A couple of old duPont Smokeless Powder Cans ID


I found a couple of interesting items at the local gun show yesterday, which I will put in two postings. First is a couple of old duPont powder cans, apparently full and unopened. I have many powder cans from the 50s and later, but none this old. Maybe someone can help me with an approximate date, I suspect they are from sometime in the 1930s. What modern IMR powder is duPont #80 like? I am guessing something like IMR 4227 (or faster), but I cannot find any information. I find it interesting that reloading data is printed on the rear label. I have several earlier Hodgdon cans which did that also.

I am thinking about loading up some cartridges using the #80 recipes, but wonder if it is best to leave the full cans full or not. Any ideas on that? (It wouldn’t be the first time I have done that with old powders, but not this old).


The cans are from the 1930s. Sporting Rifle 80 is very similar to the recently (?) discontinued SR-4759. It can be loaded grain-for-grain with 4759 loads.

Phil Sharpe’s “Complete Guide to Handloading”, 1937, has descriptions of both powders.
It is relatively easy to find as a used book, but copies sell for about $50. Long out of print, it is available as a free public domain file (pdf?) on the internet. If you collect 1920s & 30s American rifle & pistol cartridges, Sharpe’s book is a grand reference.

I have fired 1945-era Frangible Ball from my 03A3. That stuff was supposed to have been loaded with SR-80. After firing, I found unburned sawdust in the barrel.


The excellent book by Sharpe can be found on the internet in PDF format (at least some time ago).

The propellant in the containers in my view is no longer the propellant as it left the factory 8 or 9 decades ago. I fully understand the temptation to try using it for reloading today. But the results will probably not be representative for No. 80 propellant in the thirties.


Some time ago I had downloaded Sharpe’s reloading book as a PDF file, I just forgot that I had it. The idea of using the old duPont #80 propellant is mainly to see if it produces markedly different ballistics than provided on the can, no intention to load up several hundred rounds or anything like that, but just maybe 20-30 rounds as an experiment. Over 10 years ago I loaded up a quantity of .45 ACP ammunition using some old duPont #5 propellant which Dick Geer gave me before he died (two full 8 oz. cans, probably from the 1940s) and it worked fine. I ended up using all of it, but kept the cans. As I remember, duPont #5 was the standard U. S. military .45 ACP propellant used between WWI and WWII.

This evening I opened the #80 can and poured a small amount onto a steel plate in a line and lit it. It burned vigorously and left no residue behind, and there were no signs of deterioration. It’s a fine granular powder of a light brown color and should meter very well. Think of table salt consistency but having a khaki color.


Yes, free download in PDF. Just saved it. Seems very interesting indeed.


Sharpe’s book in an interesting read indeed. keep in mind that it was written more than 80 years ago, when the United States was in the grip of a severe economic depression. Tools for reloading were manufactured, but there was no standardization. You could not use the dies from Company A with other tools from Company Z.

A great many of Sharpe’s correspondents could not afford any manufactured reloading tools and simply made do. The main bearing from the electrical generator for a Ford Model A automobile (salvaged from a wrecking yard) was used as a resizing die for .45 ACP cases. Cases were lubricated and driven through the bearing’s hole with a brass rod and a hammer. Primers were punched out with a metal rod. A broken twist drill of small diameter was fitted into the end of the metal rod. A light hammer supplied the power. Primers were seated with another metal rod. It was inserted inside the case, pushed against the primer pocket. The primer was set over the exterior primer pocket and was pushed into place by squeezing the rod, case & primer in an ordinary workshop vice.

Another chapter details the history of almost all the types of smokeless powder made in the USA between the mid-1890s and 1935.


My first efforts at handloading back in my teens weren’t much different. I made most every tool I needed myself. Fortunately my father had a metal lathe and I knew (sort of) how to use it. Not much different from using the old Lee Loaders (which I think are still available).