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I picked this up in my lot of stuff this week. Most of these containers are full. But I don't know how old they are. How can I tell if powder has gone bad? Should I use them or get rid of them?


 

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Paper Tubes with plastic "goosenecks" had just replaced steel tins when I first started loading myself in the early 1970's. My Dad's bench had the steel tins that he bought in the 60's.

I frequently use powder from this era with no ill effects.

It is rare indeed for modern powder to 'go bad', but if improperly stored it is possible. Pour a small quantity on a sheet of white paper and look for a reddish dust in the flakes.

Alliant ATK purchased Hercules, but I'm sure that were you to contact their customer service department they would give you a few tips.

Drew
 

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Smell it. If it smells sour, fertilize your lawn. If is has a solvent kind of smell, shoot it. I'm still using Unique out of a 4 pounder just like those. I think I bought it sometime in the mid 80s. It's almost lost the solvent smell, but it isn't sour, and it shoots just fine.
 

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When Alliant obtained Unique is when the powder was changed so it isn't as dirty, isn't it?

If you use Unique already, how about giving a report on whether or not you see a difference in the old Unique and the new?
 

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I'm working on a can of Herco and a can of GreenDot from that era of packaging - and recently used up a pound each of BlueDot and Unique. All came to me unopened, but I still checked smell and color before I used them.

I don't know much about the color changes so much because the color and finish of some lots differ a bit, but the odor is good advice. The pleasant "solvent" odor goes away when gunpowders go bad and becomes "acrid" - foul to the nostrils.

I'm told that all modern dual-base gunpowders began to lose effectiveness when they start to go bad - unlike some of the old obsolete Dupont varieties that would become "hotter" as they deteriorated. I would still work up my loads using any of those you've shown.

Carl,
I ran an unscientific single-load test of Old Hercules Unique vs. New Alliant Unique when I first opened the pound of the old stuff. I had an already-loaded box of my favorite mid-range .45 Colt load - 255gr SWC + 9.0gr. New Unique. I loaded up the same bullet with 9.0gr. Old Unique, and ran both through my SAA and the Chrony. The bullet lube and brand of case brass was different, but everything else was the same - so was the velocity for all practical purposes...ave. ~900fps.

xtm
 

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xtm,
What about the 'dirtiness' of the old vs new?

Honestly, I don't see Unique being all that dirty to begin with, even though some people say it is.. maybe it's just me and I don't notice it.

Sorry about the thread drift. I seem to cause more of them than anyone else on this forum.. :oops:
 

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carl418 said:
xtm,
What about the 'dirtiness' of the old vs new?
Alliant did clean up Unique a bit over the old Hercules formula. For some forgotten reason (probably was cheaper), I shifted over to using Hodgdon Universal Clays for a few years because it was almost a grain-for-grain equivalent to Hercules Unique - and was delighted to find that it was noticeably cleaner-burning in the handgun cartridges and shotgun gauges I reloaded. When Alliant introduced their cleaner version of Unique, I shifted back. Alliant/Hercules is my all-time favorite line of gunpowders.

I'm like you, though. I never thought it was as dirty as some folks claimed - particularly with stout loads. In their quest for a do-all gunpowder, some handloaders will underload their charges of Unique instead of choosing a more efficient and faster-burning powder and blame all the dirty residue on Unique.

xtm
 

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Most of the users that claim that Unique is dirty don't know the difference between powder residue and bullet lube.

Loaded with Jacketed Bullets Unique is about as clean as factory ammo.
 

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I have been using Unique for over four decades.I still have some of the Hercules brand from the 70's and it shoots fine.I also have the Alliant brand that I shoot from and can't tell a lot of difference.I have chronographed loads using the same powders made decades apart (Unique is among them)and have found nothing more than the normal lot to lot variation that you would normally expect.

I agree with the comments about it NOT being dirty burning,at least if it is,there's too much made of it.Every powder has a sweet spot in that it performs best when used within a general range of charge weight depending on the case,bullet,etc.Most of the complaints I've heard have been from people who use charges that are TOO light and most of the "dirtiness"is from cast bullet lube.
 

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Unique has been my all time favorite "go to" pistol/revolver powder since 1970.

As to age, if gun powder is properly stored in a climate controled environment it can damn near be used indiffinitely. The oldest I ever used was made in 1936. lgnngp

However, if I am "unsure" as to how it's been stored over it's life time, it becomes fertilizer. nhvaoavo
 

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However, if I am "unsure" as to how it's been stored over it's life time, it becomes fertilizer.
I've yet to have to do that. If it ever comes to it, I'm not even sure I could.. it might be too traumatic for me! :lol: :lol:

By the way, Unique is my 'go to' powder too..
 

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Like the bad guy in the movie "Johnny Dangerously" I've only had to "dump" a can of gun powder "just once"...it was very traumatic! fLPIGNOk klnflaianl
 

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I have some cans that look identical to these pictures. They were bought in the very late 1970s-early 1980s.

Just use reloading data from back in those years. Do NOT use "new" reloading data for old powder, as the formulation may have changed and could result in undesirable pressure problems.
 

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Just use reloading data from back in those years. Do NOT use "new" reloading data for old powder, as the formulation may have changed and could result in undesirable pressure problems.
I have to respectfully dissagree with this statement.

Because of liability issues and the potential for law suits ammo companies have really "watered down" their commercial standard and +P pressure ammo.

Gun powder companies have "watered down" their max loads in current manuals for the same reasons.

They are aware that there are plenty of 20+ year old reloading manuals still being used. So they would not jeopardize there company by producing & distributing gun powders that would cause problems with those older published loads.
 

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I agree with Moondawg.Powders have not changed.There is a normal lot to lot variation which is to be expected but nothing more than that.
 
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