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The key component in modern smokeless gunpowder is nitrocellulose. This quick and efficient burning compound is the cornerstone upon which the various blends of gunpowder are built and without it the majority of ammunition you see on the wall at your local sporting goods store would disappear. Since time immemorial the ATF has held that wetted nitrocellulose (a mixture of the explosive compound and water or alcohol, designed to reduce the probability of explosion during shipping) destined for small arms ammunition manufacturing was not an explosive and therefore exempt from the usually onerous requirements of logging the material in a bound book (like firearms) and storing it in an approved explosives magazine. Until just a few weeks ago, that is, when the ATF threw all that out the window.

From the Ammoland article:

The June 2016 newsletter article [see image above] states that ATF was recently asked about the status of nitrocellulose under the federal explosives laws and regulations. The article notes that “Nitrocellulose explosive” is on ATF’s List of Explosive Materials and states ATF has determined that “nitrocellulose containing greater than 12.6 percent nitrogen is a high explosive under 27 C.F.R. Part 555.” The article indicates ATF is aware that the U.S. Department of Transportation may assign a nonexplosive classification to nitrocellulose when it has been wetted with water or alcohol, based, in part, on the diminished likelihood of explosion in a transportation accident. However, because nitrocellulose retains its explosive characteristics when the water or alcohol is removed, the wetted nitrocellulose remains a nitrocellulose explosive subject to all controls of the federal explosives laws.

One of our readers summarized the impact about as succinctly as possible:

This ruling effectively prohibits importation of double base smokeless powder for ammunition production and reloading. Almost all smokeless propellants (and black powder substitutes) exceed the 12.6% nitrogen content threshold set by BATFE. Low nitrogen (incompletely reacted) single base nitrocellulose powders are only made for the very slowest burning rate applications.  The high nitrogen stuff is used for pistol, shotgun, and most rifle powders.

International shipping regulations require wetting nitrocellulose powders to ensure safety during transport. The powders are then dried and packaged for retail sale domestically.

This ruling will probably also end production of nail polish and most printing inks.  Will screw up guitar production as well.

It looks like this was one of those instances where the ATF and the ammunition manufacturers had come to something of a gentlemen’s agreement over the years, but someone finally asked the right question and the ATF saw the opportunity to significantly impact the availability of ammunition for American gun owners.

The ATF’s stance that wetted nitrocellulose is an explosive is consistent with the law in the same way as restricting the availability of bananas due to their radioactivity.

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    • M2AP,

      No one is claiming that this re-classification applies to smokeless powder as a finished product.

      The ATF’s re-classification applies to the primary ingredient of smokeless powder. Assuming that re-classification will significantly increase transportation costs of that primary ingredient, the cost of any finished product that uses that primary ingredient will also increase significantly — including smokeless powder.

      It is no different than if government suddenly required special transportation for raw milk. Even though no special transportation was required for chocolate milk (a finished product), the fact that raw milk became much more expensive to transport means that chocolate milk would become much more expensive.

      • That’s one massive assumption, being that the vast majority of smokeless powder isn’t made in the USA where these laws apply…

        • Sources please.

          An essential military item (and smokeless powder would be near the very top of the list) must typically be made in the U.S.A. to reduce our military’s vulnerability to external actors. At the very least a fair amount of capacity to produce smokeless powder in the U.S.A. must exist. How much of that domestic capacity serves domestic demand? I have no idea. If it is anything beyond 30% or so that would start to impact pricing noticeably if there was a significant increase in transportation costs.

      • A lot of Hodgdon powders are produced in Canada and Australia… Not sure about Alliant, Ramshot, but Nobel Sport is european as well.

        Why is the ATF this meddlesome?

        • Why is the ATF this meddlesome?

          Because they lack the manpower and budget to be more meddlesome.

        • Maybe this is just a time when ATF realized they had not enforced the law properly, all along? If they should have been categorizing powder as an explosive, but didn’t, are we upset because they goofed in our favor, but figured it out? Should we just be glad they aren’t trying to enforce retroactively?

