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How to best use a cap and ball revolver

Discussion in 'Blackpowder' started by Gatofeo, Feb 17, 2004.

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  1. Gatofeo

    Gatofeo Member

    Joined:
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    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 (www.warrenmuzzleloading.com) 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.
    Screwdrivers.
    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.
     
  2. Crownvicman

    Crownvicman Member

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    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.
     
  3. Gatofeo

    Gatofeo Member

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    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.
    Adios!
     
  4. Gatofeo

    Gatofeo Member

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    Location:
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    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 www.durofelt.com.
    Duro-Felt’s address is: No. 6 White Aspen Court, Little Rock, AR, 72212-2032. Telephone: 501-225-2838. Fax: 501-219-9611. Email: DuroF1@aol.com
    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.
     
  5. P95Carry

    P95Carry Moderator Emeritus

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    Gato - wonderful stuff - bravo. :)
     
  6. mec

    mec Member

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    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.
     
  7. S_O_Laban

    S_O_Laban Member

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    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.
     
  8. Gatofeo

    Gatofeo Member

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    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.
     
  9. mainmech48

    mainmech48 Member

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    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.
     
  10. Cap n Ball

    Cap n Ball Member

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    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.
     
  11. Ransom

    Ransom Member

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    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.
     
  12. P95Carry

    P95Carry Moderator Emeritus

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    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.
     
  13. mainmech48

    mainmech48 Member

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    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.
     
  14. Blindmellojelly

    Blindmellojelly Member

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    A REALLY stubborn wedge

    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.
     
  15. Jim K

    Jim K Member

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    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.

    Jim
     
  16. mainmech48

    mainmech48 Member

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    Indiana
    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.
     
  17. Cap n Ball

    Cap n Ball Member

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    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.
     
  18. Gatofeo

    Gatofeo Member

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    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.
     
  19. P95Carry

    P95Carry Moderator Emeritus

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    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!!!
     
  20. FSCJedi

    FSCJedi Member

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  21. Moondoggie

    Moondoggie Member

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    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!
     
  22. grislyatoms

    grislyatoms Member

    Joined:
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    Messages:
    404
    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!
     
  23. Gatofeo

    Gatofeo Member

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    Grislyatoms:
    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 ...
     
  24. FSCJedi

    FSCJedi Member

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    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.
     
  25. mec

    mec Member

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    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.
     
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