How to best use a cap and ball revolver


February 17, 2004, 10:39 PM
Some of you may profit from my 30 years of shooting cap and ball revolvers, so I've written a long treatise on how best to load them and what you need.
This is long, so you'll want to print this out for later reference.

1. When you first receive your revolver, familiarize yourself with its operation. Particularly important is learning how to completely disassemble it down to the last screw and part because you'll need to do this later for cleaning.
Use a good quality screwdriver that fits well in the screwheads. This will prevent burred screw heads down the line. Some nipple wrenches have screwdrivers on them, but they almost all fit poorly and should not be used.
Most bores of new black powder revolvers need smoothing. Buy some JB Bore Cleaning Compound (in a little white plastic jar) or Iosso Bore Cleaner (in a white metal tube) and work this into a patch that will fit snugly in the bore.
Work this back and forth for a polishing effect. I would suggest at least a dozen patches of this treatment for a new bore. After six or so patches, you'll notice that the bore is noticeably smoother.
You may also smooth the chambers in your cylinder with the same treatment. Do this all by hand; a drill or other machines can remove metal too quickly.

1a. BEWARE OF BRASS FRAMES: Unless you wish to replicate what a few Confederates carried, steer clear of brass-framed guns. Brass is not as strong as steel and will get stretched over time with the pressures of firing. Also, in my experience, brass-framed guns are simply not as well-made as their steel brethren.

2. Black powder is usually more accurate in these revolvers than Pyrodex. I don't know why, but that's been my experience. However, considering that every firearm is an individual, with its own likes and dislikes, it behooves you to try both under careful conditions of comparison.
I use Goex FFFG in all my black powder revolvers.
If you can't find black powder in your area, then try Pyrodex P or any of the other black powder substitutes. I haven't tried any of the newer black powder substitutes and cannot comment on them.

3. Use lubricated, felt wads between the ball and powder. During hot days of low humidity, I also put lubricant over the ball in conjunction with the wad. I've found that the extra lubricant during dry conditions keeps fouling softer and helps accuracy.
Well-lubricated felt wads may leave an exceedingly clean bore. NEVER use smokeless powder in any black powder arm. Period.

4. Snap at least two caps on each nipple before the first loading. This blows all crud and oil out of the nipples and chamber.

5. Hot, soapy water is best for cleaning these revolvers. I've tried all kinds of wonder cleaners but still return to hot, soapy water. I fill a plastic basin half full of water, put in a chunk of Ivory soap (it floats, so you never have to search for it), and while the water is getting soapy I disassemble my revolver down to its last screw and part. Don't forget to remove the nipples from the cylinder.
Everything but the wooden grips go into the water. An assortment of small, stiff, plastic brushes aid cleaning immeasurably. Pipe cleaners and Q-tips are good too, for reaching those tight spaces inside the frame. I work up a good lather on my brushes before cleaning each part. The soap really cuts grease.
Pipe cleaners fit perfectly inside the nipple cone. A quick twist of the pipe cleaner in the cone, underwater, will clean it quickly.
Purchase a small, plastic colander to fit in your basin. When you've finished cleaning the part, separate it from the rest by placing it in this submerged colander. Keep all of your parts under water until the final rinse later. If you take them out, they will rust in minutes.
When all parts are clean, move to the kitchen sink.
Preheat the oven to its lowest setting, usually about 150 degrees, and leave the oven door slightly open.
Put a sink-stop with built in strainer in the sinkhole to catch any parts that might escape the colander. Rinse the parts in the colander under hot, tap water.
Immediately pat parts dry with paper towels. Run at least three dry patches down the bore to remove any moisture. Each cylinder chamber should get at least two dry patches.
Give a quick puff of breath through each nipple, from the flat end. This will blow out any water in the nipple.
Puts all parts (except wooden grips, of course) in a low metal pan and place in the warm oven. Leave in the oven at least 30 minutes. This will drive any moisture out of the metal parts.
While the parts are still warm, cover well with olive oil, lard, tallow, Crisco or any commercially made black powder lubricant. Vegetable or animal-based oils are best for black powder, as they reduce fouling. These warm parts will soak up these natural oils quickly. Don't be afraid to reapply. These will season the metal and prevent fouling from sticking so readily.
I saturate a clean patch with tallow or Crisco and push it down the bore. A hot barrel will soak up a lot of this natural grease but that's good.
A non-petroleum grease on the cylinder pin (Crisco is good) will keep the cylinder from binding from fouling. The revolver may be stored with this grease on it; Crisco doesn't seem to dry out like other natural greases. I also like to lubricate all screw theads with Crisco or beeswax; it makes them easier to remove later after a long firing session.
Wooden grips can be cleaned with a damp cloth to remove black powder fouling. Allow to dry for a bit, then apply lemon oil (available at the grocery store) to the wood, inside and out. This will keep the wood from drying and warping.
When reassembling a Colt revolver, ensure the wedge is tight in the frame. I tap my wedge with a small nylon-faced hammer until the cylinder begins to drag when rotated. Then, I give it a couple of small taps OUT until the cylinder revolves freely again.
A Colt-design cap and ball revolver will not shoot nearly as accurately if the wedge is comparatively loose. If you can push it out with your fingers, it's much too loose.

6. Use a separate powder measure or flask with screw-on powder measure to charge the chambers with powder. Trying to guess the amount of powder by looking at its level in the chambers is very inconsistent.
After charging the chambers, seat a felt wad (commercially available or hand-punched) with your thumb into the mouth of each chamber. Then seat the wad firmly onto the powder with the rammer in a separate operation.
It's much harder to seat a ball if it also has to push the wad down and compress the powder. This resistance can deform your ball. Also, should you forget to put powder in a chamber, and seat the wad, it's easier to remove a felt wad than it is a tightly gripped ball.
.36-caliber wads may be cut from stiff felt with a 3/8-inch hole punch. Cut .44 wads from a .45-caliber wad punch, sold by Buffalo Arms of Sandpoint, Idaho.
The limp felt sold in hobby shops is unsuitable for wads. I use the nail-on felt weatherseal sold by Frost King of Mahwah, N.J. or Sparks, Nev., and sold in most hardware stores. Sold in a 17-foot roll, 1-1/4" wide and 3/16 inch thick for less than $4, this will provide you with hundreds of wads.
Whatever you use, ensure it is truly wool felt! A lot of felt is polyester --- a plastic that will leave melted deposits in your bore that must be scrubbed out. Go with wool!
After seating all wads, seat the balls. Each ball should be tight enough to shave a small ring of lead from its diameter upon seating. If it doesn't, a larger ball may be needed.
In the chambers of my own Colt Navy, the standard .375 inch ball is nearly a slip-fit. Therefore, I use balls of .380 inch for a proper fit. Warren Muzzleloading of Arkansas ( sell excellent, sprueless .380 inch balls.
If you're using cast balls that have a sprue or teat from casting, center this sprue UP in the cylinder. It is difficult to get the sprue mark perfectly centered in the chamber, when viewing from the side, so I remove the cylinder when possible for this operation, if I'm target shooting at the benchrest.
In my Navy, I can set three sprued balls in place with a light tap from a brass hammer (never use ferrous metal, as it may cause sparks). This light tap keeps them in place and from falling out when I replace the cylinder.
Then I replace the cylinder into the Navy and seat the three balls with the rammer. My Remingtons will only allow two balls at a time to be tapped in because the frame is in the way.
If possible, use a mould that doesn't create sprues (Lee makes them), or use swaged lead balls. It will eliminate centering the sprue mark.

7. Don't change components indiscriminately.
Caps differ remarkably. I have had my best grouping with Remington No. 10 caps in the Navy, and CCI No. 10 caps in the Remington .36 and .44 calibers. Some nipples prefer No. 10 caps, others prefer No. 11. If the cap is a snug fit and bottoms out on the nipple, that's the one to go with.
Some of the Colt Dragoon and Walker replicas are made for the No. 12 cap, as were the originals. This cap is difficult to find but I recently saw some Remington No. 12 caps in new packages; apparently production has been resumed.
I pinch the cap together a bit, into an elliptical shape, to make it cling better to the nipple. I wish some manufacturer would market elliptically-shaped caps. Revolver and rifle shooters usually pinch their caps, so why have them round?
Use lead as soft as possible, pure lead if you can find it, if you cast your own. Harder lead bullets are not nearly as accurate and are much more difficult to ram down into the chamber.
But if wheelweight lead is all you can find, use it. It's not hard enough to cause damage when seating. I once used it when it was all I could get. Accuracy was fine, but it caused leading in my revolvers (the only time I've seen that happen).

8. Buy a revolver-loading stand. This holds the revolver upright while loading and gives you a much better "feel" for how much pressure you're applying to wads and projectiles as you seat them. It also stores the revolver upright, in a safe position, if you're not quite ready to fire.

9. Do not use greases or oils that are petroleum-based. The older black powder manuals suggest using automotive grease over the chambers of revolvers. Don't do it. Petroleum-based greases somehow create a hard, tar-like fouling when combined with the black powder.
The proper grease or oil is animal or vegetable-based, such as Crisco, canola, beeswax, sunflower, commercial lard, mutton tallow and similar substances.
An exception appears to be canning paraffin, used to seal jars of preserves. I've used it for a number of years in a lubricant recipe and it has never caused the hard, tarry fouling associated with petroleum products, though paraffin is decidedly a petroleum product.
I'm told that canning paraffin lacks the hydrocarbons of other petroleum products, which is apparently the culprit.

My own patch, wad and bullet lubricant is a 19th century recipe, found in a 1943 issue of the American Rifleman.
The recipe is:
1 part paraffin (I use canning paraffin, found in grocery stores)
1 part mutton tallow (sold by Dixie Gun Works)
1/2 part beeswax (available at hobby and hardware stores)
All measures are by weight, not volume. I use a kitchen scale to measure 200 grams of paraffin, 200 grams of mutton tallow and 100 grams of beeswax. This nearly fills a quart Mason jar.
Place the Mason jar in a pot or coffee can with about 4 inches of boiling water. This gives a double-boiler effect, which is the safest way to melt waxes and greases.
When the ingredients in the jar are thoroughly melted, stir well with a clean stick or a disposable chopstick. Remove from water and allow to cool at room temperature. Hastening cooling by placing in the refrigerator may cause the ingredients to separate.
This creates a lubricant nearly identical to commercially available black powder lubricants, at a much cheaper price.
To use, place a small amount of the lubricant in a clean tuna or pet food can. Melt in a shallow pan of water. Drop your revolver wads or patches into the can and stir them around with a clean stick until all wads or patches are saturated. Allow to cool then snap a plastic lid (available in the pet food aisle) over the can and store in a cool, dry place. This keeps dust and crud out and retains the lubricant's natural moistness.
I don't bother to squeeze out the excess lubricant from patches or wads but use them as-is.

This is an excellent bullet lubricant for all black powder uses. I also use it for patches in my .50-caliber muzzleloading rifle, and lubricating cast bullets for my .44-40 and .45-70 rifles. I've tried it with .357 Magnum bullets at up to 1,200 feet per second and it prevents leading. I haven't tried it at a higher velocity with smokeless powder.
I like the addition of paraffin in this bullet lubricant, because it stiffens the felt wad, which scrapes out fouling better.
I've used the Ox-Yoke Wonder Wads in the past and they're good, but lack enough lubricant for my likes. I soak them in the above lubricant.
With a well-lubricated wad twixt ball and powder, you can shoot all day without ever swabbing the bore, unless it is exceedingly hot and dry. In this instance, I place a bit of natural grease over the ball to augment the wad's lubricant.

10. Find your most accurate load by firing at regular targets, at a known range (usually 25 yards) and keep meticulous notes. I use a large sheet of plywood as a holder, covered in butcher paper. Then I place the target in the middle of this. Having such a wide area will reveal any tell-tale flyers that show a load is inaccurate.
Holes in the white paper can be covered with a bit of cheap, narrow masking tape. Holes in the black may be covered with black target pasters (available at gun stores) or black electrician's tape.
I keep notes of each session, showing date, temperature, components, wind direction in relation to which direction I'm shooting and other factors. It's amazing how much this can mean down the road.
Many shooters think, "I'm just going to plink with it and I don't want to go through all that bother."
Perhaps. But you still want to hit that can, don't you? A little tedious work at the beginning will determine your most accurate load --- and result in a lot of cans lying label-down in the dust.

