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BP Defense Gun Question

Discussion in 'Blackpowder' started by KenHulme, Mar 29, 2012.

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  1. KenHulme

    KenHulme Member

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    Short, true story: I live aboard a small boat at a marina. Awhile back I was awakened at 4 AM by an "unauthorized visitor". Not having a firearm, I had to 'repel boarders' with a large knife. It worked, but I never want to go through that again...

    Fast forward a bit. I have acquired a black powder percussion pistol. I can load it without oiled patches, so there is no migration of moisture to the powder charge. Further, I waterproof the nipple/cap junction with a drop of wax. I don't particularly care about the condition of the barrel except from a safety standpoint.

    How long can I reasonably expect to keep the gun in this loaded state before I will need to pull the charge and reload? A week? A month? Longer?
     
  2. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Depends on humidity. IMO, Use oversized balls that leave a small ring shaving is more important than greased patches.

    Somebody living near a coast chime in.
     
  3. fineredmist

    fineredmist Member

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    Why would you want to trust your life and limb to a firearm that may or may not work? If you are concerned about the law then consider the fact that a "non weapon" such as a unloaded cap and ball becomes a real weapon once it is capable of being fired. Buy a real gun for personal protection and use the cap and ball for enjoyment.
     
  4. KenHulme

    KenHulme Member

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    FRM- our ancestors trusted their lives and limbs to just such weapons for hundreds of years. It's not a question of weapon vs non-weapon, accountability or anything else; and I'd rather this discussion not get into philosophy.
     
  5. mykeal

    mykeal Member

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    Anyone who really thinks a charged and loaded black powder revolver isn't a dangerous weapon is dangerous themselves. Yes, a modern cartridge handgun would be a better choice on all levels, but to say a black powder revolver isn't a real weapon is simply unrealistic.

    Two points:

    First, the powder and caps will remain viable for years if reasonable protection from humidity is maintained. Seal the chamber mouths and the nipple areas from ambient air. Those are the plain and simple facts. But, there's more, a lot more.

    Which brings me to the second point - if you are going to bet your life on that gun, you better do a whole lot more than load it and keep it dry. I'm constantly amazed at the number of times this question comes up (about every other month on this forum) and the person asking the question completely ignores the question of proficiency with the weapon. Practice. Practice. Practice. It's a simple fact that you cannot be proficient with the gun if all you do is load it and store it away.

    So, the question about how long the gun can remain loaded and still work is moot. It doesn't matter. Since it's necessary for you to frequently (at least weekly) fire the gun in practice to maintain your skills, why worry about how long it can sit without cleaning and reloading?

    Or are you one of those guys who is so good he doesn't need to practice? With the gun he's counting on to save his life.
     
  6. KenHulme

    KenHulme Member

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    I've been maintaining my marksmanship skills for something over 50 years. Weekly practice? I didn't do that when I was as a competitive pistol shooter or in the military. Cops don't shoot weekly either.

    If I can't hit a human at under 15 feet, in the heat of battle, something is really wrong. Did it before, got the bloody uniform to prove it. It's not a question of my skills.

    Gary - oversized balls and over powder wad are both on my list...
     
  7. mykeal

    mykeal Member

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    Yep. Just what I thought.
     
  8. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

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    Howdy

    Well, without getting into the philosophy, there are dozens of recorded stories of old C&B pistols being found in attics after having been stored loaded for 100 years or more. With fresh caps applied, they fired.

    Black Powder can be stored just about forever, as long as it is sealed from moisture, and can be depended on to perform just as well as when it left the factory.

    The question is, really, how well sealed are your charges against moisture in the humid environment you are talking about.

    Frankly, you cannot 100% seal a percussion charge against moisture, no matter how much wax you put on the nipples. It will find a way in. I used to work in the electronics field and we had to hermetically seal the products we made. We knew that given enough time, moisture would find its way in, even though we were welding the units shut.

    If you really want to know how long your charges will remain fresh in the environment you are talking about, the only way to find out is to experiment yourself. Store the gun for a month, then take it out and fire it. See what happens.