  1. Feds keep poking the bear. Have fun till our meter is pegged. Then we’re coming and bringing hell with us.

  2. What powders are actually produced in the USA? I suspect only a few. These are the only ones that will be impacted.

    • I read that as the exact opposite. All imported wetted nitrocellulose will now be subject to a LOT more paperwork and ATFE shenanigans due to it’s (impending?) reclassification as an explosive vs. the less onerous transport requirements that are in place now. I.e. it’ll drive prices further through the roof at minimum, and/or drive many ammo makers out of business worst case.

      • No one really imports NC to make smokeless powder. The one place making propellant in the USA manufactures NC on-site and this is a non-issue. The majority of powder is imported, packaged, and sold.

  3. This sounds like another manifestation of our President’s promise to use his pen to do whatever he can to bork firearms enthusiasts.

    Maybe this will finally convince all the fudds that gun-grabbers want to eliminate access to ALL firearms and ALL ammunition.

    • Nope. FUDDs are the dumbest kind of gun owner. Basically, they are liberal democrats that like big government that also happen to like hunting. They would gladly pay the extra cost of ammunition if they thought the additional tax is going towards government services.

      • Many are not actually dumb, per se, they simply don’t care about our rights, as long as they can pursue their own interests without too much difficulty. Knew a guy who owned twenty + shotguns, shot in many competitions (spending beaucoup bucks) and didn’t agree that there are too many laws interfering with the Second Amendment. As long as he could enjoy hunting and clays, he felt everything was just fine.

  4. “Will screw up guitar production as well.”

    Well when the jack-boots stormed the Gibson factory a few years back, the government demonstrated that they consider guitar manufacturers to be quite dangerous anyway, so I doubt that’s going to concern them.

    • Nice find. Maybe this will stall out a panic buy… Not that one isn’t coming in November anyhow.

      • You got that right…expect another fear-driven ammunition and powder shortage after the November election for sure.

        • I expect a Trump win will still yield a run on guns, ammo and reloading components, though probably not as drastic as that which would follow Hildebeast getting voted in.

        • Mr. Lord, you are a true “Nostradamus” of our times, but thankfully without any quatrains.

      • The run on guns has already started. The closer to Novemeber we move, the worse it will get.

      • I’ve already been buying AR15 rifles like they are going out of style. Anyone that doesn’t think Hillary will win is naive or living in denial. It was fixed from the start. Buy now while you still can…

        • There’s nothing good about this election. We’ll have either an incompetent or a criminal for a President, and as of now, the criminal looks like she’ll win.

    • Shades of the “we unilaterally declare M855 ball to be AP ammo!” fecal storm. I suppose if *every* single ammo manufacturer/importer and their customer base bombards ATF with “WTF are you even thinking?!?” they’ll slink back under the rock they crawled out from under.

    • More likely, like the abortive effort to ban M855 ammo, somebody at BATFE is hearing footsteps . . . .

    • Dang! I ordered two cases of 9mm in fear of another impending run. Should have waited…oh well, it won’t go bad!

    • “…has brought to our attention issues that were not fully addressed in the Newsletter and require further consultation and consideration with the industry. Accordingly, ATF has and will conduct further industry outreach concerning wetted Nitrocellulose…”

      Translation from ATFese: “We’re working hard with manufactures to determine what, if any, pillow or lube they prefer. As for condom use, that remains at our discretion and in reality so does the pillow and lube”.

  5. “issues that were not fully addressed in the Newsletter and require further consultation and consideration with the industry.” means ATF will accept things as they are and leave regs as they have worked? That is NOT the government I’ve come to know!

    • “Subsequent contact from industry members who import, transport, store or employ wetted Nitrocellulose in the production of ammunition, however, has brought to our attention…”

      This is the key part of the statement you didn’t include.

      • You’re right, I should have included it, along with: “Accordingly, ATF has and will conduct further industry
        outreach concerning wetted Nitrocellulose. In the interim, previously authorized industry practices concerning wetted Nitrocellulose will not be affected.”
        [Interim, that period of time between the first, and the other shoe dropping.]

  6. Pure speculation as to whether or not it will affect prices. Until they actually put forth some kind of statement that says the industry needs to alter how they handle the raw materials, it’s pointless to discuss how it’ll affect the prices of the finished goods.

  7. Lets hope not, this is something that may well send a wave through the powder industry. Any idea of how much nitrocellulose is actually imported vs made here?

    Keep your powder dry even if it is made from wet nitrocellulose.

