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Old February 27, 2013, 09:00 PM   #1
tahunua001
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us surplus powder

I have recently acquired a bottle of US surplus ammo powder. it comes in gallon bottles and is marked that it's used for M2 ball ammo. I was just curious if anyone knew the commercial name and proper load info for M2 ball?

also a bit of a side note but there is a can of Hercules HIVEL, can says it's for military cartridges, anyone know anything about this stuff?

EDIT:
google search brought me to this thread

where the OP has a picture of a similarly packed and marked bottle with verly slight differences but same wording.

apparently there never was a absolute answer to it either.
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Old February 27, 2013, 09:33 PM   #2
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Quote:
I have recently acquired a bottle of US surplus ammo powder. it comes in gallon bottles and is marked that it's used for M2 ball ammo. I was just curious if anyone knew the commercial name and proper load info for M2 ball?
Is it ball or stick powder? I hope there is more information on the jug than just "For M2 ball ammo". It might be IMR4895, but could be something else entirely.
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Old February 27, 2013, 09:36 PM   #3
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I got some surplus stuff that was stick and smashed balls mixed. It used Imr 4831 data. Shot great. Wish I could find more. It was in 8 lb jugs and had written on the jugs "use imr 4831 data." Did great loading by weight. Did not meter well enough to even consider loading by volume.

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Old February 27, 2013, 10:03 PM   #4
tahunua001
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so far a list of possible names are
4895
4831
wc852, 844, or 846
ww748
blc2
h450
win 785
414
so far I have so many different answers that I may as well try black powder data for a 45/70.
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Old February 28, 2013, 12:07 AM   #5
paulo57509
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Quote:
I have recently acquired a bottle of US surplus ammo powder. it comes in gallon bottles and is marked that it's used for M2 ball ammo. I was just curious if anyone knew the commercial name and proper load info for M2 ball?

EDIT:
google search brought me to this thread

where the OP has a picture of a similarly packed and marked bottle with verly slight differences but same wording.

apparently there never was a absolute answer to it either.
It is my understanding that these surplus powders (as in the posted link) are not canister grade powders. The burn rate of these surplus powders varies from lot to lot.

Does your container label look like this?



The container of surplus powder that I have was distributed by River Valley Ordnance. The manufacturer of the powder is unknown.

However, the powder did come with load data specific to the lot number of the powder.



Personally, I would avoid trying to guess what kind of powder it is. I'd only use it if I have actual load data for that powder.
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Old February 28, 2013, 12:10 AM   #6
tahunua001
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it looks like your powder but I don't have the load sheet. I bought it used and there's only about a pound of powder left. it was part of a bulk purchase that I bought from a friend so it is more of an afterthought than anything.
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Old February 28, 2013, 05:22 AM   #7
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Yikes!

Does that bottle have the phone number of the nearest ER and completed Next of Kin paperwork taped to it?

No one likes a deal better than me. Hopefully someone here can provide you with better information. Good Luck.
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Old February 28, 2013, 08:28 AM   #8
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I would try and backtrack to find the source. Ask seller, his seller etc... It may not even be as marked seeing as its been opened. Otherwise make a pile outside and toss a match in it. You dont want to squeeze the trigger on a pipe bomb, at least I wouldnt.
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Old February 28, 2013, 10:05 AM   #9
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Nitrocellulose is an excellent fertilizer and I would scatter that pound of mystery powder on my back yard. Why take a chance?
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Old February 28, 2013, 10:51 AM   #10
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I have posted a lot of material dealing with the shelf life of gunpowder. The stuff has a shelf life, shelf life is dramatically reduced with exposure of temperatures 90 F and up. Fume tests are conducted at 150 F so that ought to give you an idea of temperature sensitivity.

http://thefiringline.com/forums/show...ght=old+powder
http://thefiringline.com/forums/show...ght=old+powder
http://thefiringline.com/forums/show...ght=old+powder

I have had poor luck with surplus IMR 4895, 75% of the powder I bought went bad. I prefer stick powders, I have some surplus AA2520, but I am not going to buy anymore surplus powders because of the money wasted pouring the stuff out.

All surplus powders were junked because they are at the end of their shelf lives. Gunpowder gets worse the older it gets. Really old and deteriorated gunpowder will blow up gun.

HiVel was discontinued in the early 60’s. I would avoid buying it. HiVel was a popular 30-06 powder back in the 1920's, maybe earlier.
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Old February 28, 2013, 11:20 AM   #11
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Tahunua001,

I'm guessing you are new to reloading, or the fact you are receiving suggestions for a mixture of spherical and stick powders would have jumped out at you and you would immediately have eliminated the suggestion that didn't match what you see looking into the container to eliminate the impossible. Personally, and especially given that you are not familiar with the appearance of powders, I would use the fertilizer approach with this stuff.

