Why I Do Not Use My Finger/Thumb To Seat The Cap


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Black Duck Charlie
March 13, 2012, 09:47 PM
I have been reading through some of the threads here, and there is one recurring bit of advice I keep seeing: To seat the cap on the nipple by using your fingers or thumb. I am ok with placing the cap on the nipple with my bare fingers -- but 100% against seating it that way.

A couple of days ago, before joining this forum, I came across the reason I refuse to use my bare finger/thumb to seat a cap:
http://www.cascity.com/forumhall/index.php/topic,1620.0.html
This has even been linked to here in this forum:
http://www.thehighroad.org/showpost.php?p=7220032&postcount=7

Being new to the entire C&B scene, I stupidly used my thumb to seat the caps the very first time, and after reading the linked thread over at cascity.com, I realized I was extremely lucky -- because a few of those caps sort of "snapped" into place due to the nipples being slightly deformed. Even on my brand-new C&B gun, the caps have seated with a sort of "click", as though they actually did lock onto the nipple; my guess is that the caps weren't on straight to begin with, and it took a bit more pressure to seat them.

While it may be true that modern percussion caps require actual percussion to fire, this should be more than enough to show that sometimes it takes very little actual percussion to get a cap to fire. It's why I will always use a capper or stick to seat the caps on my percussion guns.

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drsfmd
March 14, 2012, 02:10 PM
Interesting, I never gave it much thought before. I guess I should actually start using that capper I carry in my possibles bag!

jphendren
March 14, 2012, 02:32 PM
WOW! I have always used my fingers to cap; I did not know it was dangerous. How did the boys in the 19th century do it? Did they have a capping tool?

Jared

arcticap
March 14, 2012, 03:26 PM
A previous search for some kind of objective measurement of the impact sensitivity of modern percussion caps turned up this:

Based on a test using a 2 kilogram weight (4.40924524 lbs.), the impact sensitivity of lead styphnate is 3 inches.

http://www.teledynerisi.com/products/0products_8td_page02.asp

TomADC
March 14, 2012, 04:13 PM
Wonder where junkman01 is he claims this is impossible.:uhoh:

mykeal
March 14, 2012, 04:51 PM
junkman_01 did a test and claims it did not detonate the cap; I believe he used contemporary caps using lead styphanate. A gentleman who goes by the name of Cuts Crooked on another forum claims to have detonated one with his thumb back in 1986. This is the only instance I'm aware of; perhaps the cap he used was an earlier design using one of the mercury fulminate materials instead of today's more stable ones.

There are literally tens of thousands of black powder shooters who use their thumbs routinely to place (and 'seat') caps on nipples; the number of instances that this has been done since 1986 must be in the tens of millions.

I'm not say it didn't happen. But it sure seems to me that if this was as dangerous as some here would have us believe that it would have happened a lot more often, and there would be some significant internet record of it. Look at the number of 'chain fire' incidents, for example. But, when I ask the question, the only case presented is the one involving Cuts Crooked.

So, I gotta go with the scientific, rather than the anecdotal, evidence. You (the universal 'you') are certainly allowed to make up your own mind.

The stability of lead styphanate, the 'explosive' material used in today's caps, is well understood and documented.

TomADC
March 14, 2012, 05:17 PM
I should have added I'm a thumber also.
Just curious as to Junkmans take on this..

Ryanxia
March 14, 2012, 05:23 PM
And if you drive a car there is a chance you could end up in a car accident.

Life isn't bubble wrapped for us :)

BCRider
March 14, 2012, 05:30 PM
I'm highly interested in the outcome of this thread. However I'm inclined to go with mykeal's post that the occurances of this are rare in the extreme.

I'd also question the advantage in using a capper since most are used with our hands wrapped around the body of the capper. One cap going off at the end along with the jet of hot gasses from the chamber that fires is going to blast back into the capper body and subject the caps to not only the heat but also the shock. If I had to make a choice I'd rather that "only" my thumb be in harm's way than my whole hand. Each cap by itself may not have a lot of explosive power but anywhere from 40 to 100 of them? I don't see good things from that at all.

