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Before I get into my question, I'd like to preface this question by saying that this is ENTIRELY a matter of satisfying my curiosity.

Having said that...

How "flammable" is powder? Specifically, what is the likelyhood of an accident happening if you were to say, smoke a cigarette near a powder spill? A shell without a wad? An open keg of powder?

I'd like to think that most people would have common sense and not have any sort of open flame/candles/cigarettes by powder. But would a stray ash be enough to cause the whole keg to go up?
 

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If the "stray ash" is still on fire, ignition is probable. The violence of the reaction will depend on confinement, powder burning rate etc. I wouldn't want to be in the same room with a burning keg. The few grains in a shell without a wad can cause serious burns.
Doug
 

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Gunpowder is easy to ignite, yet it is a hell of a lot safer to handle than Gasoline. You'd have to get really stupid around powder to have a problem with it. Smoking around powder would qualify as really stupid.
 

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Generally speaking, what 221 said is true. Its not as dangerous a substance as gasoline.

Modern smokeless powder, <i>if stored in the original canisters,</i> will not explode, even if ignited.

It will burn very, very hot, and it will burn very, very fast.

Smoking is a bad idea around gasoline, and it is a bad idea around gun powder....its just a bad idea in general.

Black powder and black powder substitutes are a different story.
 

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Boy, does this bring back some funny memories. I knew one great guy, since gone, that used to like to smoke and watch TV while loading on his PW. One night the press went up in a WOOSH! and over he went backwards off the stool. Within a couple of years of that his nephew was pouring a keg of red dot into a smaller container while smoking his pipe.. Said he never saw a whole keg disappear so quick :). I shall not mention his name as he is still an active shooter who has long since given up the pipe. Good people, great memories.
 

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When people hear that I reload ammunition, many of the uneducated ask if I am afraid that it will explode. I try to convince them that it is safer than many household products they have in their home. They look at me kind of strange. Then I ask them if they have any baking flour in their kitchen. "Of course I do." is the usual answer. I then ask them if they know that flour is capable of making a major explosion. They think I am nuts when I tell them that. Yet flour spilled in a kitchen with a stove on IS capable of exploding. Think of grain elevator explosions on a smaller scale.

I may be giving my age away but one of the best experiments I ever saw and still remember from "Ask Mr. Wizard" (a science show for kids back in the 50's when education was still taking place!) was blowing the lid off a coffee can using nothing but a birthday candle, a rubber hose (to blow the flour into the can where the candle was already lit) and watching the can go sky high (DO THIS OUTDOORS!)

I then ask the uneducated if they have any paint thinner, lighter fluid, gasoline or such in the house. My follow up question is "If you spill it. what happens?" They then begin to realize that the liquid becomes a vapor that goes looking for trouble and if it finds a spark or flame, it has found its trouble.

Next question involves natural gas or propane. By then they usually catch on to the question. I then tell them if I spill the gunpowder, it just sits there waiting for me to clean it up. End of discussion.
 

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SAAMI has a video showing all the testing they did, with the help of the National Fire Protection Association, to teach firefighters how to fight ammunition and gunpowder fires.

Smokeless powders are far LESS of a hazard to firefighters than aerosol cans, gasoline, propane bottles, and many of the items you probably have on your workbench.

Even high powered rifle cartridges will NOT send the bullets flying. The pop-pop-pop often heard in ammunition fires is attributable to the primers cooking and going off. They do indeed come flying out, but normal canvas firefighting gear and face masks will stop them.
 
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