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Cap 'n Ball for Home Defense? Thank God for Modern Firearms!
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 Posted: Fri Jan 2nd, 2009 03:29 PM
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SCSlim
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Been curious for some time about whether and to what extent our ancestors could rely on their BP revolvers for self-defense at home or on the trail. Obviously, they had to - that was all there was back in the day. But how long did they/could they leave a revolver charged and ready for action before it became even less reliable than they already were?

To find out how it might have gone, three months ago I cleaned and dessicated my 1860 Army replica and stuffed it with .451" 180 grain Buffalo Bullets over veggie wad-topped full charges (about 25-30 grains) of FFFg BP, capped the nipples, and stuck in on a display stand atop my dresser. Bear in mind that a 9mm sleeps in my nightstand, so I wasn't depending on the 1860 for anything. This was just basic research aimed at finding out where the guardrails might have been back when Wild Bill packed a brace of Colt Navy .36's on his hips. (It's been said of Hickock that he practiced daily, so his guns didn't lay around loaded for anywhere near 3 months.)

Yesterday, I took the revolver out to the desert and fired it. Chambers 1-3 fired on the first lick. Chamber 4 was a miss. Chamber 5 lit off, then Chamber 6 missed. A second hammer blow on Chamber 4's cap did the trick. Chamber 6 failed to ignite after 3 more hammer strikes and was re-capped. The new cap set it off.

So, 1/3 of the chambers failed to fire on the first go-round. I wouldn't get too upset over those results if it meant taking an extra crack at a forest grouse or a squirrel, but they're not very good odds when the s**t hits the fan with a bad guy.

Bottom line: Thank God for inside-primed metallic cartridges and modern firearms! The old charcoal-burning front stuffers are fun to play and hunt with, but for modern-day social interactions with evil-doers ... I'll take my Bersa .380 that goes bang! every time over a BP big bore that goes click! 2 times out of 6.

 

Last edited on Fri Jan 2nd, 2009 03:32 PM by SCSlim



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 Posted: Fri Jan 2nd, 2009 04:17 PM
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Plainsman
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Just the other day a friend told me he fired off his Uberti C&B replica after having it loaded for three years. All cylinders went off the first time.

My first big-bore revolver when I was a kid was an original 1860 Army Colt. I carried that gun every day (until my Dad gave me a flattop .357!) and it was fired on average at least every week. I never had any problem with reliability with that pistol. One thing I learned, though, was to be particularly careful about cleaning and drying the inside of the nipples. That seemed to be the weak point in the ignition link.



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 Posted: Fri Jan 2nd, 2009 06:47 PM
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SCSlim
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Dirtkicker wrote: ... One thing I learned, though, was to be particularly careful about cleaning and drying the inside of the nipples. That seemed to be the weak point in the ignition link.


I think you're dead on about that being the weakest link. I cleaned and re-loaded the 1860 last night and set it back on its stand. I plan to wring it out again, middle of next week if all goes well. We'll see if setting just a few days vs. 3 months makes a difference.

Accounts have surfaced over the years about relic BP revolvers having been found with chambers loaded, and the same having been fired - even after many decades. It's certainly possible, I have no doubt - but apparently not this time, not with my 1860.

Last edited on Fri Jan 2nd, 2009 06:49 PM by SCSlim



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 Posted: Sat Jan 3rd, 2009 09:04 PM
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Old Grunt
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I realy believe a cap and ball can be almost as dependable as modern ammo,with a good cleaning being bone dry when loading,and giving thought to keeping all moisture out it will go off when fired,my only problem with a cap and ball revolver for defense is a fired cap falling off nipple and binding up something..

   A quality single shot BP pistol or rifle can be loaded to fire with as much or at least very close to as much dependibilty as factory ammo rain or shine.

 A flintlock is anouther story all together,those things suck moisture out of the air and due to way they ignite I havnt figgured out how to load them up air and water tight:beer:



 Posted: Sun Jan 4th, 2009 01:23 AM
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Plainsman
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In the old-time cowboy B-movies you'd often see a shooter throw his pistol back and point the barrel straight up in the air as he cocked it. This was a hold-over from the days of c&b pistols, and the maneuver was to throw the spent cap out of the way of the hammer. I used to use the same movement and it nearly always worked.

Last summer I fired a flinter that had been loaded (but unprimed of course) for three years. It went off the first time. Dramatic efforts to seal off the charge are more apt to cause problems than solve them in my experience. Of course, I wouldn't leave the loaded gun in a damp basement or some such undesirable place as that! But that's just a no-brainer.



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 Posted: Sun Jan 4th, 2009 07:54 PM
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Charley
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Quite a few old shooting bags contained a feather, or quill. I've been told the purpose was to create an airspace in the charge, on loading, allowing more ignition surface, and also as a stop in the vent to keep the charges sealed against the elements.

I seem to remember Sam Fadala writing about a test where he hung a loaded percussion revolver above a shower for several days. Believe he used warm wax and sealed the caps and nipples with it.