For my part I'll continue to wear my fairly heavy leather left hand glove to hold the revolver while capping, to keep my hands clear of the forward end of the cylinder "just in case" and to use a nice long softwood stick to seat the primers.

Phantom Captain
March 14, 2012, 05:35 PM
Been capping with my thumb my whole life. Not really worried about it.

In fact the data that arcticap posted is pretty conclusive and definitive in my opinion. I like science. ;)

To each their own but I'll keep doing it the way I've been.

J-Bar
March 14, 2012, 07:27 PM
Most cowboy action shooters who compete with cap and ball revolvers use a tool to ensure that the cap is seated down on the nipple as far as it will go. I get the cap placed onto the nipple with my Tedd Cash snail capper, then slide the cap further down as far as it will go with a little wooden dowel. Others use a bit of horn, etc. Factory strength hammer springs probably make that last little scoot unnecessary, but some of us use guns with lightened hammer springs (faster and easier to cock during competition, don't you know). If the cap is not seated all the way down, sometimes we get a failure to fire, and have to cycle the dern thing around again!

Which is a long explanation for why I don't use my thumb to seat a cap on a nipple.

Most CAS clubs have a specific rule forbidding use of the hammer to seat a cap (demonstrably dangerous, since an ignition under the hammer produces a full force projectile). An ignition with the nipple in the loading position will be loud and scary, but the ball will exit the chamber at very low velocity...a much more desirable kind of accidental discharge, if you will, compared to an AD with the ball going down the barrel.

Black Duck Charlie
March 14, 2012, 09:13 PM
Science says that the chances of lightning striking twice in the same place are extremely low, too, yet it has also been proven that lightning will strike hundreds of times in the same place under the right conditions. I'm not going to deliberately put myself in a situation where there is an increased chance that I might get hit by lightning.

I don't have any real control over whether something breaks while driving my car, or the actions of other drivers -- or even whether the guy next to me on the firing line does something truly stupid and dangerous -- but I do have full control over my own actions while loading/using my firearms.

arcticap
March 14, 2012, 09:35 PM
I use my thumb especially when using #11 caps that need to be squeezed first in order to fit snug.
The human flesh covering the thumb acts as padding which is sensitive enough to not exceed the threshold necessary to set off the cap.
There's a big difference between the hard impact of a hammer hit and pushing the cap with the padded portion of the thumb.
What I won't do is to use the toy ring caps which were reported by 2 THR members to have produced 2 accidental discharges do to their increased sensitivity.
That's much more of a concern to me than the possibility of a modern percussion cap going off due to seating it with one's thumb.

mykeal
March 15, 2012, 07:43 AM
BDC - Science doesn't say anything about lightning striking the same place twice - that's an old wives tale.

Look, you don't need to justify your preferred method of capping a nipple. If that's what you want to do, fine. Hey, I always wear the same shirt when my team plays ball. People still buy lottery tickets despite ludicrous odds against winning. But the fact is there just aren't very many reported incidents of seating a modern percussion cap causing an inadvertent ignition, whether someone was using a thumb, a stick or a capper.

Skinny 1950
March 15, 2012, 10:49 AM
I have mentioned that using the toy caps resulted in a discharge out the side of my 1851 Navy,it hurt my thumb a bit and I am glad the gun was pointed downrange but I have no idea where the ball went. After that incident I am very careful when capping using proper caps but I don't expect them to go off using just my thumb to seat them. If they are seated using a metal tool of some sort I imagine the chances of a discharge are increased.
As mentioned if there were a significant risk of discharge when using proper caps there would be more reported cases and even warnings printed on the packaging.

