My first paper cartridge for Sharps


April 3, 2010, 06:04 PM
Today was a good day to try something new. I made my first paper cartridge for my recently acquired .54 Sharps breech loader.

I ordered the bullets and nitrated paper from DGW (bullets BU0903 .544475 Sharps solid base lead).

I then mic'd the lower base ring (0.471 inch) and carefully sanded a 1/2 hardwood dowell to that size. It was easy to wrap and glue one of the nitrated papers around the sized dowell I just made. The base of the bullet fit perfectly.

With the bullet fitted snug in the end of the paper tube I just made I placed the tube in the chamber of the Sharps until I felt the bullet home into the bore. I then marked the paper tube with a pencil where it came out of the chamber. I pulled the bullet out and slid the tube back down on the dowel until I came to that mark. Then I cut the side of the tube down one side with a pair of scissors and folded the end over making a crimp. I glued the crimp with Elmer's and let set.

I filled the tube with BP to within 3/16" of the open end of the tube which would be the base of the bullet. I then poured the BP out into a BP measure and recorded the amount. Seventy (70) grains. That ought to be enough and within specs.

With a Q-tip I placed a little band of Elmers around bottom band of the bullet and set it in the BP filled tube. To finish it off I tied a short piece of hemp twine over the paper around groove between the bottom ring and the compression ring of the bullet. A crimp sort off. I secured the single overhand knot on the twine with a drop of Super glue.

Looks good to me.

Your comments and opinions would be appreciated.


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rocky branch
April 3, 2010, 06:24 PM
Looks good.
I have one I have not fired yet.
There are a couple issues about the sliding chamber insert I want to resolve.

Important to keep it clean and moveable.
It is a goofy aspect of a rifle that was a bit finicky in its day.

April 3, 2010, 08:08 PM
I make paper cartridges for my '41 Mississippi rifle the same way except I use Golden Wrapper rolling papers which are almost as dark brown as grocery bags. I use a Lee .533" Minie ball. The Golden Wrapper papers are the perfect length on the short end with very little overlap on the bullet, so it's a snug fit to the bore, but I can squeeze it in with my fingers after I pour in the powder.

I use a glue stick to run a line of glue on the short end, roll it up on the bullet with the assistance of a 1/2" dowel rod and then moisten the adhesive and let it dry. I glue the bullet on the first groove from the nose. I use 60 grains of Triple 7.

April 3, 2010, 08:24 PM
Hey,Rocky,I HAVE the floating chamber extraction tool...but my Tri-Star [Pedratti] Sharps doesn't HAVE a floating chamber....might that solve your problem?

April 3, 2010, 09:05 PM
My Sharps supposed to have the floating chamber. Armsport (IAB). I thought that it had a floating chamber, but I couldn't get it to "float" and on various forums I read that some IAB chambers don't float. I found one instruction that mentions cleaning the block plate but nothing about cleaning or maintaining the chamber sleeve.

The block plate on mine was siezed hard. It took me most of the day on Friday to free it. It used Kroil and a thin bladed knife to work it. I took it real easy going around and around tapping the knife blade in here and there until I got it open about a hairs width. Then I could get more Kroil in it and it started to move.

After I got it off and cleaned up I could see how it worked. Even clean as a whistle it is still a close friction fit and does not move freely like a rattle. The way I see it working is that plate is just a piston. When the powder is ignited and the pressure builds up in the chamber. Gas pressure is forced through the center of the plate to the front of the block and gets behind the plate pushing it towards the chamber like a piston. When the pressure building gases push the plate forward enough to meet the chamber sleeve it will seal the chamber.

In order for the sleeve to move rearward would either be by recoil or pressure. I dont think the recoil could move it. Being just a cylinder it would make a poor piston. The bore of the barrel would be an expanding cylinder while the bullet is moving down it away from the cylinder and I cant see where the gases can get in behind the sleeve to force it rearward to seal against the block plate.

I've been a percussion Sharps owner for less than a week and thats my best guess. I know there are folks out there who are a lot more knowledgable about this than me. No one is going to hurt my feelings if they chime in and tell me I've got it all wrong.

Anyway, After I got it off and all cleaned up I reassembled it using antiseize lube. But I will clean it after every shooting session thats for sure.

Just my humble opinion.


rocky branch
April 3, 2010, 10:25 PM
Mine is a Pedersoli.

The sleeve is too long to remove for cleaning-great!

There is a fellow who modifies these.
He removes the barrel, pulls the sleeve and cuts it in too.
The halves are joined by a O Ring and this allows withdrawing the sleeve in two parts.

You should be able to put your little finger into the sleeve and move it about.

They will sieze up if not cleaned.
I have the guy's particulars, but not at hand.
Costs $150 or so.

