Although modern smokeless powders contain stabilizers and are basically free from deterioration under proper storage conditions, safe practices require a recognition of the signs of deterioration and its possible effects.
Deteriorating smokeless powders produce and acidic odor and may produce a reddish brown fume. (Don't confuse this with common solvent odors such as alcohol, ether and acetone.)Powder deterioration can be checked by opening the cap on the container and smelling the contents. Powder undergoing deterioration has an irritating acidic odor.
Dispose of deteriorating smokeless powders immediately Check to make certain that powder is not exposed to extreme heat as this may cause deterioration. Such exposure produces an acidity which accelerates further reaction and has been known, because of the heat generated by the reaction, to cause spontaneous combustion.
Never salvage powder from old cartridges and do not attempt to blend salvaged powder with new powder or attempt to blend two types of powder to make a "custom" blend. Don't accumulate old powder stocks.
Smokeless powder is intended to function by burning, so it must be protected against accidental exposure to flame, sparks or high temperatures.
For these reasons, storage enclosures should be made of insulating materials to protect the powder from external heat sources.
Once smokeless powder begins to burn, it will continue to burn (and generate gas pressure) until it is consumed.
DOT-approved containers are constructed to open up at low internal pressures to avoid the effects normally produced by the rupture or bursting of a strong container.
Storage enclosures for smokeless powder should be constructed in a similar manner:
1. Of fire-resistant and heat-insulating materials to protect contents from external heat.
2. Sufficiently large to vent the gaseous products of combustion satisfactorily which would result if the quantity of smokeless powder within the enclosure accidentally ignited.
If a small, tightly enclosed storage enclosure is loaded to capacity with containers of smokeless powder, the enclosure will expand or move outwards to release the gas pressure - if the powder in storage is accidentally ignited.
Under such conditions, the effects of the release of gas pressure are similar or identical to the effects produced by an explosion.
Therefore, storage of smokeless powder should be in strict compliance with all applicable regulations and recommendations of the National Fire Protection Association.
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