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  1. #1
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    Post Shelf Life of Black Powder

    I saw a question on another area that got me thinking. What is the shelf life of black powder or substitute? How do I know if it has gone bad?
    If you think gun control is the answer, look what happened in Australia when they banned all hand guns in 1996? NEW LINK! 8/3/2013
    Try here -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4tS0DGDf0I
    or here -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyS3CEIbpJo

    English Warning "Our Gun Ban caused 40% jump in Gun Crime" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTyCD2n6HAQ


    A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

  2. #2
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    i have some black powder 30 years old keep cool and dry... for ever...some feller found a CW cannon ball..tryed to get it open and it went bang..end of story

  3. #3
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    Here in UK a local pub-keeper successfully fired a gun loaded since 1897. The shot it fired - no idea what it was - cleared both sides of a timber shed and went whanging away into the nearby woods.

    tac
    I am an international Gunboards patron

  4. #4
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    Yes. keep Black dry, and it last forever. If it gets wet, you really only need to let it dry again.


    Black Powder is a very simple chemical mixture of Charcoal, Sulfur, and Potasium Nitrate, all in powder form, wet, to disolve all and stirred to mix, then allowed to dry and crumbled up to grain size.

    There is nothing to "break-down" or "go bad".

  5. #5
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    I'm shooting DuPont powder from two 25 Lb. Kegs I bought a Friendship Indiana. (NMLRA). They both have 1963 dates on them. It was a "My father in law passed away and he had all this Muzzle Loading stuff".

    The wannabe modern stuff loses power after it's open and ages. Or that's what I've heard. Never use it. It won't go off in a flintlock.

  6. #6
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    Its all about storage conditions... I have used 50 yr old powder that was kept right and dry with no problems....

  7. #7
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    I'm pretty sure that black powder will last almost forever if it is stored well. The black powder substitutes probably would not, and I only say that from my experiences with Pyrodex.

  8. #8
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    Thank you, I now understand BP will last a long time, what about the substitute? How long does it last?
    If you think gun control is the answer, look what happened in Australia when they banned all hand guns in 1996? NEW LINK! 8/3/2013
    Try here -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4tS0DGDf0I
    or here -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyS3CEIbpJo

    English Warning "Our Gun Ban caused 40% jump in Gun Crime" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTyCD2n6HAQ


    A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

  9. #9
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    I needed some black powder a few years ago and my grandpa obliged with a red tin of DuPont with a white and black printed label. Had to be WWII or earlier, and by the writing on it, I'd wager it was from a round WWI. Just recently my dad came across one of those little .45 cal. cannons and grandpa gave him some powder. Same can and everything. He must have tons of it from his dad, who was a packrat supreme. Couldn't sit on his couch without pulling a revolver from the cushions (true story when my dad helped clean his estate up after he passed away).

    Now, percussion caps, some folks buy them new every year. In a bunch of BP stuff my grandpa also gave me when I started shooting the family rifle was a tin of caps. They were old, but went bang. Then I read the label with an eyepiece and it said something like 1881!

  10. #10
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    Clyde is offline Gold Bullet Member and Noted Curmudgeon
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    Quote Originally Posted by greyheadedguy View Post
    Thank you, I now understand BP will last a long time, what about the substitute? How long does it last?
    Nobody knows yet. I have some RS Pyrodex that is about 20 years old that seems to work OK still.
    Absent comrades (sound of breaking glass)

  11. #11
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    Powder never lasts long enough for me to get an idea.
    I've got a few cans of smokeless probably getting to 2 or 3 years, that's about it.
    Black powder stored correctly should be good for hundreds of years.
    The substitutes probably 20 easy.

  12. #12
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    I have some CleanShot powder,,BP sub now sold under the name of American Pioneer.
    It's probably 10years old and still works fine. One of the jars had been opened (by me) and put away years ago. I used that up recently and it too worked fine.
    I know alot of people have issues with the stuff but I've used alot of it over the years both under the CleanShot and American Pioneer names and haven't had any problems with it 'going bad'. It does 'clump' in the container sometimes but a quick shake solves that problem.
    Use it mostly in cartridge loading and shotshell, but I like it in .58 percussion musket too. Very accurate in my 44wcf Winchester '73.
    Real stuff for the F/L

  13. #13
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    Thanks! My container is new never opened, but after reading some of the other areas I thought I'd better find out shelf life.

