use some powder I bought as surplus 30 years ago. Works just fine. Had some that got the reddish cast, put it in a pile and lit it, looked like a Saturn rocket lift off for about 15 seconds. I would agree with making it into fertilizer if it has redish dust formed on it.
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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-05-2019, 09:57 AM
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I have part of a keg of 700X from the early 70's which I loaded a sampling and test a few rounds last week. I tested them in a shotgun gun they fired and reload the next round properly.

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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-05-2019, 10:12 AM
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If it is in sealed marked cans and the powder has a reddish tint I would not use it. If it is in old cans w/o identification then it is fertilizer. There is no way to properly identify it.

Smokeless powder can last a long time if properly stored. One caution I would recommend would be to use data from a manual specific to the time period of its manufactured date.
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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-05-2019, 10:42 AM
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If it is in sealed marked cans and the powder has a reddish tint I would not use it. If it is in old cans w/o identification then it is fertilizer. There is no way to properly identify it.

Smokeless powder can last a long time if properly stored. One caution I would recommend would be to use data from a manual specific to the time period of its manufactured date.
Dogface, I don't think using a period manual is needed because new manuals tend to be much more conservative plus over the last decade powder keeps getting more tags added to it meaning they usually need more powder to achieve the same amount of pressure delivered. If you loaded x amount of H380 in your 22 250 in 1999 to get 3700 FPS if you load the same amount now with current production powder you will find your ammo at a lower velocity, thus requiring more powder to achieve your 3700 fps. Tags are chemical identifiers now required by federal law.

Last edited by jeffppc; 04-10-2019 at 09:14 PM.
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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-05-2019, 10:54 AM
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Quote:
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dogface View Post
If it is in sealed marked cans and the powder has a reddish tint I would not use it. If it is in old cans w/o identification then it is fertilizer. There is no way to properly identify it.

Smokeless powder can last a long time if properly stored. One caution I would recommend would be to use data from a manual specific to the time period of its manufactured date.
Dogface, I don't think using a period manual is needed because new manuals tend to me much more conservative plus over the last decade powder keeps getting more tags added to it meaning they usually need more powder to achieve the same amount of pressure delivered. If you loaded x amount of H380 in your 22 250 in 1999 to get 3700 FPS if you load the same amount now with current production powder you will find your ammo at a lower velocity, thus requiring more powder to achieve your 3700 fps. Tags are chemical identifiers now required by federal law.
if I understand what you are saying I think you are backwards. New power is “weaker” so you need more. A modern manual would reflect that and using the modern amount of old powder could result in an overcharge. Meaning a 3700fps load in 79 may have been 50gr but now is 60 with new powder. That is probably an extreme example.
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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-05-2019, 11:26 AM
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The chemical composition used during manufacturing changes over time. Sometimes from lot to lot. I know the newer manuals are more conservative but in some cases we may be talking about a significantly different chemical composition or burning rate.

I have seen differences in some new vs old powders especially H-4831. I use 60 grains of old H-4831 in the 270 but only 58 grains of new H-4831. I also adjust the 30/06 loads down when using H-4831. BTW my "old H-4831" is from WW II. That is old but it still works great. Just an FYI: in the 1960s you could buy 25 lb. canisters of surplus military for cheap.

There was a problem with a newly manufactured shotgun powder just a few years ago. They changed the chemical composition of "Steel" powder and did not change the recommended loads. Guys were using the original recipes and having serious pressure problems. I forget all the specifics but guys were having to reduce their loads 4 or 5 grains with the newer lots of Steel.

Period manuals are usually in line with the powder manufactured during that period.

Last edited by Dogface; 04-05-2019 at 11:31 AM.
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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-05-2019, 02:40 PM
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Dogface, yes you must take note as you stated using 4831....H or Hodges, IMR, and the old military surplus while sharing the same number are different powders. I use to buy surplus 4831 in Lancaster at .50 per pound weighed out of large cardboard drum into a brown paper back. Know as the good Ole days.

Last edited by jeffppc; 04-10-2019 at 09:15 PM. Reason: Sp
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