11. Check the tightness of your screws regularly when firing. I've lost screws that backed out from recoil. The Colt designs are particularly troublesome for this. The screws in the loading lever of a Colt design are particularly prone to jump ship and find a new home in the grass or rocks. They are exceedingly difficult to find.
A cheap metal detector will pay for itself in found screws and missing cartridge cases from modern guns --- if all those .22 rimfire cases common to shooting areas don't confuse it.

12. Colt revolvers, whether original or reproductions, shoot high. They were made to hit dead-on at about 75 yards. My little Colt 1862 Pocket Model hits dead on at about 100-yards! Its groups cluster about 10 inches above the point of aim at 25 yards, from a benchrest. My Colt Navy hits about 6 inches high at 25 yards.
Reproduction Remingtons have tall front sights and shoot low because of it. This must be intentional, to allow you to carefully file down the front sight, thus bringing the group up to hit dead-on at 25 or 50 yards (whichever you prefer).
However, do this filing at the range and only one or two swipes at a time on the front sight.
My Remington .44 shot about 14 inches low when I first got it. I've filed the front sight a bit, bringing it to shoot about 6 inches low at 25 yards from a benchrest.
I'm doing one pass of the file at a time to slowly bring it up. It's tedious work, but it assures that I'll have it dead-on eventually.
However, watch not only your sight alignment as you file but the appearance of the barrel. In some revolvers, the view of the frame in the sight alignment will interfere with the view of the front sight. If this is the case, you simply have to stop before the front sight is obscured, and aim low to compensate.

Shooting cap and ball revolvers is a fascinating, fun hobby. To keep everything together, buy a large fishing box with plenty of compartments. As time goes by, you'll find yourself adding more items and gadgets to the box. You may also buy other revolvers in different calibers, each requiring their own wads, balls and caps.
Aside from caps, balls, lubricants, wads and powder add the following to your box:
Small notebook and pencils.
Push-tacks for targets.
Fine-tip felt pen for writing on targets you wish to keep. The felt tip shows up better.
Length of wooden dowel, to tap out a stuck bullet. For the .36-caliber, use 5/16 dowel. For the .44, use 7/16 dowel.
Small brass mallet.
Plenty of pre-cut patches for cleaning.
1/8" brass rod, about 5 inches long. If you get a ball stuck in a chamber without powder, remove the cylinder from the revolver and the nipple behind the stuck ball. Insert the brass rod where the nipple was and tap out the ball.
Small spray bottle of soapy water for quick swabbing.
Masking tape and black electrician's tape or target pasters.
Q-Tips and pipe cleaners.
Nipple wrench.
Various powder measures. Lee makes a dipper set that is very good. I have an excellent pistol measure that adjusts from 10 to 30 grains in 1-grain increments. Alas, I can't remember who made it.
Good-sized rag to wipe hands.
Pistol loading stand.
New nipples, set of six. I always replace nipples as a set. This way, if one starts to go bad I can figure the others are not far behind.
White grease pencil, to number chambers on the cylinder. This can show you which chamber is the most accurate or bothersome at the range, yet it's not a permanent marking. White grease pencils are found in stationery stores. They're often used to mark the back of china plates, and such.
Sight Black by Birchwood Casey. This spray-can puts a thin layer of jet-black carbon on your sights. This is particularly useful on Colt revolvers with their brass bead that glares in the sun. Sight Black is easily rubbed or washed off.
Film container to put scrap lead in. I save my lead shavings and any recovered balls for the melting pot. Stingy me, I know!
Spare parts such as mainspring, trigger spring, screws, wedge and so on. This can save you weeks of waiting for a new part.

It took me years to learn much of what I've offered here, much of it through trial, error and "Hey, why couldn't I? …" I have no doubt you'll learn something new from it and you may even disagree with something but it's offered to advance the sport of cap and ball revolver shooting.
I'm still learning, after nearly 35 years of shooting cap and ball revolvers. I expect I'll lie in my grave and mutter, "Damn, why didn't I try that?"

Copyright by "Gatofeo" 2003. Printed by permission.

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February 18, 2004, 10:45 AM
Thank You Gatofeo. Would you mind If I printed this out? I like your 1/8 brass rod idea a lot. I'll have to try that the next time I get a stuck ball.

February 18, 2004, 11:50 AM
Nahhhhhhhhh ... as I said at the beginning, it's quite long and should be printed out.
I copyrighted it because I didn't want to pick up some gun magazine and find myself reading my own words. There's never been a lack of unscrupulous people, especially where the printed word is concerned.

Yep, the 1/8 brass rod works fine. Lyman makes a punch set that has the right size of brass rod. Also, Lyman makes an excellent two-faced hammer (brass and hard nylon) that has this same brass punch stored in the handle.
I'd hardily suggest buying the hammer and punch set. They're good products and you'll continually find a use for them. The hammer is particularly good in your muzzleloading box.
The nylon face will tap out the most stubborn wedge on a Colt revolver, yet not leave a shiny mark like brass hammers do.

Don't remember if I mentioned it, but a Popsicle stick makes an excellent applicator for lubricant over the chambers. Learned that trick in another site a couple of years ago. Keeps the fingers a lot cleaner, for sure.

Actually, I had to cut the above down because this site limits entries to 20,000 characters. I hasten to add that every cap and ball shooter should wear proper eye and ear protection. And if a club complains that eye and ear protection detract from the aviance of the club, join another club.
Is it worth an eye or your hearing so some members can swagger around like rootin', tootin' buckaroos without protection?
Twice I've had little "ticks" hit my eyeglasses when shooting cap and ball revolvers, always with full loads. I believe it was a fragment of the cap. God knows what might have happened to my eye had I not been wearing glasses.
Oh, and when putting caps on the nipples, DO NOT put your fingers over the front of the cylinder. The older Lyman books clearly show this unsafe practice but haven't seen it illustrated for a few years.
Think about it. You've got your finger in front of the ball, under which is a charge of gunpowder. Now, you're pushing a cap on the nipple --- and caps are pressure sensitive!
And never drink alcoholic beverages or take any drugs (illegal or otherwise) that might interfere with your coordination, judgement or consciousness.
Some swaggering jacklegs will snort and say, "I can hold my beer." To which I say ... "Fine. You go hold your beer. You go hold it way behind the firing line. You hold it far away from any firearm. I refuse to be a victim of your arrogant ignorance."

Have fun with that cap and ball. They're great guns. I'll be posting more on them as the days go by. I have a number of old posts from other sites that would be helpful to this site's members.

January 25, 2005, 09:34 PM
I recently learned of an excellent source of hard felt, for use as lubricated wads in the cap and ball revolver, muzzleloading rifle and cartridge guns using black powder.
DuroFelt of Little Rock, Arkansas sells a sheet of hard, 100 percent wool felt, 1/8 inch thick, and 54 X 36 inches.
Visit the Duro-Felt at website at
Duro-Felt’s address is: No. 6 White Aspen Court, Little Rock, AR, 72212-2032. Telephone: 501-225-2838. Fax: 501-219-9611. Email:
Shipping is FREE for retail orders from U.S. customers!
A sheet 54 X 36 inches will, in theory, give you 7,776 wads of .36, .44 or .45 caliber, figuring 4 wads per square inch. That's a lot of wads for $27!
Finding hard, 100 percent felt is often difficult. The most common source is old hats, found at thrift stores. The felt found in hobby stores is usually polyester, which may deposit melted plastic in the bore, and too limp. You need a stiff felt to create a good fouling scraper as it passes down the bore.
Check out Duro-Felt. It's good stuff.

January 25, 2005, 09:43 PM
Gato - wonderful stuff - bravo. :)

January 25, 2005, 11:19 PM
This is a fine piece of work with more information than you would find in any ten industry driven magazine articles. Good to post it every now and then so more people will see it.

You've also done some research of old literature that turned up specifications for 19th century loads and cartridges. I hope you wouldn't mind seeing that in a limited copy book some day-with credits to one Gatofeo as the researcher.

January 26, 2005, 12:39 AM
Great post. Many thanks for sharing your hard earned wisdom, I'm a firm believer in learning from others if possible. Printed out for further reference.

January 26, 2005, 10:06 AM
Thanks, guys. And .. um .. any gals who may have replied. Hard to tell with these names ... heh.
I hasten to add that Buffalo Arms is no longer in Sandpoint, Idaho. It's now in Ponderay, Idaho. An internet search should find the website. A hand punch to make your own wads is $18, plus shipping. However, with a hand punch and sheet felt, you can make wads for pennies.

February 2, 2005, 01:39 PM
Great post, Gato. The only exception to your methods that I use is that I spray my parts down thoroughly with WD-40 after they come out of the 'dryer'. When they've cooled to room temp, I wipe off all of the excess, inside and out, as I reassemble.

The main reason for this is that my C&B stuff sometimes has to spend quite a while in storage in between uses. With the WD treatment, I've never had any rust get started, even during prolonged periods of high humuidity in our Midwestern summers. While it isn't any good as a lube, it's a helluva good preservative, IMO. It seems to 'get into' the metal without leaving a greasy residue to interact with the foam padding of my storage cases.

BTW, Dixie sells a great 'period' accessory for applying grease (like you, I use Crisco) to the loaded chambers. Looks a bit like a brass cake decorator with a thumbscrew to seal the tip while in the possibles bag. Very handy, IMO.

Cap n Ball
February 2, 2005, 03:13 PM
Good stuff there Gatofeo. When I'm cleaning my revolvers I put all the small parts in one of those wire mesh tea egg things. I have another one of those eggs that is broken and one half of it fits perfectly in the drain of the sink to catch anything that might get loose.

February 4, 2005, 03:13 PM
Question. How important is it to use a patch between the powder and ball? Will just going powder, ball, fire cause any damage to the gun or cause poor accuracy or such? If it helps this is for an cap and ball revolver. 1858 to be exact.

February 4, 2005, 04:04 PM
Gato' may well comment for you but for me, never did use a patch .. just powder, ball - but then GREASE!! That to me is what is very important .. not just for lube but as a preventative toward eliminating a chain-fire risk.

Even in my .577 Enfield musketoon front stuffer -- just powder on top of which a Minnie bullet, no patch.

February 4, 2005, 04:38 PM
Ransom: Using either a lubricated wad (dry lube, like wax) or filling the mouths of loaded chambers with grease is necessary for a couple of reasons.

The most important from a safety standpoint is to prevent a "chainfire" incident. This happens when flash-over from the chamber being fired ignites the charges in one or more of the others. This can merely damage your revolver, or it can inflict serious bodily harm to yourself and/or bystanders.

It also helps reduce lead deposits in the bore. All lead bullets designed for use in revolvers use some sort of lubricant for the same reason.

Grease give the added advantage of keeping powder fouling soft which aids cleaning and lets you shoot more rounds before cylinder rotation gets difficult. This is more of a problem with the Remington design, IMO, partly due to the smaller diameter of the basepin and its lack of grooves to retain lubricant as seen on the Colts. The top strap makes for an inherently stronger design, but it also keeps a lot of the powder residue from blowing away from the forcing cone and bearing surfaces where the cylinder meets the frame.

February 6, 2005, 09:38 PM
Recently I got my first colt 1851 repro. Up till now it's been all remingtons, which has been fine, but I can't seem to get this Colt Navy apart. The wedge has a little spring/hook on one side and a screw on the other.

I've been told to "just tap out the wedge", but I've hit the thing much harder than your typical tap and it will not budge. To my chegrin, I even knicked the finish, but I can't get the bloody thing to break down. I tried wooden dowels, a hard nylon punch, and various other items, but to no avail.

If anybody has any words of wisdom, I'd appreciate it.

Jim K
February 6, 2005, 11:37 PM
Hi, Blindmellojelly and guys,

I doubt if the wedge is so tight that it cannot be loosened with a plastic mallet. But note that it does not have to come all the way out to remove the barrel. If you tap the wedge on the end that has the spring (the smaller end), it should come out until the hook on the spring contacts the head of the screw on the other side. That keeps the wedge from falling out of the gun and being lost. You might have to push the spring down if the hook keeps the wedge from moving, but it usually won't.

To remove it all the way, either depress the spring or remove the screw.

Just FWIW, to continue the basics, range time is limited for me, so I prefer to load cartridges at home at my leisure and then shoot them on the range. I load a grease wad under the ball or picket bullet instead of slathering grease all over the cylinder face, and never had any chain fires. Of course, I make sure the balls are the right size, so the seal is tight.