Noz
March 15, 2012, 10:59 AM
If I had to cap using my fingers I would be shooting cartridges. Not out of fear but simply because I have a great deal of difficulty manuvering those little pieces of brass. I use a Ted Cash snail capper and a small piece of unicorn horn to push them tight.

dogrunner
March 15, 2012, 11:08 AM
Keith mentions a C&B discharging while he was seating a cap. Stated it raised a huge blood blister on his thumb...,,,,,,,,,,Check his book "Sixguns".

CraigC
March 15, 2012, 11:11 AM
Life is risky, you could die from it! The most dangerous thing most people do is drive to work in the morning. There is a greater chance of dying in a fatal crash than literally anything else the average person does in the average day. The odds are small but not non-existent. Yet people do it every day without a second thought. So the notion of worrying myself to death about detonating a cartridge cap while seating it with my fingers, because one guy did it nearly 30yrs ago, is one of the silliest things I've heard in a long time. Sorry but life is too short to waste it worrying about such foolishness.

FreddyKruger
March 15, 2012, 11:17 AM
i think i might see if i can get my capper to work right. i thought "a cap going off wont be much to worry about" but i totally didnt realise there would be a chamber of BP going off as well...

Foto Joe
March 15, 2012, 11:30 AM
If I had to make a choice I'd rather that "only" my thumb be in harm's way than my whole hand.

Any of us who has been reloading cartridges for a while have probably had at least "one" primer go off unintentionally on us in a press, it happens and it's definitely a wake up call when it does. If we're lucky (I was) only one goes off, if not, the whole mess goes off at once. It hasn't happened to me but I've seen the results and it'll give you a whole new respect for those large pistol primers.

Having said that: BCRider beat me to the punch. I'd rather have one go off instead of an entire capper full of the little bombs in my hand.

On the other hand (no pun intended;)), the likelyhood of an unintentional ignition of a percussion cap being seated either by hand or by capper is beyond small. We have no knowledge of exactly "how" this happened to Cuts Crooked twenty five years ago. Was there a foreign body in the cap, i.e. a grain of sand or even a flake of errant Black Powder? Had he pinched the cap and unseated the compound in the cap accidentally? Nobody knows, not even him.

Mykeal brings up the point which we need to keep in mind, "if this was as dangerous as some here would have us believe that it would have happened a lot more often, and there would be some significant internet record of it. Look at the number of 'chain fire' incidents, for example."

Common sense tells us that capping a CB gun is inherently a dangerous task, as such I'm sure that the majority of us take it seriously and keep the business end of the cylinder pointed at something we don't value including not wrapping your "off" hand around the cylinder while performing the task.

Personally I can't stand "hand capping" a gun. My size 15 fingers don't deal well with #10 caps or even the #11's. Since I haven't been aflicted with the Remmie disease like some, my snail cappers work fine on repros of Sams finest guns.

Let's not make a mountain out of a mole hill here, can caps go off when you don't want 'em to? Probably. Is it more likely that they won't go off when you do want them to? Yes, that's an expontentially higher likelyhood.

Black Duck Charlie
March 15, 2012, 05:07 PM
Look, I'm not trying to tell anyone that they have to use anything other than their thumb or finger to seat or place caps, but it does seem that some here are trying to tell me that I am being foolish because I want to save my thumb from ending up looking "kind of like a peeled banana, only black" (Cuts Crooked's description of his own thumb).

As mentioned if there were a significant risk of discharge when using proper caps there would be more reported cases and even warnings printed on the packaging.

There are warnings printed on the packages. On the inside of the lid of the Winchester Magnum #11s I have, which were purchased less than one month ago, it says "Warning: To avoid serious injury/death: Store in this container only, in cool, dry place. Do NOT subject to impact, friction, heat, flame, static electricity or mishandling. USE shooting glasses and hearing protection."(the ALL-CAPS is on the package)

If there is so little actual chance that these caps might fire just from being put on the nipple, why the warning at all? And the bit about REPORTED incidents: That's the point, there are not many REPORTED incidents. It doesn't mean they do not happen.

