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Why I Do Not Use My Finger/Thumb To Seat The Cap

Discussion in 'Blackpowder' started by Black Duck Charlie, Mar 13, 2012.

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  1. Black Duck Charlie

    Black Duck Charlie Member

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    I have been reading through some of the threads here, and there is one recurring bit of advice I keep seeing: To seat the cap on the nipple by using your fingers or thumb. I am ok with placing the cap on the nipple with my bare fingers -- but 100% against seating it that way.

    A couple of days ago, before joining this forum, I came across the reason I refuse to use my bare finger/thumb to seat a cap:
    http://www.cascity.com/forumhall/index.php/topic,1620.0.html
    This has even been linked to here in this forum:
    http://www.thehighroad.org/showpost.php?p=7220032&postcount=7

    Being new to the entire C&B scene, I stupidly used my thumb to seat the caps the very first time, and after reading the linked thread over at cascity.com, I realized I was extremely lucky -- because a few of those caps sort of "snapped" into place due to the nipples being slightly deformed. Even on my brand-new C&B gun, the caps have seated with a sort of "click", as though they actually did lock onto the nipple; my guess is that the caps weren't on straight to begin with, and it took a bit more pressure to seat them.

    While it may be true that modern percussion caps require actual percussion to fire, this should be more than enough to show that sometimes it takes very little actual percussion to get a cap to fire. It's why I will always use a capper or stick to seat the caps on my percussion guns.
     
  2. drsfmd

    drsfmd Member

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    Interesting, I never gave it much thought before. I guess I should actually start using that capper I carry in my possibles bag!
     
  3. jphendren

    jphendren Member

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    WOW! I have always used my fingers to cap; I did not know it was dangerous. How did the boys in the 19th century do it? Did they have a capping tool?

    Jared
     
  4. arcticap

    arcticap Member

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    The Impact Sensitivity of Lead Styphnate

    A previous search for some kind of objective measurement of the impact sensitivity of modern percussion caps turned up this:

     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2012
  5. TomADC

    TomADC Member

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    Wonder where junkman01 is he claims this is impossible.:uhoh:
     
  6. mykeal

    mykeal Member

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    junkman_01 did a test and claims it did not detonate the cap; I believe he used contemporary caps using lead styphanate. A gentleman who goes by the name of Cuts Crooked on another forum claims to have detonated one with his thumb back in 1986. This is the only instance I'm aware of; perhaps the cap he used was an earlier design using one of the mercury fulminate materials instead of today's more stable ones.

    There are literally tens of thousands of black powder shooters who use their thumbs routinely to place (and 'seat') caps on nipples; the number of instances that this has been done since 1986 must be in the tens of millions.

    I'm not say it didn't happen. But it sure seems to me that if this was as dangerous as some here would have us believe that it would have happened a lot more often, and there would be some significant internet record of it. Look at the number of 'chain fire' incidents, for example. But, when I ask the question, the only case presented is the one involving Cuts Crooked.

    So, I gotta go with the scientific, rather than the anecdotal, evidence. You (the universal 'you') are certainly allowed to make up your own mind.

    The stability of lead styphanate, the 'explosive' material used in today's caps, is well understood and documented.
     
  7. TomADC

    TomADC Member

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    I should have added I'm a thumber also.
    Just curious as to Junkmans take on this..
     
  8. Ryanxia

    Ryanxia Member

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    And if you drive a car there is a chance you could end up in a car accident.

    Life isn't bubble wrapped for us :)
     
  9. BCRider

    BCRider Member

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    I'm highly interested in the outcome of this thread. However I'm inclined to go with mykeal's post that the occurances of this are rare in the extreme.

    I'd also question the advantage in using a capper since most are used with our hands wrapped around the body of the capper. One cap going off at the end along with the jet of hot gasses from the chamber that fires is going to blast back into the capper body and subject the caps to not only the heat but also the shock. If I had to make a choice I'd rather that "only" my thumb be in harm's way than my whole hand. Each cap by itself may not have a lot of explosive power but anywhere from 40 to 100 of them? I don't see good things from that at all.

    For my part I'll continue to wear my fairly heavy leather left hand glove to hold the revolver while capping, to keep my hands clear of the forward end of the cylinder "just in case" and to use a nice long softwood stick to seat the primers.
     
