Chain Fire Really Possible?


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TwoEyedJack
December 31, 2012, 01:23 AM
I just got a Remington 1858 repro. The loading instructions I have seen call for putting grease on the front of the cylinder to prevent chain firing. When I press a ball into the cylinder, it shaves a thin even ring around the entire ball, which would seem to make a very reliable seal. Is the grease really required?

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VA27
December 31, 2012, 01:47 AM
The grease is not only to seal the chamber, it also keeps the powder fouling soft, which in turn promotes accuracy and makes cleanup a little easier. Even when I get a good ring of lead upon seating, I use grease for the other reasons.

BHP FAN
December 31, 2012, 01:54 AM
yes. it IS nessesary, unless you use wonder wads under the ball.You get away with it twenty times, and that’s all good, but that 21st time can get pretty exciting.

StrawHat
December 31, 2012, 07:02 AM
I quit using grease over the balls nearly forty years ago. A well fitted ball forms it's own seal. I have used wads under the ball for lubrication.

Colt, himself, believed that the chain fire was caused from poorly fitted caps. I tend to agree.

kBob
December 31, 2012, 07:42 AM
Not just possible, but in my experience......exciting.

Brass frame Pietta '51/.44 Two extra chambers went off along with the one under the hammer. One ball struck the barrel wedge. No damage to the gun or me.....and I hit the steel plate I was shooting at with the ball under the hammer......I think.

I use bore butter or crisco now.

-kBob

arcticap
December 31, 2012, 07:46 AM
Is the grease really required?

No, not at all.
A lot of folks don't use any grease, wax cookies, wads, OP cards or filler.
Civil War soldiers weren't taught to apply grease the way many do today.
I use thin over powder cards but that's totally up to the individual and to each their own.
The cylinder pin of many Remingtons becomes sticky after shooting several cylinders which tends to bind up the action. That's where applying some lubrication is a good idea to help keep it moving freely.
It's debatable whether or not lubricating the chambers spreads any lube to the Remington's cylinder pin. Some folks say that it does, but I don't know if that amount alone is enough to keep it running without applying more lube directly to it.
I usually don't put any lube in the chambers but after the first 18 shots my cylinder pin needs to be lubed every time it's reloaded.
Every gun is different as is the residue that's created by the different brands of powder.
And the amount and types of chamber lubes that folks use also varies greatly. Some simply place a drop or two of vegetable oil into the crease between the ball and the chamber wall which then wicks around it. Others only use a small dab of grease around the top of each ball, or only lube 2 or 3 chambers per cylinder. While some totally fill their chambers to the brim with lube.

Pulp
December 31, 2012, 08:09 AM
I've had a few with an old Remington I used to own, I finally traced it back to a cracked nipple. The shoulder had broken off of one side.

I've also had some with Colt's, and that was due to undersized balls.

I subscribe to the Crisco or Bore Butter over the ball theory, although I recently made some felt wads to try. We'll see how they work out. I think my first batch is a bit soft, as I can squeeze lube out of them with my fingers.

Then I had one that I'm not sure what happened. It was after dark, I pulled the trigger, there was a HUGE boom, and the only thing I had left in my hand was the grip. I actually think the arbor pin failed.

Foto Joe
December 31, 2012, 09:16 AM
Don't sweat the grease too much. I've been a long time crisco user but it depends upon the weather. If you're using the proper size balls and your caps fit without pinching them the likelyhood of a chainfire is minimal at best.

If you'd like to perform a little experiment simply grease the chambers as suggested then fire "one" round and inspect the face of the cylinder. You'll find that the majority of the grease/crisco is now everywhere except where you put it. It does keep the fouling soft but I think that the main reason the manufacturer recommends it is liability.

PRM
December 31, 2012, 09:23 AM
Colt, himself, believed that the chain fire was caused from poorly fitted caps. I tend to agree. - StrawHat

Couldn't agree more. Never had one in over 35 years of shooting C&Bs - but, I've always been very careful in my loading/loading components.

