Smokeless powder chemistry


I am looking for some reference work on how smokeless powder deteriorates over time, especially military powders, as loaded in cartridges of all types, blank, ball, tracer etc.
Has anything been published on this subject?
Hilairous claims have been made through time by authorities who should know better and I am trying to piece together a collection of documents to show how wrong the claims can be.


Are you aware of ‘Google Scholar’?

It is a google search tool that searches academic and scientific literature. It is very handy for finding actual research documents and not just a bunch of opinions from forums or personal web pages.


No, wasn’t aware of that. Thanks, will try it out.


There probably have been such studies, and certainly there have been studies of propellant decomposition at elevated temperatures. Any properly manufactured smokeless powder, i.e., propellant having the correct type and amount of stabilizing additives and being completely acid-free, has an indeterminate storage time so long as exceedingly high temperatures are avoided. When I worked at Hercules, we had a reference sample of Bullseye propellant that had been manufactured very early on. I do not remember when, but prior to WWI. Occasionally samples were taken and tested for any evidence of deterioration and changes in ballistic performance. When I left there in the early 1970s, it was exactly as it had always been. Of course, the propellant had been stored in a temperature-controlled storage magazine.

I still have (and use) some containers of propellants (HiVel #2 and duPont #6) that I know for sure date from the 1950s, which show no indications of decomposition and ballistics are still good.

The only propellant I personally have seen deteriorate was some of the old surplus WWII-era 4831. No mistaking it, from the smell of the acrid fumes, the corrosion of the metal cans, and it looked lumpy and appeared to have rust mixed in with it.

I believe I mentioned some time ago that several years back, I fired and chronographed some 1918-headstamped GI .45 ACP ammunition. Of those rounds that fired (over half), MVs were right where they should have been, about 825 fps. That would not have occurred had the propellant significantly deteriorated.


A friend found this article that tells me what I want to know mostly. … ab_eq.html
The dilemma is the fact that locally the authorities think old powder auto-catalyzes after 30 years no matter what, a “fact” that all collectors of old ammo would shake their head at. It’s part of an effort to avoid giving collector permits for loaded ammo. In this case using bogus science. Other efforts have been to include the Toejhusmuseum, Which I think the Toejhusmuseum would rather have nothing to do with. They do not have anybody with any knowledge of ammunition at all at the museum.