Someone once posted asking about how to segregate different powders that had been mixed. IIRC, he had bought a container of powder at a gun show that turned out to have been "consolidated" by the relatives of a deceased reloader. They had simply thrown all the different smaller quantities of powder the reloader had owned together into the one container to save space. Some people are less careful than others, and any partial container of powder that you didn't make partial yourself, personally, is a potential hazard for that reason. You may not be able to believe the label. So I would just fertilize the lawn with it and take it as a lesson learned.

That said, based on the load data associated with the container Paulo57509 put up, it certainly seems most likely this is WC852 from pull-down LC 77 M2 or surplused out lot remains. Based on the load data for .30-06 that it suggests for the Garand, more specifically, it appears to be the slow lot of WC852 that the military qualified for machine gun ammunition but disqualified for the Garand because of excess port pressure. The Garand qualified WC852 ran more like 53 grains, IIRC. 56 grains was in the machine gun stuff. So, despite the claim for a Garand load, it should only be used in bolt guns. It's burn rate is close to that of Winchester WXR. Powder #214 on this chart. The faster version that was qualified for the Garand is #193 on the chart.

Here is what the slow WC852 looks like. A large rifle primer is included for size reference. I pulled this powder down from LC 77 M2 with machine gun link marks on the cases and got an average charge weight of 56.2 grains over a 150.9 grain average weight bullet (specs for the M2 bullet are flat base spire point FMJ 152 grains +0/-3 grains, or 150.5 grains average).

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Old February 28, 2013, 01:11 PM   #12
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Are you suggesting that surplus powder does not come as a mixture of stick and spherical? I am willing to bet you a lot of money that it does. When I saw it, I nutted up and called the person I bought it from. He said, "dont worry, I have loaded it for years and it is fine. Just load by weight and never trust volume." Had I not trusted him due to his reputation and my personal knowledge of his level of proficiency, I would have never loaded it. Its good enough for him, its good enough for me. He's only built a few thousand rifles in his life. The stuff will never win a bench rest match, but its easy to load sub moa hunting ammo with it.
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Old February 28, 2013, 08:24 PM   #13
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Quote:
Are you suggesting that surplus powder does not come as a mixture of stick and spherical?
I've never seen a single lot of ammo that had more than one type of powder. And I've never emptied a GI cartridge that had a mix of stick and ball. Not saying it can't happen, but I haven't seen or heard of it before now.

All the surplus I've bought has been stick or ball. Never both in the same jug. Just my experience...
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Old February 28, 2013, 09:31 PM   #14
reynolds357
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I am sure it was mixed by the people who recovered it and not mixed in the military ammo. It scared me at first.
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Old March 1, 2013, 07:18 PM   #15
tahunua001
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alright,
thanks for all the info and advice.

first, I am not an expert reloader I don't fall asleep every night with a reloading manual in my lap and I do not know off the top of my head what powders are balls and what are sticks. I do not read books on the subject and can barely make it through the preambles in reloading manuals without falling asleep, let alone read entire articles on a single powder type.

however I do not have this stuff with me, it's being stored in my sister's place, along with all of my reloading components and manuals as my brother in law is the big reloader in the family. my brothers and I use his reloading setup.


so naturally given my level of knowledge I just can't walk into my man cave and open the bottle to see if it matches the latest number that's been thrown out.

however, it would stand to reason that even the US government would use a civilian company's product to load their cartridges, a product that is just as viable to market to civilians and therefore it would not be unrealistic to assume that this stuff would have a civilian moniker.

apparently my ignorance has steered me wrong on this subject.
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Old March 1, 2013, 08:11 PM   #16
Sport45
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Quote:
however, it would stand to reason that even the US government would use a civilian company's product to load their cartridges, a product that is just as viable to market to civilians and therefore it would not be unrealistic to assume that this stuff would have a civilian moniker.
That's where your thinking is flawed. Even "civilian" ammunition manufacturer's don't use powder that's available to us. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part they do not use the canister grade powders we have that have to be blended to a specific bulk density and burning rate to match reloading manuals. They start with a large quantity of powder and determine their own load to run a large lot of ammunition.

Your powder is probably fine. I've used quite a bit of surplus power that came in similarly marked jugs. The advantage I had was knowing what "civilian" powder it closely matched. In your shoes, I would start with load data for the slowest powder it might be and work up to a good ignition and accuracy point. But, with only a pound of the stuff you may well run out of powder before you find a good loading for it. Then you'd have just wasted about 150 bullets and primers developing a load for a powder you can't replace. That's why your best option may be spreading it in the yard.
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Old March 2, 2013, 11:20 AM   #17
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Unclenick provided some fantastic detail (nice job by the way, I stand in awe)

Shep 45 has it right in regards to 1 lb does not go very far and its wasted development wise as you will then run out of it and can't get more.

All and all with the lack of detail and the risk far excess of any gain, pitch it.

I have been doing that with small lots of old powder.
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Old March 2, 2013, 11:27 AM   #18
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Gracias.

