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Stuck Minie Ball 150 years old...

Discussion in 'Blackpowder' started by VaTechDude, Jul 17, 2017.

  1. VaTechDude

    VaTechDude Member

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    So I recently purchased an original Springfield 1863 percussion cap. I've heard of them coming loaded from who knows when, so I checked mine when I got it. Sure enough, there's AT LEAST one charge and bullet in there. When comparing how much extra room the ramrod should go down, it seems that there is a double charge or double ball or both down there.

    So I got a bullet puller and screwed it in. It didn't strip out of the bullet, it stripped out of my (admittedly low quality) ramrod. So that go stuck down there too... So I took it to the gunsmith. He then got HIS homemade attachment he's been using for a decade in a half down there too. He left me with the option of taking it home or letting him pull the breech plug and possibly breaking it and requiring replacement. That leaves me with the price of the special wrench he would order, plus possibly a breech plug replacement and his time. So I took it home.

    I tried a CO2 discharger, it didn't budge anything down there, and it broke the part where you screw in the tip from the built up pressure.

    TLDR: Can I take the nipple off and put some powder in at the bottom and shoot it out if I seat everything for sure at the bottom? All old powder has been neutralized with oil. I am concerned about ruining my piece of Civil War history as well as my face.
     
  2. Cooldill

    Cooldill Member

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    Oh yeah? How do you know?

    Some have had luck using a grease gun to pump out whatever's down there.
     
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  3. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Do a search here on hydraulics.
     
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  4. Gemmer

    Gemmer Member

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    As suggested above, grease gun and a Zerk fitting. Messy but safe and effective.
     
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  5. Ephraim Kibbey

    Ephraim Kibbey Member

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    I do NOT recommend shooting it out but if you choose to do so, do NOT fire it while holding it.

    Some have test fired with the gun wedged securely in an old tire and a VERY long string attached to the barrel.

    Even so the shrapnel from the destroyed piece of history can be deadly for a long distance.

    The local constabulary may also take a dim view of the explosion of such a valuable "pipe bomb!"

    Pulling the breech plug seems like a reasonable alternative if you do not want a loaded gun hanging on your wall.
     
  6. Malamute

    Malamute Member

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    Something else to consider, your assumed diagnosis of whats in the barrel may be wrong, it may have been intentionally plugged ages ago to make it safe. It may have molten lead poured into it. Pulling the breechplug is probably the safest thing to do to figure out whats happening. The grease/hydraulic thing may work, but,...if it was poured with lead, that isnt likely to get pushed out when it conformed to the flash channel and powder chamber parts of the barrel (do those type have a powder chamber area?).

    If it has been loaded for ages, the barrel may be rusted or pitted in the area the powder is in. You have no idea how it was cared for before being left loaded or plugged. Keith mentioned percussion revolvers that were rusted through between chambers and would fire more than one chamber when shot. Shooting it out or hydraulically pushing it out may potentially be problematic if the chamber area has rusted to thin spots. Pulling the breechplug seems the least potentially problematic.

    I, also, wouldnt try shooting out a blockage in an unknown antique gun, even if it was yours. Breech plug costs how much? You bought an antique wild card. There probably isnt a perfect way to clear it. Pick one and jump in. Live with whatever happens. Move on. They made more if it gets ruined, just choose the least likely way to ruin it if thats the fate of that gun.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017
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  7. Jenrick

    Jenrick Member

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    You can always buy another piece of Civil War history.....

    Did you buy it as a shooter or a as a piece of memorabilia? If it's the first, then absolutely have the barrel plug removed. It's the only way to verify that the rifle is safe and shootable with what you are describing. Getting the plug refitted wont be that hard for a good gunsmith. Additionally if you really are planning on shooting it a lot, a modern barrel is probably a better option anyway. If it's for memorabilia, then I'd recommend JB welding the flash hole shut (or something similar that doesn't generate heat) and enjoy your wall hanger.

    Trying to shoot out a potential double charge doesn't seem like a good idea if you want to leave the barrel in one piece. Hydraulically pushing it all out would be my preferred choice if you aren't willing to have the breech plug removed. If you are dead set on shooting it out, dismount the barrel, and secure it to something nice and heavy. Then use either a fuse or a trail of black powder to set off the charge you crammed in there. Make sure you are COMPLETELY behind cover. If you have to see what's happening, setup your phone or a GoPro or something.