    Wild Bill used to practice daily, cleaning his pistols and then reloading them. He was depending on them for his life. If you truly want to trust your life to a Cap & Ball pistol, you probably do not want to leave it loaded for months on end. Take it out and shoot it and see how reliable it is.

    By the way, I would put a felt wad between the ball and the powder for a little bit better seal than the thin ring of lead that gets shaved off when the ball is seated.
     
  9. loose noose

    loose noose Member

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    I believe Florida is pretty humid; at least it was when I was there last. Plus staying on a boat, I would definitely fire and reload at least every other month. I too was a police officer at one time, and involved in several shootings, but mine was with a .45 auto. Good luck with your choice of defense.:scrutiny:
     
  10. $$Midge$$

    $$Midge$$ Member

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    I've used BP for all my life starting at age 6; now 63. I still have my and my Dads double barrel shotguns. My Father kept a BP Pistol loaded in the house (after our house was broken into) as a protection pistol. He loaded it dry patch just like you mentioned; I never saw him do anything special to the nipple or cap. The one thing I do remember is he would fire the weapon on a regular basis during the summer, maybe once a month and the other thing that brought a smile to my face when I read your post. He collected every one of those packets that you get in orders that is desiccant. The little moisture packages that come in so many things. He'd store the gun in a wooden (cigar display box), box with those packets and the packets were in a canvas bag next to the gun. About once a month during the summer or if my Mom baked anything after the oven was turned off he'd toss the bag of descant in the oven and remove it after the oven was cool. I don't remember him ever having to pull a ball from that gun due to fouled powder. Thanks for the memories.
     
  11. Loyalist Dave

    Loyalist Dave Member

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    Gosh, some huge misconceptions...,

    Some facts folks..., black powder weapons were used for centuries for SD. The caplock replaced the flint because it wasn't as reliable as caps. The revolver replaced the single/double barreled pistol, as 5-6 shots were better than 1-2, AND..., cartridge ammunition was developed because..., caplocks weren't as reliable. All of that being true, a caplock revolver is a viable SD tool in some cases, and I know first hand of several men and women living in Washington DC who owned them and used them on their own property for SD prior to the change in the DC gunlaws. Actually they still use them..., as DC really hasn't made it possible yet to own a modern handgun.

    (Since the thread isn't about what I would chose, I won't offer my opinion on the merits of the cap-n-ball vs. a cartridge handgun.)

    Other facts to consider..., police training levels are not a good standard to gauge your own need for, or level of, training. Most LEO are very undertrained in the use of firearms.

    It's fine that one has combat experience, be it Europe, the South Pacific, SE Asia, Central America, or the Middle East. Consider that the weapons used bu US forces were semi-automatics, and folks that went to those conflicts were trained prior to being sent into the field, regardless if they wre novices or had been hunting and shooting since they could walk. Being proficient with a 1911A1 or a newer style pistol may be the same as with a Colt 1861 Army when it comes to accuracy when the trigger is pulled..., it isn't the same when talking about function and clearing jams.

    So you should practice, not just for marksmanship, but to understand the weaknesses of the revolver you have chosen. I have seen novice single action revolver shooters short-cock their revolvers under stress when at a CAS match..., stress is a bit higher, wouldn't you say, when facing an actual intruder? Another example, 20 grains of BP might just "blow" your caps, and blown caps can dislodge and fall into the mechanism, jamming the revolver. 20 grains might not blow your caps, and no worries..., but you don't know until you try it. (I know this from personal experience) Reducing the load by just a few grains can stop blown caps in some cases, while leaving you with a still viable SD load. If the problem continues, and you continue reducing the load, you may find that you need after market nipples on your revolver to keep a proper SD powder load while not blowing caps and risking a jam. Again, how do you know until you test this?

    Also,... Do you need two Colt style revolvers, or do you need one Remington, and one spare cylinder to reload, or are you figuring 6 shots is enough? One famous lawman and shooter of note, Mr. Hickok, carried two Colt Navy revolvers for some reason. It's your choice. If you go for a Remington and a second cylinder, shouldn't you practice swapping out the cylinders?