February 7, 2005, 01:05 PM
What Jim said, with the added thought that occasionally it's necessary to use a brass or other non-marring punch small enough to pass through the frame opening without wedging to get the part past the inside edge of the cut. I bought an aluminum wedge tool from Dixie many years ago for this purpose, and it's a huckleberry. Don't know if they still have 'em, but a call or browse through their catalog should tell.

Jim: I used to make revolver cartridges too using cigarette papers and a felt wad. Tedious, but the final product is quite 'authentic' and always a good conversation starter at the range. I also am more likely to use a Wonder Wad instead of grease when loading in the more conventional manner with a flask. Most of my C&B shooting seems to come in the warmer months anymore, and Crisco can sure make a mess of your holster on a sunny day. I've never had a chainfire either using felt wads and properly sized balls, but I've been present for a couple of 'em when other folks ran into Mr. Murphey. The one with the repro Pepperbox was just kinda disconcerting - sorta like a miniature Gatling. The other ruined a nice Remington Army replica and involved a trip to the ER. Fortunately, he didn't lose the finger.

Cap n Ball
February 7, 2005, 02:34 PM
Good thought to make this thread an opening to the BP forum although I had to laugh when I saw 'sticky gatofeo' under the header.

February 14, 2005, 04:43 PM
Sticky Gatofeo!!!!
WHAT? :what:
Da noyv! :neener:

Mainmech48: I'm ahead of you. I have one of those brass grease applicators in my cap and ball box, filled with CVA Grease Patch (why they didn't name it, "Patch Grease" I'll never know ... :scrutiny: ). It works great. After a bit of use enough grease gets past the O-rings on the plunger that you have to remove the plunger and transfer all the grease from behind the plunger to the fore. But that's not all the time and I can live with that. Yep, Dixie Gun Works sells it and it's a good rig. By the way, CVA Grease Patch is the best "greasy" lube I've found.

Cap n Ball: Great idea about the tea strainer! I have one that I think will be perfect. Thanks!

Ransom: You don't use a patch between the powder and ball. You use a felt wad, preferably soaked in a natural lubricant (avoid petroleum greases). The wad is slightly larger than the chamber, and 1/8 inch thick. If you have it between ball and powder, you don't need to put grease over the ball.

P95Carry: I'm not one of those believes that a multiple-ignition or "chain fire" emanates from the front of the cylinder.
About 1970 I bought a cheap, Italian-made copy of the 1851 Colt but in .44 caliber. With it, I experienced multiple ignitions on three separate occasions, months apart.
In each instance, I used Crisco over the ball and percussion caps that had NOT been squeezed into an oval shape. In retrospect, I believe that the recoil of the chamber in line with the barrel caused the caps to fall off, unnoticed by me. When the next shot was fired, the flame from around the fired cap found its way down the uncapped nipples into a loaded chamber.
As I point the revolver away from me, the chamber in line with the barrel is at 12 o'clock.
In the first instance of multiple ignition, the 2 o'clock chamber also fired. This was evident in increased blast and recoil.
In the second instance, some months later, the 2 o'clock and the 6 o'clock chambers went off. The ball from the 6 o'clock chamber wedged against the rammer but was easily pried off with a pocket knife.
The third instance ruined the revolver. As I recall the 10 and 6 o'clock chambers went off. This time, the ball not only wedged in the rammer face but bent it and warped the brass frame a bit.
I gave that gun to a gunsmith friend as a parts gun, since it was useless.
But the important thing is that (1) I smeared the chambers heavily with Crisco and (2) the caps were not pinched into an oval shape so they would cling to the nipples better.
I learned of greased felt wads in cap and ball sixguns in the mid 1970s, while reading the late gun writer Elmer Keith.
Since using greased felts --- and no grease over the ball --- as well as caps pinched into an oval, I have not had ONE instance of multiple ignition, in a variety of cap and ball sixguns.
I rarely put grease over a ball, if I'm using a greased felt wad. An exception is when I'm shooting in exceptionally hot and dry weather. I live in the Utah desert, where summer temperatures can easily reach 110 F but humidity is 5 percent. In such dry conditions, the extra lubricant seems to help keep fouling soft.
But in most instances, a well-lubricated felt wad works fine and is perfectlyl safe to use. It's also not as messy as putting grease over the chambers.

Blindmellojelly: I like to use a nylon-faced hammer to drive out a stubborn wedge. A plastic hammer doesn't have as much weight behind it as a nylon one, and a rubber mallet seems to absorb too much of the smack.
I use a Lyman two-faced mallet, with a hard nylon head on one side and a brass head on the other. I don't suggest you use a brass mallet. Though it may not mar steel, it will leave a shiny, brassy area around the wedge that looks like hell.
Sometimes, to start the wedge, you can place a short length of 1" dowel on the wedge, then smack that dowel with a steel hammer. This only works if the wedge projects beyond flush but it will often loosen and start the wedge, without harming the surface.
As a last resort a brass hammer may be used, but for only a couple of strikes.
An alternative is to place a thin board in a vice, with a hole drilled to accept the emerging wedge, then place a small, short brass bolt against the wedge end and gently turn the vice handle, driving out the wedge.
The bolt MUST be smaller than the slot cut for the wedge. I knew a gunsmith years ago who used this trick on an old, original Colt Navy. It started the wedge out nicely, and he finished the job with a tool much like mainmech48 described, with a mallet.
That wedge was in TIGHT! But then, it had probably been in there 100 years or more.

February 14, 2005, 05:06 PM
Gato' thanks once again for some great info. :)

I take your point re chain-fires ... that is logical on reflection. Guess I have been lucky to have not (so far!) had one - but seen results!! I have always been a stickler for caps holding ... hate it when they do not stay put - if anything, one prob I used to have was having to lever the used ones off prior to a reload!!!

February 20, 2005, 09:20 AM
BTT :cool:

February 20, 2005, 10:32 AM
Great info, Gatofeo! Thanks for taking the time to type all of that.

I don't shoot my BP rifle/pistol very often, but it sure is good to know how to do it properly.

The details about cleaning the revolver were particularly interesting.

Thanks again!

February 20, 2005, 10:57 AM
This post inspired me to finally take my 1851 Navy down to the last screw.

The amount of fouling was amazing!

I covered all the parts in a plastic coffee can with hot, soapy water as gatofeo suggested, and left overnight. The next morning I dumped the water out and replaced with more hot soapy water.

That afternoon I took a toothbrush to the parts and used several patches on the barrel. The fouling came off very easily.

Since I only have one pan suitable for the oven (bachelor here) I made a "pan" out of aluminum foil and put all my parts in that.

Left it in there for a few hours, turned the heat off, coated everything crisco, and put it back in the oven.

Worked like a champ!

Had one problem with reassembly, the "spring" on the cylinder advance was bent too far in and wouldn't advance the cylinder. Took it out, bent the spring the other way, and everything was cool.

Thanks Gatofeo!

February 23, 2005, 02:19 PM
You left your revolver in water overnight? :eek:
I do not suggest doing this, you're inviting rust. What I meant in my treatise was to keep all parts --- clean or dirty --- undewater until they're clean and ready for the oven. I wouldn't leave any carbon steels parts under water for more than an hour, if it can be helped.
Stainless steel could probably be left in water overnight without rusting. However, some stainless steel revolvers (old and modern) are not entirely stainless steel. Carbon steel parts may include springs, sights, screws, etc.
I'm pleased your revolver was none the worse for wear for its overnight bath, but I don't recommend this be done.

Yep, it's amazing how much black powder fouling will blow into every nook and crannie inside the action. On the Colt designs it's not uncommon to find cap fragments or whole, fired caps smashed to a thin copper plate. The Remingtons don't allow cap fragments to fall as easily into the action.

I recall one time when I cleaned my Colt 2nd generation 1851 Navy, leaving its parts to soak for a few minutes in hot, soapy water. When I returned, a small, flattened insect was floating on the water. Obviously, he'd somehow worked his way into the Colt's action, dried there and been flattened by the close-fitting parts.
Weird! :what:

Reminds me of an anecdote I read many years ago. Grandad's prized railroad pocket watch quit working, so his son drove him to the watchmaker's. The watchmaker gently pried the back off the old watch and inside was a small insect among the gears, dead for decades.
"No wonder it quit working," grandad mumbled. "The engineer's dead!" :D

Always got a boot out of that story ...

March 16, 2005, 06:19 PM
Got a question. I've hear that when you first receive a new BP C&B revolver that you should disassemble it and clean off all the lube that it comes covered in for protection, however light it may be. Is this correct? I wanna copy pretty much all of what Gatofeo has written combined with other added helpful stuff I've gotten from here and there and make it into one giant Word file for my own records. I'd like to do a "step by step" setup with a "helpful areas" section or something like that.

March 16, 2005, 11:17 PM
Gat probably has the right idea about where chainfires come from. Colt 's prototypes had the nipples enclosed in the breach trapping the flame from ignited caps and letting it rush around the rear of the chambers caressing all the unfired cones. He never did let one of those get into production. By the time the Paterson hit the market, there were barriers between the nipples and they were open to view.

The Allen Pepperbox people didn't learn this and they are famous for cutting loose like a syncopated machinegun.

Mike Weber
March 16, 2005, 11:52 PM
For removing those stubborn barrel wedges I use a rawhide mallot. Gato's right in that those chainfires mostly originate from the rear of the cylinder due to poorly fitted caps. I've never experienced a chainfire but I have had caps that flew completely off the nipples under recoil. Pinching those caps onto the nipples does remedy this problem.Depending on the circumstances I will use either Crisco or a beeswax crisco mix over the bullets for both lube and a seal. I'll use the overpowder wads on some occaisions when I don't want to get my hands all greasy at the loading table. I carry the grease in one of those plastic yogurt containers and use a popsicle stick to apply the grease. I've thought about buying one of those mini greaseguns from Dixie Gunworks.

March 17, 2005, 01:32 PM
FSCJedi: IMO it's a good idea to detail strip a new C&B revolver before you first use it. Aside from giving you the opportunity to clean any and all preservatives from it, you can inspect all of the component parts for burrs, etc. and get familiar with the disassembly/reassembly process.

One caveat: if you don't have a set of properly fitting screwdrivers or bits, get some. You'll be using them a good deal, and buggered-up screw heads not only look bad, they can also keep you from being able to get things apart or back together when you need to.

As you reassemble it you can apply the appropriate lubricants to the lockwork and basepin. I also apply a very light coat of anti-seize on the threads of the nipples. Just the lightest touch with a Q-tip. It's not strictly necessary, but if you've ever tried to remove one that's 'frozen' (especially with a cheap nipple wrench) it's worth the extra time and effort.

Good shooting, and enjoy!

March 22, 2005, 09:37 PM
Mainmech48 is right, and well-informed. Heed what he writes.

Some years back, I had a cylinder whose nipples would not budge. I plugged the back of the nipples with a bit of round toothpick, stood it on the ratchet end and filled each chamber about 1/3 full with Knock-R-Loose.
The next day, the nipples turned out with a good nipple wrench.
Knock-R-Loose is a penetrating oil designed to loosen rusted or stuck bolts --- not a condition that Dolly Parton gets when her bra strap breaks. :D
WD-40 will substitute as well.

I also put anti-seizing compound on the threads of nipples when assembling after cleaning. If you don't have any available, a little Crisco or olive oil will do it. Mainmech48 is right; makes diassembly much easier later.

FSCJedi: Yep, you should remove all traces of preservative from your revolver, after you get it. For many years, my standard practice with a new gun (or one new to me) is to remove all wood and plastic (when possible) and give it a thorough hosing with Gun Scrubber or Brake Cleaner.
Nearly 30 years ago, I bought a new Marlin 1895 rifle in .45-70. I removed the butt and forearm and stood it upright in a large coffee can, then set to hosing.
Wow! You wouldn't believe all the sawdust, metal filings, gunk and unidentifiable crud I later found in that coffee can. The action was considerably improved after that flushing.

You can do the same with your cap and ball revolver. Never spray solvents on wood or plastic parts. Wood finishes are damaged by solvents. Plastic melts.

MainMech48 is right about checking for burrs too. Buy a set of Swiss Needle Files. With them carefully remove any burrs from inside the frame and on parts.
HOWEVER, never touch the surfaces where the trigger meets the hammer, the notches at the base of the hammer, the top of the hand, or the ratchets on the back of the cylinder, where the hand touches.
These critical areas are very finely adjusted at the factory and no attempt to smooth them should ever be done by anyone but a qualified gunsmith. When in doubt, don't touch! It's as simple as that. Removing metal from the wrong surface can ruin your revolver in short order.