72coupe
December 31, 2012, 10:27 AM
My last chain fire was in 1968. I always use Bore Butter or a wad, usually both.

Bluehawk
December 31, 2012, 11:26 AM
Believe it or not , the US Army did their testing of the Colt BP pistols during their trials using only two of the Colt revolvers. Shooting 1,200 rounds per day between the two guns, using no lubricant over the chambers, without any tear-down cleaning until the end of each day. Neither revolver ever chain fired, mis-fired, or broke down!
Colt himself used to demonstrate the air tight seal of his revolver system at shows by loading and capping a revolver then placing it in a bucket of water...giving a speech for several minutes...then pulling the gun out..and firing it!

Patocazador
December 31, 2012, 11:26 AM
Why take a chance????

SleazyRider
December 31, 2012, 11:52 AM
I've long suspected that many chain fires occur because of sloppy loading technique, that is, spilling powder in the nooks and crannies of the cylinder and frame, and even into adjacent chambers that have already been charged and loaded. This sets the stage for a little pyrotechnics display outside the combustion area and possibly into adjacent holes. I can't see any other way that a spark could find its way past a properly fitted ball.

If I had the means---that is, time and lots of money---I'd love to set up an experiment to prove definitively at which end of the cylinder the problem occurs. My suspicions are, in order of likelihood, 1. poorly fitting caps and/or defective nipples; 2. errant black powder caused by careless loading; and 3. combustion gases sneaking by the balls. My modus operandi has always been to protect against all three, but I sure would like to know based upon careful research and experimentation.

TwoEyedJack
December 31, 2012, 01:50 PM
Thanks for the inputs. From what I can tell, it seems that as long as the ball is tight and shaves a ring of lead, the probability of burning gunpowder getting past it is slim. I will make sure those caps are tight before lighting anything off.

arcticap
December 31, 2012, 02:48 PM
Whether using any extra chain fire protection or not, always keep both hands behind the cylinder and wear eye protection. :)

BHP FAN
December 31, 2012, 05:26 PM
My brother was of the tight ball shaves a ring don't need lube school, until his first [and last] chain fire. smartened him up, quick. I had my lesson back in 1976.

TwoEyedJack
December 31, 2012, 05:37 PM
My brother was of the tight ball shaves a ring don't need lube school, until his first [and last] chain fire. smartened him up, quick. I had my lesson back in 1976.
How did he know that it ignited from the front instead of through a loose nipple?

robhof
December 31, 2012, 06:49 PM
I had my 1st chainfire a few months back, been playing with B/p pistols on and off for 50+yrs and was truely surprised til I saw the unpoped cap on the table I was shooting over. It had fallen off and the open cylinder was the chainfire. I have always used lubed wads under the balls and grease over bullets. The one nipple fits the #11's loose unlike the others that are tight fits. It has since been replaced and I spend extra time makin sure the caps are on tight. The chainfire can come from either end, so why take chances. A little extra care results in a safer and more enjoyable shooting session. My 1st shook me up and even when I knew the cause, my range day was over. It was with my ROA and no damage was detected except a smear of lead on the top edge of the ram pocket on the Lt side. Some 4 O steel wool: and lead solvent cleaned it up nicely and it's shooting fine.:what::confused:

Jim K
December 31, 2012, 08:51 PM
Civil War soldiers didn't use any bullet lubricant (not even Crisco!). They loaded their revolvers with cartridges and that provided a more than adequate seal.

Since the army used loose balls and powder only in an emergency, I am reasonably sure that the testing mentioned by Bluehawk also used cartridges.

Jim

rcmodel
December 31, 2012, 09:02 PM
Somebody thought a chain fire was possible.

Ever wonder why Colt & Remington percussion revolvers had those nicely scalloped bullet deflector cuts in the frame in front of the bottom three chambers??

They didn't do that just for the looks of it I betcha.