    In closing, I for one sincerely want you to stay secure, and would much prefer to one day read that you are safe and sound and survived a deadly encounter than to read that your revolver jammed, or misfired, or fired a squib load and your next shot blew up the revolver as the first bullet didn't clear the barrel. I'd think the best way for that good scenario to happen is for you to practice with your chosen handgun.

    LD
     
  12. Coyote Hunter

    Coyote Hunter Member

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    A few years ago I lost everything due to a bad divorce and business decisions. I ended up living at a cabin on a local lake. I was broke and all my guns had been liquidated. Because of tight funds, I went to a local gun store and bought a CVA brass framed .44 navy for $99.00. I had no idea how to even load the thing right, but the salesman sold me a can of BP a tin of nipples and a cheap flask with a 30 gr. nozzel and showed me what to do.

    Now I had been a gun owner for years, but I knew NOTHING about BP guns. I shot that gun until I knew what I was doing and where it hit. It sat on my bedside, was carried to the water when I needed to fish for dinner and in my old beater car when I went to town. I killed an unknown amount of snakes (sorry, don't take the time to see if they bite or not) shot a squirrel for dinner once and became pretty good with it.

    Once a week, if it had not been used, I would det up a target and discharge it to put in fresh powder.

    Now here's the kicker. Years later, I am a BP nut!. Even though I'm back on my feet and use a Glock 22 for CCW, I own several BP rifles and Pistols and .45LC revolvers and rifles. I even reload .45 and 12 ga with BP. In other words, I got hooked on the joy and confidence that old CVA gave me.

    Is it a good defense? With today's guns of course there are better, but if that is all you have or can afford, then 5 or six shots of Cap and Ball are better than nothing. The only thing I found is you may get hooked you on the holy black stuff!

    I can remember the difference between actually having to depend on it, instead of now just shooting for fun. Oiling and cleaning takes on a diffenert meaning when you have one in your hand at 3:00 AM because something is outside your door!
     
  13. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    We're talking about BP on a boat. So what did the Marines of old used to do aboard ship? I'm not sure if their muskets were kept unloaded prior to general quarters, or kept loaded. I'm also not sure what the practice was for clearing out the old loads. But I'm sure that information is around somewhere. Anyone know?
     
  14. SixxshootinSam

    SixxshootinSam Member

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    Hey Ken,
    Don't mind some of the more cranky members here, they post too much for their own good.

    As for your question, I had stored a 'loaded' pietta 1860 (no percussion caps on it, just ball and powder, no wad, no wax on the nipples) 2 years ago in a small box with one of those moisture absorbing packets (the little white packets you get in OTC pill bottles and such).
    I fired it last month and it went off without a problem. I think the packets might have been an important step in keeping the moisture away, but who knows.
     
  15. David E

    David E Member

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    No, they bet their lives on the best gun technology at the time. Many lost that bet.

    Isn't it a question of what would work best should you need a weapon for defense, possibly (probably) against multiple assailants?

    If that's not the real question, then enjoy your quaint choice for defense.
     
  16. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    I don't think that's the question at all--he's asking about keeping the BP viable on a boat.

    I suspect that a "less is more" approach would be best, since the more wax you dribble around the more chance there is of clogging important holes or gumming up the lockwork. But again why not look to what marines did for hundreds of years in much damper conditions.
     
  17. David E

    David E Member

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    I had a BP rifle loaded for only a week 7 days) that took 3 caps to set off.

    Exactly.

    If Ken MUST use a BP firearm, that's one thing, but he hasn't stated being restricted in any way.
     
  18. SixxshootinSam

    SixxshootinSam Member

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    Look David E, I'm just answering the guy's question with my own experience.
    Too bad it took you 3 caps to set yours off after only a week, you obviously did something different than I did.