May 15, 2005, 08:22 PM
Was thoughtful to type all that Getofeo. But most people won't read past one line steps as I have found out instructing Cap & Ball Pistol Courses.
Lot of of good stuff there but a couple things I would add. I am sure you know of them but will all you had put out there I may have just slipped by.
1)Chain fires, can occur usually a random event. If cap is too tight on nipple do not push it on, if it sits hi on nipple and cylinder rotates and high nipple clears frame guess what happens during recoil. Cynlinder is forced back to frame, ideed ignition ancylinder goes off out of battery.
2)Wonder wad, not needed not legal at some reanges or some forest areas. Use a lube of your choice. Such as T/C Natural Lube 1000 Bore Butter, my favorite, or crisco, a mix of beewax/lard/tallo. BUT DO NOT USE petrolium base products on Black Powder Guns. And Lube around ball in cylinder to seal gases from escaping and to aid in the possibility of chain fire from ball end.
3)Seating ball, be sure powder is in cly. palce ball in cyl. sprue in or out doesn't matter as long as you don't place it on the cyl. wall. Press ball making sure there is a fine ring that is shaved off when seated. this insures a sealed cylinder. If no ring shaves off I would go to the next larger size ball.
Well thats a sample of my 25 yrs. But no one will probably wanna read this either. Good effort though Getofeo!

May 15, 2005, 08:31 PM
But most people won't read past one line steps Smokin_Gun ... I have to disagree!! With courses true - maybe folks won't read much.

But IMO here - those starting and thirsty for info will and do read - every line. Thus Gato's words, yours and others will be read. More than likely if they are like me when I was starting off - save the stuff in text file for reference.

I never think all the typing is wasted - even if some are too lazy to read. Those who do read are I'd guess more than grateful. For that reason alone, I am pleased folks like you and Gato, do take the time and trouble to write - it ain't wasted! :)

May 15, 2005, 08:37 PM
P95Carry, lubes such as Bore Butter are a good idea to seal ball in cylinder. Grease is not a good idea to use with Black Powder, no petroleum prdoucts are. Anyway what i was gonna tell ya is if you're usin' grease and only to stop a chain fire your only doing 1/3 of what lubing around the ball is suppose to do. It seals cly. for accuracy and the chain fire possibility. Along with cleaning your barrel everytime you fire..grease won't do that.
The most danger of a chain fire is a too tight or too loose cap. If it falls off you got an open hole full a powder and a ball. If cap is too tight it sits high, and even if it clears the frame guess what happens when you fire... right a cap hits frame cyl. goes boom out of battery.
Hope you get the idea! I really do.

May 15, 2005, 08:43 PM
Maybe and I hope so P95. But you cant tell um everything. Alot has to be learned and is of choice. But the Caps thing I am I fully endorse. If nothing else. I hope you understand what I mean...

May 15, 2005, 08:45 PM
SG - hey - I wasn't taking issue with any points!

I do use Bore Butter these days but way back - shooting C&B initially back in early 80's (.44 Colt Army repro) .... I did use what was called ''water pump grease'' - it was a formulation that always worked well and safely and was not IIRC a std petrochem compound at all.. In fact I never ever had a chain fire - it was ''one of those things you heard about!).

I always selected my caps to suit nipple size and a small pinch first followed by careful hammer pressure ensured I had six safe shots and reliable ignition.

Not saying I can't still learn but - my BP shooting was always event free and safe. Just the darned cleaning I got tired of! :D

May 15, 2005, 08:50 PM
Well if you've never had one either then we must be doing the same thing differantly...LoL! The only reason I mentioned Bore Butter to you was to do you a favor you did say "GREASE" now whats grease mean to you? Unless otherwise specified technically Grease is a Petroleum Product. Anyway have fun and be safe shootin'.

May 15, 2005, 08:58 PM
Haha - I use ''grease'' very loosely - including bacon grease!!! :D

Stay safe. :)

May 17, 2005, 10:58 PM
1858 Remington, .457 cast ball, 27 grains Goex FFFg, no wad, no lubricant, rolled in a Zig-Zag cigarette paper, and No. 10 remington caps (pinched of course). Probably about 4000 rounds so far without a misfire or a chain fire. And no lead in the barrel. Paper cartriges definitely take some practice. Plus people at the local 7-11 start looking at you funny when you buy cigarette papers 10 packs at a time. Just try explaining the concept to a convenience store clerk some time. No matter how well you put it, it still sounds like a cover story.

May 17, 2005, 11:01 PM
tim - care to expound on the use of the cig' papers - you have piqued my interest. :)

4v50 Gary
May 17, 2005, 11:49 PM
A pistol cartridges looks like an ice cream cone (tapered sugar cone). Insert, compress and you're loaded. Perhaps we can induce Gatofeo or Tim to describe how to roll your own (since they can both do it so well). I just know they're willing to describe it for us. :p

May 17, 2005, 11:53 PM
Gary I hope so - cos it is something I never even thought of trying!

May 18, 2005, 08:08 PM
But I'll give it a shot. I've found Zig-Zag papers to be the best. Perfect size and durable, but any regular size paper will do. French Light papers also word very well, as they are a bit bigger and somewhat thinner than Zig-Zags. Start with a ball, sprue up. Wrap the paper around the ball, about a quarter of the way from the end. Moisten the gum where it touches the ball, as well as the shorter end of the paper, and twist the paper shut over the sprue. It is important to wrap the paper at a bit of an angle, so that the longer end (away from the sprue) forms a cone. It doesn't have to be very pronounced, just as long as the end farthest from the ball is of a smaller diameter than the ball itself. Measure your powder (I use a cva flask with a 30 grain spout, it actually throws 27 grains) and pour it into the open end of the paper. Don't worry that the side is not sealed, the powder will expand the paper into the proper cone shape. Grab the cartrige by the open end and give it a little shake to settle the powder. Moisten the gum along the side of the cartrige, and give it another shake. Moisten the entire paper past the level of the powder, and twist it shut, shaking slightle as you go. When you are done, you should have a cone shaped cartrige with the ball on one end, and tapering down slightly with the opposite end being flat. There will be tightly twisted bits of paper protruding form each end, but just wait a minute or two for the paper to dry, and snip them off with scissors. The finished product should be tight enough that the powder will not move if you shake the cartridge. They fit perfectly in a .45 acp cartrige box. Stored this way, I have yet to have one break on me. With a little practice, one can load a black powder revolver as fast as one can unload and reload a single action cartridge revolver. That's it. If you have problems doing it, it's probably because I'm not explaining it very well. Give it a shot, and if you have any problems, either ask here or e-mail me. Good Luck.

May 18, 2005, 08:58 PM
Tim - for a written description - that was very clear indeed. I think I have it well understood.

Many thx for your efforts in posting that and I will soon give it a try. :)

May 23, 2005, 01:49 AM
Paper cartridges were and are treated with sodium nitrate a solution made from melting steel with acid. Soak your papers in that, or you can buy cartridge paper probly cheaper than Tops. It ignites instantly and is completely disolved before it goes down the barrel. But whatever works for you, I've used cig papers and pieces of it come out the barrel much like a patched ball. You'll find less fowling ie more shots between cleaning just using a bead around the ball at top of cylinder. I use T/C Natural Lube 1000 Bore Butter it works great. One other thing it was numbered (1a) in another posting, I think, do not use wheel weights for Balls of any kind on your Italian/Spainish replicas you will tear up the barrel on them. Use only Pure lead Rounds, they are not made of the same steel or treated as it Ruger, Colt, S&W revolvers.

May 23, 2005, 02:11 AM
Excellant explaination Timuchin thanks for the posting. What are you loading that 27 gr into 1858 or an 1860 Army?

May 23, 2005, 04:06 AM
Maybe with a little practice you can reload fast. But makin um with cig papers must take a whole lot of practice. They don't hold up very well and they are a real pain to load. Now tell us your secret of rollin without it crumplin or commin apart. Cig paper is much more fragile than the rolls of cartridge paper you can buy. And I was usin Top papers. Made 4, one was too big, one fell apart, 2 opened when I cut the powder end tail to about 3/16th's. I'll jus' roll cigarettes and pour the powder I guess. :banghead:

May 23, 2005, 08:09 PM
Just takes some practice. The papers that come with a pack of Bugler or Top aren't the same quality as Zig Zag or French Light. Jokers will work too, but seem to be a bit thick. The biggest trick is to MOISTEN the gum just the right amount. Too much, and it will rip when you try to twist it shut. Too little, and it will not stick. Get some better papers and give it another shot. Once you get the hang of it, you will be surprised at how robust they are. Remember to be gentle, as you are handling wet paper. It also works better if you let the paper dry between steps. Annoying if you are doing one at a time, but I usually roll fifty at a time. By the time I get to the last one of each step, the first one is ready for the next step. I have also found that Goex seems to be easier to roll in a cartridge than Pyrodex. If you are still having problems, e-mail me and I will send you step by step photos. (Gotta love digital cameras).

May 23, 2005, 08:12 PM
That was a 58 Remington. Made by Pietta. With real sights. Still can't hit anything though.

May 24, 2005, 12:46 PM
i haven't had a current Dixie catalog for a couple of years, but they used to offer a little cone-shaped mandrel gizmo that made "rolling your own" paper cartridges a relative snap. Personally, I turned my own out of Delrin and it works well for me.

I form fifty to one hundred papers on it in a session and let them dry before going on to the rest of the process. I can complete a batch of finished cartridges in an hour or less.

Take a formed paper cone, give the pointed end a little twist at the very apex, and charge with powder from a flask. Drop in a Wonder Wad and carefully push it down until it sits level atop the charge.

For RBs, you can either just drop one in and twist the excess paper down to it. Cut off most of the stub and seal with a drop of Elmer's glue. Or you can drop the ball in, cut off the paper at or very slightly above the widest point of the ball and use a small brush to seal the edge to it with Elmer's or the like. This takes a bit more work, but it looks slicker and eliminates a possible "flash-over" hazard.

For conicals, I use the second method. I sometimes brush a thin coat of glue on the bullet at the point where I want the paper to seal, seat it, seal it, and cut of any excess with an Exacto knife after it's dry. These come out looking very much like the original factory stuff that I've seen in photographs and displays.

With a couple of simple tools and a little practice it's not hard to turn out enough for a pleasant afternoon's shooting in an hour or so.

May 24, 2005, 12:59 PM
timuchin, why not post the photos here?

May 24, 2005, 07:37 PM
Didn't know I could. I'm still trying to figure out how to work everything here.

June 13, 2005, 05:54 PM
Tried the cig papers...LMAO! you've got to be putting something else in those Zig Zags to write that Tim.... 4000 rounds HeHe! ya right... sorry credibilty lost. It sure don't work here.... Thanks anyway for you effort.

June 13, 2005, 07:16 PM
Let me know, maybe I can help. Rolling paper cartriges is kind of tricky at first, but once you get on to it, it goes quickly. Let me know what you are having problems with, and I will post some pics to help you out.

July 22, 2005, 01:23 PM
Gato & group,

I have been interested in getting into (don't tell my wife) black powder shooting since a guy at the range let me shoot his Navy Colt 44. Now, what is a good one to buy? I see them at different stores for anywhere from $150 on up, most of them have quite a bit of brass..
What brand/maker do I look for? What price range? Just a fun gun to shoot that doesn't cost a bunch....I do like the looks of the Navy Colt..
Here we go another "Hobby"....


July 22, 2005, 02:03 PM
Jim - most budget repro stuff seems to be around $150 or less - lots of suplliers out there - Sportsmans Guide, Cabellas - loads of em.

Pietta, Uberti are two brand examples. I got the Pietta Rem pattern 44 and yeah - quite a lot have brass frames. These are not therefore the toughest of guns and should be shot within safe limits - not ''stoked up'' like you might in a Ruger Old Army!

Some parts do wear quite quick (hand) - and springs can be a problem at times but for me - no worry as I shoot BP stuff very infrequently now, way less than once. So doubt I'll have too many issues. For the money spent I doubt you'll be disappointed - and maybe it'll be a stepping stone to a Ruger!

July 22, 2005, 02:31 PM

There are lots of options out there in several styles and price ranges. IIWY, I'd avoid anything with a brass frame, especially in .44 caliber. They just won't hold up under even moderate use nearly as well as steel and are more-easily damaged.