Busyhands94
March 15, 2012, 05:17 PM
Just an FYI guys, do NOT use toy caps in your percussion guns. Although they are cheap and plentiful they are so dang easy to set off it's scary. The sensitivity is many times more than just a percussion cap, it's very dangerous.

I once had my NAA companion go off from using toy caps as the primers, I was putting the cylinder in (I was in my room, going out to the shop to shoot) and I had three chambers discharge due to the gun being loaded with toy caps. It scared my mom pretty bad, it made me jump. I'm a jumpy guy, kinda paranoid sometimes. But stuff exploding is one of those things that makes me cringe. Using toy caps to ignite blackpowder is a dreadful habit. Don't do it!

~Levi

TomADC
March 15, 2012, 05:20 PM
If there is so little actual chance that these caps might fire just from being put on the nipple, why the warning at all?

That's a result of todays mentality, sort of like putting a warning on an electric hair dryer telling you not to use it in the shower or while taking a bath.

Don't get me wrong the warnings are there for a purpose.

Phantom Captain
March 15, 2012, 05:29 PM
Black Duck Charlie said:

There are warnings printed on the packages. On the inside of the lid of the Winchester Magnum #11s I have, which were purchased less than one month ago, it says "Warning: To avoid serious injury/death: Store in this container only, in cool, dry place. Do NOT subject to impact, friction, heat, flame, static electricity or mishandling. USE shooting glasses and hearing protection."(the ALL-CAPS is on the package)

As an aside, and all that being said, don't you find it MOST interesting what is NOT printed in the warning? There is no mention at all about capping with your fingers or only using a capping device. Certainly that must tell us something by omission alone.

arcticap
March 15, 2012, 05:50 PM
Here's two posts with additional input about the subject. People will probably never agree about the need for more SASS type range regulations or safety warnings than there already are.

http://www.thehighroad.org/showpost.php?p=5668360&postcount=23

http://www.thehighroad.org/showpost.php?p=5668418&postcount=25

mykeal
March 15, 2012, 05:56 PM
it does seem that some here are trying to tell me that I am being foolish
Nobody said you were being foolish - where do you get that from? What we said was that we don't agree that there is significant danger in seating percussion caps on nipples with our fingers/thumbs. I note that you ignored my post entirely.
Look, you don't need to justify your preferred method of capping a nipple. If that's what you want to do, fine.

There are warnings printed on the packages.
Yep. Warning about everything BUT seating caps with your fingers. What Phantom Captain said.

And the bit about REPORTED incidents: That's the point, there are not many REPORTED incidents. It doesn't mean they do not happen.
I guess you also missed my reference to the chain fire phenomenon. There doesn't seem to be any reluctance to report those incidents - the internet is rife with them. That suggests to me that if they were occurring, they'd be reported, with great vigor.

Caution when dealing with explosives is not foolishness. I urge you to continue your healthy practice of keeping your fingers out of harm's way. But you might reconsider attempting to convince the congregation that the probabilities of a damaging event are significant.

Black Duck Charlie
March 16, 2012, 04:05 AM
Nobody said you were being foolish - where do you get that from?

mykeal, I refer to post #18, from CraigC. Others have made the implication, at the very least. Am I upset? No, just disappointed that the responses I get seem to imply, at the least, that because there is next to zero chance that anything will happen it just won't happen -- and that I am "foolish" to lessen those chances.

The fact that it hasn't happened very much simply means that it hasn't happened very much -- not that it is not worth worrying about.

buttrap
March 16, 2012, 08:01 AM
Goes along with why they put decockers on autos now. I have all my thumbs and have been seating caps for the past 40 years with out no issues and I have never ever had a primer go of in a press. Guess I am just blessed its all. Well sure you can lessen odds all the time but not driving on a road makes more sence as its one heck of a lot worse odds to get hurt than using a cap pusher when capping.

