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Old July 25, 2021, 12:11 PM   #1
cdoc42
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Aged Shotgun Powder

There was a discussion some time ago about the utility of using old powder, and one of the posters opined, depending on the age, it may lose some of its original energy, but it will burn. I suspect that would be more of a concern for rifle, and perhaps, handgun, accuracy, but maybe less with regard to shotgun use.

I happened to come across a 3-lb canister of "Hercules Red Dot." I have no idea how old it is, but the price written on the top was $7.95 ($2.65 a pound).

Using a Hodgdon resource, I found in a 12-GA recipe, 17.5gr of Red Dot to be the maximum load with 1-1/8oz of shot, using the same hull and wad, but 3 different primers, for 1200 fps. I elected to try 17.0 gr, playing it safe if my MEC-Jr dumped a bit more than that every now and then.

I covered a 4 x 4 sheet of particle board with white paper and fired a round from 40 yards from a modified choke in my 30" Ruger Red Label. From another source, I found 1-1/8oz of #8 contains 461 pellets. I didn't count them, but I covered the entire 4 x 4 sheet to the extent that a clay bird from a Sporting Clay trap would not escape.

I fired another 4 rounds just to test the possibility that the powder wouldn't fire, but all 4 went off as expected. I'd be interested to know how old that canister is.
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Old July 25, 2021, 04:04 PM   #2
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Post up a pic. Probably the 1970s, but could be older. I have powders of that vintage I still use.

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Old July 25, 2021, 04:42 PM   #3
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I believe Red Dot, like Unique and Bullseye is a double based powder. For some reason they seem to store a lot better than singe based powders. Your powder should be OK.
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Old July 25, 2021, 05:08 PM   #4
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The military sees it the other way around. They put a stockpile limit of 45 years on single-base powder munitions and 20 years on their double-base powder munitions. However, which will actually last longer depends on what else was used in formulating the powder. Some of the deterioration in modern double-base powders is of the deterrents, so the burn rate can go up when they get too old, making the powder dangerous. On the other hand, Alliant still has a sample of an early lot of Unique that is over a century old that is still good. It is, however, stored underwater, something that cannot be done with some of the more modern chemistries, and something that helps carry off acid radicals. They pull a sample and dry it out every now and then to confirm that it is still working.
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Old July 26, 2021, 01:16 AM   #5
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First point, by their design and manufacture most shotguns lack the "steel strength in reserve" you find in centerfire rifles and handguns. So when you are looking at the possibility of a pressure excursion, keep in mind that it takes a lot less overpressure to blow the thin metal of a shotgun.

As to the age, not sure, a pic of the container would probably narrow it down to within couple decades, perhaps. If memory serves I seem to recall buying IMR rifle and Hercules powders in 1lb cans for around $8 in the early 70s. If I'm right (and I might not be) a price of less than $3/lb would put it considerably earlier.

Smokeless powder is a chemical compound and as such, can change over time. How much and in what ways depends on the specifics of its formulation and manufacture, AND storage conditions. Good stuff stays pretty stable for a long time, a century is not unheard of. Less than good stuff can go bad in a handful of years. I've seen both.
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Old July 26, 2021, 07:49 AM   #6
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Been using a 50+ year old 15# cannister of Red Dot for trap loads for the past 3 years. No problems.

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Old July 26, 2021, 08:02 AM   #7
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"I believe Red Dot, like Unique and Bullseye is a double based powder."

They are double base.

Fun fact, though.

All three powders (as well as Green Dot, Blue Dot, and 2400, and possibly others) are the EXACT SAME base powder formulation.

They become different powders, with different capabilities, depending on the flake diameter, thickness, and deterrent coatings, all of which control burning characteristics.
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Old July 26, 2021, 08:03 AM   #8
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"I happened to come across a 3-lb canister of "Hercules Red Dot." I have no idea how old it is, but the price written on the top was $7.95 ($2.65 a pound)."

If you want an exact manufacture date you'll need to contact Alliant to see if they have lot records.

If you want a general range, the type of container it's packed in will provide you with the best information.

Given the price, though, I'm betting those who say 1970s are in the ballpark.
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Old July 26, 2021, 08:41 AM   #9
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Did you weigh your charge? MEC bushing tend to drop lighter than the charts say. 17.3 has been a standard Red Dot charge (along with many similar powders) for your basic trap load for eons.
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Old July 26, 2021, 09:55 AM   #10
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FITSC, yes, I specifically weighed the Red Dot charges and the shot weight of the test loads. After I established the functionality at 40 yards, I calibrated the MEC (using a Universal charge bar) to deliver 17.0 gr. for 1-1/8oz of #8 shot.

16.5gr delivers 1145 fps; 17.5gr delivers 1200 fps, so I figured 17.0 is a nice safe zone, allowing for any upward bumps due to slamming the bar and powder settlement.
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Old July 26, 2021, 09:57 AM   #11
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If someone can tell me how to send a photo with a post, I'd be happy to post the canister photo.
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Old July 26, 2021, 10:27 AM   #12
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cdoc42,

When you compose, under the quick reply window is a button that says, "Go Advanced". Click on that. It takes you to a composition page with more complex options. In that page, scroll down until you find a button that says "Manage Attachments". Click on that. It gives you options to browse to and select an image. When you have done that, click on the "Upload" button. This will attach the image and put a thumbnail in your post for people to click on to see the image.

Note that the files you attach have size limits. For easy visibility, it is best to resize high-resolution images down to no more than 1024 pixels wide. There are several free online resizing programs that will do that if you don't have something on your machine that does it already.

If you want the image to display in the post rather than just having a thumbnail to click on, you right-click on the thumbnail and select to copy the image location. You then click on the yellow icon that has a little mountain and planet and paste the copied URL into the line it gives you for that.
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Old August 16, 2021, 04:15 PM   #13
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My wife has kept my old 15 pound card board canister from a Red Dot purchase I made in 1973. An old timer was selling out locally. I ended up with another 15 pound canister of Red Dot with an even lower Lot number than the one I purchased in 1973. I am working on shooting it up now. Works just like new powder.

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Old August 16, 2021, 04:55 PM   #14
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I have 3 lbs of rex power from about 1980 and it works great.
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