F Committee Site Visits

Alliant Techsystems/New River Energetics

Edwin P. Przybylowicz, Karl V. Jacob, Walter F. Rowe, Ronald L. Simmons, and Judith B. Snow, Committee Members

A subcommittee of the Committee on Smokeless and Black Powder1 met with Paul Furrier (commercial market manager), E. Hays Zeigler (staff engineer), and Rob Allen (manager, business and operations support, Smokeless Powder Group) on March 4, 1998, in Radford, Virginia.

Facility

The Radford facility was built as a U.S. Army facility in 1941. Alliant (Hercules prior to 1995) signed a facility use agreement with the Army, and in August of 1996 began moving their operations to Radford from their plant in Kenvil, New Jersey. At the time of the visit, the solvent recovery facility was not yet operational, but production was taking place. New River Energetics is a wholly owned subsidiary of Alliant Techsystems. The Radford site is a government-owned, contractor-operated facility.

The subcommittee observed the manufacturing process from the dehydration

1  

National Research Council staff members Elizabeth L. Grossman and Christopher K. Murphy also attended this site visit.



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--> F Committee Site Visits Alliant Techsystems/New River Energetics Edwin P. Przybylowicz, Karl V. Jacob, Walter F. Rowe, Ronald L. Simmons, and Judith B. Snow, Committee Members A subcommittee of the Committee on Smokeless and Black Powder1 met with Paul Furrier (commercial market manager), E. Hays Zeigler (staff engineer), and Rob Allen (manager, business and operations support, Smokeless Powder Group) on March 4, 1998, in Radford, Virginia. Facility The Radford facility was built as a U.S. Army facility in 1941. Alliant (Hercules prior to 1995) signed a facility use agreement with the Army, and in August of 1996 began moving their operations to Radford from their plant in Kenvil, New Jersey. At the time of the visit, the solvent recovery facility was not yet operational, but production was taking place. New River Energetics is a wholly owned subsidiary of Alliant Techsystems. The Radford site is a government-owned, contractor-operated facility. The subcommittee observed the manufacturing process from the dehydration 1   National Research Council staff members Elizabeth L. Grossman and Christopher K. Murphy also attended this site visit.

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--> of nitrocellulose (NC) to the final packaging of the finished powder, but did not have the opportunity to observe the ballistics testing. Each step of the manufacturing process is isolated in its own individual building in order to minimize damage and injury in the event of an accident. Smokeless Powder Overview The major ingredients of smokeless powder include NC and nitroglycerin (NG). Minor ingredients consist of stabilizers, plasticizers, flash suppressants, deterrents, and dyes and opacifiers. Other minor ingredients include graphite glaze, bore erosion reduction coatings, and ignition aid coatings. Together, the minor ingredients make up roughly 2 or 3 percent of the finished powder. The major monitored characteristics of gun propellants are bum-rate characteristics, geometry, and propellant design for specific applications. New River has a few hundred smokeless powder formulations, of which roughly 60 to 70 are in active use. There are 13 different Alliant reloading powder types. New River Energetics Powder Process The process employed by Alliant Techsystems for the production of smokeless powder begins with the dehydration of 28 percent water-wet NC by replacement of the water with ethyl alcohol. The dehydrated NC in the form of blocks is broken up, and a portion is mixed with NG to form a pre-mix. A weighed amount of pre-mix, together with ''broken'' NC is added to a mixer and is mixed with solvents and other ingredients to form the specific powder. This is followed by extrusion/cutting and then coating/glazing. The powder is then dried, screened, and homogenized. Subsequent to the mixing step, contamination between different formulations of smokeless powder is possible. The powder is packed into sublots and placed in a rest house. The ballistics are tested, and a final blend sequence occurs before packing and shipping the powders. In the final blending, a nonconforming part of the lot could be pulled out and reworked later. Production of a 10,000-pound lot is performed in approximately 1,000-pound increments. Products in the rest house could go to 10 to 15 different products. There is a potential for and likely small, inevitable amounts of contamination during each of these stages. To aid in identifying certain powders to reloaders, Alliant manufactures grades of smokeless powders that contain dyed powder particles. These include Red-, Blue-, and Green-Dot smokeless powders. The dyed particles make up about 1 percent of the total mixture and are ballistically identical to the powders to which they are added. The dyed blends are produced separately and are mixed into the undyed products at the final blend.