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 Posted: Mon Jan 5th, 2009 07:22 AM
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Old Grunt
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when deer hunting with cap and ball I melt a little wax around cap,I have just dripped wax from a candle (probly not realy a good idea) but prefere to melt it in a spoon and drip it around that way,just make sure no wax is on top of cap..

when using a flinter in somewhat damp weather I carry a few toothpicks to stick in flashhole,I can keep main charge dry but not the prime,flint or frizzen,prime has to be changed often and flint and frizzen constantly whipped dry.

on both I will put a small sguare of saran wrap around muzzle held on with a rubber band

   I take a lot of time to ensure the bore,drum and nipple is bone dry and load very carefully when deer hunting,I only plan on touching off one shot the the extra few min to load is worth it,I will leave rifle loaded and capped untill end of season or I shoot a deer.

   I am sure our forefathers took extra care when loading there rifles that hung over the door for things that go bump in the night,I'm sure a lot of them couldnt of afforded to shoot and reload every day,and even if they could of it could of been a week or two trip to resupply with powder and lead.



 Posted: Mon Jan 5th, 2009 12:55 PM
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Old Grunt wrote: when using a flinter in somewhat damp weather I carry a few toothpicks to stick in flashhole,I can keep main charge dry but not the prime,flint or frizzen,prime has to be changed often and flint and frizzen constantly whipped dry.

on both I will put a small sguare of saran wrap around muzzle held on with a rubber band
.
Back in the day, I used a tiny bit of crisco on the pan edges, then caulked the edge over the flash hole (after lowering the frizzen) with a toothpick.  Survived one rain storm and still went bang.  Black electrician's tape over the muzzle works very well, and no fuddling with a rubber band; used that with both ml and centerfire.



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 Posted: Mon Jan 5th, 2009 01:41 PM
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In really cold weather, too much "caulk" on a flinter can cause problems with the frizzen's free travel. I use a "cow's knee" made of shaped deerskin and heavily oiled. Works great for me and completely does away with the need for pan sealing, even in a pouring rain. In the winter I also keep the rifle outside, or at least "out in the cold." That way snowflakes just slough off and make no moisture on the surface of the rifle plus there's no danger of condensation contaminating the charge.



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 Posted: Mon Jan 5th, 2009 06:24 PM
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Old Grunt
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ghrit wrote: Back in the day, I used a tiny bit of crisco on the pan edges, then caulked the edge over the flash hole (after lowering the frizzen) with a toothpick.                                                                I have tried this maybe I got to carried away because it warmed up and melted made a mess of things,our muzzle loader season is sept,at least last time I deer hunted it was so it can still get hot out.  Survived one rain storm and still went bang.  Black electrician's tape over the muzzle works very well, and no fuddling with a rubber band; used that with both ml and centerfire.

       I have also used electritions tape,just prefer the saran wrap,dont really know why though :confused:



 Posted: Mon Jan 5th, 2009 06:45 PM
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Dirtkicker wrote: In really cold weather, too much "caulk" on a flinter can cause problems with the frizzen's free travel. I use a "cow's knee" made of shaped deerskin and heavily oiled. Works great for me and completely does away with the need for pan sealing, even in a pouring rain.I have always planned to try this myself just never have.How does it work with high humidity?I have had primming turn to goo on hot humid days,so those days I just reprime often In the winter I also keep the rifle outside, or at least "out in the cold." That way snowflakes just slough off and make no moisture on the surface of the rifle plus there's no danger of condensation contaminating the charge.I do the same I dont even put rifle in cab of pickup,I will carry it in bed of PU.
 

style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: #f8f8f8"    I will also put something between powder charge and patched ball,I always use a lubricated patch on ball and dont want patch lube to foul charge,I have used a little wad of saran wrap,a couple dry patches,but my favorite is a piece of wasp nest




 Posted: Mon Jan 5th, 2009 08:10 PM
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Being hygroscopic, black powder doesn't take all that kindly to those really sopping high-humidity days. I make it a habit to empty the pan frequently on such days, brushing it out and then drying it well before repriming.

I wouldn't personally use Saran wrap or any other plastic-based material over the charge. I don't want to have to clean the bore of even small amounts of plastic residue. If it works for you, fine.

I use TC's Bore Butter as a patch lube and have had great luck with it. In my experience it does not contaminate charges. In that three-year loading I mentioned in another post, the patch was liberally smeared with BB and there was no difficulty setting off the charge. I think it's better to let a charge "breathe" a little than to stopper it up tight.

I also don't put anything in with the charge. Hard enough to keep things absolutely consistent as it is.



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 Posted: Tue Jan 6th, 2009 02:28 AM
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I use a toothpick vent plug for my flinters. Never saw a need to seal the bore with anything, tight ball/patch seems to work ok.



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 Posted: Sun Jan 18th, 2009 12:39 AM
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SCSlim
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Old Grunt wrote: I realy believe a cap and ball can be almost as dependable as modern ammo...
Well, today I shot that cylinder full that I loaded into the Pietta 1860 Army on January 2. All 6 rounds went off without a hitch. They were pretty energetic too, with 180 grain Bufflalo Bullets and a 30 grain charge. I was pleasantly surprised.

I really like that 1860 Army. It seems well-made, is quite accurate and tons of fun to shoot. No lead to pull out of the bore either - what little there is comes right out with a water-soaked patch or a soft bristled bore brush.



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