  10. Phantom Captain

    Phantom Captain Member

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    Been capping with my thumb my whole life. Not really worried about it.

    In fact the data that arcticap posted is pretty conclusive and definitive in my opinion. I like science. ;)

    To each their own but I'll keep doing it the way I've been.
     
  11. J-Bar

    J-Bar Member

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    Most cowboy action shooters who compete with cap and ball revolvers use a tool to ensure that the cap is seated down on the nipple as far as it will go. I get the cap placed onto the nipple with my Tedd Cash snail capper, then slide the cap further down as far as it will go with a little wooden dowel. Others use a bit of horn, etc. Factory strength hammer springs probably make that last little scoot unnecessary, but some of us use guns with lightened hammer springs (faster and easier to cock during competition, don't you know). If the cap is not seated all the way down, sometimes we get a failure to fire, and have to cycle the dern thing around again!

    Which is a long explanation for why I don't use my thumb to seat a cap on a nipple.

    Most CAS clubs have a specific rule forbidding use of the hammer to seat a cap (demonstrably dangerous, since an ignition under the hammer produces a full force projectile). An ignition with the nipple in the loading position will be loud and scary, but the ball will exit the chamber at very low velocity...a much more desirable kind of accidental discharge, if you will, compared to an AD with the ball going down the barrel.
     
  12. Black Duck Charlie

    Black Duck Charlie Member

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    Science says that the chances of lightning striking twice in the same place are extremely low, too, yet it has also been proven that lightning will strike hundreds of times in the same place under the right conditions. I'm not going to deliberately put myself in a situation where there is an increased chance that I might get hit by lightning.

    I don't have any real control over whether something breaks while driving my car, or the actions of other drivers -- or even whether the guy next to me on the firing line does something truly stupid and dangerous -- but I do have full control over my own actions while loading/using my firearms.
     
  13. arcticap

    arcticap Member

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    I use my thumb especially when using #11 caps that need to be squeezed first in order to fit snug.
    The human flesh covering the thumb acts as padding which is sensitive enough to not exceed the threshold necessary to set off the cap.
    There's a big difference between the hard impact of a hammer hit and pushing the cap with the padded portion of the thumb.
    What I won't do is to use the toy ring caps which were reported by 2 THR members to have produced 2 accidental discharges do to their increased sensitivity.
    That's much more of a concern to me than the possibility of a modern percussion cap going off due to seating it with one's thumb.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2012
  14. mykeal

    mykeal Member

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    BDC - Science doesn't say anything about lightning striking the same place twice - that's an old wives tale.

    Look, you don't need to justify your preferred method of capping a nipple. If that's what you want to do, fine. Hey, I always wear the same shirt when my team plays ball. People still buy lottery tickets despite ludicrous odds against winning. But the fact is there just aren't very many reported incidents of seating a modern percussion cap causing an inadvertent ignition, whether someone was using a thumb, a stick or a capper.
     
  15. Skinny 1950

    Skinny 1950 Member

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    I have mentioned that using the toy caps resulted in a discharge out the side of my 1851 Navy,it hurt my thumb a bit and I am glad the gun was pointed downrange but I have no idea where the ball went. After that incident I am very careful when capping using proper caps but I don't expect them to go off using just my thumb to seat them. If they are seated using a metal tool of some sort I imagine the chances of a discharge are increased.
    As mentioned if there were a significant risk of discharge when using proper caps there would be more reported cases and even warnings printed on the packaging.
     
  16. Noz

    Noz Member

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    If I had to cap using my fingers I would be shooting cartridges. Not out of fear but simply because I have a great deal of difficulty manuvering those little pieces of brass. I use a Ted Cash snail capper and a small piece of unicorn horn to push them tight.
     
  17. dogrunner

    dogrunner Member

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    Keith mentions a C&B discharging while he was seating a cap. Stated it raised a huge blood blister on his thumb...,,,,,,,,,,Check his book "Sixguns".
     
  18. CraigC
    • Contributing Member

    CraigC Member

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    Life is risky, you could die from it! The most dangerous thing most people do is drive to work in the morning. There is a greater chance of dying in a fatal crash than literally anything else the average person does in the average day. The odds are small but not non-existent. Yet people do it every day without a second thought. So the notion of worrying myself to death about detonating a cartridge cap while seating it with my fingers, because one guy did it nearly 30yrs ago, is one of the silliest things I've heard in a long time. Sorry but life is too short to waste it worrying about such foolishness.
     