Cause they stopped doing it as soon as cartridge revolvers came along.

rc

Pancho
December 31, 2012, 11:16 PM
I personally believe that if one uses the proper sized ball and gets a good complete shave ring when the ball is loaded that chain fires are almost always caused at the nipple side of the cylinder.
The three things I do to prevent chain fires:
1. Proper fitting caps. I will not tolerate a cap that must be pinched.
2. Lubricated wad. I use it mostly for lubrication not as a sealant.
3. Oversized ball. With my .36cal. they recommend .375 but I use .380.
All that being said, If anyone doubts the need to be careful just take your gun out at night and fire it. You will crap your pants when you see the fireball engulfing your pistol and hand.

SleazyRider
December 31, 2012, 11:34 PM
1. Proper fitting caps. I will not tolerate a cap that must be pinched. ...
You will crap your pants when you see the fireball engulfing your pistol and hand.

On several of my BP revolvers, I have custom-fitted the nipples to the caps using a collet chuck on the metal lathe. You'd be surprised the difference a few thousandths makes when it comes to fitting a cap. If the cap fits too tightly, it seems that there's no "anvil" effect produced by the hammer, and when the hammer falls it merely pounds the cap deeper onto the nipple without firing. Sometimes it takes two or three strikes to seat the cap before it ignites. Oftentimes a weak mainspring is blamed, but I believe that more often than not it is a too tightly fitting cap. And, as we discussed, a loosely fitting cap is an accident waiting to happen.

I believe I'll try that fireball experiment at night, and I will dress accordingly.

Bluehawk
January 1, 2013, 04:33 AM
JimK said:
Since the army used loose balls and powder only in an emergency, I am reasonably sure that the testing mentioned by Bluehawk also used cartridges.

I'm guessing you're referring to paper cartridges so I'll have to go back and look at the Army trials report to see if it's specified. I do know when Sam Colt demonstrated his revolvers soaked in a water bucket that they were loaded with loose powder and ball.
I would think though that if paper cartridges were used they would be more prone to catch fire as the paper was nitrated and would have a lower ignition temperature than black powder. I don't know if the animal skin cartridges were treated with pot nitrate or which chemical, if any, they used. Foil cartridges also were available at one time but I don't know if the military used those.

Bluehawk
January 1, 2013, 04:38 AM
rcmodel said:
Ever wonder why Colt & Remington percussion revolvers had those nicely scalloped bullet deflector cuts in the frame in front of the bottom three chambers??
They didn't do that just for the looks of it I betcha.

Are ya referring to the loading port to allow sufficient space for RB's and conicals??

mykeal
January 1, 2013, 07:18 AM
a spark could find its way past a properly fitted ball.
It's not 'sparks' that cause chain fires, it's hot combustion gas. And that CAN leak past a poorly fitting ball OR cap.

Foto Joe
January 1, 2013, 08:46 AM
I think what we need to keep in mind here is that chain-fires do happen, not often but they do happen. Our beloved Italian Repro's are NOT Colts or Remingtons and as such their machining tolerances and final fitment may not be on par with a Rolex watch. The chambers may or may not be all perfectly round, in line with the forcing cone or even straight for that matter. I've got one gun that consistantly gives me "one" flyer for every cylinder, me thinks that there's a chamber on that particular gun that probably snuck past the QC guy while he had a plate of pasta on his lap.

Although what we shoot aren't for the most part originals the design does allow for the errant chain-fire. There is indeed room for the escaping gases and projectile to escape long before critical pressure builds in an out of battery ignition. But as Arcticap stated, 'tis recommended that you keep valuable body parts out of the line of fire and protect your eye balls when sending one of those little round lead balls down range to kill a piece of printer paper, golf ball or what ever evil is at the receiving end of the gun.

farmer7
January 1, 2013, 03:53 PM
I believe I'll try that fireball experiment at night, and I will dress accordingly.


http://i1161.photobucket.com/albums/q504/farmer77777/d29c1999.jpg

That's my Rem in the dark! Loaded with a full charge of pyrodex (50 grains).

