We all have that one old stuff we no longer use. And while sometimes it makes sense to stash it in places like the attic or garage, other things just need to go. That way, you can reclaim the valuable space they occupy and prevent any accidents that might occur if they’re mishandled.
One such item is gunpowder. While it may seem harmless, gunpowder is actually a highly explosive material. So, if you have any old gunpowder lying around, it’s important to know how to dispose of it safely, and that borrows the question of this article: how do you dispose of gunpowder?
You can dispose of your gunpowder through the police department, using local gun dealers, selling it online, or mixing it with damp dirt, to mention but a few methods. The appropriate disposal technique depends on the type of powder you have, what’s available to you, and your preference.
What is Gunpowder, Anyway?
Gunpowder is a mixture of charcoal, sulfur, and potassium nitrate (saltpeter). Originally, gunpowder served in fireworks and signal flares. But currently, it serves as an essential component of most firearms.
When you ignite gunpowder, it undergoes a rapid chemical decomposition that produces large amounts of hot gas. This expanding gas is what propels the bullet out of the barrel of a gun.
We have two types of gunpowder:
- Black powder
- Smokeless powder.
Black powder is the older of the two. It’s an application included in early firearms, cannons, and fireworks.
Smokeless powder, on the other hand, is a more modern invention. Its deployed in most contemporary firearms, and as the name says, it produces less smoke when ignited.
7 Amazing Ways To Dispose Of Gunpowder
Fortunately, there are several ways to get rid of unwanted gun powder. It all comes down to the type of gunpowder, the amount, and your personal preferences.
How To Dispose Of Black Powder?
Black powder is explosive. As such, you can’t just leave it lying around the house. The good news is that you can dispose of it relatively easily.
Here are some of the most common methods:
1. Mix It With Damp Dirt
One of the ways to handle black powder is to mix it with damp dirt. You can either do this inside a container or outside in your garden.
Potassium nitrate is hygroscopic. So, when you mix the gunpowder with dirt, the compound will absorb the water from the soil, making the gun powder lose its reactiveness.
2. Use Your Local Police Department
Local police departments will be happy to help you get the black powder off your hands. They may use it for training or dispose of it according to their own procedures.
So, if you’re not comfortable disposing of the gunpowder on your own, this is a great option.
Actually, we see it as the safest way to get rid of black powder. That’s because the police have the necessary experience and equipment to deal with such materials.
3. Take It To A Gun Dealer
Working with a gun dealer is another safe way to dispose of black powder. Gun dealers usually have the necessary facilities and expertise to handle the job.
Tell them how much black powder you have, and they’ll take care of the rest. In most cases, they’ll offer to do the disposal for free.
How To Dispose Of Smokeless Powder?
Smokeless powder is a lot more stable than black powder. However, it’s still highly combustible, so be careful when handling it.
Here are some of the most common methods for disposing of smokeless powder;
4. Trade It Online
The Internet has made it easier than ever to get rid of unwanted items. And if you have the smokeless powder you want to get rid of, then trading it online is a great option.
There are several online forums and groups dedicated to trading firearms-related items. So, all you have to do is find an active one and post an ad about the smokeless powder you have.
5. Light It Up
Since smokeless gunpowder isn’t explosive like the black powder, you can actually dispose of it by burning it.
Now, we don’t recommend that you do this inside your house. The best place to do it is in your backyard or any other open space.
And yes, there are several ways to go about it. You can build a ditch, make a trail, or use a metal container for the job. It all comes down to your preferences.
Only ensure that you work with a small amount at a time. That way, you can avoid any accidents.
6. Use As Fertilizer
Smokeless powder is a rich source of nitrogen. And as you probably know, nitrogen is an essential nutrient for plants. So, if you have some extra smokeless powder, you can use it as fertilizer.
However, don’t over-apply it. Smokeless powder also contains phosphorus, which isn’t a healthy compound for plants. So, if you have to use this method, work with the recommended application rate.
7. Give It To A Friend
If you know someone who likes to reload their own ammunition, then giving them the smokeless powder is a great way to get rid of it.
Giving it to a friend is another safe way to get it off your hands. But of course, it only works if you know someone who can actually use the smokeless powder safely.
What Happens To Gunpowder When It Gets Wet?