There are pros and cons for all of the most popular C&B revolver styles. These would be the .36 1851 Colt "Navy", the .44 1860 Colt "Army", and the so-called "1858" Remington New Models in .36 or .44. I'd suggest that you handle a few and decide what seems to fit your hand best for a start.

The sights on almost all C&B revolvers leave a bit to be desired compared to modern arms. It's pretty rare to find any repro that shoots to POA as it comes out of the box, so expect to have to either do some simple modifications to regulate them to your style and eyes or brush-up on your "Kentucky Windage and Elevation" skills to compensate. Not absolutely necessary for casual plinking, but lots of us do it just for grins.

The most common makers found around here are Filli Pietta and Uberti. Piettas are usually a bit less expensive. They are quite servicable, if a bit less nicely put together than the more expensive Ubertis. Uberti has been absorbed into the Beretta conglomerate but retains the brand name. Price differences vary a good deal, so some catalog and/or web shopping might be in order to find your best deal. No FFL is needed, so they may be purchased directly and delivered by mail or common carrier to most states. There are exceptions, so check your state and municipal regs.

Cabela's has a good selection of mostly Pietta models, with base models running at about $169 for both Colt and Remington models. They also offer most of them with a "starter kit" of necessities (sans powder or caps) as a package deal for somewhat less than the ala carte total.

C&B revolvers are great fun to own and shoot. With a bit of shopping, you should be able to find something that fits your budget and taste just right. Good hunting!

July 23, 2005, 01:12 AM
Thanks everyone for all the information.....Now I'll just start looking around and reading more, although I think everyone here covered all I need to know.
When I find one that fits, I'll post some pics.....



July 24, 2005, 12:03 AM
Gat and everyone,

In looking at all the pistols out there, from what I see there is brass on 90% of them....Now should I all brass or what? There are some beautiful pistols out there....


July 24, 2005, 12:10 PM
Jim - true - lots of brass!

Despite what mainmech said re brass and 44 cal - and of course his point is very valid - I think of it this way - you can get a gun for very reasonale price - it will function adequately with lighter loads and probably be satisfyingly accurate.

Final aspect - how often shooting? If now and again and not huge thruput then I reckon at very least you will get your monies-worth. If a lot of shooting anticipated and you want hotter loadings - just wait and save for better all steel.

What I am saying is - I think the brass ones are viable - as long as you realize their limitations.

July 24, 2005, 12:15 PM
While many many BP revolvers "have brass on them" that is different that a brass frame. Brass trigger guard/hand grip frame is fine. Brass main frame is not desirable for a regular shooter. Just doesn't hold up to the pounding over time.

My favorite BP revolver is a .36 cal "Navy" Pietta I picked up at Cabela's.

You've got a lot of great info. Now go get one and enjoy the heck out of it!

July 24, 2005, 01:28 PM
I have a brass frame 36 cal. I got it in the 60s. I have used and abused
it. I wore out the hammer and trigger and replaced them. Had to replace
the trigger spring twice, bolt stop once and most of the screws. The
barrel wedge three times. Replacing the nipples goes without saying.
Like I said I have used & abused this gun. I think that the brass frame
held up well. Under stand that I used the devil out of this gun.

The other side of that coin is not all gun are created equal. I have seen
brass framed guns that were just for looking at. I have seen some of the
brand name guns that the hand was made of brass. Thats good for maybe
six shots. I saw one that when they tried to load it, instead of pressing
the ball into the cylinder, it pulled out the cylinder pin.

Side note: I have seen steel frame cap & balls that were junk when new too.

You get what you pay for.

July 24, 2005, 06:01 PM
I will be going to Cabelas' next week and check out the BP pistols there. I agree that you only get what you pay for, I'm figuring about $200-250 should get a good one....we'll see.
How many times at the range can you shoot one before you clean it?


July 24, 2005, 07:04 PM
Cabela's lists their BP revolvers on their website, so you can get an idea of what you'll spend. That said, you should easily get a revolver and all the stuff you need to get started with it for $250. IIRC, the Pietta Navy goes for around $170.

July 25, 2005, 12:10 PM
How many times at the range can you shoot one before you clean it? If using black powder - EVERY time!! Corrosion will soon set in if you don't. If you use Clean Shot then could be depending on conditions (humidity etc) you might get away with not cleaning every time.

Personally I would not take a chance. Shoot plenty - clean when you get home. :)

July 25, 2005, 02:29 PM
What P95Carry said: after every session. While this might seem sorta "Monk"ish to those used to modern smokeless protocols, there is good reason for it.

Black gunpowder and most of its modern substitutes contain carbon. Some of this becomes residue on firing in the form of soot. It is extremely hygroscopic (absorbs moisture from the air) and will concentrate and hold that moisture against the metal. Black powder and many substitutes also contain sulphur. In firing residue this will react with the moisture drawn in by the soot to form a mild sulphuric acid which will accelerate the oxidation process. In even normally humid conditions, this can result in rust starting to form in a matter of hours.

It's not as much of a chore as it would seem. There are very few parts to most C&B revolver designs, and they're easy to take-down and reassemble. You don't need any special solvents or lubricants, as common household items will do the job quite well. I believe that the process is covered in some detail in the sticky, but I'll give you a couple of tips that've worked well for me.

A cheap wire mesh strainer is a big help. Put your nipples and small parts in it as you do your disassembly. It keeps everything in one place and lets you deal with some operations on the whole batch rather than a piece at a time.

Plain ol' Windex makes a wizard cleaner. Spray it on liberally and use an old nylon toothbrush an an appropriately sized nylon or bronze bore brush as needed. Some Q-Tips and a couple of pipe cleaners for the inside of the nipples will help get all of the nooks and crannies. Any slight leading in the bore can be removed with your favorite bore cleaning solvent, if neccessary.

Rinse everything thoroughly with the hottest water you can stand. Place the metal parts on a jelly roll pan or such in a warm oven (200-225) until all the water evaporates. Take them out and spray them with a good coat of WD-40. Let them cool down to about room temp.

Wipe the excess WD-40 off as you reassemble. Use your favorite lube(s) where needed. A wipe with a good furniture cleaner like "Pledge" on the grips will keep them clean and lustrous.

I'll stick with my opinions regarding brass frames. They've been formed from experience (some not-so-pleasant) and are passed along in hope of helping you get the most satisfactory service from your investment.

The reasons that the Confederacy used brass instead of iron or steel to make revolver frames were that they lacked both the raw materials and the manufacturing assets to do so. IMO, it is worthy of noting that virtually all of their copies patterned on both the Colt and Remington designs were in .36 cal. This was done so that the service life could be extended to a more acceptable, if marginal, level in field use. Pure expediency, but they had no choice if they were to get sidearms to the troops in any numbers.

FWIW, the flasks sold for charging most replica revolvers come with a metering spout sized to throw the concensus "standard" service load for that caliber. Generally, about 15-20 gr. in .36 and 25-30 gr. in .44. In order to throw a reduced charge, one must either buy another spout or do some tedious cut-and-try to obtain the desired level. Most folks don't want to go through the sometimes exasperating process of developing the 'best' load for a particular revolver and just use whatever came with the flask.

Some brass framed replicas with hold up to use with 'standard' charges well enough to satisfy the occasional plinker and recreational shooter's wants. But...

When I find that I enjoy something, I tend to do a lot more of it than I had originally imagined. That was pretty much the case with C&B revolvers. While I've worn-out or broken some individual lockwork parts with extensive shooting in steel framed replicas, I've never rendered one "unrepairable" under hard use. I have done so to a couple of brass-framed ones, one in less than 700 rounds of use with standard loads.

For the relatively small difference in initial price given similar quality of manufacture, I'd personally prefer to err on the side of caution. If you find that you don't shoot it much, you won't notice. If you end up using it regularly, you will. And it could make the difference between buying another revolver because you want to rather than because the first one crapped-out.

August 31, 2005, 10:52 PM
Don't know about that oven thing. Heat accelerates the rusting reaction Oxygen atoms (H2O) entering iron (Fe) = iron oxide (FeO)!. That's why iron and steel rust very fast in the summer time. Maybe if you blew off the moisture with compressed air first?

But if it works without causing rust who am I to argue, LOL.

I could not get the barrel wedge out of my replica Colt Navy until I really loosened the stop screw and tapped a jeweler's screwdriver between the frame and the spring on the other side. Then I got a brass "Huntsaver" combination tool that works perfect for knocking these wedges out. Here is the link if anyone is interest. Best gadget I've found.

September 4, 2005, 03:00 PM
If your rinse water is hot enough, the metal parts will retain enough of that heat for most of the residual water to evaporate. If you like, you can just wipe whatever little is left off and go from there.

If you have a compressed air source, it is a good way to make sure that all of the water gets removed from the crannies and crevises, especially inside of threads and nipples. If your regular cleaning takes place at the kitchen sink rather than in the garage (as it is in my case) it's just more practical to utilize what's already handy.

Basically, I'm using the oven to add additional heat to the metal so that what ever moisture which might not have been readily apparent gets completely evaporated. In addition, the minute amount of expansion from the heat seems to "open up" the surface texture of the metal so that the preservative silicone in the WD-40 can penetrate and bond with it better.

All I can really say it that this method has worked exceptionally well for me. I have a few C&B items purchased primarily because they represented the only means by which I could shoot and study a specimen of a rare model with novel and/or innovative design feaures. Most are not among my regular "shooters" and a couple haven't seen actual use for several years. They were all cleaned by this method before going back into the safe, and only one or two had any special preparation for long-term storage. None of them have showed any signs of deterioration despite what might be a year or more between inspections.

February 8, 2006, 01:06 PM
pards good info for any new to the sport out there , i`ve been a darksider for 30 years now , and am still learning too , i`ve got a new shooting pard thats 70 + years old , the other day he taught me a new trick and i shared one with him .. not seeing eaither mentioned here, .. for a nipple pick he carries a few small paper clips when he needs a nipple pick , just straighten one end and you have a very inexpencive pick ... beats 6 bucks at the gun shops . for me drying my guns after cleaning , ok don`t tell the wife or she`ll make ya buy one .. i use her very powerful hand held hair dryer , with heated and cold air settings , drying with too much heat does tend to flash rust ... so i start with a hot setting and soon change to the cooler air settings to finish . the thing will blow water out of all the hidding places . and they think that thing is for hair styleing . ( just don`t get caught ) :evil:

February 8, 2006, 10:24 PM
<Gatofeo calls Sundance44s house while he's at work ...>
MRS. Sundance?
Did you know your husband is using your hair dryer to clean his revolver?
It's true!
And I also heard that he sits on your new couch and oils it too!
Just thought you'd like to knowwwwwwwwwww ...

I haven't tried the hair dryer trick. Um ... I don't have a hair dryer. I'm a bachelor cat with a receding hairline. :D

I like to heat my revolver parts in the oven. That way, I"m assured of all moisture being out of the steel. Steel is rather porous and will soak up moisture and oil but appear dry on the surface. Fifteen minutes or so in an oven at low temp, with the door cracked open, ensures all parts are dry.
I never use any petroleum-based oil after all parts are dry. And I dislike WD-40 because it WILL turn to a sticky varnish over time.
Rather, I oil my cap and ball revolvers with olive oil. It's cheap, soaks into the steel well, and keeps the rust away.
I live in the remote Utah desert, where humidity is typically low. Perhaps if I lived in a very humid place I might consider a more aggressive oil to protect from rust. But here, olive oil works fine for me.

February 9, 2006, 12:52 AM
Gato, I have probably been shooting as long as you,[First C&B revolver,1963] but not nearly as much nor in as disciplined a manner, but this may be of interest to some of our greeners.On the range with a San Marco 1861 Navy,two shots, then four clicks.Now, being Canadian, I did'nt have to worry about Billy Yank or Johnny Reb cleaving my skull, but a great savage
tomato can was snapping it's rusty lid at me, obviously about to charge. A cap twix the frame and hammer? Can't see any. Yet the hammer is definitely falling short. I stepped into a beam of sunlight and had a good look. An eighth inch square fragment of cap, camoflaged perfectly with a layer of fouling was stuck in the hammer slot, just enough to stop the cap getting a good hit.A little thing to watch for.Let me add my thanks to you for the excellent C&B treatise.