44 Dave
January 1, 2013, 04:01 PM
Why is the hammer back, from blow back through the nipple or recoil?

brushhippie
January 1, 2013, 04:31 PM
Dang 50 grains is alot for a 58.

farmer7
January 1, 2013, 06:55 PM
The hammer is back as it is a long exposure photo. Open the shutter , fire the flash to capture the pistol and then fire the pistol to capture the discharge and then close the shutter. So the exposure of the pistol is actually a second or so before firing the pistol. Hence the hammer being cocked.

As for 50 grains I normally use about 24 grains, 50 was just for maximum effect!
I have read that most BP pistols are safe to fire with a full cylinder of powder, although it is totally inefficient, inaccurate and would cause premature wear. Please correct me if that is wrong. What is the general opinion?

Hellgate
January 1, 2013, 07:12 PM
Pyrodex-P is very spongy (compressible). I've never done it but wondered if you could fill the chamber to the mouth and ram a ball down far enough to clear the barrel. Is that how you got the 50gr (by volume I suppose)?

brushhippie
January 1, 2013, 07:14 PM
No Sir, the way I understand it they test them to three times recommended pressures, I dont think you could damage it, I meant it was just a big ol load, I didnt know that much would fit!

farmer7
January 1, 2013, 07:25 PM
Ah ok, thanks for that! Thought I'd maybe done something super dangerous!

Yes that's how I did it. I measured 50 grains, was just short of filling to the brim, maybe 1mm short, then rammed the ball on top. Just checked my notes, got me 1171 fps.
And yes measured by volume.

Hellgate
January 1, 2013, 07:33 PM
With the exception of the Walker Colt with 777, I have always believed after having read it multiple times in older BP publications that you cannot overload a C&B revolver. If you put a heavier, longer hunk of lead into the chamber you will have less room for powder. I've shot double ball loads in my 36s all the time but can only get about 10 or 15 grs powder under them. I've inadvertenly over loaded my Colts and couldn't get the ball deep enough to clear so I'd just knock the gun apart, rotate the bulging chamber around to full cock aligned with the barrel, replace the barrel & wedge, cap and shoot it out. Whittling lead was never my fine point.

brushhippie
January 1, 2013, 07:36 PM
Damn thats awesome fast! The only way Ive heard of blowing up a BP revolver is to overload a conversion cylinder, I just dont think you can overload one, what doesnt burn up just comes out the muzzle, now in a Colt you can stretch it and damage the barrel behind the wedge.

44 Dave
January 1, 2013, 09:03 PM
I have had chain fires on a couple occasions, only when not lubed over bullet.
I had a mold that threw balls that didn't leave that little ring of lead.
In my situation the powder was burning"backwards" and was more of an inconvenience and mess of smoke.

44 Dave
January 1, 2013, 09:05 PM
I have had chain fires on a couple occasions, only when not lubed over bullet.
I had a mold that threw balls that didn't leave that little ring of lead.
In my situation the powder was burning"backwards" and was more of an inconvenience and mess of smoke.
I don't have that mold any more

raa-7
January 1, 2013, 10:15 PM
I havent had it happen to me,knock knock,I use the wads I make myself,but I do keep a small tub of crisco with me if I use an increased load just to be on the safe side,but I can,t see it happening if I get that good shaved lead ring.If you feel the need to use it then use it right ? I guess they didnt have time for all that in the wars.Could you imagine You have guys shooting at you and you have a small tub of crisco or whatever in your hand trying to smear some in the chambers !Your buddy next to you just might shoot you instead :p:D:eek: :uhoh: I know I'm tired now! good night. -ron-

BHP FAN
January 1, 2013, 10:27 PM
I think they did have chain fires. It would be OK, even desirable as long as the revolver was pointed North.