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--> Commercial Smokeless Powder Market The domestic market for smokeless powder includes original equipment manufacturer (OEM) customers, individual reloaders, and specially device manufacturers, such as makers of air-bags. The smaller export market consists of OEM customers and individual reloaders. Two domestic manufacturers and six foreign manufacturers import smokeless powder into the United States. Distribution occurs through the two domestic manufacturers and six other companies. OEM customers include major ammunition manufacturers, smaller ammunition manufacturers, and custom reloading operations. Distribution of smokeless powder from Alliant goes to six regional master powder distributors. From there, the powder is sent to smaller distributors and wholesalers, who then sell smokeless powder to retail dealers, gun shops, gun clubs, and hardware stores, as well as to individual reloaders. The smokeless powder shipped by Alliant stays intact through the final sale, with no mixing. Though not recommended, end users may mix on their own after purchasing the powder. When shipping from Alliant, lots are broken and are sent to more than one master distributor. Each individual container of smokeless powder has a lot number and date of packing. These records are kept for approximately 3 years. A sample of each lot is kept for about 5 years for quality assurance purposes. Primex Technology, Inc. Leo R. Gizzi, Janice M. Hiroms, Ronald L. Simmons, and Raymond S. Voorhees, Committee Members A subcommittee of the Committee on Smokeless and Black Powder2 visited the production facilities of PRIMEX Technologies, Inc., on March 17, 1998. Tony Gonzalez, director of Research and Development, hosted the visit. History of PRIMEX Operations The PRIMEX facility in St. Marks, Florida, manufactures single-base and double-base smokeless propellants for commercial and military applications using the BALL POWDER® propellant process. This is a patented process (developed in the 1930s by Western Cartridge Corporation in East Alton, Illinois), and is unlike any other process for making smokeless powder. Olin was the owner of Western Cartridge, which later became a part of its Winchester Division. The propellant business is now a part of PRIMEX Technologies. Olin has licensed the 2   Staff member Gregory Eyring also attended this site visit.

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--> process to at least 10 other companies and governments worldwide to manufacture powder for commercial and military purposes. The St. Marks plant started operations in 1970. Its total capacity is 12 million to 16 million pounds per year, depending on the product mix. It is estimated that current production is less than 10 million pounds per year, with about 2 million pounds going to the military. The amount diverted to military ammunition varies considerably. PRIMEX sells BALL POWDER® propellant commercially to ammunition manufacturers, master distributors, and repackagers who, in turn, sell it in 1- to 8-pound canisters through master distributors to about 6,000 retail outlets. Thus, PRIMEX estimated that one production lot could conceivably be distributed to in excess of 15,000 customers. PRIMEX estimates there are about 3 million consumers of canister powder in the United States. The Ball Powder® Process The BALL POWDER® propellant process is unique and quite different from the conventional process for making smokeless powder. NC—either freshly made or recovered—plus a stabilizer is dissolved in hot ethyl acetate to form a viscous doughlike lacquer that is then extruded through a perforated plate with die-face cutting blades into water, forming spherical globules of various sizes. Additional process steps include better defining the spherical grain through solvent removal, impregnation with NG, deterrent coating, and calendar rolling to flatten the spheres to a desired thickness. Rework levels of up to 40 percent, depending on product mix, are reincorporated into the production process at the first step (NC lacquer formation). Rework may even include final products that may be remnants or unusable material. Production is a batch process at this stage. Eventually, the BALL POWDER® propellant is dried, glazed with graphite, blended, and packaged for shipment. After the initial drying stage, the powders undergo extensive gun ballistic testing and blending to achieve the desired ballistic performance. (The primary specification required by the user is gun ballistics, not chemical composition. Blending and recycling of blends is extensive to attain the proper ballistics.) From a historical perspective, the original patented BALL POWDER® propellant process was a batch process that produced a spherical precipitated globule of limited size and hence useful only to a limited range of gun calibers. Eventually, process and product technology enhancements expanded the applicability and use of BALL POWDER® propellants to a wide variety of applications. In general, PRIMEX makes BALL POWDER® propellants in two different densities: a high-density product and a low-density product. Porosity is deliberately introduced to increase the "burning speed" of low-density propellants. Both density products are made in general size ranges, yielding a variety of different density-size base grains. Different amounts of NG are introduced (ranging from 0

