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Discussion Starter #1
In cleaning up the gun closet, I found some old sealed cans of black powder, from the eighties. I have heard that this stuff will blow up guns. Is this an old wives tale, or does some of the binding agents give way, and radically change the burn rate? There have been a few blow ups in our local paper, that injured folks. Usually this would be a partially seated charge, but what does the forum know about longevity of different powder substitutes? The late gunsmith William Osburn, told me, Du Pont went to the messy ammoniate, in their black powder back in the fifties, and this was why all our modern stuff fouls so much more than the antique KCLO3, did. Mr. Osburn was with Western Cartridge during WWII, and he should have known. But the black powder boom, pardon the pun, was under way about the time he passed on, so modern black powder longevity wasn't something he faced.
 

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Well, I'm not going to say that I'm a chemist. But I would certainly use the stuff. I doubt that powder gets"stronger" as it ages. And how much faster can it burn? I wouldn't hesitate one minute. Not with a sealed can.
 

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Regarding the ingredients, in the Muzzleloading section, Joshua has a thread about the differences between Black Powder, Pyrodex, and triple 7. If I recall correctly Ammoniates are not in the MSDS for black powder.
 

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Black powder is not a chemical compound like smokeless and BP substitutes that can degrade, but a mixture of components -- charcoal, saltpeter, sulfur. Kept dry, it is, for all intents and purposes, immortal.
 

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I remember reading in Popular Science back in the early 60's about excavations around some old revolutionary war era fort where they found some explosive type cannon balls. Seem they dug out the clay plug where the fuse goes in and the powder was still perfectly good. Hmmm, revolutionary war, kinda dates me. Goatwhiskers the Elder
 

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"keep your powder dry"

Don't remember who said that. Believe it to be good advice though!

I know that sulfer will "attract" and hold moisture. Think saltpeter will too?

Old sealed cans of the stuff will "clump" if not stored good.

I keep a modest supply in original containers + a zip-lock bag in my beer fridge. Seems to work fine. Just DON'T open the bag or lid until the container has reached ambiant temperature!

Warm moisture will go to anything that is "cooler" (like fog on a window).

My take. Good shooting.

Cheezywan
 

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If the can is sealed there shouldn't be any water in it for the powder to absorb no matter how extreme the temp differences are. Think about it there's no moisture in the can, what would the powder be absorbing?
 

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If the granules are the correct size it is still good. The tales that black powder gets stronger with age probably come from the old cannon grade powder that was made in what we would consider very large grains. Carrying it in barrels and kegs in wagons tended to break up these grains effectively making it into a faster grade. The roads were rough and the wagons did not have springs. If some wound up not getting used for several campaigns through failure to rotate the stock it could become dangerously fast. A blown cannon could be possible. Over shooting the target if older powder was used would probably be common hence the tales that powder got stronger with age.

In actuality only the time in transit counted but the men on the line had no way of knowing that part.
 

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Back somewhere around 1995, I found some of my father's Blackpowder, in an undated bottle and wrapped in newspaper, dated back to 1962. Though the powder was perfectly dry, I was nonetheless, still slightly afraid of it!
One day after a night on the town, I retrieved by dad's (he died in 1980) old Flintlock ML, wrapped in painter's cloth, up in the attic.
I ran a spirits-soaked cloth and stick down the barrel to clean it. It was clean. I then took a piece of linen and dabbed it in oil. I placed the blackpowder into the barrel and stuffed a large marble down the barrel on top of the small piece of slightly soaked linen. I didn't really measure the amount of powder I used. So, I took what I thought was a loaded ML, outside and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. I decided to go to bed. While sleeping, I had the thought, "Did that ML have a flint?" I got back up to check for the flint. It didn't have a flint. However, I remembered that my dad kept a can of rocks near the ML. The can was filled with guess what? That's right, flint!
I went back outside and woke up just about all of my neighbors within a five miles radius of my home, with the largest explosion ever known to mankind. Both the ancient Flintlock ML and old blackpowder still worked perfectly.:)

PS.

I found out later that, that muzzleloader had actually been handed down to my father from my grandfather!
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Ammonium or potassium base

My question wasn't about pre 1955 black powder. If DuPont fiddled with things midway through the Twentieth Century, and got a dirtier powder, it's not a big thing. But if their fiddling could cause powder stored in a garage for twenty years or so, to degrade, then that's the safety issue I'm looking at. FWIW, I emptied my powder horn, and re filled it with Pyrodex RS Select. Now the new stuff won't flow through the brass valve, like the older 2F black did. I'm also getting pronounced hangfires even with a new Track of the Wolf nipple, and CCI #11 mag caps. Next step will be to go with Cabelas musket nipple. I'm leary of using Pyrodex P in a fifty four cal. rifle. MY sealed Goex powder can wasn't dated, but it had a $9.95 price written on it. So, it's been a while.
 

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During 2004, shot up a friend's gift of 4 pounds of Meteor FFFg. Haven't a clue how old it really was...more than 30 years for sure. factory sealed tins, no rust outside, no signs of anything wrong inside, and it worked just fine in a .32 flinter and a .36 underhammer percussion. (i did screen it, but i usually do that to get enough fine powder to use for the flinter's pan).

The enemy is moisture. Open cans are suspect. I still like tins, but once opened, will put a piece of plastic wrap across the lid to act as a seal when screwing on the cap.

Pyrodex seems much worse at sucking moisture out of the air than black, has been a problem with once opened cans stored under the same conditions as "real" black. Seems almost as attracted to moisture as silica gel packs.
 

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During 2004, shot up a friend's gift of 4 pounds of Meteor FFFg. Haven't a clue how old it really was...more than 30 years for sure.
Meteror Powder, made by Nobel Industries in Ardeer, Scotland, labeled as C-I-L (Canadian Industries Limitied) and sold by DuPont salesmen to retailers is vintage 1973.
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If it is kept dry, black powder will remain potent indefinitely. In 1988 a Marine EOD friend of mine became the last USMC casualty of the Civil War when the Parrot artillery round he was inerting exploded. He was very seriously wounded and was medically retired.

This VA man was killed while inerting a C ivil War cannon ball:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,353998,00.html
 

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If he was EOD qualified then he sure didn't listen too his instructors. One thing drummed into our thick skulls during training was when ever we encountered black powder munitions they were too be blown in place or transported to a safe location for blowing. No disassembly was too be attempted!! That's one of the reasons black powder has more haz mat requirements than smokeless powder. Check the DOT placard requirements. Black powder has one of the highest.
 

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"If he was EOD qualified then he sure didn't listen too his instructors. One thing drummed into our thick skulls during training was when ever we encountered black powder munitions they were too be blown in place or transported to a safe location for blowing."

Oh, he was EOD qualified. i spent a career in US Army EOD and have worked in the EOD/UXO field for an additional 25 years since my retirement in 1979. In the late 50s and early 60s i was stationed at Ft. Braqg, NC. It was routine for us to inert Civil War munitions for training aids, museums and collectors. The last Civil War munitions i inerted were for a display in WV in 2008: The secret is to do it remotely.
 

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I did CW re enacting in the seventies and early eighties of the last century. a while back I ran across two canisters of GOEX one 2 F and the other 4 F I have since used the 2 F up but still have some 4 F no problems with either granulation. The 4 f set off the main charge of 2 F every time the flint sparked.
 
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