February 9, 2006, 08:41 AM
Gatofeo.. the new couch is too far to carry it all , gun safe is in the bedroom .. i sit on her side of the bed when oiling ! :neener:

March 1, 2006, 08:36 AM
Thanks yall for the great info

Curtis Sweet home Alabama

June 9, 2006, 06:47 PM
Just a few points to reiterate or comment on anew:

1. Derek: Yep, I've also been fooled by well-camouflaged cap fragments lodged in the hammer channel. Some are so well camouflaged that, when encountering the problem you did, I take a small, narrow screwdriver and slide it down the hammer channel. On a few occasions, I've been surprised to see a flattened cap fragment suddenly free itself from the steel surface. This is best done with the revolver unloaded and upside down, so the fragment can fall free and won't fall farther down into the works.

2. I don't like WD-40 and don't use it in any guns, even modern guns. In fact, I rarely use it for anything. After a time, it congeals into a hardened varnish that is very hard to remove. It's pure poison in door locks, gun mechanisms and padlocks. It may take a while, a year or more, but WD-40 will become a hard, dried varnish after a while.
Interestingly, some anglers in northern Idaho and eastern Washington --- where I used to live --- used WD-40 to disguise human scent or as a fish attractant on their trolling gear. I saw a number of anglers hose down their flashers, cowbells, Ford fenders and lure with the stuff before putting it in the water.
I don't suggest this as it's introducing even more petroleum products to fishing waters. Plus, I never saw that it made a difference in the catch.
WD-40 has gained almost cult-like status today but I'm not a fan of the stuff.

3. My own cap and ball revolvers get a coating of olive oil. I avoid any and all petroleum products in my black powder guns --- except for canning paraffin. This stuff, sold in 1 pound blocks, apparently lacks the hydrocarbons of other petroleum products.
I use it my favorite bullet lubricant composed of
1 part paraffin
1 part mutton tallow
1/2 part beeswax
All measurements are by weight, not volume.

I live in the remote Utah desert where humidity is typically low, though a passing thunderstorm can drop a lot of water on hot, dry ground and raise the humidity up to 60 percent or more in short order.
If you live where humidity is almost always high, then I'd suggest you hose down the revolver with a spray gun oil. These are made by Remington, Birchwood Casey and others. In my experience with modern firearms, it penetrates well and doesn't turn to varnish or gum over time.
But if you can, avoid petroleum products in black powder guns.

4. A paper clip as a nipple pick is a good idea, if you can find a clip tiny enough. The orifice in my nipples runs considerably smaller than the average paper clip, so I've been forced to use a commercial nipple pick for want of finding anything else suitable. I'm told that piano wire is good but I don't know of a source.
Many years ago I picked up a nipple wrench with a built-in nipple pick. It's on a brass cap that threads into the handle end of the nipple pick. It's a good gizmo and has lasted me about 30 years. It also fits my .50-caliber rifle nipples, so it's a good one to have in the possibles bag when hunting or roaming. I think they're still made and are probably around $10, as I recall.

5. After washing all parts in hot, soapy water I shake the excess water off and place them in a baking pan. Then the pan goes into the oven. The oven door is opened a bit to let steam escape and the oven is set to 150 degrees or lower. The lowest setting you can get is best.
I've never found this to accelerate rust later, as has been posited. Not if you give the warm metal parts a good coat of oil after removing from the oven.
Steel is porous and will soak up a lot of moisture or oil, so it's imperative that the parts be thoroughly dried, then oil be liberally used. After a day or so, excess oil can be wiped off the parts and the revolver may be reassembled.

6. I'm pleased that my long-winded treatise on the cap and ball sixgun has generated a number of comments. I'm not so bull-headed as to insist that my way is the only way, but I posted what I've learned from experience --- some of it contrary to what the books and advertising claim.

I hope we can keep this thread going, with even more experiences and comments from others. You're never too old to learn --- but some are too stubborn.

August 4, 2006, 03:42 AM
the felt that you recommended at the beginning of this very informative post, is that something i can find at home depot in their weather proofing area?
i make a 50/50 beewax, to paraffin mix for my other bullet lubes and i have lots of it, what do you think of using it lube the felt, or just to leave the felt out and use only powder, bullet, and lube?
for a new gun that i am getting(bought from another member and it is about a week away, can i find out the coeerct diameter bullet to use or do i need to wait to get it and measure?
can i use 45acp shells as wad cutters until i get a real wad cutter?
thanks for all the info...

August 7, 2006, 06:08 PM
I've been using Wonder Wads with my 44 cal Colt Navy repro and I've been having a lot of trouble with the wads jamming the mechanism. I frequently get a wad stuck between the cylinder and the barrel, which very efficiently jams the gun. I haven't read about other people having this problem -- is it possibly because I'm only firing 15 grains of Triple Seven? I wondered if going to a heavier charge (like 20 grains) would do a better job of blowing out the wads. Or is it more likely that the wad is snagging on something in the cylinder or barrel? I've looked but don't see anything obvious. The wads seem awfully thick -- has anybody tried using half thickness?

I'm considering switching to lube instead -- is Wonder Lube okay for that? It seems like you'd have to put a lot of grease in the chamber to absolutely seal it. It seems to me that the .451 bullets that I use seal pretty well and it's hard to see how a chainfire could occur. I've heard people say that chainfires can happen from the percussion cap side but I don't see how (at least on the Colt).

I also have a lot of trouble with the *fired* percussion caps falling into the works and jamming the gun. Note: I've never had the problem of unfired percussion caps falling out -- the number 10 caps fit just fine. The principal trouble seems to be that the fired caps get blown apart, and the jagged pieces catch between the cylinder and the frame. Are there more rugged percussion caps that hold together better? The Remington and similar caps are pretty flimsy.

All this makes me wonder how Wild Bill and other cap & ball shooters were ever able to empty their guns without them jamming. I imagine this is one reason that they tended to carry two pistols, because one or the other was likely to jam. Does anybody know?

August 7, 2006, 07:06 PM
Possible fix. Put the wonder wad between the powder charge and the ball. I can see how a wonderwad on top of a ball might interfer with the action.

Old Fuff
August 7, 2006, 07:20 PM
15 grains of powder should blow the wad clear of the barrel. If the wad is stuck at the back of the barrel the ball shouldn't clear the muzzle. Something here is obviously wrong.

If the caps are tight on the nipples you won't likely get a chain fire. However when you re-cock the hammer first turn the revolver over on its side so the cap fragments will fall out of the gun, rather then down into it.

The old time gunfighters that carried two guns did so because they wanted 12 shots without having to reload, which at best was a slow process.

As mec said, you load (1) the powder charge (2) the wad, and (3) the ball or bullet. If you don't use a wad, load the powder and ball, and then put the grease on top of the ball.

August 7, 2006, 08:43 PM
Tried the cig papers...LMAO! you've got to be putting something else in those Zig Zags to write that Tim.... 4000 rounds HeHe! ya right... sorry credibilty lost. It sure don't work here.... Thanks anyway for you effort.

How rude.

Why didn't you just say: I can't do it, so you must be a liar? Same thing, but with less words.

August 8, 2006, 10:13 AM
Ooops, accidently posted this twice.

August 8, 2006, 10:29 AM
Well, I *have* been putting the Wonder Wads *between* the powder and the bullet as recommended. But now I'm wondering if it wouldn't be better to put the wad in last. Then it would get blown out of the gun for certain and it would seem to serve the same purpose as the grease. What do you guys do?

Good idea, Old Fuff, on turning the revolver on its side after each shot. I was told that these old gunfighters used to shake their ball & cap revolvers after each shot. However, in at least one case that gave the other guy time to shoot him!

It's hard to figure out how Samuel Colt thought that metal cartridges would never supplant percussion caps!

August 8, 2006, 11:59 AM
It's hard to figure out how Samuel Colt thought that metal cartridges would never supplant percussion caps!


August 25, 2006, 12:08 AM
I cock my revolvers while holding them upside down. Sounds ludicrous, but after a while you get used to it.
I just keep the revolver pointed down range, roll my hand over, cock the revolver upside down, then bright it back to the normal position.
It's faster than bringing it clear back past your ear, then cocking it upside down. The old-timers used to bring it back past their ear, then cock it to let cap fragments fall.
I don't like this method. One thumb-slip and you could be deafened for life. At the least, you'd get some awful burns on the side of your face. And more to the point, where is that muzzle pointed when it's behind you?
It's faster and much safer to simply roll the revolver and cock it upside down, while still pointing downrange.

As for putting the wads OVER the balls. Nope. No good. You should never have any kind of potential obstruction ahead of the ball.
You may think that the wad will do a better job of cleaning, but a properly greased and seated wad twixt ball and powder works just fine.
There are four major points to keep in mind when using a greased wad:
1. The felt must be hard or stiff. Hat felt is good but if you can find harder felt, the better.
2. The felt should be at least 1/8 inch thick. Any thinner, and it doesn't carry enough lubricant to do the job.
3. The right lubricant must be used: no petroleum greases or light oils. The lubricant should contain some wax, to stiffen the wad somewhat. See the lubricant recipe I posted at the beginning; it si bar-none the best I've found. Even SPG or Lyman Black Powder Gold can't beat it for lubricating wads for revolvers.
4. The wad should be seated on the powder separately. Yes, it takes more time but the advantage is that you get a much better feel for how much pressure you're applying. This lends consistent wad and ball seating. In any firearm --- old or new --- consistency is the key to accuracy.

August 25, 2006, 12:14 AM
Gato' - what would we do without you ?! :)

I for one give you much thanks for your superb contributions over time.

September 3, 2006, 06:50 PM
Awwwww ... P95Carry, you're too kind.
I just post what I can. Been awfully busy the last year so I haven't been in the message boards much.
I have a talent for writing, which appeared at a very early age (about 6 years of age).
This innate ability led me into journalism, where I was a newspaperman for years. I got out of journalism some years back and am glad I did. I didn't like the lack of objectivity and sensationalism that had become so commonplace.
I'm still in the writing game, along with photography, but not for the media. I like my job. It's important. Alas, it doesn't give me as much time as I'd like, for contributing to message boards.
But I do what I can and pass on what I've learned, read or heard. Most of what I pass on is based on my own experience. I don't like to pass on what I haven't personally tried, or that which doesn't have an impeccable source.
I'm pleased that my posts have been praised by many through the years --- and damned by a few. I figure that if I please everyone I am doing something wrong.

Adios from the ol' ugly cat, deep in the remote Utah desert!

September 7, 2006, 10:24 PM
i too have had wonder wads blow out from between the cylinder/barrel gap and plug up my 1860. i believe that this is due to a too great of gap between cylinder and barrel..however it might be caused by the wads themselves. i purchased 1000 "wonder wads" from dixie a few weeks ago..however when they arrived they were another brand. the dixie wads were not nearly as stiff as true wonderwads, and difficult to load. very wimpy and soft. i'm keeping an eye on it and trying to make sure i get the gap tight when changing cylinders.

smokin-gun has a very good point about felt wads in forest areas. they can certainaly cause a fire if they land in dry grass or brush. we started a small one at the local range recently. just something to keep in mind. something i've noticed with powder sticks as well...flaming debris going way downrange.

i still use tham cause in the florida heat any grease i try just melts all over everything...maybe ill try peanut butter.:p

September 10, 2006, 08:35 PM
Yep, black powder guns can start fires. I've had it happen to me.
Years ago, I was shooting prone with a .45-70 rifle and black powder cartridges I'd assembled. The muzzle was just above some high, dry desert grass.
The first shot, a flame suddenly started in the grass. I was able to stomp it out quickly enough, but if I hadn't noticed that flame, it might have got away from me.
I ensured there were no embers by ... um ... wetting the area with a ready supply of "distilled water." :D
Back to revolvers ...
I've seen wads leave a trail of smoke about 20 feet in front of the muzzle. I've even seen a few smolder for a second or two on the ground. For this reason, I do most of my shooting in a gravel pit, devoid of any vegetation, or wait until the winter when the Utah desert is wet with snow or recent rains.
Yep, it snows in the desert. Rains too. We always get more precipitation in the winter than the summer.
But black powder guns are not the only offenders when it comes to starting fires.
In my vast unbroken set of American Rifleman magazines (December 1928 to last month's issue) a reader wrote in back in the 1960s.
He was using a home-brew bullet lubricant for cast bullets in his M1 carbine, and had made a bullet trap of compressed newspaper, as I recall.
After a few shots, the bullet trap box started smoking. He dug into the trap and discovered that the home-brew bullet lubricant had apparently started a fire in the box. As I recall, he tried a few more shots and got the same results.
I'm not listing that bullet lubricant recipe for obvious reasons.
Steel-jacketed or steel-cored bullets, such as are found in the 7.62 X 39mm round, can start fires in rocky areas. They do so when the steel bullet hits rocks and causes sparks.
The propensity for steel jacketed or cored bullets to start fires in rocky areas was documented in another American Rifleman, back in the 1990s as I recall.
Of course, tracer and indendiary rounds are notorious for starting fires. That's why their use is banned on state and federal lands, except without permit or at approved ranges (military, police, etc.).
Incidentally, not all tracers are marked as many believe, with a red or orange tip. That's a NATO standard of identification, following the American standard that dates to the 1930s or so.
Back in World War I, .30-caliber tracer ammo was marked by having a blackened case.
Many foreign governments marked their tracer and incendiary ammo with headstamps, or the color of the sealant around the bullet or primer. It's all a jumbled mess when it comes to identifying what kind of ammo you have, especially the more obscure ammo.
If you don't know what kind of ammo you have, seek out identification. The internet is a good place to start. An inquiry made to a cartridge collector's board will help.
How to find out if your bullet is steel-cored or steel jacketed? Place a magnet on it!
Amazing how the obvious always escapes us, eh? :D

October 20, 2006, 04:02 PM
Okey Dokey,
I read all the posts. Great information. I'm gona be silly enough to try the cig paper trick one of these days.