    -Jenrick
     
  8. LUCKYDAWG13

    LUCKYDAWG13 Member

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    I was just gifted a 1863 / 64 Springfield too I also have something stuck in my barrel I took the barrel out off the stock
    and have soaking in penetrating oil right now I plan to try and remove breach plug in a week or so I would like to restore
    the rifle if I can
     
  9. VaTechDude

    VaTechDude Member

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    So I am currently taking the advice to take a grease gun and remove it with that. I'm waiting for the grease fitting to come in the mail (5/16" X 24), all I could find locally was drive ins and not screw ins. I will let you know how it goes
    I do not know what condition yours is in, but mine was all sorts of rusted up. I just got the nipple off and that was an adventure. Some penetrating oil inside (not sure how much it helped, we'll get to that in a second), then I took a quarter inch socket, put it in some vice grips, and put the square end over it and really got some leverage. It was very stubborn, but it came off after a lot of work. I actually just got a combination tool for that gun (reproduction of original) in the mail, and while I appreciate the nipple wrench now when screwing it back on, it wouldn't have gotten it off then. The flash channel and flash hole were absolutely filled with rust, entirely blocking any connection to the barrel. I had to scrape it out with a thin screw driver and I even took a drill and gently removed the rust. It's obvious when it stops being rust and starts hitting steel, so I knew I wasn't doing damage.

    When I had it at the gunsmith, he warned me that there's a 50 percent change the breech plug snaps off when pulled. I already tried, penetrating oil and all, and it wouldn't budge. I also do not have a barrel vice though, and wasn't about to go that far in what could be a destructive idea. The nipple I soaked in vinegar, scrubbed with a steel brush (to remove rust, not to shine), and then ran pipe cleaners through to clean it. A few times of screwing it in and out and the threads are cleaned out in the (I think it's called?) drum.
     
  10. Curator

    Curator Member

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    5/16X24 thread Zerk fittings are available at most auto parts stores.Simply screw it into the nipple mortice and pump high pressure grease into the barrel. It is not exactly easy, but do-able.You may need to alomost stand on you grease gun to get the projectile/charge to move. In the end it is quite safe and unlikely to damage the barrel. Cleaning the grease out of the barrel is easy compared to clearing it..
     
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  11. whughett

    whughett Member

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    Interesting post. I've taken advantage of the "watch" feature for the first time . Staying tuned for further developments.
     
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  12. J-Bar

    J-Bar Member

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    Could one pour some Ed's Red down the bore and let it soak for a few days before trying the high pressure grease method? Don't see how it could hurt, might help.
     
  13. Sunray

    Sunray Member

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    An original 1863 Springfield is far too valuable to be shooting at all, but especially with totally unknown stuff in the barrel.
    "...soaked in vinegar..." That'll strip the finish off entirely and might eat some of the rust. I'd almost bet the breech plug has become one with the barrel over time. As in rusted into the threads. Suspect you need to stand the breech in a bucket of rust solvent( like Naval Jelly) and fill the barrel with it and leave it for a few days. Don't think I'd let your current smithy at it at all. Guy sounds like a weapons tech. If it doesn't work, get a bigger hammer type.
     
  14. VaTechDude

    VaTechDude Member

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    I soaked only the nipple in vinegar when I got it out (well also the internal lock workings). Vinegar and rust chemically reacts to transform the rust into iron acetate, which comes off then with some gently brushing. These parts were definitely not blued so there was no finish to take off. There is definitely still patina on it too. I'm just going for a cleaning of rust and grime, not original armory bright. However, when I did take the barrel out, the front third of the bottom of the barrel was still armory bright! There was also a definite thin rust streak through it where you can see that a tiny trickle of water ran down there, I'm thinking from being carried on shoulder when marching in the rain. That was a cool surprise to see.

    As far as my gunsmith... yeah I wondered about it. He was also exceedingly rude and took 2 months to start work on my rifle so I wasn't too impressed.
     
  15. noelf2

    noelf2 Member

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    Are you in VA? Who's your smith? If you go to a competent smithy on antique guns, you wait. I've waited a year before.
     