    • And if we leave the garbage outside the can….you return. Sorry to burst you little statist unicorn bubble, but he flow of ammo is still strong and will remain so. Not to mention most folks here have healthy stockpiles. Now run along back to the Mother Jones web page.

        • That depends on how big the stockpile is 😉 But don’t worry, even if the pantsuit wins we will still keep our guns and ammo. Be sure to come back often so I can laugh at you.

        • you have NOOO clue about stockpiles, people who stockpile and would probably need a hit or 3 to calm your nerves if you did know.

          Dads friend helps do estate sales, makes sure the family doesn’t get ripped off. Old geezer dies, leaves a STOCKPILE behind. purchased it back when he retired in the late 80s, so that he never would have to bother buying it again in his lifetime. 30 years later he kicks off and I buy 5k of .22, Dad buys another 2k of .22 and the only reason we did not buy more is because we didn’t have more cash and we just got the tail ends of it. The rifle, pistol and shotgun all went to gun shows and sold in a few hours of opening because it was fire sale prices. all the other ammo vendors were happy when they ran out too.

          The left over .22 was because they were afraid to overload the pickup hauling it. Boggles my mind to this day. only other stockpile example I have is the fact that it took russia 30 years to get rid of all its old ak and mosin-nagant ammo buy selling it to the usa for pennies.

          Those are stockpiles, I believe you mistakenly used stockpile when you should have used cache.

          • From what I read, “stockpile” popularly means about a year’s worth. “Cache” may be more accurate in the gun world. I read people claiming to shoot 6000 tyo 10,000 bullets per year. So, I would not call that a stockpile, but it is probably what most of the public envisions. Thus, a “stockpile” of a year’s worth of ammo is not going to get many people through too many years, and in a revolt, would likely last weeks (a “revolt” is not grabbing gear and rushing to the countryside to survive). It is rather doubtful any one gun owner has a true “stockpile”, such as all the “surplus Russian” ammunition you noted. Even manufacturers cannot produce enough to provide half to a million bullets for every gun type and every gun owner. Over time, practice, game hunting and other events will deplete the caches and stockpiles. If we can first get to the powder, we can outlaw all lead content in ammunition, we can require bullets be made of exotic, non-polluting metals (or maybe outlaw metal bullets entirely). Has anyone thought about the impact of prohibiting gun ammunition from traveling by any conveyance (explosives, don’t you know)? Gun lovers are actually an unimaginative lot; there is no end to then number of ways we can interfere without outright repealing 2A. As a bonus, drying up ammunition could even have make it harder for gangs and criminals to support their guns.

      • Transferring donor and volunteer information from Bernie to Hillary, attending events. Labor Day vacation. Technology is a wonderous thing. Don’t even need to be in the same city, or county (or country?) to help influence an election (ooops, I mean support your candidate). After Monday, it is back to the races, helping Hillary cross the finish line, and begin to install some sanity in the squabble over who should and should not have guns. Come November 8th, I can turn my attention back to trying to persuade reasonable people to be cautions about firearms.

          • You act as if there is a single head to the movement. Think Hydra. Better yet, Chinese People’s Liberation Army; endless battalions. Fortunately, your side is very short-term focused. If your guy wins, you will congratulate yourselves, figure everything is settled for the next however long, and go back to sleep. Our side never sleeps, never rests, never quits. We always win by inertia; inexorable. Look at the world around you. Where else do you see a gang of hide-bound free booters? You think that was done in a moment? You guys think days, we think decades. “Tye-eye-eyemmm is on my side; yes it is.” (Jagger)

        • Are you still talking? Is anyone Listening? LOL. Looks like your popularity is diminished. Maybe try Field and Stream. You might have better luck ruffling the Fudds.

  8. The fact that intelligent, educated and well-initiated people (i.e., present company) can argue the impact, or lack thereof, of this regulatory change is really the whole point. Does anyone really know? Can anyone be sure that they have filed their taxes and paid what’s required, without over-paying or cheating the government? When no one, … not lawyers, judges, technical experts or politicians can really be sure of what’s legal or illegal, the people are universally at the mercy of government abuse.