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--> to 40 percent) and different concentrations of deterrent coating applied (ranging from 0 to 10 percent), totaling over 120 different BALL POWDER® propellants for a wide variety of applications. The final quality criterion in the production of smokeless powder is performance in ballistics tests, which can be achieved by blending and reblending of stocks that may differ in composition by a few percent in various ingredients. Chemical composition is controlled at different levels for different components. The PRIMEX operation features extensive recycling and reuse of both process solvent and process water back into the manufacturing steps, such that there is virtually nothing discharged into the air or surrounding water streams. The process requires tremendous amount of process water. A "Lab Practical" PRIMEX has cooperated in the past with the ATF and the FBI in assisting them with the identification of ball powders. One committee member brought small samples of spherical gunpowder from two bombing cases under active investigation, to test the extent to which a manufacturer such as PRIMEX can identify powders from inherent morphological and chemical characteristics. One sample was collected from the scene of an actual explosion, while the other two samples were collected from different, unexploded, improvised explosive devices that had been rendered safe. The questions to PRIMEX involved product identification and the degree of certainty to which two unburned samples could be distinguished as being of the same type. The burned sample from the exploded device was examined microscopically by three chemists in the Research and Development Analytical Laboratory at PRIMEX. Each declared that it did not appear to be a PRIMEX product. High-performance liquid chromatography analyses (two independent examinations) produced results that strongly suggested it was not PRIMEX-made gunpowder. One of their chemists stated that the powder "looked to be Chinese." This information would imply a likely powder source if it were purchased domestically. The two unburned samples were examined by liquid chromatography and Fourier transform infrared analyses. No meaningful differences could be observed between the two, leading to the conclusion that the two "could be of common origin"—under the circumstances, probably the strongest conclusion that would stand up in court. According to the PRIMEX chemists, the powder "looked and analyzed" like their WSX® 110 canistered product, leading them to the conclusion that it was in fact a PRIMEX product. It should be noted that similar powder may also be found in loaded ammunition. This "lab practical" demonstrated that currently available techniques can often identify the product type for domestic commercial powders.

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--> National Riffle Association Headquarters Edwin P. Przybylowicz, Leo R. Gizzi, Walter F. Rowe, and Ronald L. Simmons, Committee Members On March 18, 1998, a subcommittee of the Committee on Smokeless and Black Powder3 visited the National Rifle Association (NRA) Headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia, to learn about the reloading process using smokeless powder and to observe the use of black powder in muzzle-loading rifles. Tammy Begun, Michael Bussard, William Parkerson, and Glenn Gilbert hosted this visit. Reloading Process The reloading procedure of 12 gauge shotgun shells, 9 mm pistol bullets and .30 caliber (7.62 mm) rifle bullets was demonstrated to the subcommittee. Reloading was indicated as a procedure used by a number of target shooters to reduce the cost of their ammunition (typically by 50 percent), to provide experimental loads for better performance, to match a load to a specific gun, and for recreational enjoyment. The manual equipment used to reload this ammunition consisted basically of a series of dies contained on a platen or a "press" that permitted the following steps to be performed on the initially empty, used shell casing: (1) remove the spent primer and resize the casing to remove deformations from previous use; (2) install a new primer; (3) add a measured amount of smokeless powder; (4) seat and crimp the bullet, or in the case of a shotgun shell to add the plastic "wad" (which separates the powder from the shot); (5) add a measured amount of shot; (6) in the case of a shotgun shell, pre-crimp the top of the plastic shell casing; and (7) finish the crimping of the top of the shell. The first three steps are basically the same for shotgun shells and ammunition for pistols and rifles. In the case of the shotgun shells, a shell casing is used—a plastic tube with a brass base—into which the primer is mounted. In the latter two cases, the shell casing is brass, and because bullets instead of shot are used, there is no need for a wad separator. In these cases, the bullet is added after addition of powder. It was observed that reloading shells must be done according to a tested formula that is carefully spelled out in reloading manuals, so that the correct propellant is used in the specified amounts. The equipment for reloading is typically sold through retail gun shops, rather than mass merchant chains. The manual equipment generally sells for under $100, although there are semiautomated devices that cost more. Safety instruction in the use of this equipment is 3   NRC staff members Douglas J. Raber, Elizabeth L. Grossman, Gregory Eyring, Christopher K. Murphy, and David Grannis also attended this site visit.

