Smokeless powder


May 21, 2024
Dear MSSA Friends,

It has come to my attention that Alliant Powders has recently suspended shipments of their lines of smokeless powders for reloading.  Alliant is the source of such old standards as Bullseye, Unique, and 2400, as well as the more modern Reloader series of powders.  Let me tell you what I have learned about this.

First, there is worldwide pressure on ammunition production capacity because of all the ammunition being consumed in ongoing conflicts, especially in Ukraine.  The materials used to make propellants for artillery rounds are the same as those used to make small arms propellant.  Many countries have ramped up production of ammunition and its precursors, including most of Europe and the U.S.

The primary production bottleneck seems to be nitrocellulose.  Nitrocellulose for propellants can be obtained from various plant fibers, including forest products.  However, the preferred source of nitrocellulose for propellants is from cotton.  The bottleneck is in the plant capacity to convert cotton into what is called “defense grade” nitrocellulose.

Alliant is owned by Vista Outdoor.  Vista also owns several other companies which produce loaded ammunition, including CCI, Federal, and Remington.  Alliant sources its propellants from Sweden, Switzerland, Canada, and the Radford Army Ammunition Plant in Virginia.

Because the ammunition manufacturers under the Vista umbrella are stressed to obtain the propellants they need for their production, Vista appears to have made the business decision to commit all of the Alliant propellant capacity to Vista ammunition manufacturers.  Thus Alliant’s withdrawal from shipment and sales of propellants for reloading.

The ammunition marketplace seems to be coming out of a shortage of loaded ammunition, and a shortage of small arms primers.  Prices are relaxing from the highs seen recently and retail shelves are mostly well stocked.  However, Alliant’s withdrawal from the reloading powder market will likely put stress on supplies of propellant for reloaders.  Further, reloaders who have worked up and used favorite loads of Alliant powders may need to shift to using other brands and products.

It is unknown how long Alliant’s absence from the reloading marketplace may last.  The tone of their announcement is until further notice.  It may be assumed that this will continue until the military demand for nitrocellulose reduces, or the processing of cotton into defense grade nitrocellulose increases.  Neither of those is likely to change dramatically anytime soon.

Best wishes,

By mssa