Cap Last?


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bill97222
April 3, 2011, 07:22 PM
I've sent hundreds of balls downrange over the last few months before I realized that virtually all of the instructions, and all of you cap your cylinders last.

I've been capping them first.

Made sense to me.

On my first two Cap and Ball pistols, the nipples run pretty snug for the caps that are readily available... Too snug for me to get 100% first strike reliability by just pushing the caps onto the nipples through the cutout with my fingers the way the directions say you should.

I was getting too high a proportion of misfires seating the caps that way for my liking. They do fire on the second strike, but I wanted more reliability than I was getting.

I probably only loaded about a dozen cylinders before I began loading my cylinders outside of the guns so that I could better seat the caps.

I've been capping the cylinders with my fingers, then using the bottom of my brass powder measure to press the caps more firmly onto the nipples over empty chambers.

It seemed a real simple way to cure almost all of my ignition problems.

There is no way in the world that I'd be doing that on a nipple that has a charge and a ball underneath it.

What am I missing here fella's?

My thought is/was that once the cap is firmly seated on the nipple, it's safe until you hit it with a hammer... is there some other time during the loading process where you might accidently set off a cap besides when you are seating it?

It is possible that I could drop the cylinder in the middle of the loading process, while only some of the chambers are charged, and that one or more caps could discharge from the drop, but if that happened, while I'd be overcome with smoke, and perhaps pummelled by felt wads, none of the cylinders would have balls seated, I seat those using the loading lever once my cylinder is capped, charged, topped with some filler and a wad and back inside my pistol.

I guess the bottom line is that I just felt really creepy pushing an explosive cap onto a metal nipple over a fully loaded cylinder that isn't even aligned with the gun barrel... especially given the potential that if that cap goes off, it might well touch off any other loaded, but uncapped chambers.

I'm either onto something, or I've missed something completely.

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junkman_01
April 3, 2011, 08:14 PM
I must say at first blush, your method flies in the face of tradition. But after re-reading it, you may be making a lot of sense!

BHP FAN
April 3, 2011, 08:16 PM
Every black powder shoot I've ever attended would have been asked you to leave if they'd seen you doing it. While I can see your point, and it does ''feel'' unsafe capping a loaded chamber, it's no more dangerous than putting live rounds in a Peacemaker. In either case you're doing it with the barrel pointed downrange anyways, so you are perfectly safe. And so are your fellow shooters.By the way, switch to #11 CCI, or #10 Remington caps, and this whole process should be safer and easier.

ontarget
April 3, 2011, 09:47 PM
Which model are you having trouble capping? I only own Colt clones and have large fingers so I use a stick style capper which allows me to very firmly seat the caps. which I do last.

mykeal
April 3, 2011, 10:40 PM
The National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association rules require that you install the caps last, on the firing line, with the muzzle pointed downrange. You would be removed from the meet using your method.

When choosing the order of operations which involve the possibility of a catastrophic event, always arrange them so that the one which sets the event in motion is performed last. That reduces the exposure to the smallest period of time and the least amount of handling.

If the cap were to go off during installation using your current process you risk more than being engulfed in smoke and pummeled by felt wads; you risk being enveloped by a fireball. The minimum amount of damage is losing some hair on your hands or arms and second degree burns, not a pleasant experience. The maximum is third degree burns and loss of eyesight with the possibility of inhaling the burning gas and damaging your lungs.

If the cap were to go off using the NMLRA prescribed process the minimum amount of damage would be negligible to none. The maximum would be equivalent to a chain fire while shooting at a target, which rarely is more than a bad surprise.

BCRider
April 3, 2011, 10:50 PM
For some time now I've been using a softwood push stick to seat my caps. I do all my capping and stick seating with my hands well away from the front face of the cylinder "just in case".