Using a cap push stick has a lot higher risk of setting caps off too as its a hard item seating the cap. Keep in mind the idea is a hard tool pushes on cap and it goes off AKA the hammer.

arcticap
March 16, 2012, 01:26 PM
I don't think that anyone has implied that Black Duck Charlie is foolish for worrying about it. After all some SASS clubs have the push stick rule.
But from their own perspective they may think that the notion of them worrying about it is foolish and therefore they choose to not to worry about it.

Black Duck Charlie, it seems that you don't like the fact that other folks don't agree with your perspective. It almost seems that you believe that if other folks aren't using a push stick then they are doing something dangerous.
Do you think that or are you not insinuating that in your post #12?
There's a certain degree of risk doing anything. But the fact that there's a risk doesn't mean that most folks will agree that the practice is dangerous enough for them to worry about it or to change their practices.

Science says that the chances of lightning striking twice in the same place are extremely low, too, yet it has also been proven that lightning will strike hundreds of times in the same place under the right conditions. I'm not going to deliberately put myself in a situation where there is an increased chance that I might get hit by lightning.

I don't have any real control over whether something breaks while driving my car, or the actions of other drivers -- or even whether the guy next to me on the firing line does something truly stupid and dangerous -- but I do have full control over my own actions while loading/using my firearms.

Black Duck Charlie
March 16, 2012, 09:11 PM
Ok, y'all are 100% right and I'm 100% wrong -- simply because y'all have been shooting " a long time" and I haven't. Is that what y'all want to hear?

PRM
March 16, 2012, 09:31 PM
Well, I guess it could happen. The pic sure looks painful enough. I've been capping my revolvers with my thumb since the mid 70s and have yet to have any problems. Am I going to change now? Probably not!!! But, the thread is good reading.

Pyro
March 16, 2012, 10:05 PM
I'll stick to the old finger method.
This is the first time ever hearing of this, anything is possible.
Not concerned one bit.

BCRider
March 17, 2012, 03:48 AM
BDC, no one here has said you shouldn't do it your way at all or that you're "wrong" in any way. At most they've suggested that you're putting a lot of stock into one reported incident that may well have had some outside cause.

The only reason I've used my fingers to place the caps is that up to now I've only been able to get #11's and they had to be squeezed so as to hold the nipples on the guns I use. I've now got a guy that has a supply of #10's which I'm going to buy and that means that I'll be able to use a capper just like you and a stick to seat them with. I've used a stick both to avoid a sore thumb from pushing that hard on small points as well as the idea that if the seating pressure was to set off a chamber that my fingers would not be in the way. For this reason I like to wear a stout leather glove on my left hand which is the one holding the gun and that would be subjected to the cloud of flame and debris.

BHP FAN
March 17, 2012, 07:25 AM
I've got to say I think it's a heck of a lot more likely to set a cap off with a hard tool than my soft thumb.I think it's a bad solution to a mostly imaginary problem.

theicemanmpls
March 17, 2012, 07:54 AM
I think Black Duck Chuck is trying to help us all out here. This is a SAFETY suggestion.

Those caps can be really nasty.

My .36 C&B was having a cocking and locking issue, and like a moron, my fingers went up to near where the hammer comes down on the cap.

Major ouch. IMO, nothing burns more then BP, or a cap. I had the "powder" burn for at least a month.

So, thank you Black Duck Chuck for bringing this up. I will put a pencil with an eraser head in my possibles box.