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--> provided at the point of sale by the retailer. The manual that comes with the equipment has a section on safely using this equipment. In comparing it with instruction manuals that come with shop equipment, the emphasis on safety is no greater than that one might find with a table saw, perhaps even less. For reloaders who seek more information, more detailed instruction manuals and videos may be purchased separately. One of the powders demonstrated was Alliant Red Dot, which has a small percentage of red colored particles in it to identify the product. When asked whether this was not a type of taggant, the response was that those particles were in fact active powder with a small amount of dye on the surface. There was also a discussion of rimfire ammunition such as .22 caliber longrifle ammunition. Rimfire ammunition does not have a separate primer component like centerfire ammunition, but instead has primer material in the rim of the cartridge case base. The firing pin strikes the base of the cartridge at the rim, crushing the primer mix between the cartridge case wall and rim, thus igniting it, and in succession, the smokeless powder. Because the rim of the cartridge case is permanently deformed by firing, it is not reusable. Some primer compositions have a small amount of very fine ground glass added to increase the sensitivity and improve reliability of ignition. The presence of ground glass reportedly increases barrel erosion and reduces barrel life. Because of its simplicity, rimfire ammunition is considerably lower in cost than centerfire ammunition, and is used solely for .22 caliber. Shooting demonstrations were carried out with a muzzle-loading rifle, a semiautomatic centerfire rifle (M-1A), and a Glock semiautomatic centerfire pistol. The NRA reported that they do carry out some instrumental measurements in the firing range, measuring for velocity and accuracy. Ammunition manufacturers normally carry out such measurements and chamber pressure measurements to ensure that they are meeting the specifications of the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute (SAAMI). Advantages of Reloading Following the subcommittee site visit to the National Rifle Association headquarters, the committee received information from SAAMI and the National Reloading Manufacturers' Association regarding reloading.4 The following points were made regarding the advantages of reloading of smokeless and black powders over purchasing factory-loaded ammunition. 4   Written materials received from Robert Delfay, Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute, and Bill Chevalier, National Reloading Manufacturers' Association, on June 12, 1998.

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--> Cost. It is roughly half the cost to reload a cartridge compared to purchasing a factory round. The brass case (for centerfire ammunition) and the shotshell hull (for shotgun shooting) are the most expensive components of ammunition, and both can be reused several times when reloading. The other components of ammunition can only be used once, but are less costly than the casings. As sport shooters, target shooters, and hunters often shoot many thousands of rounds per year, the savings due to reloading can be substantial compared with purchasing ammunition for roughly $0.75 per round. Performance. Depending on the intended use of the ammunition, powder type and quantity can be adjusted to give higher or lower pressures and bullet velocities. Reloading can enhance shooting accuracy and performance, as well as reduce gun fouling. Precision. Many shooters reload to gain precision between rounds. Depending on the type of shooting, the ability to reproduce velocities and trajectories can be crucial to the reloader. Components. Some reloaders prefer the ability to choose the specific powder, casings, primers, and bullets in each round of ammunition. This choice of components may be based on increased performance or special needs of a shooter. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms National Laboratory Center Edwin P. Przybylowicz, Margaret A. Berger, Leo R. Gizzi, Walter F. Rowe, and Ronald L. Simmons, Committee Members On March 19, 1998, a subcommittee of the Committee on Smokeless and Black Powder5 visited the National Laboratory Center of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) in Rockville, Maryland, to learn more about the forensic process used in bombing incidents. Richard A. Strobel, forensic chemist, Explosives Section, and Cynthia L. Wallace, forensic chemist, hosted this visit. The subcommittee heard an overview of the ATF forensic group's process in handling typical cases, including how the combination of physical, chemical, and other evidence is brought together in resolving the case. There was discussion of cases in which going back to the retail outlet where a powder was purchased had provided leads in states where the law requires the signature of the purchaser, although very few states are reported to have this requirement. The subcommittee also observed some of the reference information that the ATF was in the process of developing. This consists of examining commercial 5   NRC staff members Christopher K. Murphy and David Grannis also attended this site visit.

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--> powders from various manufacturers for physical characteristics such as shape and size of particles and looking at the variability among lots of the same product. In addition to physical characterization, the powders are put through high-performance liquid chromatography to provide a qualitative picture of the major and minor components in the powder. Analysis of these data has demonstrated that while size characterization can be used to narrow down the identification of commercial powders, it is not always possible to use qualitative chromatography for such characterizations. Decomposition of the powders during a variety of storage conditions gives significant variation in the chromatograms, and it has been concluded that more quantitative analysis must be used in the chromatography. Commercial powders do not retain the same chemical and sometimes physical characteristics from batch to batch; blending, multiple sourcing of components, and using both domestic and foreign finished powders make mixtures that may perform according to product specifications but that can vary considerably in composition. Despite the complexities in the characterization of powders to determine their origin, the ATF reports that in a very high percentage of the cases, it is successful in identifying the type and manufacturing source of powder used in a bomb. It sometimes may take considerable effort to accomplish this, but nonetheless the success rate is high. It was pointed out that the development of a computerized reference library of information is still in its early stages and is being coordinated with the FBI Chemistry Unit Laboratory. There is no comprehensive program to obtain samples from all propellant manufacturers for use in a database, despite the fact that American producers seem willing to provide such samples. ATF agents periodically visit some U.S. powder manufacturers in the course of normal casework, but the effort falls short of a systematic accumulation of existing data on commercially manufactured powders. Similarly, there is little public statistical information on the production of the various powders, as a means of more easily interpreting results obtained in the forensic examination and relating it to the availability of certain powders. ATF agents acknowledged that information on powder characteristics, variations, and distribution of currently used commercial powders in a statistical database would provide an invaluable reference source for interpreting forensic results. In response to questions, the forensic chemists volunteered the information that the current commercial identification of some powders with dyed propellant particles (Red Dot, Blue Dot, and Green Dot) provides useful leads in identifying the commercial source of the powder used. The ATF also described how all details beyond the chemistry of the propellant are used in a bombing case to establish leads. This was illustrated with a microswitch from the detonation mechanism that ATF forensic chemists were piecing together in order to reconstruct a part number. Such information is often used to solicit further information from commercial outlets, such as electronic