Mostly your fears of a cap going off from mere pressure are unfounded. I can't find it at the moment because I can't seem to get the correct keywords for a valid search but about a year and a half back there was a thread on this forum about some of us using stupid amounts of pressure on a cap sitting on a nipple to see if we could make it ignite. Bottom line is that there is just no way you'll get a surprise from any sort of SMOOTHLY APPLIED pressure that you can generate with your hand or a soft wood pushing stick. It took the fellow doing the tests the ramming force of a drill press quill to set off the cap from strictly pressure. The ignition material in our caps is primarily a sudden impact pressure sort of device. As such unless there's a "sudden" involved the pressure needed to achieve ignition is WAY up there.

makos_goods
April 3, 2011, 11:33 PM
For some time now I've been using a softwood push stick to seat my caps. I do all my capping and stick seating with my hands well away from the front face of the cylinder "just in case".

Mostly your fears of a cap going off from mere pressure are unfounded. I can't find it at the moment because I can't seem to get the correct keywords for a valid search but about a year and a half back there was a thread on this forum about some of us using stupid amounts of pressure on a cap sitting on a nipple to see if we could make it ignite. Bottom line is that there is just no way you'll get a surprise from any sort of SMOOTHLY APPLIED pressure that you can generate with your hand or a soft wood pushing stick. It took the fellow doing the tests the ramming force of a drill press quill to set off the cap from strictly pressure. The ignition material in our caps is primarily a sudden impact pressure sort of device. As such unless there's a "sudden" involved the pressure needed to achieve ignition is WAY up there.
BCRider,
I have a friend who will disagree with you...

http://www.cascity.com/forumhall/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=1620.0;attach=855;image

This is from his post in 2004:
http://www.cascity.com/forumhall/index.php/topic,1620.0.html

[quote author=Cuts Crooked link=topic=1620.msg14960#msg14960 date=1101517667]
How about that!?!?! It worked!!!!
;D

That's a picture of what's left of my thumb after a cap detonated under it while loading my old 58 Remington years ago.

The following is an artical that was printed in the Cowboy Chronical earlier this year about capping these old time guns.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Great Capping Controversy
(how to avoid the whole thing and still enjoy Frontiersman)

Howdy gang!

Back in the May issue of "The Chronicle", Old Scout, SASS Life #34718, wrote about capping our Cap & Ball pistols and the inherant dangers, or lack thereof, involved. Old Scout did a great job of testing and documenting his efforts to find out just how dangerous the chore might or might not be, along with testing for the results of an out of battery discharge. I enjoyed the fact that he covered the various seating methods employed and noted the possible level of danger to the shooter and bystanders. Then along comes the June issue and a letter from Silver Sam, SASS Life #34718 expressing his frustration over the rule that prevents "hammer seating" of percussion caps. And I certainly understand Silver Sams feeling on that matter! Once one gets used to a method of doing something, and it never seems to be a problem, it's difficult to accept that someone else can see a possible danger in that method...human nature at work there!

Well, Old Cuts is going to enter the controversy and tell y'all the answer to the cap seating dilema. The answer is DON'T. It's that simple! You see the whole "seating" thing really isn't needed, and I'll tell you why in a bit here. But first...

Happens that I am one of those pards who Old Scout mentioned as having a cap detonate under "finger pressure". Yes it can happen! The results ain't fun or pretty! For those who want the gory details, it happened in either June or July (I would have to check with the local Sheriffs office to be sure. It was recorded as a "firearms related injury" at the time and the doctor called in the Deputies to record the details) of 1986 in Marion County, Iowa. I was in a farm lane on my in-laws property doing a bit of target practice when a cap that I was "seating" on my 58 Remington detonated under the pressure of my thumb. Now a percussion cap doesn't have much power, not much more than the explosive force of a cap designed for toy cap guns, but the escaping gases coming back through the nipple hole from the ignition of the powder DO HAVE CONSIDERABLE FORCE!. Without the hammer down over that little hole enough hot gas can escape to do a lot of damage to any digit in its path. When it happened I ended up with a thumb that looked kind of like a peeled banana, only black! The nail bed was laid back down over the knuckle of my thumb, a strip was peeled down the inside radius, and the meaty ball was sort of bulged out. This left the bone exposed on the end of my thumb! (OUCH!) After washing and wire brushing away all the charred stuff the Sawbones was able to pull every thing back together and sew it up by running stitches through the thumbnail and the meaty part. But there was a piece missing that he couldn't do anything about. It really didn't hurt though, in fact I've never felt anything in that thumb again! Apparently the nerve bundle on the inside of the thumb was instantly cauterized. Made fer a bit of a hassle to relearn how cock a revolver!