Charlie, are you from the town of Black Duck? Some fantastic fishing and bear huntin there.

mustanger
March 17, 2012, 01:14 PM
BDC: Keeping in mind that this is a discussion board. One should realise that in order for a discusion to be a discusion there should be verying opinions expressed. That does not mean that nobody apretiates your concern. There are many out there reading this thread without posting. They will read the differnt opinions and form thier own. Your opinion will effect them as well as the others. I myself have picked out some ideas that I like and will try them. That is the real advantage of a discussion. Your concern is a viable one, but then even more so is the insidence of chain fires. Does that mean we should only load and shoot one chamber at a time? ( note to all, that was not a suggestion, only an example.) We will note the possible dangers, and proceed with caution.

mustanger
March 17, 2012, 01:26 PM
iceman: I know what you are talking about, when you mention powder burns. Just because the granuales are imbeded in one's hand does not stop them from continuing to burn. That is a deffinate major ouch.

CraigC
March 17, 2012, 05:28 PM
Is that what y'all want to hear?
Static

BHP FAN
March 18, 2012, 12:21 AM
I don't have any problem with someone wanting to do something as foolish as pushing a cap on with a brass or antler ''push stick'', I just don't want them doing it anywhere near me.I am very much against any ''safety requirement'' that I do so, in light of the fact that I've been shooting black powder for longer than most of the self proclaimed ''safety officers'' have been alive.

Black Duck Charlie
March 20, 2012, 03:48 AM
****Static deleted****

BHP FAN; Member


Join Date: September 23, 2008
Location: Northern California
Posts: 4,394

I don't have any problem with someone wanting to do something as foolish as pushing a cap on with a brass or antler ''push stick'', I just don't want them doing it anywhere near me.I am very much against any ''safety requirement'' that I do so, in light of the fact that I've been shooting black powder for longer than most of the self proclaimed ''safety officers'' have been alive.

And there ya go. And the "it ain't happened in all the time I been shooting, it ain't never gonna happen" thinking, well -- if it's how you want to think, go right ahead.

Shultzhaus
March 20, 2012, 07:31 AM
Caps are made by the millions. Isn't it possible to have one out of spec just enough to go off no matter what your seating method is?

CraigC
March 20, 2012, 10:33 AM
Sorry, sometimes you have to skip the sugar-coating and spoon-feeding and make your point bluntly. Because it's obvious that even though you're "new to the entire C&B scene", you know better than everybody else and won't be swayed by the facts. Though I appreciate somebody who is "new to the entire C&B scene" looking out for our best interests.

longrifle346
March 20, 2012, 10:57 AM
Yes sir, a defective cap igniting during the capping process is certainly possible...but in almost 40 years of capping I've never seen it or heard of it until this thread. Considering the instant www "reporting" we have these days I would have thought that if it were anything more than extremely rare I would have........

Shultzhaus
March 20, 2012, 06:24 PM
Agree with Longrifle. Iv'e been playing with these things since 1956, and have never had one go off unintentionaly, but some have failed to fire. It was just a thought on this thread. Maybe the folks that make caps have a pretty good handle on quality control. Don't you wish other products in this world were as reliable?

theicemanmpls
March 20, 2012, 07:20 PM
I have been "capping" for over 25years. Never had one AD. To many failures though. Usually when I dropped the hammer on a deer. However, if someone comes up with a SAFETY IDEA, I am all ears.

Thing is, those caps are little firecrackers. Ever seen someones hand after they held a firecracker in it? I have. ANY EXPLOSIVE, USE WITH CAUTION.

buttrap
March 24, 2012, 06:56 AM
I think the best idea is just use a capper with properly fitting caps. You can push them on the cones pretty tight then as you as you slide the capper off. As for push sticks if you feel better doing that well sure but its to me like crisco a total waste of time. Untill the internet and just a few years ago I never have heard of a cap going off in seating. The cap is not the issue though its the gas jet out the nipple thats like a plasma steel plate cutter.

Very low odds of that happening but if it does its going to make a cap or a firecracker going of on the thumb look like bug bite so I can see why there is a worry there.

Personaly I think the odds are a lot lower than winning the lotto or getting killed driving to work. That happens every day vs thumb seated caps going off.

4v50 Gary
March 24, 2012, 08:28 AM
Point made and taken by all. Let the matter rest and folks do as they please - at their own risk.

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