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Thread: Loading & Shooting Older Powders

  1. #1
    Boolit Buddy pertnear's Avatar
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    Loading & Shooting Older Powders

    I was given some older cans of powder from an estate sale. They are 1 lb cans that seemed to be full except for 1. They were not sealed but still had the card board washer that sealed the lid. I'm familiar with all except for the black powder & the Win ball powder. The IMR powders look consistent in size & shape to the original article. All the IMR powders have an ether smell. The black powder is full & the Win 452AA is half full. The tops of the can seem a little rusty but no where else. The caps came off easily. To give some idea of the date the price sticker on the 452AA is $12.95 & the IMR 4064 sticker is $14,95. The IMR 4350 can has a code on back of E89AV1L6479. I'm excited about getting the IMR powders since all 3 are used in some of my favorite recipes. I hear 4320 & 4064 are to be discontinued so these are a great find. I've heard that older powders tend to get slower with ages & produce lower pressure. I experienced this long ago with surplus 4831 powder.

    Would these be safe to shoot in my favorite recipes if I check their performance via chronograph by comparing with fresher powders of the same? Also, I don't load much shotgun would the 452AA be worth while in any pistol rounds? I load .38 spcl, .357, .45 acp, .380 acp, .256 WM. I have no need for the black powder so I'll find a muzzle loader aficionado to give that to.

    TIA for your comments & suggestions.

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  2. #2
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    There are two giveaways to powder going bad. The first is a very strong odor, much more than fresh powder. Once you smell a can of bad powder, you'll know the difference.

    The second is a red dust. I believe this is caused by oxidation, but I could be mistaken on the cause of it, however any powder that has a red dust when poured, or opened, should be converted to lawn fertilizer.

    Hope this helps.

    Fred
    After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn't do it. - William S. Burroughs.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master
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    Lots of people have used 452AA in 45acp. Honestly I would never work up a load with less than a pound of a discontinued powder, but I have a case of it so will one day.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master

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    Your "favorite loads" are not the place to start ANY new lot of powder, particularly old powder. It will be a coincidence if the favorite load is repeated in the "new" lot.
    If it was easy, anybody could do it.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master

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    I was gifted some "old" powder from 2 different friends.
    Some are in metal cans with rust on the outside.
    All the cans of powder smell good.
    I have been shooting it using data from new loading manuals.
    What a great gift in these hard to find powder times.

  6. #6
    Boolit Grand Master

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    When using older powders it is a good idea to start low and work up the load. Age and conditions may have slightly altered the powder.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master Baltimoreed's Avatar
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    Something I do is dating my bricks of primers and containers of powder. Allows me to rotate my stuff to use the oldest next. Mystery powder could at least be dated as to when you got it. I have some old ? stuff that I doubt that I’ll ever mess with. Why waste components on building ammo with old powder that you can’t really replace. The other issue is what is actually in the container. Has it been adulterated with something else by mistake? Never done that but have thrown stuff away rather than guess what powder it is. I was given a Dillon 550, powder, bullets, ammo and primers from a friend after Irene wrecked his stuff and he decided to quit reloading. All his primers and a couple lb of bullseye went bang just fine.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master
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    452AA is gold to a pistol shooter, l believe it was replaced by WST. It won't spoil.

  9. #9
    Boolit Buddy dddddmorgan's Avatar
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    I use the "white-paper" test myself.

    If there's no bad odors or visible rust (only run into that on WWII surplus) I put a small pile on a clean sheet of white paper and slide it around. You want the powder to move around without streaking. If it streaks it's losing it's coating and won't burn properly.

    I have a lot of older powder, I also have a lot of old manuals to go along.

    The advice here is good, be smart and work your way to where you want to go, heck, that's good advice for new powder.

    I have a Sharpie marker and I date everything that goes in the cabinet, I also note the price. I load for a few folks and I keep track of my cost this way.
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  10. #10
    Boolit Master 15meter's Avatar
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    If you already own the same powder, start by a visual comparison between the gift powder and your known powder.

    If you have the Lee dippers and the powder is on the chart, scoop and weigh several samples. Check the measured weight against the expected weight from the Lee dipper chart. It's a simple density test, same density, better chance of it being what the can says it is.

    If visually it matches what I expect and density is what I expect then I find the lightest load with the lightest boolit and try a load.

    I've "rescued" upwards of 50 lbs. of powder over the years. Only had to throw out one single can. It was an almost full 8 pounder of Red Dot. Didn't make it past the visual inspection. There was absolutely no doubt it was mixed powder.

    Hurt pitching that one.

    But what I paid for the MEC 650, multiple bags of shot, bricks of 209 primers, wads and hulls and a factory sealed 3 lb. can of Red Dot. It didn't hurt that much. Sold the MEC for more than I paid for the whole pile.

    But an almost full big can of Red Dot would have been icing on the proverbial cake.

    Bummer is you don't see deals like that anymore with The Great Creeping Crud. Everything is being snatched up.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master

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    Through an estate sale I acquired 35 pounds of various powders purchased in bulk, repackaged in smaller cans,, and resealed in 1970 making them 50 years old. These powders are as good today as when they were manufactured. I use powder recipes of that era, not current recipes, when using these powdes.
    If it was easy, anybody could do it.

  12. #12
    Boolit Bub
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    I have a bunch old powders ...I check it every so often ...even load a few loads ...the oldest is the 4831(late 50s/early 60s).... Smell and pouring powder on a sheet of white paperlooking for rust like dust( not rust) but decomposed powder ... Those are the two test.



  13. #13
    Boolit Master

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    452AA is my overall favorite handgun powder for target handgun loads. WST superseded it, and is a decent reference for load data. Older Speer manuals have data for 452AA.

    I inherited some 452AA and burned though it then lucked into a couple pounds earlier this year on Craigslist. I've used it for 9, 45 auto, 40 S&W, 38 and 10mm.

    In the past 3 years I've loaded Hercules, Dupont and IMR powders from each decade since the 60s. All fine.

    I did toss some 4064 from 1970 that had turned.
    "There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something."
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  14. #14
    Boolit Master


    GregLaROCHE's Avatar
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    Check the metal cans for any sign of pin holes from rust, that could have allowed moisture in.

  15. #15
    Boolit Master
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    Thanks for the suggestion of the “white paper” test!

    I have some Rl 11 I have been nursing along with and that test will surely be used to monitor the aging of it and others less aged from now on.

    Three44s
    Quote Originally Posted by Bret4207

    “There is more to this than dumping lead in a hole.”

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
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GC Gas Check