So, Cuts decided to make sure he never had to "seat" a cap again! And it isn't that difficult! My first effort in that direction was to purchase nipples (did you know the old timers called them "tubes"?) that fit my caps properly. In those days the availability of various caps and nipples wasn't all that great. But a little perserverance found a combination that fit properly. The caps would go all the way down on good fitting nipples with only a little pressure from the capping tool. And there was just enough friction to keep them in place during cycling and firing the gun. That's the way it' supposed to work, no pushing them down on with a dowel or yer finger, and no pinching them to make them fit tight enough to stay on. Just press them on with the capping tool and keep going! Simple! Right? Well...no, not exactly. Seems that nipples tend to batter and get out of shape, Which makes it harder to press a cap onto them after a while. And sometimes you just can't find the right combination of caps & nipples to achieve that perfect fit. So what do you do? Use yer finger or a dowel? The answer is neither of those! You make the nipple fit the caps!

If you have access to a lathe this is a pretty simple job. But most folks don't have a machine shop laying around the house. I know, I don't anyway! But there's still a pretty easy way to make those nipples fit yer caps, it's not hard, and it doesn't require expensive tools. All you need is a fine toothed file, some emory cloth, and an electric hand drill! Simply chuck the offending nipple in the drill, closing the jaws on the "shoulder" of the nipple to avoid damaging the threads. Then hold your fine toothed file against the "tube" and pull the trigger on the drill. Use very light pressure to hold the file against the nipple while it spins, stopping frequently to check fit with a cap. (Stop the drill when do this!!!!) When you have removed enough metal so that the cap just slides down onto the nipple with minimal pressure, then polish things up a bit with the emory cloth, not too much because you want to maintain a friction fit...and you're done! You now have a perfect fitting cap & nipple combination that doesn't require placing yoru fingers in danger or the use of a special pushing tool to seat the caps all the way down. All you have to do is place a cap over the nipple with your capping tool and press lightly, then pull the tool straight out. It will save you some time at the loading table, no more concerns about the dangers of hammer seating, and your fingers will thank you for your efforts on their behalf! And from Snakebite, SASS Life #4767, comes the tip to carry an old toothbrush in your kit, to brush away accumilated soot from the nipples at the unloading table. This helps more than you'd imagine!

Now, go shoot that fine old time cap gun, and have fun...safely!

Yer Pard,

Cuts Crooked, SASS #36914

It happens...
Regards,
Mako

Busyhands94
April 4, 2011, 12:13 AM
if there is no caps in the cylinder while you are loading it you will make the risk of ignition while loading almost nonexistent. the only way that could possibly happen without caps is if there was a smoldering ember in the chamber. and it would probably ignite your BP before you even got the ball on there. however if something like a small sliver of wood or some debris got into your powder and you were compressing your powder with caps on it could poke through the nipple and might even set off the cap. you could have an explosion. however if you have the right percussion caps you will have no problems capping a loaded cylinder. they should go on with only slight pressure, not too much because premature detonation can occur. not too little because there will be a gap between the interior of the cap and the nipple and that can cause chain fires. if you wanted to you could take the cylinder out and make sure it is unloaded and then experiment. see how much pressure it takes to set off a percussion cap. wear some gloves and see how much force is needed to detonate a percussion cap when pressed onto a nipple. then use half that. i know how it feels to cap a loaded gun, but loading first is always a good idea unless you are really careful. stay safe and God bless America ~Levi

junkman_01
April 4, 2011, 08:23 AM
Pressure doesn't set off caps, so your whole premise is in error. See for yourself. Put one in a vise and squeeze it, and report back on your findings. You will find that with steady pressure it will not detonate.