    If he does not have access to a modern firearm for whatever reason, that's his business. I don't believe the fellow asked for your opinion on what firearm to use, and I am fairly sure he would be aware that there are more reliable ones out there (duh).
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 30, 2012
  19. DoubleDeuce 1

    DoubleDeuce 1 Member

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    Without sounding repetitive...
    First, if you are restricted to a black powder weapon only for defense, that is one thing. If you have only a PISTOL as stated, I would have several. If you have a REVOLVER, that changes things greatly.

    As for sealing the caps and nipples, I would consider using nail polish instead of wax. It would collect less debris than wax over the long run.

    Practice your failure drills on a regular basis. Any handling of the weapon is good training. You don't have to shoot every time to make it training. Also, take into consideration the amount of smoke that will be generated in close quarters, inside the boat.

    If you are not restricted to black powder only, then I would look to a good stainless revolver or semi-auto pistol.:cool:
     
  20. arcticap

    arcticap Member

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    I agree with DoubleDeuce 1 that it sounds like the gun is a percussion pistol and not a revolver.
    A stiff over powder card that will fill the rifling grooves could help to seal any moisture from spoiling the powder charge for a longer period of time.
    Placing a small balloon, a finger cot or a piece of tape over the muzzle could also help to seal it. That's what many hunters do to seal their bore when hunting in cold and inclement weather.
    No one should care what it looks like as long as the gun will fire reliably.
    I hunt deer with a small balloon stretched over the muzzle that's secured with a rubber band. It's just like buying some insurance against a misfire. :)
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2012
  21. Busyhands94

    Busyhands94 Member

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    You aught to get a Remington New Model Army, mine has never had a misfire except for the time I loaded a chamber without powder. You could load it with 40 grains of Triple Seven and have one hell of a hand cannon, that's for sure. Just seal the caps with nail polish, and put some candle wax over the chambers. You should be good to go, I've kept mine loaded for a month before firing, it shot all six chambers without hesitation. I know I've got cartridge guns, but I'd rather have my Remington because I've put over 1000 rounds through it without a misfire.

    Another good choice would be an NAA Super Companion. You can load it with two grains of Bullseye and the 30 grain bullets that North American Arms sells and have a pretty darn good firearm minus the paper trail. The cool thing is that it's reliable and more powerful than the cartridge version, I've actually fired mine underwater with all the chambers going off without hesitation. It's a great little revolver and is built like a Swiss watch! Another great thing about it is that you can load it with percussion caps and .22 airgun pellets for a good parlor load, so you can practice often. If (God forbid) you had to use it in a self defense situation you'd get a nice big fireball out the muzzle, and it's really loud too. It sounds like a .38, it would probably scare off a potential attacker.

    Levi
     
  22. SixxshootinSam

    SixxshootinSam Member

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    Just realized what arcticap said, it probably is a pistol (which in my opinion fires even more reliably since the hammer usually strikes a lot harder than a revolver).
    I have a loaded Kentucky pistol as well sitting in the safe,
    I put these two super magnets on the side that I can barely even get off.
    They are the same size as a cap, so I just slid them on there as a fast access method. Works really well. Something to consider if you don't want your gun capped but have the caps right there with it.
    pic:
     

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  23. BHP FAN

    BHP FAN Member

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    Col. Colt used to charge his revolvers, bee's wax over the caps, and drop them in a tank of water, while extolling the virtues of his revolvers, then take them out of the tank of water, and fire them, regularly as part of his sales exhibitions...of course he also sold laughing gas
    to finance his business. Interesting character.
     
  24. Pyro

    Pyro Member

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    I had a small rubber tube that fit over the nipples. I cut small slices of it, big enough just to cover the leading edge of the cap, covered it in lacquer and pressed it over the cap edges all the way down to the nipples to dry. Shot fine.
     
  25. David E

    David E Member

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    There is a plethora of possibilities as to why it took 3 caps.

    And unless you give him your gun and load it FOR him with the exact same powder, bullets, caps, in the exact same humidity as it was two years ago, then your anecdotal incident is totally moot. You can't guarantee it'll go off next week, much less in two years.

    If the OP has a reason he's choosing BP, we'd sure like to hear it.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 30, 2012
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