  9. How in the hell can anyone say ” 2ASux” Are you such on your own high horse that you think your little mind can make assumptions on which constitutional amendments are gtg or not? And they would be right? Wow that is anew level of stupid. The constitution was created by A GROUP of the smartest most balanced forward thinking people ever known!
    It’s also disrespect for anyone that has ever died for your fairy ass to be able say stupid shit like 2ASux.
    Go and experience life some more because your obviously ignorant of reality.

    • Top o’ the morning, old stick. Always good to have a chat with someone who appreciates polite language, and the finer points of history, law and debate.

      The second amendment was quite useful in the great separation from the mother country (oh, do come back). Many left around the countryside and towns remained loyal to the Crown, and many men of influence still held preference of a monarchy, or psuedo-monarchy. If such scurrilous rascals got control of the government, it might have been necessary to do the thing all over again.

      Oh, and in those days, men were made of sterner stuff, crime was negligible in proportion to the populace. People were more self-responsible, and the population was a mere fraction of today. Atop it all, guns were not so rare among the people.

      Today, the men of the hour are not so self-reliant, responsible, mature, circumspect or careful of entering arguments that can lead to gunfire. In short, that was then, and this is now. You’ve had your second revolution. A section of the country took up arms against a tyrannical government, and lost – completely. No one in the lower 48 need to hunt in order to feed and clothe.

      The idea of another uprising being more successful than the second one is mere projection of frustration, but not likely to manifest. In short, in the beginning the right to personal ownership of firearms was a vivid necessity. 230+ years later, the circumstance is so unlikely to arise again as to be the stuff of bar wagers.

      Soldiers who fought for the country did not fight with the idea that friends and family be protected from wild game or wild government, but to put an end to demonstrable, not imagined, dangers to the nation and, yes, the world. Using the first amendment to oppose continuation of unfettered gun ownership by the populace does nothing to dishonor those who sacrificed in service to the country. Indeed, if a soldier is unwilling to stand to the wall defending the public while that same public votes to dismantle the constitution entirely, that soldier would be better off selling pot holders at a craft fair.

      It is not the second amendment that protects the first, it is the military that protects all the rights and privileges. Nothing would change in that protected nation if public ownership of guns were to be deemed nonsense and abolished.

      • Guys….don’t feed the troll. This is the same cut and paste gibberish he spews to anyone who will take the bait. Ignore and it will leave.

        • If you pay attention, you would notice I do not cut and paste anything. I may be repetitive, or even say the same thing many different ways. But you get real effort from me. Also note, the first refuge for those who are limited in their ability to defend a political position is name-calling, specifically using the term “Troll”.

      • You are entirely wrong!
        The military doesn’t defend our constitution, they defend our nation and people.
        the PEOPLE and who they elect DO defend the constitution.
        The second amendment keeps governments both domestic and foreign at bay!
        Also the comment about the lower 48 not needing to hunt, wow your ignorance is amazing! You have education no doubt but common sense and life experience that is where you come up short!
        I know many families who hunt moose and deer to put meat on the table! meat that they Provide and that these “men” new age men go and provide for their family.
        I don’t think you 2ASux could do that? You couldn’t could you??? You could not provide for yourself or your family of the need arises and I F***in find that hilarious and a huge reason why NO ONE should listen to your view of what a man is, because it takes one to know one!
        I’m one
        Your not, your what we call a “sheeple” you take the cake they feed you and ask for more KNOWINGLY digesting poison (GOV NANNY STATE BS) because your just to incompetent to make yourself self sufficient in any manner!
        So of course you want guns taken away because you know it lessens your chance even more because all of us “men” could do you harm when your family is in need and you spent the Time spitting out BS and not learning how to break down a rifle and put it together again! So yeah keep wasting your time and energy and if or when the time comes when the SHTF (* I pray it doesn’t) you and your will die with the first wave along side all the other sheeple.

        • Current oath of enlistment for your own US service members:
          “I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.” (Title 10, US Code; Act of 5 May 1960 replacing the wording first adopted in 1789, with amendment effective 5 October 1962).

          “….support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Military defends the constitution. Checkmate, mate.

          I didn’t state people do not hunt. I wrote that they had no life-sustaining need outside Alaska. Check.

          Could I hunt? With proper training in animal tracking and salvaging the meat, of course. Would I ? If forced by circumstance, else shop at Aldi.