Just ordered some felt to make wads, Thanks

Some things I'm looking for information on:

1. Wad Punch for .44 caliber? Where does one get, make or modify a punch that will cut wads close to .450 diameter? I figured out a 3/8" would work for my navy but looking for something to cut .44 to use in a (gasp) brass framed remington. Suggestions?

2. Where does one get, or make a loading stand. I've looked and can't find one. Source? Seems like cub scout wood working project might be able to buildn one. Someone have simple plans they'd share?

3. What type of capper to use on C&B revolvers? Not that I have big fat fingers and failing eyesight or anything.... Do those big tear drop cappers work for revolvers?

4. If I pull the file backwards, will it put metal back on my front sight? Seriously what are my options to lower the point of impact. My remington copy shoots way high at 25yd.

5. Do most C&B have a serial number? I can't find any identification on my brass framed rem. It only has number 173 on the frame and trigger guard. No other marks that I can find. Nothing on the barrel or frame.

Thanks all for the time put into this well done list of great things to know about C&B.

October 21, 2006, 01:14 AM
Harbor Freight has a 9 piece set for 6 bucks, includes 1/2 inch, which will fit in a 44 cal pistol.

7/16 also, but I don't know if you want to use 7/16 wads. I punch 'em 1/2, myself, and have no trouble getting them in the chambers.

If you look elsewhere, you might find each punch at some 20 bucks each.

Do as you wish.



Sorry, skipped the "way high" Rem. What charge are you shooting? If you are using a "wimp" charge, yes, you will shoot high, the ball exits the barrell so slowly the recoil is lifting the muzzle. If you shoot 30, 35, 40 grs, you will shoot flatter because the ball exits the barrell before the barrell rises too much.

You can ascertain that by loading a cyl of each and seeing where they hit.

If you are going by the maker's book, 15 to 20 or 25 grs, for a 44 Rem., you WILL be lobbing them in.

October 21, 2006, 08:03 AM
I was going to try the 1/2 punch set (which I already own)

As for the remington shooting high. I suspected light loads was part of it. Keep in mind I'm a conventional pistol shooter so cap and ball is relatively new to me. Marksmanship is not new to me. (I was high shooter the last two weeks on my bullseye league) Not quite back to master average yet but VERY close.

Since the remington is a brass frame affair I didn't want to hot rod the loads until I was very familiar with it. When "working up" a load, how does a seasoned C&B shooter pour powder? Just use the spout and they have a selection of differnet spouts. (I have only two) Seems I saw an adjustable spout. Straight threaded very long and a lock nut. Even it was only listed to adjust from 30 to 120 grains. I'd like one that adjusted 15-45 gr.

Is there a website that has exploded view or takedown for the colt and the remington style. I'm pretty mechanically inclined but didn't want to break it all way down without seeing possible problems springs.

Thanks again

October 21, 2006, 09:01 AM
I made my own wad punches. I drilled a 31/64 hole ( 11/32 for my .36) through a chunk of 3/4 inch round bar stock which has enough carbon in it to temper. Then I drilled the hole out larger for most of it's length so a wad will only be pushed through the smaller diameter for a short distance before it frees. I used a length of 1/2 inch rod, split with a hacksaw for about 1 1/2 inches on one end. for the back of the punch. I heated and spread the split in the rod end until it was even with the diameter of the larger 3/4 inch piece and wire welded them together. After grinding the weld down, I ground the front cutting end to a bevel on the outside to make the end sharp, heated it all again and tempered it. I use it to cut card wads for my .451 Volunteer rifle as well as felt wads for my .44 Remington.

As far as adding metal to the front sight, once again, the old wire welder came through. I immersed the dismantled pistol in water leaving only the front sight above the water. I added metal a little at a time, then filed the sides down. I was able to make a little windage adjustment at this stage, too, by removing more from one side so the post isn't exactly centered. The last step was to file a bead on the top of the post, which helps my old eyes see the front sight.

An in line capper will work but all of mine have had to be filed around on at the business end to make them work. I only have one of those tear drop shaped cappers and it's for musket caps so I can't say for sure, but they look like they wouldn't fit to me.


October 21, 2006, 06:11 PM
Dan, most of the major muzzleloader stores sell adjustable pistol powder measures. They're cheap and handy to have for finding that perfect load.

October 22, 2006, 02:52 AM

Even I am not that cheap.

Here's a link to a set

Up to 1/2 inch, 3 bucks.


Many years ago, Elmer Kieth said the same thing, a low powered load would shoot high within the range it would even reach, because the kick raised the barrell before the ball left it.

A hi-vel load would leave the barrell on a straighter line at the target before the pistol kicked up, no matter how much kick it had. Remember, he liked 4 1/2 inch barrells, they did not have all that mass to hold them down.

Same holds true for BP, get the ball out of the barrell as fast as possible to control vertical placement. If you can hold vertical, you should be able to hold horizontal, too. Or, get new glasses.



June 10, 2008, 08:19 PM
excellent post

Mike 56
June 11, 2008, 11:31 PM
+1 for Harborfright wad punches. I use a inline caper on my Remingtion i just had to file it a bit to make it fit right.

As for a powder measure i use a 38 special case for a powder measure it holds 23grs of powder witch my 44cal 51 Colt and 58 Remingtion both like.

Mikehttp:// power measure.jpg (50.9 KB)

Grey Wolf
June 27, 2008, 11:59 PM
Howdy, I'm new to the site but an old BP shooter (since 1976).
Can it be true that reply #90 was posted in October of 2006 and #91 was posted in June of 2008? I've been shooting an early brass trigger guard Ruger Old Army from time to time. Since I'm a buckskinner and reenactor of the Texas Revolution era 1835-36 I typically shoot single shot pistols.
Pardon me if I suggest a few things that I do since I haven't read all the previous postings. I typically shoot a 25 grain load of fffg. On top of the powder I put enough Cream of Wheat or corn meal to just allow the .457 ball to be seated enough to allow the cylinder to rotate. I think the smaller gap the better, getting the ball into the breech quickly to avoid wasting energy and flash. I usually put a grease seal in the space around the seated ball, mostly to keep powder residue soft. I had a chain fire once and have tried to avoid it since. I am now of the opinion that chain fires are caused by leakage of fire at missing or loose caps. I could never understand how fire could get in a cylinder full of a shaved ball. The only way a real chain fire can occur is if the cylinders at 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock are loaded. For a meal measure I use a pistol cartridge with a wire handle wrapped around the rim and soldered in place. My powder measure is a copper flask with a 25 grain spout.

I use an inline capper or a revolver capper and pinch the caps a bit to make them stay on the nipple.

I use Wonder Lube as a patch lube and for metal and wood preservation. I knew it has beeswax in it, but only recently learned that it also contains olive oil. It's good for chapped lips too.

I make my own cleaning solution, put 1/2 cup of dishwashing liquid or Murphy's Oil Soap, 1 cup of household ammonia and 1 cup of rubbing alcohol into a gallon milk jug and fill it with water. The soap and ammonia cut powder residue and the alcohol speeds up the drying.

WD in WD40 means water dispersal. That's what it was designed for. It's not a lube or a rust preventative.

I don't agree with putting huge loads in revolvers. I believe that's why so many Colt Model 1847 Walker revolvers failed. That and poor metallurgy compared to today's. In fact, Colt changed to a superior method of making steel when the Model 1860 Armys came out. The other reason is that it's a waste of powder. Black powder burns rather than explodes so why burn powder after the ball has left the muzzle? The main reason for long barrels on early smoothbores and rifles was to allow the mediocre, slow-burning powder to keep burning and developing energy while the ball was moving out of the barrel.

I formerly used fiber wads for .410 shotguns loaded over the powder. They went in with a finger push and the plunger, followed by the ball.

These are only my opinions and I bow to the superior knowledge of others.This information is only worth half of what you are paying for it.

Pardon my deviation from the subject....Are there any buckskinners or historic reenactors or just casual BP shooters in my area, New Braunfels, Texas, between San Antonio and Austin? I have put together a group that has monthly BP matches and another that organizes mountain man rendezvous. I also participate in the reenactments of the battles for Texas Independence at the original sites. We are always looking for new shooters.

June 28, 2008, 06:40 AM
Grey Wolf,

Thank you for taking the time to add your message. One of the great things about bp shooters is the diversity of ideas and methods. Good to know you've found things that work for you and I'm sure what you said will be helpful. to some new folks along the way.

Yes, it's possible for a long period of time to pass without additions to a thread. This thread is kept as an archive of ideas for new shooters to try.

Which leads me to a bit of advice - to get the best distribution it's a good idea not to post new questions in a sticky, or archival thread. Most of us have read this entire thread, some several times, and many will not reopen it to read a new posting. Your question would reach the largest audience by being posted in an entirely new thread.

Grey Wolf
July 1, 2008, 06:13 PM
Thanks for the advice.

I don't have all the answers, but I've been shooting muzzleloaders since I built my first kit in 1976. It was a CVA flint pistol, then a TC "Hawken". I started shooting in monthly matches. In 1977 I went to the Texas State ML Championships and ordered a copy of Mariano Medina's Hawken. That opened the floodgates to a long string of BP guns. There are probably 25 in my gun room now. In fact, I've started selling off those I don't shoot much. At age 76it's time to thin the herd.

I am looking for shooters so maybe I'll start a tread for that. I have organized two "clubs" in my area, one for casual monthly matches and one for buckskinners. I also do living history events in Texas history as well as mountain man rendezvous.

English Phil
July 2, 2008, 08:12 PM
Many thanks for this information, it will be in valuable to me as a novice.

October 25, 2009, 03:05 PM
Gatofeo wrote:
...A paper clip as a nipple pick is a good idea, if you can find a clip tiny enough. The orifice in my nipples runs considerably smaller than the average paper clip, so I've been forced to use a commercial nipple pick for want of finding anything else suitable. I'm told that piano wire is good but I don't know of a source.
Many years ago I picked up a nipple wrench with a built-in nipple pick.


You might try a guitar string. The "E" string is extremely fine and very stiff without being brittle. Check with any music store & ask for a cast off.

Just getting into BP and am ever so grateful for all the information you and the other BP guru's have provided...



October 25, 2009, 06:36 PM
Hmm, the last post to this thread was over a year ago.

December 14, 2009, 10:07 PM
New useful posts to old threads is a good thing and should be encouraged. This thread has several year+ gaps and does not suffer any for it. Thanks to birdman2 for the tip.

4v50 Gary
December 14, 2009, 10:13 PM
For clearing out the nipple, brass wire of various thickness may be found in most hobby shops. They're cheap too.

December 18, 2009, 07:53 AM
thank you for taking the time and effort to share you wisdom! Great stuff!

Merry Christmas

December 19, 2009, 10:10 AM
I'll contribute to this oldie but goodie. I well use a welding tip cleaner, very carefully, on my nipples to remove any buildup of hard fouling. Normally a tip cleaner found on your nipple wrench well do, but every few hundred rounds I like to run a welding tip cleaner through mine.

December 30, 2009, 09:59 PM
Thanks for all the TIPS!

Fingers McGee
December 31, 2009, 01:02 PM
Some items used as nipple picks can enlarge the orifice and effect performance. If you keep the nipples clean, you should never have to use a wire, welding tip cleaner, paper clip, or anything else to clear the orifice of your nipples.