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--> part retailers, who may record the customers' names and addresses. In a number of cases, such forensic information is reported to have been useful in identifying a store. This can be helpful if a bomber has purchased electronic parts that were used in making a device. The subcommittee was shown how the physical characterization of pipe fragmentation can be used to narrow down the possible propellants used in the pipe bomb. The portable chromatographic system, Aegis—a device that can be fitted to a laboratory trailer for transportation to a bombing scene to enable efficient processing of information at a bombing site—was observed. The forensic identification of the commercial powder used in a pipe bomb is of great importance as it may help in directing field agents to locating and apprehending the perpetrator. The identification of the powder may currently take time and effort due to the varied nature and source of the powders. An investigation would be significantly aided by a fast identification of the commercial propellant used in the bomb. It was pointed out that identifying the commercial source of a powder is but one step in the investigation process leading to the indictment of a perpetrator. Such information is used to direct field agents in the search for additional evidence leading to a suspect. Until and unless a linkage can be made between the propellant found at a bombing site and that in possession of the suspect, this evidence cannot contribute to the suspect's conviction. The importance of this evidentiary link would also be strengthened by a statistical analysis of the likelihood of a suspect's possessing a specific type of powder. Currently, there is in some cases insufficient evidence to obtain a search warrant of the suspect's premises. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Explosives and Chemistry Units Edwin P. Przybylowicz, Margaret A. Berger, Leo R. Gizzi, Walter F. Rowe, and Ronald L. Simmons, Committee Members On March 19, 1998, a subcommittee of the Committee on Smokeless and Black Powder6 visited the Explosives and Chemistry Units of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Washington, D.C., to learn more about the forensic process used in bombing incidents. Greg A. Carl (Special Agent), Kelly Mount, and Ron Kelley hosted the visit. The subcommittee toured parts of the laboratory, starting with the office where all evidence is received. This office receives sealed packages from the mailroom in the FBI building and establishes an audit trail that the evidence will 6   NRC staff members Christopher K. Murphy and David Grannis also attended this site visit.

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--> follow while in the laboratory. This unit receives samples not only from FBI agents across the country, but also from local and state law enforcement units, for whom the FBI carries out free analyses. Received packages are first examined to establish their integrity; if it appears that the evidence may have been compromised in any way, through cross-contamination or poor packaging, for example, it is returned to the sender with the indication that no work will be done on the material. At the receiving office, the evidence is assigned to the one agent who is likely to have most of the work on a given case. This person is responsible for coordinating all of the work carried out on the evidence. The procedures established within the FBI to maintain the integrity of the evidence while it is analyzed were shown in detail. Care is taken to avoid contamination of the evidence, and one case at a time is worked on in a given laboratory area. The subcommittee toured the various laboratories and was shown a chemistry laboratory equipped with modern analytical instrumentation.7 There was discussion of the reference material on propellants that the FBI is working on with the ATF National Laboratory Center. The FBI displayed a sample entry from its powder database, containing statistical information, a typical analytical spectra, and a photograph of the powder. As with the ATF, FBI investigations of explosive devices containing smokeless or black powder seek to identify the propellant and its source. While the FBI receives cooperation from the propellant manufacturers, full collaboration has not been realized; the effort made on reference materials and collaboration is secondary to casework (see also site visit to ATF). Despite the complexities in the characterization of powder to determine their origin, the FBI laboratory reports that they are successful in identifying the type and manufacturing source of powder used in a very high percentage of bombing cases. It sometimes may take them considerable effort to accomplish this, but nonetheless their success rate is high. When asked about differences in the FBI compared to the ATF laboratories in specific bombing investigations, the answer centered around response time and detailed analyses. The FBI personnel report that their laboratory "has more forensic resources at its disposal which would allow a more thorough analysis of the evidence."8 Smokeless Powder Database The FBI and the ATF have compiled a database with information on smokeless and black powders. This computerized database consists of a list of ingredients in a variety of commercially available smokeless and black powders. In 7   Separate laboratories exist for different fields of forensic science; there are offices for work on writing analysis, explosives, product tampering, and so forth. 8   Personal communication following site visit from Special Agent Gregory Carl, July 29, 1998.