Black powder can become permanently ruined when it gets wet. The saltpeter will absorb water and can become difficult to impossible to separate out later. As for the smokeless variety, it can get wet and will still be useable, but it may not function as well as when it was dry.
Although black gunpowder is explosive, it won’t detonate when it comes into contact with water. That’s because, unlike other explosives, you can only initiate an explosion of this powder with a shock or heat.
However, that doesn’t mean nothing happens when black gunpowder gets wet. The water will actually cause a chemical reaction that renders the powder useless.
You see, black gunpowder is 75% made up of saltpeter. And when this compound gets wet, it absorbs water and can become difficult to impossible to separate out later.
As for the smokeless variety, it can get wet and will still be useable, but it may not function as well as when it was dry.
Does Water Ruin Gunpowder?
It depends on the type of gunpowder you have. Black powder can become ruined when soaked in water, but the smokeless powder will only be affected temporarily.
As already mentioned, black powder is 75% saltpeter. And when this compound gets wet, it changes the chemical composition of the powder, making it useless.
However, that’s not the case with smokeless powder. This type of gunpowder has nitrocellulose and nitroglycerin. And although water can temporarily affect the performance of these compounds, smokeless powder will eventually dry out and be as good as new.
Can You Burn Gunpowder?
Yes, you can burn gunpowder, but only if it’s the smokeless kind. Unlike the black variety, smokeless gunpowder isn’t explosive, so you can light it up as a way to get rid of it. Only be extra careful as even a simple mistake can lead to big accidents.
Burning your gunpowder is one of the effective ways to get rid of it. In fact, most people prefer this method to dispose of their gunpowder.
However, it’s worth mentioning that burning doesn’t work for all types of gunpowder. You can only burn smokeless gunpowder. Black gunpowder is explosive, so you can’t just set it on fire and watch it burn.
Even so, when burning your smokeless variety, do it cautiously. Perform the task outdoors and away from any flammable materials.
Again, as already said, only work with small amounts at a time. Huge bonfires are not only dangerous, but they can also be illegal in some areas.
How Long Does Old Gunpowder Last?
It depends on the manufacturer’s chemical mix. However, when stored properly, most gunpowders can remain potent for decades. Even so, it’s still best to use gunpowder as soon as possible. The more you stay with it, the greater the risk of it causing accidents.
You might have seen a label on your gunpowder package that reads, “lasts for a lifetime.” Well, that’s not entirely accurate.
The truth is, the lifespan of your gunpowder depends on several factors, such as the manufacturer’s chemical mix and how you store it.
Ideally, you should use up your gunpowder within 2-3 years. But if you store it properly, most gunpowders can remain effective for decades.
Does Gunpowder Deteriorate?
Yes, gunpowder can deteriorate when not stored properly. Gunpowders are chemical compounds, and like all chemicals, they can break down over time when exposed to the elements.
The most common cause of deterioration is moisture. When gunpowder gets wet, it can change its chemical composition, making it useless.
That’s why it’s recommendable to store your gunpowder in a cool, dry place. Do not expose it to direct sunlight or any other heat source, as this can also cause it to break down.
You can know that your gunpowder is going bad by its smell. Most gunpowders will give off an acidic smell as they begin to deteriorate. This smell will only grow worse as things progress.
Some gunpowder varieties may even change in color. But for others, you may not notice any change in smell or color until you put them into use.
What Causes Gunpowder To Explode?
Gunpowder consists of fine powder made of highly combustible materials. When you light up gunpowder, the oxygen in potassium nitrate causes the charcoal and sulfur to ignite quickly and release hot air. As this heat builds up, it forces more gunpowder outwards, leading to an explosion.
Gunpowder is a low-explosive mixture. In fact, it’s more accurate to say that it deflagrates, or burns very rapidly, than explodes.
But while gunpowder may not technically explode, the force it releases is enough to cause significant damage. That’s why you should always handle it cautiously and only use it for its intended purpose.
Gunpowder can be dangerous when not handled properly. That’s why it’s essential to know how to store, transport, and dispose of it safely.
Fortunately, there are several ways you can get rid of your gunpowder. The way to take much depends on the gunpowder type and the amount you want to dispose of.
If you have a small amount of smokeless gunpowder, the best way to get rid of it is by burning it. But if you have a large amount or are dealing with black powder, the safest way to dispose of it is by calling your local bomb squad.