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.