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Chain Fire Really Possible?

Discussion in 'Blackpowder' started by TwoEyedJack, Dec 31, 2012.

  1. TwoEyedJack

    TwoEyedJack Well-Known Member

    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?
  2. VA27

    VA27 Well-Known Member

    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.
  3. BHP FAN

    BHP FAN Well-Known Member

    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.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2012
  4. StrawHat

    StrawHat Well-Known Member

    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.
  5. kBob

    kBob Well-Known Member

    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.

  6. arcticap

    arcticap Well-Known Member

    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.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2012
  7. Pulp

    Pulp Well-Known Member

    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.
  8. Foto Joe

    Foto Joe Well-Known Member

    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.
  9. PRM

    PRM Well-Known Member

    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.
  10. 72coupe

    72coupe Well-Known Member

    My last chain fire was in 1968. I always use Bore Butter or a wad, usually both.
  11. Bluehawk

    Bluehawk Well-Known Member

    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!
  12. Patocazador

    Patocazador Well-Known Member

    Why take a chance????
  13. SleazyRider

    SleazyRider Well-Known Member

    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.
  14. TwoEyedJack

    TwoEyedJack Well-Known Member

    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.
  15. arcticap

    arcticap Well-Known Member

    Whether using any extra chain fire protection or not, always keep both hands behind the cylinder and wear eye protection. :)
  16. BHP FAN

    BHP FAN Well-Known Member

    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.
  17. TwoEyedJack

    TwoEyedJack Well-Known Member

    How did he know that it ignited from the front instead of through a loose nipple?
  18. robhof

    robhof Well-Known Member


    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:
  19. Jim K

    Jim K Well-Known Member

    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.

  20. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    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.


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