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--> addition, the two agencies have a noncomputerized listing for a number of powders. This contains photographs of powder morphology, and a gas chromatography trace for the powders. On the issue of taggants, Ron Kelley stated that taggants would aid in distinguishing between powder A and powder B. He did not believe that having a date of manufacture for a powder used in a bomb would help much in an investigation. He said that at present, having the red dot (blue dot and so forth) in the powder helps tremendously in identifying the manufacturer. He added that in about 97 percent of the cases, ready identification is possible of the type and brand of the powder used in bombings, but that the other 3 percent present difficulties. He also said that over 90 percent of the bombing cases examined by the FBI involve smokeless and black powders. Goex, Inc. Leo R. Gizzi, Karl V. Jacob, Roger L. Schneider, Judith B. Snow, and Ronald R. Vandebeek, Committee Members A subcommittee of the Committee on Smokeless and Black Powder9 visited Goex, Inc., the only black powder manufacturer in North America, on April 22, 1998. The subcommittee met with Goex president Mick Fahinger, and Don MacDonald, vice president of operations. It received a description of the manufacturing and distribution process but did not directly observe the facility. Black Powder Manufacturing The first step in the manufacturing process involves intimate mixing of charcoal, sulfur, and potassium (or sodium) nitrate. This is accomplished at Goex, Inc., through the use of wheel mills. The Chinese are known to use ball mills, which are acceptable but less capable of achieving such mixing. The ingredients are used straight from the manufacturer, with no preprocessing. The sulfur and charcoal come in supersacks and are introduced into a ball mill. The resulting pulverized material is then emptied from the drum through a screen, and a conveyer carries it over to a magnet to remove any ferromagnetic material. It is then put into sacks. The pulverized material is then mixed with potassium nitrate and a fixed amount of water. The ingredients are mixed into a wheel cake by crushing, using an 11,000-pound wheel mill. The water content is essential because with too much water, the wheels slip, and with too little water, the powder becomes too fine. The mixture is contained in a pan during this process. 9   NRC staff member Christopher K. Murphy also attended this site visit.

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--> The compression point is between the base of the wheel and the top surface of the pan. This entire process is performed remotely for a specific period of time. The wheel cake is then taken to the press. The friable wheel cake, including 2 percent water, passes through a chute over another magnet into the box, past breakdown rolls. Next, 113 aluminum plates are placed in the box of the press, each 2 feet square, held in position by a set of slotted finger boards. Once the box is filled, the finger boards are removed. What remains is a box filled with wheel cake separated into compartments, 3/4 inch thick, by the aluminum plate partitions. The hydraulic ram then compresses the wheel cake three times. This is a dusty operation. For the first ram, a certain number of plates and wheel cake are present in the box; additional wheel cake and plates are then added for the second ''push''; and finally the remaining plates and cake are added for the third push. At the end of the operation, the box contains the 113 aluminum plates and the compressed cakes of black powder, 3/4 inch thick and 2 feet square. The next step in the process is the corning mill, where granulation takes place. A first screening is done, where distribution of the granulations depends on the size of the screens used in the shaker. The black powder is then taken up in a lift and dumped into a hopper. An aluminum shaker with screens oscillates at 123 rpm. Powder that does not pass through the screens is returned to the rolls through a bucket elevator. All of the chutes contain magnets. The corning mill has many more moving parts than any other equipment in the plant. The process contains many trips to stop the process. For the approximately 40 percent of black powder that is glazed, the usual coating is graphite. The powder is rotated in wooden barrels for 8 hours at a temperature of 180 °C. Graphite is added in quantities of about 5 pounds for 3,000-pound batches of black powder. Drying during this process produces a black powder with less than 1 percent water content. Black powder produced for pyrotechnics is unglazed. The final step is shifting, where the powder is passed through wooden cabinets on a shaft containing 15 screens. Following this step, the powder is packaged. The powder is placed in buggies and put into packaging hoppers. These hoppers produce 1-pound packages. A serious problem in the process comes from lightning, and Goex has an advanced Doppler radar warning system installed. The entire manufacturing process from wheeling to packaging takes about 3 days. Each batch of black powder produced is burn tested by placing a fixed amount of powder in a fixed length of lead tube. The tube is timed to see how long it takes to burn. There is a great deal of consistency between various batches of the same type of black powder produced at Goex. Specific gravity of the powder is also measured. The subcommittee was shown different grain sizes of black powder for use in a diverse set of applications. For example, the coarse grains are used in military ammunition; fine grains are used by muzzle-loading shooters; and both