Tahunua001,

I was not meaning to suggest you need encyclopedic knowledge of reloading with my comment about identifying the powders. The reason I suggested the difference in powders would jump out at you is just that those numbers included some of the most commonly used powders, so I expect most rifle reloaders will have used them at one time or another. You probably have, too, but if you aren't living with the stuff at home and reloading regularly, I can see how they might not register.

I have a good friend who isn't particularly interested in reloading books or technical details, either. He's also not interested in shooting bugholes. He just wants to shoot in volume and not pay the cost of commercial ammo. He doesn't enjoy reloading and doesn't want to spend a lot of time doing it, so he got the most expensive, fastest presses he could find for his chamberings (Dillon 1050s), and just buys whatever bullets, powder and primers that will produce working, plinking accuracy level loads, sets up the powder measure and cranks out a 1000 rounds a week with a couple of hours of effort (including case cleaning, primer tube filling, and boxing finished rounds). (I wish I were on his budget.)

As to civilian and military powders, the military is the prime mover in powder manufacturing as military supplies during war are more critical to keep up than civilian supplies. Military budgets pay for the research and development of most powders here and abroad. Even though the civilian market is huge, most commercial powder types were developed for military purposes first.

While many of the military and commercial powder types are also sold to handloaders, they are not the same grade. As Sport45 said, ammunition makers and the military buy bulk grade powder, then use pressure test guns to determine correct charge weights, knowing they won't be the same for each lot of the same powder type. Civilian powders for handloading are what are called canister grade. Canister grade goes through extra processing steps to control its burn rate so load manual charge weights will remain valid. That extra processing makes it too expensive for military or commercial manufacturers to use, but they don't need it because they have pressure test equipment rather than load recipes to rely on.

The main problem with surplus powder is that it isn't necessarily good powder. The military uses a sample of over half a ton to qualify a rifle powder for purchase. If it doesn't produce ammo that meets their velocity, peak pressure, gas port pressure, temperature range and barrel wear requirements all simultaneously, it is rejected. The manufacturer is then stuck with the rest of the lot, and gets rid of it as surplus.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Reynolds357
I am sure it was mixed by the people who recovered it and not mixed in the military ammo. It scared me at first.
Yep. Stick and spherical powder processes are different. The U. S. Military powders are made by companies currently owned by General Dynamics. The stick powders are made at their Valleyfield, Canada plant, while the spherical powders are made at the St. Marks, Florida plant. Their nitrocellulose (primary component for both) is made at Radford, Virginia.

No doubt you had pull-down powder recovered from unrelated lots of ammunition. The U. S. Military used to use IMR 4895 in both .30-06 and 7.62 NATO, but later went to spherical WC852 and WC846, respectively. My guess is you got some old 4895 and some newer spherical from one of those two types of ammunition.

There are several potential problems with mixed powder like that. Stick powder is normally less dense than spherical powder. In bulk density, much of that is due to the sticks not packing as closely as spheres, which would not be a factor in the mix. But a little of that difference is due to coatings, deterrent penetration, the difference in nitroglycerine and nitrocellulose density, the longitudinal perforations in the stick grains, etc. As a result, the mix could tend stratify under vibration. This would give you powder whose characteristics and best charge weight would change toward those of one of the constituent powders as you worked your way through the container. How much will depend on what vibration the container and powder measure hopper are subjected to.

For example, in the Precision Shooting Reloading Guide, one of the authors found a load that, if he assembled it at home shot fine, but gave him pressure signs if he assembled it at the range. The difference? Vibration in his car on the way to the range would compact the powder enough to lower the ignition rate by making the flame front pass through tighter spaces. So, with your mixed powder, even if you had it perfectly blended when you loaded it, you might well find a difference in performance depending on whether it was transported nose up or nose down during the drive to the range and on how far away the range was. This is because that would change which constituent powder tended to have a larger portion near the primer.

A third thing is the different ages of the constituent powders affect how near they are to end of life. Once the stabilizers are used up in a powder by scavenging deterioration products, the powder starts to break down at an accelerated rate. Acid products of that breakdown cause the rest of the powder to break down faster, which is why it snowballs. This is all very storage condition dependent. The British put a limit of 20 years storage on spherical powders and 45 years on stick powders. Some have reported surplus 4895 and 4831 they bought having gone bad quickly. Others have fired much older ammo that worked fine, though neither we nor they would know exactly what temperatures and conditions it was subject to at different times of its life. Heat damage is cumulative in powder.

The point is, some of these powders are old enough to be calling it quits or at least to be getting weak. In rare instances that can also make them dangerous, with one blow-up of a Garand shooting WWII era ammo reported (the photos were on the CMP forum, though I can't recall where they were linked from originally). Others have fired ammo from between the WW's without a problem, so this is really unknowable until you try.

I don't own any guns I dislike enough to be interested in doing the experiment. Questionable powder I have pulled down goes to help the grass grow.
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Last edited by Unclenick; March 2, 2013 at 11:37 AM. Reason: clarification
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