  16. VaTechDude

    VaTechDude Member

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    I'm in MD, he does a bit of everything. I was told latest it will be out of the shop in 4 weeks... but anyway

    I got my grease fitting today. It was working briefly and then stopped accepting grease, instead shooting it out the sides of the top of the fitting. I read that is due to the ball not seating right usually due to dirt, etc. I'm ordering a HANDFUL more, so that if any more fail I have a backup. Hopefully here by Friday
     
  17. LUCKYDAWG13

    LUCKYDAWG13 Member

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    Did you get the breach plug out yet I still have mine soaking in Kroil I will need to use a easy out to remove the nipple
     
  18. VaTechDude

    VaTechDude Member

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    I stopped attempting to pull the breech plug. If I can remove the obstruction, whatever it is, with grease, I have no reason to pull the breach plug, nor do I really want to go through the pain of doing so.

    Interestingly the nipple came off *fairly* easily after clamping a vice grip to a socket and using the square end to grip the nipple. Coming up with this solution took some time, but when finally done I struggled for about 30 seconds and felt it stubbornly turning. Now that it's cleaned up I can screw it in by hand

    Another little project I was working on for this gun was unfreezing the swivel joints. The barrel band one is easier because I can't remove the top most screw on the trigger guard. I soaked the swivel joint on the barrel band in PB Blaster (one notch down from Kroil I've heard) for a week, then with two vice grips very tightly (and with cardboard over it as to not mar the steel) clamped the ring part to a 1X4, then used a pry bar for tacks and dug into the wood, flat side against the band. Slowly started moving, so I ran it a few times through its range of motion, and after a few times of soaking and running it through its range, it's pretty free, no damage done at all. I mean I was going to happy if it didn't work, but thought I would try, and it succeeded
     
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  19. loose noose

    loose noose Member

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    VaTechDude, I've been reading, and very interested in your quest to clear your 1863 Springfield please keep us informed of your progress. I cleared an old Kentucky (Lancaster) Rifle that had been converted to percussion, quite few years ago, the difference was that once I got the nipple out, I just opened up the area that goes into the barrel with a pick, placed a little black powder into the barrel, no more than 5-10 grains, and used a musket cap, and let her go. You might note I didn't have any idea what the gun was worth at the time. BTW I did secure the gun to a bunch of old tires and used a cord to pull the trigger. To make a long story short the rifle discharged and cleared the barrel, but the cleanup was next to impossible. According to the ramrod (after market) it did have a charge left in the barrel, but it would not discharge due to the corrosion built up around, and inside the nipple, the additional powder I administered, seemed to touch off the charge that was still in the barrel. Like I said originally I am interested in seeing what the outcome of your Springfield has.
     
  20. loose noose

    loose noose Member

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    BTW the wrist of the stock was held together by Duct Tape, and the forearm was cracked in several places if I remember right.
     
  21. LUCKYDAWG13

    LUCKYDAWG13 Member

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    well i tried to remove the nipple on my 1863 wont budge back to soaking in Kroil
     
  22. VaTechDude

    VaTechDude Member

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    They tend to be very stubborn. If need be I'd suggest scoring with a knife right around the edge of the nipple and the drum. This should help open up a path for the kroil to work into. If done carefully you can usually avoid leaving permanent marks and just "cutting through" the rust that formed bonding the two pieces together.

    As an update I should be getting my pile of grease fittings tomorrow. I live right outside of Baltimore, MD and am picking them up from a Grainger warehouse downtown. I am really hoping that my fitting was just bad/dirty and the new ones work (I am not familiar with grease guns so I am going based off of advice I read on the internet as for why it didn't work)
     
  23. HB

    HB Member

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    The only time I tried the grease gun, I had similar results to you. Basically grease starts oozing past the tiny gap around the drum and fitting.
     
  24. VaTechDude

    VaTechDude Member

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    Okay tried the grease fittings that are supposed to be good up to 8000 PSI, same results... even tried a new coupler.

    Possibly looking into getting the breech plug removed now.
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2017
  25. VaTechDude

    VaTechDude Member

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    Okay so my vice grips fit pretty well on the breech plug. I'm working on setting up a rig for this. I don't have a barrel vice so I'm making a temporary one. I have a 30" cheat bar for the vice grips(really just a steel pipe that fits perfectly over, but all the same).

    I've heard of new CVAs and Hawkins plugs being threaded in such a way they aren't meant to come out and it breaks the gun. I don't believe they did this back then... if anyone has information on this please advice
     

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