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--> fine and coarse grains are used in pyrotechnics for both lift and burst charges. There are 60 different types of grains manufactured by Goex. Winchester Ammunition Plant Edwin P. Przybylowicz, Leo R. Gizzi, Per-Anders Persson, and Ronald L. Simmons, Committee Members On May 22, 1998, a subcommittee of the Committee on Smokeless and Black Powder10 visited the Winchester Ammunition Plant in East Alton, Illinois. The subcommittee met with Tim Vaitekunas, manager of ballistic services; T. Valdez, manager of rimfire; C. Phillips, manager of centerfire; R. Green, manager of shotshell; G. Boeker, manager of distribution; and J. Rodden, director of quality. The visit reviewed the manufacturing and distribution operations that relate to the flow of propellant into the manufacture of ammunition and subsequent packaging and distribution. Winchester uses both domestic and imported (from domestic distributors) smokeless powder in their ammunition. Winchester does, however, make its own priming mixture, which is a pyrotechnic. Powders are purchased on the basis of both quality and economy and are used for one or more applications. Certification of the powders is done by the seller, though Winchester does audit the powder they purchase. For smokeless powder sold to reloaders, every lot is tested at Winchester. Winchester has specified that propellant supplied for their production should not contain added salt (to control muzzle flash) nor other additives that can segregate in transport and under conditions where the powder is shaken. Even without additives, some powders segregate in shipping, which results in fines that must be removed or the lot will be rejected. It was mentioned that some manufacturers are supplying this very fine propellant as "primer additive." Segregation also occurs in certain operations during the loading of some propellant lots. The subcommittee viewed ammunition manufacturing operations in rimfire, centerfire, and shotshell operations starting with the receiving of the powder from the powder magazine to the finished shell. The operations were automated with the higher volume (rimfire and centerfire) shells being very highly productive, automated machines. For shotgun shells, the increased number of components, and larger size of the shell leads to a comparatively lower production of shells per unit time. In all cases the steps in the operation were similar: positioning of the shell (with primer coating or centerfire primer preloaded), loading of powder, insertion of bullet (or wad, if a shotgun shell), crimping the bullet in the casing (or adding the shot to a shotgun shell and crimping the plastic casing at the top). 10   NRC staff member Christopher K. Murphy also attended this site visit.

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--> Once the bullets were loaded they were then packaged in the appropriate containers (either plastic holders, cardboard boxes, or tool cartridges for the industrial market). Hundreds of millions of centerfire ammunitions rounds are produced per year. For rimfire ammunition, the number is even greater, on the order of billions of rounds per year. Testing and inspection took place at several places along the manufacturing line. Testing is done to ensure that the ammunition meets specifications. Incoming propellant must meet certification standards before it is loaded by Winchester, so it undergoes ballistic tests and is approved for loading. Ammunition manufacture is a batch or continuous operation. The high-volume products are continuous operation. Different batches of the same powder may be used in the continuous run, thus more than one batch may be used in some ammunition manufacture in a given day. The code marked on the box of packaged ammunition is a date of loading code, which would allow tracing to find what batches of powder were used in that day's production. However, in the present system, it would not be possible to relate which batch of powder was used in a given box of ammunition, if several powder batches were used on a given day in the manufacture of a particular type of ammunition. The manufacturing operations run on three shifts with either 5- or 6-day operations, depending on the time of year, since some segments of the market are seasonal. Testing identifies ammunition that does not meet standards for any one of a number of reasons. Ballistic tests may raise questions about certain samples of ammunition. For shotgun shells, ballistics testing checked both pressure and velocity. Additional testing was done to check for any imperfections in the performance of the shell in the shotgun. Any material not meeting specifications is set aside for future rework. The reworking results in such ammunition either being brought into specifications and then entering the packaging and distribution system at a later date (with a later, or no loading date code). In a small percentage of cases, the suspect ammunition cannot be salvaged and is scrapped. The continuous manufacturing operation plus the rework pattern results in some small percentage of ammunition being shipped without the loading date code that allows tracing to a lot, or group of lots, of propellant that is loaded into that particular ammunition on a particular date. The distribution center receives boxed ammunition from production with the date of loading on the box. The distribution center puts its own identifying code on the box, which identifies the product type and manufacturer but does not carry any of the manufacturing information related to the lot of the propellant, and so forth, on it. After distribution, if ammunition is determined to have a functional problem, the only recourse the manufacturer has is to publicize to the distributors and retailers the box code, which is the date of loading, and request a recall. The company has no records as to where specific boxes of ammunition have been distributed. In later discussions, questions were raised regarding what would be