  10. BATFE has just elevated most nitrocellulose to Division 1.1 in the 49CFR173.50 Hazardous Materials Regulations. Very expensive to transport domestically and almost impossible to import or export, except for DoD stocks.

  11. Ah good ol’ Ammoland, where articles are routinely wrong.

    I told you fools a couple of weeks ago about you using an article from them in which most of it’s “content” came from a complete phony.

    Here we are again….

  12. Still not as bad as claiming that candy flavorings in solution in propylene glycol, with no nicotine or other tobacco product, is a tobacco product subject to FDA regulation, but we’re getting pretty close.

  13. “Will screw up guitar production as well.”
    My two hobbies are building/shooting guns, and woodworking wherein my favorite finish is nitrocellulose lacquer (the only real finish that can be applied to oily woods, btw). And the ATF appears set on destroying both of them.

  14. This is one of those things that doesn’t bother me right now but it should be closely watched. Remember that little M855 ban the ATF proposed and then took off the table? Well if you look at what they actually said about it they used pretty much the same weasel language as here.

    They basically said “OK, we’ll leave it alone for now… more consideration is needed” which is another way of saying “You won this round but we’ll be back”.

    • Thats not quite how I read it. I read it as the BATFE got to realize how it would completely screw up several industries including wood good manufacturing, musical instrument manufacturing and probably a few others and doesn’t want that particular public relations fiasco. I also wouldn’t be surprised if they received a few friendly calls from military equipment suppliers. Its pretty clear to me that the BATFE to be adjusted by congress to have a mission statement more in line with the FAA’s.

      • The ATF is part of the Executive Branch. While they might care about certain things Obama does not and they do his bidding or lose their jobs.

        Realistic considerations are not considerations at this point.

        • I, for one, have never read a report of someone killed or injured by the negligent discharge of a guitar. Nor have there been any victims of drive-by twangings. Just thought I’d leave that here.

  15. Fucking bastards would ban all guns if they could. Why do you think their director got fired after the SS109 ban failed?

    • I certainly enjoy watching the beatings he endures. Persistent but not so bright and extremely overconfident in his side’s position. He leads with his chin which makes the K.O. that much sweeter.

      • Five minutes and five previous commentors (on this story) names show up all mentioning a specific other poster.

        Did I not tell you people about this before? RF, get your fucking shit together. If you can’t see what is happening just above this post you need to just shut down the site because you’re incompetent. Yes, I said it.

        You’re allowing name hijacking and Christ knows what else. I’ve repeatedly posted warnings about what was going on. I was ignored. Get your shit together or I’m out permanently and as this gets more common, I suspect a lot of other people will avoid this site.

        • I’ve had this happen to me twice. Once, it looked like a conversation between me and me. Didn’t mind it, as it eventually went away. The IT guy says there is a way to make any of these blogs look like they are somewhere they are not, and can make any email look like it came from a royal potentate.

        • 2Asux:

          You and I might not agree about much but I don’t want to see this happen to anyone on this blog, you included. This happened to me awhile back and the hijacker tried to get me banned for being a racist asshole.

          It ticks me off that I’ve warned them repeatedly and told them exactly what is going on but they don’t bother to fix it, which actually isn’t hard, but will cost them a few hundred bucks.

          My patience runs short.

  16. It appears Radford Army Ammunition Plant ,based in Virginia, is the only North American producer of Nitrocellulose.
    That was all I could find at least. Interestingly enough, 6 plants are located in GERMANY.

    China also seems to be making moves as of 2014.

      • Maybe a snarc comment, but you are closer to the truth than you know.

        How many people do you think observed the first Bundy revolt as a public relations test? Waco taught government a lot of lessons, but not what the average citizen would hope.

  17. People… the president is just someone to blame shit on….guns won’t be banned and ammo is still going to be available unless Congress enacts it which they won’t because it’ll be political suicide for all who do support it….if they wanted to take our guns….it would have to be by force.

  18. Clickbait. This hearkens the “lead smelters being shut down” from a year or so back, that was going to dry up ammo supplies. Of course, lead for bullets is made from recycled lead not brand new stock, but there are still those scare articles floating around the net.

    If Obammy and his mafia boys wanted to put a dent in ammo they would simply ban all imports.

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