After every shooting session, I remove the nipple(s) and let them soak in Birchwood Casey BP solvent while I clean the rest of the gun that the nipple(s) came out of. Last task is using a wire brush on the outside pf the nipple to remove the cap fouling, pipe cleaner to clean the interior of the nipple, and a blast of air in the orifice end to dry any moisture and blow out any pipe cleaner fuzz or other lingering dirt.

January 2, 2010, 06:57 PM
Leapin' Loading Levers, has it been nearly 6 years since I wrote this piece? :what:

Well, I still stand behind it. I don't know that I've learned any new tricks since posting it. If I have, they've become second-nature and thus, forgotten easily.

One little trick: I cut pipe cleaners into 2-inch lengths, then bend a short L at the end. The long end gives me a good handle, while the short end does a good job of scrubbing out the inside of the nipple's cone. A few quick whirls of the pipe cleaner inside the nipple, while it's submerged, coupled with a little pumping action and the interior is clean.
Holding a nipple while scrubbing its threads with a brass brush can be a problem. I bought some cheap, small needle-nose pliers for this task. I gently hold the cone in the pliers and scrub the threads all the way around.
It occurs to me that perhaps an old wire-stripper might work as well, giving you various sized holes for any nipple encountered.
Forceps should work fine too, especially if you can get them to lock without marring the cone.
Perhaps the plastic pliers sold as toys would work, without risk of marring.
I'm brain-storming here. These should give you some ideas.

Keep the tips coming, folks!
New and old shooters alike -- including a certain, grumpy ol' desert cat in Utah -- are profiting from your experience and innovation!

January 2, 2010, 07:22 PM
I use the pipe cleaners with bristles on them for both cleaning the inside and as a handle for holding onto the nipple while cleaning the threads. They will slip if the threads are very dirty, but once I have them cleaned out and they just require touchup, the bristles help hold the nipple very nicely.

January 3, 2010, 07:43 AM
Gatofeo...Thank you. You have pretty much taken out the trial and error from first time users to b.p. I have gotten a couple of friends into b.p. shooting and have given a copy of your treatise to them before they brought any revolvers. so with gratitude from my friends and myself again Thank you.

January 3, 2010, 01:34 PM
My pleasure. There is a slight fee for all of this.
Um ... if you "cross over" before I do, put in a good word for the ol' desert cat. I'll need it. :evil:

January 3, 2010, 04:30 PM
Gatofeo, where would one buy "cartridge paper"? Rolled loads would be handy when hunting.

January 9, 2010, 02:52 AM
I'm told that many people use Zig-Zag cigarette rolling papers to make their paper cartridges. I haven't tried that, but hear it works well.
Myself, I bought a couple containers of Saltpetre from the druggist years ago. I mix three or four heaping tablespoons in a quart of water, and stir until it's well dissolved.
Then I cut regular printer paper into fist-sized squares. I pour the liquid solution into a glass baking pan, then add the squares of paper. When the paper is well-soaked, I hang it up to dry on a line with clothespins.
This time of year, when it's cold outdoors, a couple of suction cups on the tiles of the shower will hold a thin line from which to hang the paper and let it drip-dry.
(Hey! I heard that! Someone muttered, "The ol' nasty cat must not use his shower often." I'll have you know that I shower at least once a month, smartypants! :fire:)
Anyway ... when the paper is dry, it's ready to make cartridges.
Store the solution in a plastic container with a plastic lid. The solution will rust a steel cap.

For .44 caliber, use a length of 7/16th dowel, about 6 inches long, with the end sanded down to a taper. For the .36-caliber, use a 3/8 inch dowel that's been sanded down to a slightly smaller diameter. Or, sometimes, you can use 5/16th dowel.
The dowel will be used to form your paper cartridge, which must be slightly smaller than the chamber so it slips in easily.
Determine your powder charge, which will dictate the size of the paper slip you'll be using. Cut the paper to size from the sheet.
Roll the slip of paper around the end of the dowel, leaving a little extra hanging off the pointed end. Glue the paper's seam with a tiny swipe of rubber cement. A toothpick helps. Now, you'll have a tiny snow-cone or cup, to which you add your powder.
Fold over the little tail on the tapered end, and secure it with a thread or a dollop of glue. Or use both, with the thread holding it in place until the glue dries.
Allow to dry, if you used glue.
Add your powder charge to the open end of the paper cartridge. Fold over the end and secure with glue. You can also attach a conical bullet to the end of the paper cartridge but I rarely do. I find that using the paper cartridge, without projectile attached, is easier.
I don't often make paper cartridges. It's time-consuming and I find it much easier to just use loose powder.
The paper cartridges can be carried in tiny, plastic tubes with stoppered ends. Or lay them flat in a small tin.
In the old days, Colt's paper cartridges were carried in a small block of wood with six holes bored in them of the appropriate size. The block was then sawed in half lengthwise. The wood block then had a string placed around it, leaving a tail end, and then wrapped in heavily waxed paper for waterproofing.
In use, it worked fairly well. You grabbed the tail end of the string that stuck out of the wax paper, pulled it to tear the wax paper all the way around the block, and each half of the wooden block opened flat, to expose the cartridges.
Samuel Colt's first such cartridges were assembled with tin foil, not paper. (real tin foil, not aluminum foil). The quality of American tin foil was poor, so he ordered the tin foil from Germany, which had a long history of toy-making and used tin foil for toys and other uses.
Very, very few of those first tin foil cartridges exist today. They are among the most sought-after examples of early American cartridges. Cartridge collectors pay a premium for these early tin foil Colt's cartridges, on the rare occasions one becomes available.
A full, sealed box of real Colt's tin foil cartridges would be worth many hundreds of dollars, perhaps thousands.
After a year or few of producing tin foil cartridges, Colt's began using combustible paper. It was cheaper and easier to obtain.
It's good to have a few paper cartridges on hand, to show others how the old timers loaded their guns, but they're a bother to make.
If you want to carry a few reloads in the field, in your pocket, you would probably do better to purchase a small powder flask, such as that made for the .31 Colt, with a nozzle that holds the desired powder.
If you can't find a .31 nozzle (nozzle? dang ... it's nearly 1 a.m. and I've forgotten it's proper name! But you get the gist) of the right capacity, buy one that holds half the charge you want, then just charge the chamber twice.
Or carry a little measure and use the flask to dispense into the measure.
Paper cartridges are fragile. It can be a challenge to carry them in the field, without damage.
The old, Colt's system of the split wooden block, wrapped in wax paper, was pretty good. It would still work today.
God knows where you'd find real tin foil. I'd rather use combustible paper, to ensure every bit of it is consumed.
I'd rather carry a small flask and measure.

January 31, 2010, 02:24 AM
I stumbled upon this thread while searching for a solution to a problem I was having with my .44 CB repro. This was a Christmas present from my son (ain't I lucky). He also gave me a .50 St. Louis Hawken rifle kit (I'm still working on it)...Anyhoo, the problem I was having was the fired cap falling into the "works" and locking the cylinder up like Hogan's goat. This did not occur when I fired caps only to clean out the cylinders; however, when I loaded her up on the range I fired the first round and could not cock the pistol. I had no idea what had happened, so I removed the wedge and pulled it apart and the fragments of the fired cap fell out.
I reassembled the pistol, fired the second round and the same thing happened again. I finally got all six to fire, but not two in a row.
I read the whole thread looking for a solution...Finally, there it was..."Turn the pistol upside down, then cock it". Then I remembered something I had heard (or read) years ago about the old time shooters raising their arms high and to the rear when cocking. This was done to prevent the fouling.
In regards to the guitar string used as a nipple pick, there are two E strings on a guitar. The one you want to use is the "little E" or the 1st string. I've used guitar string for many, many years to clean orifices on carburetors, paint sprayers and any other small hole that needs cleaning.
Anyway, thanks to everyone for the education concerning the care and feeding of these pistols. It was time well spent. I'm glad it was archived. A BIG thumbs up.

January 31, 2010, 02:33 AM
I read a post in another forum the other day about using egg cartons for wads (the Styrofoam type). They said it worked fine. To punch them out use a .45 cal shell and a mallet. Has anyone tried this? I did punch out a couple and they fit nice and tight in my .44 cal. CB pistol. It was also mentioned that they do not melt, which would be a normal concern. I may try one (just one) the next time I'm at the range just to see what will happen.

January 31, 2010, 04:51 AM
cork gasket material from the auto parts store would be a better bet.

February 7, 2010, 05:01 PM
Earlier in this post you all were talking about chain fireing in a revolver. What happens more often then not that hasn't been mentioned is that one or more of the nipples with caps on them have hit the back frame and set of that cylinder. This can happen when a cylinder gets wore and lets it come back to far. Or something under a nipple seat or thread not letting it tighten down far enough. Or just not getting a nipple tightened all the way down, Or a gun that was just made poorly in the first place. If a gun had just one or two properly seated nipples without enough clearance those would have to be filled shorter.

When the hammer hits the cap it pushed the cylinder forward. The charge goes off and slams the cylinder back. A long nipple can go off at this point.

I shot a lot of black powder revolvers in the 60's and 70's and never used anything under the ball. Only Crisco over the ball. Of literly 1000's of shots I have never had a multiple fire.

When from the front it is usually from a ball that is too small making it a loose fit or a chamber or chambers with a mouth that is smaller then where the ball sits, (or just a burr around the mouth). The one would need the chambers honed.

If the ball fits tight and your gun has a good cylinder and cylinder fit and proper nipple clearance it most likely won't ever happen to you.

February 7, 2010, 06:14 PM
If the ball fits tight and your gun has a good cylinder and cylinder fit and proper nipple clearance it most likely won't ever happen to you.
Even if the caps fit poorly and come off? I think you need to include good fitting caps in your statement.

I shot a lot of black powder revolvers in the 70's, 80's, 90's and 00's, and I've never had a cylinder be driven into the recoil shield and fire a cap. But I suppose it could happen.

February 7, 2010, 08:03 PM
Your right about the cap fit. I should have included that.

I notice on my guns that originals seem to have the clearance pretty close between the cap and frame where as some of the copys have much more and some way to much so the caps can fall off. The colts like the 1851 navy had very close clearance and the caps can't fall off. But then at the same time that close gap has to be watched so what I talked about in my last post won't happen.

February 8, 2010, 06:26 AM
1a. BEWARE OF BRASS FRAMES: Unless you wish to replicate what a few Confederates carried, steer clear of brass-framed guns. Brass is not as strong as steel and will get stretched over time with the pressures of firing. Also, in my experience, brass-framed guns are simply not as well-made as their steel brethren.

There is one gun I know of that doesn't suffer from the Cat's warning...the Pietta copy of the Spiller & Burr. Solid frame of brass...excellent workmanship mechanically as well as cosmetically!!

December 13, 2010, 09:34 AM
Excellent bunch of info Gatofeo .....and everyone else too.

Thank you all.

A. Walker
December 15, 2010, 08:22 PM
1a. BEWARE OF BRASS FRAMES: Unless you wish to replicate what a few Confederates carried, steer clear of brass-framed guns. Brass is not as strong as steel and will get stretched over time with the pressures of firing. Also, in my experience, brass-framed guns are simply not as well-made as their steel brethren.

Hogwash. Treat rhese guns with respect and they'll last for years. I have three that are well made, accurate and all-round excellent firearms. This statement may have been true thirty years ago, but not today.

Sure a lot of the brass-frame prejudice on this forum. I have to say anyone having the problems described above with their brass-framed guns have mistreated them something awful.

Son of Rifleman
December 16, 2010, 04:43 AM
Gatofeo, I've been shooting black powder for as long as I can remember.
I've only just become a member of the forum and read your stuff on the subject.
On behalf of all black powder shooters in the world, I thank you for the time that you have spent in putting together such comprehensive text on the fine old art of Black Powder Shooting.
More power to you old son !!

Keep your powder dry, you may need it sooner than you think !

August 4, 2012, 11:10 AM
Thanks so much for all this great information, it's helping me get back to shooting my cap & balls that I hadn't shot in several years.

In case it helps anyone, the frost king felt weatherstripping mentioned is definitely polyester and should not be used. Found some at Lowes, put a flame to it and it just melted into a little gray puddle.

So definitely stick to the Durofelt mentioned in the wad making thread. Which by the way, is also sold on ebay, forget their exact seller name, something like durof01, can find it by searching for "hard felt". It's more expensive than ordering direct, but easier than mailing or faxing their order form.

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