Storage of smokeless powders is always a consideration for handloaders. Many question the safety of storing such a flammable material around the home, an understandable concern. In reality, modern smokeless propellants are much safer to store than gasoline, flammable aerosols, and many other chemicals found in the average garage. It does, however, deserve a healthy respect, and proper storage conditions must be adhered to. The following recommendations will greatly reduce the risks of storing powders, as well as ensuring that the powder stays in good condition.
1) Always store powder in a cool, dry place. The location should be shielded from direct sunlight, and not subjected to extreme temperature variations.
2) Stocks of powder should be limited to that which will be used in the near future. The powder kept on hand should be rotated, to assure its freshness and performance. Consult with SAAMI and your local fire ordinances regarding storage of large amounts of smokeless propellants or black powder.
3) Powder should always be stored in its original container, clearly labeled as to its identity, and kept tightly sealed. NEVER transfer powder to another container. Many types of smokeless propellants are hygroscopic, that is, they attract and absorb moisture. The original packaging is properly designed to keep the powder fresh and in good condition. Take advantage of it.
4) Place “No Smoking” signs prominently if the area is open to guests or other visitors, and demand absolute compliance at all times.
The shelf life of modern smokeless propellant is virtually indefinite, given proper conditions. Improperly stored, however, powder deterioration will occur. If you suspect that powder has been improperly stored, it should be checked for the following signs: 1) An irritating acidic odor, not to be confused with the ether odor common to most forms of smokeless powder. 2) A reddish dust, or a “clumped” appearance. 3) An oily or sticky substance in the powder. If the powder in question appears to have deteriorated, it should be destroyed at once. We recommend that it be burned out in the open in small (not exceeding one pound) amounts. The powder should be spread out so that it is no more than one inch deep at any point, and provides an ignition train allowing it to be ignited from a safe distance.
This Winchester Model 70 was destroyed by the mistaken use of a fast-burning pistol powder. ALWAYS keep powders in their original containers, and NEVER attempt to identify powders by their appearance!