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--> entailed in setting up such a system. Not only would the record keeping in the distribution system become more complex, but the cost of cleaning equipment between lot changes of propellant would present major problems in a manufacturing system not designed to be easily purged of previously used propellant. The added cost of doing this was deemed to be prohibitively high (speculation was that the increase would range from a factor of 2 to an order of magnitude). Winchester does, however, presently maintain records of lot numbers, for example, for as long as 20 to 25 years. When asked about Winchester's participation in forensic investigations, the staff indicated that they get about 30 inquiries in a year, which most often are attempts to identify whether a fragment of spent ammunition is from a Winchester product. Questions regarding the propellant are most often referred to propellant manufacturers. Hodgdon Powder Company Margaret A. Berger, Leo R. Gizzi, Karl V. Jacob, Roger L. Schneider, and Ronald L. Simmons, Committee Members On May 29, 1998, a subcommittee of the Committee on Smokeless and Black Powder11 visited the Hodgdon Powder Company in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. Ben Barrett (manager, engineering & safety), Doug Delsemme (vice president and general counsel), George Webber (manager of ballistics), and Bob Blattman (magazine manager) hosted the visit. Hodgdon Powder Company is a wholesale distributor of smokeless powder that does not sell powder directly to the public. Hodgdon currently sells 25 different powders under its own label—16 rifle powders and 9 powders for shotgun and pistol. They are also master distributors for Alliant and Winchester. Hodgdon does not manufacture smokeless powder, although it does repackage smokeless powder from PRIMEX (at St. Marks, Florida), surplus government military powder, and powder imported from Australia. A lot number and date of packaging is stamped on each packaged canister, caddie, and keg (all are conductive plastic bottles or jugs). The lot number and date go both on the individual package and the larger box that the canisters are shipped in. A record is made of the quantity packed on each date for a particular lot. These records are maintained indefinitely. When filling an order, the amount and lot number are noted on a data sheet. The powder is stored and packaged in 25 buildings located on 70 acres. The packaging is in 1-pound canisters, 5-pound caddies, and 8-pound kegs. These operations have been in Shawnee since 1954. The company was founded by 11   NRC staff member Christopher K. Murphy also attended this site visit.

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--> Bruce Hodgdon in 1946 to repackage surplus military smokeless powder for the shooting market. Smokeless powder is dispensed manually (and remotely from behind a barricade) from a hopper containing about 30 to 50 pounds of powder. The hopper is lined with conductive Velostat® plastic, which is cleaned with high-pressure air before a different powder is used. Excess powder, which typically is less than a 1-pound canister for each lot, is collected, and given to a local fire department, which burns it for demonstrations. Excess powder thus is destroyed rather than recycled. Admixing of powder from different incoming lots does occur, and Hodgdon continues to purchase government military surplus powders, which is how they started in 1952. Each incoming lot is accepted on certification from the manufacturer per Hodgdon specifications, and is randomly tested for ballistics before repackaging. All repacked lots are tested for ballistics in several different cartridges before shipment. The plant operates one shift, 5 days per week. The ballistics laboratory also conducts research and development on new cartridges, as well as seeking better powders to use in existing cartridges of ammunition. There are numerous magazines where packaged/boxed containers of smokeless powder are stored prior to shipment. Also stored in magazines is smokeless powder received from the propellant manufacturers for repackaging: Alliant, PRIMEX, ADI Limited (Australia), and military surplus powder. Each of the containers from the propellant manufacturer has a lot number, packed date, and powder designation (name). Hodgdon ships its repackaged smokeless powders to several hundred different distributors nationwide, which in turn ship to retailers. A typical lot goes to many distributors, depending on the market. In addition to the domestic distributors, Hodgdon exports smokeless powder to 12 foreign countries. Smokeless powder is shipped as DOT 1.3 C Powder, Explosive, or as DOT 4.1 Flammable Solid, depending on the packaging. The subcommittee toured the ballistics laboratory, where testing is done in Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute pressure barrels, using piezoelectric gages and/or the older copper crusher method. Each different cartridge is fired from a different barrel. Lot acceptance testing involves 10 cartridges from each lot, and the results are compared to 10 reference shots. In addition to room-temperature conditioning (for a minimum of 24 hours) for gun ballistics, testing at extreme temperatures of -20 °F and + 125 °F is done periodically. Hodgdon also manufactures and markets a black powder substitute known as Pyrodex, which is claimed to have 30 percent more power than black powder. Pyrodex is loaded by equivalent volume to black powder by using a handheld volumetric measure. Pyrodex is manufactured in Herington, Kansas, about 100 miles southwest of Kansas City, and is offered in four grades, including consolidated pellets for ease of loading. Pyrodex is a patented product introduced to the shooting market in 1976. Discussions of the Pyrodex manufacturing process are proprietary.