CHM
April 4, 2011, 09:27 AM
I am fairly new to revolver blackpowder shooting and it seems to me that the overall process can be a bit more treacherous than shooting modern cartridges. With the components separated as they are with the caps, powder, and projectile, there is more opportunity for error and injury. I have been using my fingers to cap the cylinder - after I load the powder, wad, and ball. I have a capper, but it doesn't fit the recess on the frame. I suppose I will try to find a capper that will fit to be on the safe side. Even if the above incident is a one in a million thing, I like my thumb. On another note, I recently acquired a Brown Bess and this opens up another world of safety concerns. After researching flintlock loading and shooting, I can understand why they used these guns as bayonet holders and clubs. I am sure there are many of our ancestors who injured/lost an eye from the pan flash not to mention the flash and jet of hot propelleant gases hitting your comrade next to you from the flash hole. Apparently, one should expect a minimum 10% failure to fire at best in perfect weather! I plan to shoot this rifle a few times for the experience with good ballistic lenses, long sleeves, etc...

ClemBert
April 4, 2011, 09:44 AM
Hmmm, my first inclination to solve the problem would have been to use different percussion caps. But to each his own....Live and let live. Some folks, I hear, use a bigger hammer to get that square peg in the round hole but I don't believe 'em. ;)

Noz
April 4, 2011, 10:03 AM
My feeling is that if I was to load off of the gun with capped chambers, I would be looking down the barrel of a loaded gun with each chamber loaded.

I'll load then cap, thank you.

SleazyRider
April 4, 2011, 10:16 AM
Pressure doesn't set off caps, so your whole premise is in error. See for yourself. Put one in a vise and squeeze it, and report back on your findings. You will find that with steady pressure it will not detonate.
But what if you placed a capped nipple in a vise squeezed it, would it not ignite?

SlamFire1
April 4, 2011, 10:17 AM
Yeah, I don't want to have a loaded cylinder or gun pointing at me.

Fulminates are very inpredictable, the example of the gentleman who had one go off with fingerpressure should tell folks, change your process. Don't bet your life on mechanical safeties (half cock mechanisms) or fulminate sensitivity.

You might lose.

junkman_01
April 4, 2011, 12:46 PM
But what if you placed a capped nipple in a vise squeezed it, would it not ignite?
It would not. You will only ruin the nipple.
Think about this. A gun has a part called a HAMMER to detonate the cap, not a PUSHER!

SleazyRider
April 4, 2011, 02:04 PM
I've seen that article and photograph of the feller with the notched thumb previously, and have been capping my BP firearms with kid gloves ever since, using a wooden push stick instead of my thumb. What troubles me, however, is not so much the rearward blast from the nipple, but what about the ball in the fired chamber? Where does that wind up? Maybe I'm becoming paranoid, but I've been holding the cylinder of my 1858 Remmy in such a manner so that the hole that I'm capping is not hidden even in part by the frame, in effect as if I were capping a derringer. Even so, the hole is lined up with the cylinder pin knob/handle. Is this a concern? Wouldn't a crossfire produce a similar phenomenon?

Also, I tried capping an unloaded cylinder over and over again with a push stick, and try as I did, I couldn't get a cap to go off. So I'm inclined to accept Junkman_01's assertion as gospel, but I'm still troubled by the notched thumb.

robhof
April 4, 2011, 04:03 PM
Junkman; and modern primers have an anvil for the hammer to strike. Percussion caps, properly stored; cool and dry last for years, but who keeps them as such. Not properly stored and they degrade, they can either become more sensitive or useless. That being said, I found a tin of caps that I had put away with a model cannon some 35 yrs ago and they all fired fine, as well as about 1/2 Lb of real B/p that also worked fine.

mykeal
April 4, 2011, 05:37 PM
Fulminates are very inpredictable,
True, but percussion caps haven't used fulminates for many, many years.

junkman_01
April 4, 2011, 06:02 PM
Junkman; and modern primers have an anvil for the hammer to strike.

What has that got to do with this discussion?

Busyhands94
April 4, 2011, 08:30 PM
what is in caps nowadays? if it is not fulminates is it some sort of phosphorous concoction?

mykeal
April 4, 2011, 08:47 PM
They're proprietary compounds based on lead azide or lead styphanate.

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