  19. FreddyKruger

    FreddyKruger Member

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    i think i might see if i can get my capper to work right. i thought "a cap going off wont be much to worry about" but i totally didnt realise there would be a chamber of BP going off as well...
     
  20. Foto Joe

    Foto Joe Member

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    Any of us who has been reloading cartridges for a while have probably had at least "one" primer go off unintentionally on us in a press, it happens and it's definitely a wake up call when it does. If we're lucky (I was) only one goes off, if not, the whole mess goes off at once. It hasn't happened to me but I've seen the results and it'll give you a whole new respect for those large pistol primers.

    Having said that: BCRider beat me to the punch. I'd rather have one go off instead of an entire capper full of the little bombs in my hand.

    On the other hand (no pun intended;)), the likelyhood of an unintentional ignition of a percussion cap being seated either by hand or by capper is beyond small. We have no knowledge of exactly "how" this happened to Cuts Crooked twenty five years ago. Was there a foreign body in the cap, i.e. a grain of sand or even a flake of errant Black Powder? Had he pinched the cap and unseated the compound in the cap accidentally? Nobody knows, not even him.

    Mykeal brings up the point which we need to keep in mind, "if this was as dangerous as some here would have us believe that it would have happened a lot more often, and there would be some significant internet record of it. Look at the number of 'chain fire' incidents, for example."

    Common sense tells us that capping a CB gun is inherently a dangerous task, as such I'm sure that the majority of us take it seriously and keep the business end of the cylinder pointed at something we don't value including not wrapping your "off" hand around the cylinder while performing the task.

    Personally I can't stand "hand capping" a gun. My size 15 fingers don't deal well with #10 caps or even the #11's. Since I haven't been aflicted with the Remmie disease like some, my snail cappers work fine on repros of Sams finest guns.

    Let's not make a mountain out of a mole hill here, can caps go off when you don't want 'em to? Probably. Is it more likely that they won't go off when you do want them to? Yes, that's an expontentially higher likelyhood.
     
  21. Black Duck Charlie

    Black Duck Charlie Member

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    Look, I'm not trying to tell anyone that they have to use anything other than their thumb or finger to seat or place caps, but it does seem that some here are trying to tell me that I am being foolish because I want to save my thumb from ending up looking "kind of like a peeled banana, only black" (Cuts Crooked's description of his own thumb).

    There are warnings printed on the packages. On the inside of the lid of the Winchester Magnum #11s I have, which were purchased less than one month ago, it says "Warning: To avoid serious injury/death: Store in this container only, in cool, dry place. Do NOT subject to impact, friction, heat, flame, static electricity or mishandling. USE shooting glasses and hearing protection."(the ALL-CAPS is on the package)

    If there is so little actual chance that these caps might fire just from being put on the nipple, why the warning at all? And the bit about REPORTED incidents: That's the point, there are not many REPORTED incidents. It doesn't mean they do not happen.
     
  22. Busyhands94

    Busyhands94 Member

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    Just an FYI guys, do NOT use toy caps in your percussion guns. Although they are cheap and plentiful they are so dang easy to set off it's scary. The sensitivity is many times more than just a percussion cap, it's very dangerous.

    I once had my NAA companion go off from using toy caps as the primers, I was putting the cylinder in (I was in my room, going out to the shop to shoot) and I had three chambers discharge due to the gun being loaded with toy caps. It scared my mom pretty bad, it made me jump. I'm a jumpy guy, kinda paranoid sometimes. But stuff exploding is one of those things that makes me cringe. Using toy caps to ignite blackpowder is a dreadful habit. Don't do it!

    ~Levi
     
  23. TomADC

    TomADC Member

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    That's a result of todays mentality, sort of like putting a warning on an electric hair dryer telling you not to use it in the shower or while taking a bath.

    Don't get me wrong the warnings are there for a purpose.
     
  24. Phantom Captain

    Phantom Captain Member

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    Black Duck Charlie said:

    As an aside, and all that being said, don't you find it MOST interesting what is NOT printed in the warning? There is no mention at all about capping with your fingers or only using a capping device. Certainly that must tell us something by omission alone.
     
  25. arcticap

    arcticap Member

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    Last edited: Mar 15, 2012
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