Jaymo
January 2, 2013, 07:55 PM
I use wads under the ball and grease over the ball. That way, I get the softening of the fouling via the grease, and the scrubbing action of the felt wads.

I have a theory that the over-ball grease keeps the cylinder from binding up because it prevents the ingression of powder fouling between cylinder and axis pin.

Jim K
January 2, 2013, 08:27 PM
During the Civil War, they used cartridges, made of paper, foil, and skin. with foil being the least common.

The quantities were considerable. The U.S. arsenals alone produced over 40,500,000 rounds of .44 Colt revolver cartridges, not counting the millions more made by contractors or included in the purchase of revolvers requiring a different size than the Colt. I have read one firearms historian who says revolvers were not much used in that war; I really wonder who was doing all that shooting!

Jim

Driftwood Johnson
January 2, 2013, 09:49 PM
No Sir, the way I understand it they test them to three times recommended pressures, I dont think you could damage it, I meant it was just a big ol load, I didnt know that much would fit!

Howdy

I am not sure how percussion revolvers are proofed, but I can tell you that depending on the cartridge, SAAMI spec for proof cartridges runs between 30% and 50% higher than the maximum published pressure. No where near 3 times the max pressure.

Regarding chain fires, yes they are absolutely possible, although I have not had one for over 40 years. Back when I first started shooting C&B it was standard practice to glob some Crisco over the ball in each chamber. Wonder Wads had not been invented yet. I can tell you that if you have a malformed ball, that has a dent deep enough that a void is left against the chamber when the ball is seated, that is a prescription for a chain fire. Call it what you will, sparks or hot gasses, if you leave a pathway to the powder charge you are asking for trouble.

Frankly, I never had much faith in Crisco preventing a chain fire. On a hot summer day the blast melted the Crisco in the next chamber to the one at battery. I thin runny layer of melted Crisco is not much of a spark stopper. 1/8" or so of felt is a much better spark arrestor. Once I discovered Wonder Wads I never globbed Crisco over a ball again. 1/8" of felt will stop an errant spark or hot gas much better.

BHP FAN
January 3, 2013, 01:58 AM
...and as Jaymo pointed out, the wad helps with the fouling. in my opinion, they actually help clean the gun, and at any rate, there is no reason not to use Wonder Wads, or make your own from felt. You can also use the gasket material card wads from Buffalo Bro.s meant for reloading the .45-70 cartridge, and a ''grease cookie'' [bee's wax Crisco and bore butter] The point is, there's a lot of ways to do it, and no reason not to.

SleazyRider
January 3, 2013, 04:51 PM
This thread has caused me to re-think the role of the cap and nipple in chain fires. Upon close examination of my Pietta nipples, I noticed that the tapered cone on most of the nipples had a slight flat on one or two sides, obviously an extension of the flats machined deliberately to engage the nipple wrench. But the flats really shouldn't extend onto the cone, says me. I tried to photograph this apparent "defect" but it was too small for me to capture. It is certainly possible---maybe probable---that the flats will preclude the cap from making a tight seal on the nipple, allowing it to discharge past the nipple on ignition as well compromising its ability to seal out combustion gases from adjacent chambers.

So I chucked each nipple in the lathe and, setting the compound rest at 5 degrees, recut the nipples to eliminate the flat, and to better fit a Remington #10 cap. I just fired off 6 test caps and the ignition was 100% reliable even with my (intentionally weakened) mainspring.

So, to summarize, I have concluded that:

1. If the cap is too tight on the nipple, ignition will not be reliable because the hammer has to perform the double-duty of pushing the cap deeper onto the nipple and firing it as well. This could take two, three, or even more tries before the cap goes bang.

2. The nipple cone should be free of any defects such as flats or out-of-round conditions that would prevent a tight seal. This could allow hot gases to enter the chamber from the area around the nipple.

3. I will never discharge my black powder revolver while pumping gas into my car.

This is probably not news to most of you, but it was an "ah-ha" moment for yours truly. The photographs contained in this thread were a real eye-opener!

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