    If I understand correctly BP substitute has only been out less then 20 years, so we are still waiting to find out when and if it goes bad. Is the right?

    When I use this up I will be buying the real thing, black powder, not Coca Cola. Come to think of it I will keep buying Coca cola as well

  14. #14

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    Pyrodex first came out in the mid - '70s so people have had plenty of time to find out that it has "problems". As far as how long the subs will last in storage? The manufacturers are not saying or making recommendations and shooters opinions will vary according to their storage methods and conditions. No one is conducting scientific studies, it's not worth the time. Black powder is well known to last indefinitely so it is your best bet and best for your firearm.

  15. #15
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    Picked up some very old pyrodex in cardboard containers a couple of years ago at gun show realy cheap. Most had been opened. Still goes bang. Use it for plinking and target practice. Use newer stuff for deer hunting.

  16. #16
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    After my Dad passed away we cleaned out his place and found two Dupont 1lb powder cans from the early 1900's. Both were partially used and closed tightly. We made a 40 yd Yosemite Sam fuse across the yard and lit it off. It foofed perfectly much to the amusement of the old geezers and drunk guy next door. Saved the cans for my collection.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by lonegunman View Post
    ....".much to the amusement of the old geezers and drunk guy next door"....
    Every neighborhood has them don't they!!

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by lonegunman View Post
    ........made a 40 yd Yosemite Sam fuse across the yard and lit it off. It foofed perfectly much to the amusement of the old geezers and drunk guy next door. Saved the cans for my collection.
    They probably were amused because you did not know any better than having to use that long a fuse to light it. I am an old geezer and would probably have laughed so hard that I cracked a rib.

    Quote Originally Posted by ktr View Post
    Every neighborhood has them don't they!!
    Be thankful for them.Were it not for them you would not have the neighborhood to live in.
    Last edited by F84FMechanic; 11-25-2010 at 04:14 PM.

  19. #19
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    Same answer as everyone else...I have some FF in an older flask from 1970's for my TC Hawken .50....70gr worked last weekend just like when I bought it....The flask has been in a gun case drawer in my house most of this time.

  20. #20
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    Back in 1990 a local pub was being renovated and they decided to take down the old P53 musket that had been on the wall for a loooooooooooooooooong time. In fact, there was a photograph taken in 1942 of some RAF types having a sing-song, and there it was in the same place. The pub had been rebuilt in 1902, and it may have been there then. Being the local BP shooter, the Firearms Enquiry Officer asked me to check it out, and yup, it was loaded.

    So bearing in mind that it might have been loaded as recently as 1942, we tied it to a convenient post pointing down into a ditch, stuck a cap on it and remotely activated the trigger by means of some bailing twine.

    It went bang.

    No ball, but a few scraps of newspaper came out, one of them clearly showing the date - 22 June 1897 - the sixtieth anniversary of Queen Victoria's accession to the throne. It had been loaded for a noisy salute on that day long ago, and since most everybody would have been wrecked as rats in the celebrations, forgotten about.

    BP lasts almost forever.

    tac
    Supporter of the Cape Meares Lighthouse Restoration Fund

    PS - I now have the musket in my little collection.
    I am an international Gunboards patron

  21. #21
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    Revolutionary war shells have been found and the black powder in them was still good. The Navy actualy had a manual for deactivating Civil war ordnance because at one or more OLD bases sailors were finding shells and trying to remove the powder, sometimes with VERY UNPLEASENT results.

    Smokeless powder is a chemical mixture that can deteriorate. Black powder is a mechanical mixture, so as long as the components are kept dry it will go BANG indefinetly.

  22. #22
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    WOW! that's incredible, I guess BP will last almost forever. I'll leave the almost, we don't know how long forever will be... I love the stories of the finds and the "crazy fun" things people do.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by tacfoley2 View Post
    Here in UK a local pub-keeper successfully fired a gun loaded since 1897. The shot it fired - no idea what it was - cleared both sides of a timber shed and went whanging away into the nearby woods.

    tac
    Bushmill's all around!
    "Peace is one of those brief, glorious moments in history when everybody stands around reloading."

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