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Reloading: Boys with the Black Stuff

Reloading: Boys with the Black Stuff

For very many years there have been significant distinctions between the rules relating to the purchase and storage of ‘smokeless powders’ (nitro propellants) and those for ‘gunpowder’ (black powder). The purchase and possession of up to 5kg of nitro for ammunition reloading purposes is not subject to any control. However, several bits of paper must precede any attempt to buy, transport or store black powder. In addition, there are specific rules regarding the quantities that may be bought and held, and the conditions under which it is stored. It is important to note that once you enter this system, you’ll be required to store both your black powder and nitro powder under the specified conditions.

OUR COER 3

The qualifying conditions for the grant of these various licences relate to the use of black powder for either -  shooting, pyrotechnics/display (cannons etc) or the manufacture of fireworks. For muzzle loading and black powder cartridge (metallic or shotgun) loading you’ll obviously need to have qualifying firearms on your Certificate, application, variation or renewal. You will then need to apply to your local Firearms Department for the appropriate Authority.

You’ll be required to complete an application Form COER 1 requesting the grant of a Certificate to Keep and Acquire Explosives, a COER 3. The relevant explosive categories relating to black powder are UN 0027 and UN 0028. Unusually, there is no charge for the granting of this three year document. For those of you who already hold a COER 3, make note of the duration – it is NOT coterminous with your Shotgun or Firearms Certificates. The Form COER 1 can be found in the documents section of most Police Authority web sites and is embedded in a couple of Home Office pdf’s. 

TICK THE RIGHT BOXES

The form appears deceptively simple, but it has a dual application. For our purpose we need to both ‘acquire and keep’ black powder, hence the need to complete Parts A, C and D of the document. You need to give careful consideration to the precise location of your storage, mindful of the fact that the powder must now be stored in a particular type of container/box – the structural specifications for which are available on the web.

Put simply the box must be of a fire retarding plywood construction with an external wall thickness of at least 18 mm and internal partitions of not less than 6mm thickness. There must be an individual compartment for each container, with at least 30% air space above it. The lid must have an intumescent gasket around its border. No bare metal must intrude into the storage space.

The powder must be kept in containers with no more than 550-grams per container. The containers must be constructed in such a way that, in the event of a fire they do not provide additional containment that will increase the explosive force of any deflagration. Normally plastic/polythene or paper/cloth containers will be suitable for this purpose. Metal containers with a screw cap, or a push-in lid (i.e. similar to a paint tin lid) must not be used. If you wish to store more than 5 kg of propellant then you’ll probably need additional boxes. The placement of the box(s) will be subject to close scrutiny. If located within the house then they must not be in any area which forms part of an escape route in the event of fire. Storage in an outbuilding such as a garage will be an issue, especially if there are flammables such as petrol and paints in the same location.

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SAFE AND SOUND

The Law states that anyone storing shooters’ powders must take all due precautions to prevent unauthorised access to the powders. Storage boxes should be kept in accordance with appropriate security standards. Where the place of storage is not a secured room, or other suitably secure place, the police will require that the box should meet certain minimum requirements. These include: securely fixed, robust steel hinges; a secure hasp used with a security-grade padlock; and a suitable arrangement to frustrate attempts to remove the box, for example by securing it by either its handles (if they are bolted through the box) or by a similarly attached ring or other attachment, to a strong point using a good-quality chain or fixing device and padlock.

CLOSE TO THE EDGE?

Proximity to the boundaries of your property can also be taken into consideration during the site visit. These parameters are considerable and too wordy to include here so check them out Home Office guidance notes on the web. It is unclear whether it is a requirement to mark the box(s) with the word EXPLOSIVES but it makes sense to do it. If a fireman has to enter you smouldering house it could be a life saving piece of information. If you do want to test your carpentry skills it is important to note the ‘free space’ required within each compartment in your box. I was rather proud of my handy-work – right up to the point where it was rejected. A ready-made timber box compliant with the specifications is offered by www.black-powder.co.uk for £60 plus carriage, it now seems like a pretty good deal to me!

The structure, design and intended location of the box will all be inspected during the visit. If you’re new to black powder then expect a few questions about your intended usage as well. Your COER 3 Certificate will allow you to “Acquire and Keep 10 kg of Gun Powder PLUS 5 kg of Gun Powder OR Smokeless powder or of any propellant made or adapted and also, in either case, intended exclusively for small arms ammunition.”

RECIPIENT COMPETENT AUTHORITY

Until the 1st of June this year we then had to contact the Health & Safety Executive, requesting a document that permits you to TRANSPORT your newly acquired black powder – a POMSTER. This is the acronym for Placing On the Market and Supervision of Transfers of Explosives Regulations 1993. Phew. Unsurprisingly this document has a shorter common name, the RCA or Recipient Competent Authority. However, common sense has now prevailed and your RCA should arrive with your COER 3 from your issuing Police Authority. You’ll be required to show these documents whenever you make a purchase of black powder for transportation to your storage location, or if you are transporting material for use on the range.

For very many years there have been significant legal distinctions between the purchase and storage of ‘smokeless powders’ (nitro propellants) and those for ‘gun powder’ (black powder). The purchase and possession of up to 5kg of nitro propellant is not subject to any control. However, several bits of paper must precede any attempt to buy, transport or store black powder. In addition, there are specific rules regarding the quantities that may be bought and held, and the conditions under which it is then stored.

The qualifying conditions for the grant of these various licences embrace the use of black powder for either:  shooting, pyrotechnics/display (cannons etc) or the manufacture of fireworks. For muzzle loading and black powder cartridge (metallic or shotgun) loading you’ll obviously need to have qualifying firearms on your certificate, application, variation or renewal. You will then need to apply to your local Firearms Department for the appropriate Authority.  You’ll be required to complete an application Form COER 1 requesting the grant of a Certificate to Keep and Acquire Explosives, a COER 3. Unusually, there is no charge for the granting of this three year Certificate. For those of you who already hold a COER 3, make note of the duration – it is NOT coterminous with your Shotgun or Firearms Certi? cates.

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