April 3, 2010, 10:26 PM
OK, have to ask:

What is a "floating chamber" in a Sharps? I have a .54 carbine version, an old Armi San Marco, so I am curious.

April 4, 2010, 12:25 AM
Tommygunn I'm no expert, but I'll share with you what I think I know.

When a conventional, modern brass cartridge is fired, the cartridge case swells ever so slightly to seal the chamber. This allows all the expanding gases to propell the bullet out of the barrel. The shooter does not experience any gas blowing back, unless he has a case failure or a blown primer.

In the case of a breech loading, falling block, percussion firearm it is difficult to seal the rear of the chamber from escaping gases. To to seal the chamber, engineers and designers came up with the floating chamber. There is a tube or sleeve in the chamber and a plate on the breech block. When the firearm is fired expanding gases, maybe recoil too, causes the sleeve in the chamber and the plate on the breech block to "float" toward each other. When their surfaces meet, it is enough to seal the chamber preventing gases and smoke blowing out of the falling block action. Normally the shooter's face is very close to the area where this all happens.

I read that the Shiloh Sharps does not have a floating chamber. I dont know, I've never had the opprotunity to see one let alone examine it. I also couldn't say about the original Sharps slant breech and later percussion breech loaders.

Again, I'm no expert, this is just my own theory of what happens. It isn't going to hurt my feelings if someone else wants to share their opinion on this.


blackpowder bob
April 4, 2010, 05:52 PM
HI Loose, those cartridges look good. I do mine a bit different. I roll mine from paper that I soak in potassium nitrate and cut to shape. This is a lot cheaper that buying them.
I use bullets from Buffalo Arms that are already lubed and sized. Haven't got around to getting a mold yet. When I roll them, I leave a tail on the cartridge. I have a block that holds 10 rounds that fits into my cartridge pouch. The tail helps in pulling the cartridge out to load. Also I use linen thread to tie the bullet to the paper cartridge. I made a special jig for this, that hold everything in place while tying the bullet on.
The Sharps .54 is really great, completely different than any other BP cartridge.

April 7, 2010, 07:43 PM
the flash from the cap will not burn thru the heavy paper. Use hair perm paper on the end. there are 2 diffrent O-Ring mods. 1 is the split sleave. the other is a oring behind the gas check w/ a fixed sleeve. the second is the easist and cheapist way to go.

April 8, 2010, 12:02 AM
How do you keep the lube on the bullets, and what do you use for lube?


April 8, 2010, 07:40 AM
R.clem I am planning to use a mixture of mutton tallow, crisco and beeswax. I'll rub a little lube into the lube grooves just before loading and shooting. I normally wind up with more lube on my fingers and clothes if dont.


April 8, 2010, 08:30 PM
50/50 beeswax olive oil and dip after round is made up. used crisco in place of olive oil when I started. crisco goes rancid and gets hard after a while. never that problem w/ olive oil. Have been told peanut oil is better than olive oil.

what distance do you plan on shooting? if no more than 100 yrds drop your powder down to 35 and start working up from there until you hit the sweet spot. I'm using 42 of 2ff in my shiloh.

April 8, 2010, 10:40 PM
My paper tube will hold about 75 grains behind the bullet and leave just about 1/16 to 3/32 of a "paper crimp" outside the chamber to be cut off. These 10 are loaded with 50 grains 3f and then corn meal to the bullet. I'll be shooting at 50 yards. My main concern with this 1st range shoot is being shure the breech block gas flange is sealing. If I'm ok there I'll invest in other sights and start developing accuracy loads. I doubt if I'll ever really shoot farther than 150 yards with it.

Thanks for sharing your knowledge, its appreciated.


April 8, 2010, 11:40 PM
Loosenock, you slugged your bore ??
My IAB is .540 & .550..
My Pedersoli Sharps mould casts at .548 max...(ordered the mould before I slugged it)
LOUSY...really LOUSY, accuracy.....Waaaay to small...
Started tellin' folks I was shooting 'sillywets'...'cause that was what I was seein' on my 50 yd target, the silhouette of the boolit...It was hitting the target SIDEWAYS...
Also, my IAB chamber will hold 120 gr of, you putting ~70 gr cornmeal ??
I got me a 300 gr LEE R.E.A.L. that casts at .550-.551 that I ain't tried yet, but I'm hoping for better than minute-of-car-door accuracy...

April 10, 2010, 08:34 PM
Note about peanut oil, I have a gallon that is 2 years old. It is just as good as the day it was purchased. IT DOESN'T GO BAD OR SMELL.
I think the beeswax and peanut oil would be a great lube formula, but how about making it a little stiffer, say 75% beeswax and 25% peanut oil. If should stick with the bullet longer and be somewhat less messy.
I use beeswax in my lube formula for my BPCR and have found that peanut oil and lanolin are the better additives in my formula.


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