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Civil War "high caliber, long range" pistol


Subdeacon Joe

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Which brings me to another question. I have lots of questions. No answers, but lots questions.

 

Back in the day, when I played at the Civil War Skirmish thingy, My side gun was an 1858 New Army Remington.

I was told that when loading with black powder, that the ball should be covered with lube (tallow) to insure against chain fires in the cylinder. I subsequently read articles that claimed that the chain fire was caused by flame entering through the nipples on the five adjoining chambers.

 

So I have to ask:

1. Are chain fires a reality in a cap and ball revolver or some myth conjured up to frighten new

shooters and children?

2. Has anyone ever witnessed such an event?

3. And what would be your opinion of the cause?

 

I can understand the need for the lubricant over the ball, to keep everything functioning, but as a deterrent to chain fires, not so much. With a tight fit on the lead ball, I do not see how flame could get around the lead. And I sure don't see it entering the powder charge through the nipple hole with a cap on it.

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I have had a chain fire in an 1860 colts army. I was using some store bought thin red lubricated discs between the ball and the powder and I guess that wasn't sufficient. Not all chambers went off but to the best off my recollection (WHICH IS SOMETIMES QUESTIONABLE) 2 or 3 did.

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Thanks for your information, Charlie. Do you reckon the chain fire was caused by the flames going around the ball? Wow, that would be something. I have seen slow motion photos of the flames and they are impressive, but I never realized that they would slide around a tight fitting ball. Interesting to say the least. Maybe that lube job is important after all. Thanks

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I've had a chain fire - the ones on each side of the one under the hammer. And seen two others.

 

I agree that with a tight fitting ball there SHOULDN'T be a problem from that end, I don't see how the flame could get back around and under the caps. Even with some flame coming back through the nipple, I have problems seeing how it could set off other chambers.

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I witnessed a chain fire just this past Saturday. The shooter was trying cap and ball for the first time. I was standing about 3 feet away spotting and on first round from first revolver the whole thing went off!! The shooter was using under sized balls (and is now stuck with the nickname Small Balls) and no lube or disk. Luckily neither he or anyone else was hurt and the gun survived intact as well.

Bucky

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Well, that hawglaig of mine does not shave lead off the ball, but it is a tight fit. IIRC I would shoot .451 dia. balls with around 28 grains of BP and a lube. After the first shot, the lube was all over the place. That is not surprising with the flames coming out around the cylinder.

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I use a .457 round ball just because it DOES shave lead every time. The only chain fire I ever experienced was when I used some ill fitting caps that would fall of under recoil. It fired the chamber behind the one under the hammer. No real damage occured but it sure was loud and it left a little lead on the top edge of the wedge on my '60 as it went by!! :rolleyes:

 

Properly fitted caps and good tight projectiles will most likely keep it from ever happening again.

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Have not had nor seen a chainfire. But my pard "Slipshot Pur Cussin" saw some have all six go off. I also had lube dripping all over the place. . . and cured that but putting a wad over the lube. The wads are from "Circle Fly" and I bought 'em for use under bullets in loading .45-70 rounds. I split them into three very thin wads and they work great on top of the lube.

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Never had one, never seen one. If you had an imperfection in a chamber from pitting or somesuch, or if you had wrinkled balls (HA! I said it!), I suppose you could experience a chain fire.

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BMC

 

I run .454 s in the BP pistols , yes they shave lead , plus I put a wad in between the powder and ball , If I am gonna leave em loaded for the day , I will grease the front of the cyl .

Only do this during hunting season , I have yet to have to dispach a critter , after shooting it with a BP rifle

 

CB

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Chain fires can occur from either end. I've had a few, once when using some .440 balls that I picked up by mistake, and a few with an old '58. Couldn't figger that out for the longest, then finally saw that a shoulder on one of the nipples was broken off, exposing the threads.

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Back around 1972 I bought a 1851 Colt navy made in Italy for $44.00. It was in .44 cal. I got some .44 cal balls (don't know what size) and some Black Powder and caps. I loaded up all six chambers and used Crisco for topping off. Put the gun in a holster and walked around looking for something to shoot out in the woods by a dam. It was a very HOT day, and the Crisco musta melted and ran out into the holster. A Coyote came out and wandered too close looking for some water. 25 foot shot..shouldn't be to difficult...I pulled the gun slowly and aimed at the Coyote. KA-BOOM.

 

Coyote dropped DEAD and after the smoke cleared, I looked at the gun. One shot out the barrel, one shot out the side of cylinder and the third one came out the bottom of cylinder, smashing into the ramrod and locking up the gun. Coyote had TWO holes in him. I had to use my pocket knife to pry the lead ball, now flattened into the ramrod, out of the gun. Note to self...use 50-50 beeswax and Crisco next time. It CAN happen. It DID happen.

 

Jake

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This gent is 'protecting' himself with a 1855 Colt Root Sidehammer Revolver. Most were in .28 caliber but a small portion were .31 caliber. This is Colt's first solid-frame pistol. The cylinder pin unscrews and pulls from the rear, near the hammer.

I guesss he heard that he was headed to a 'civil' war and figured he could get by with this tiny gun.

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I've had a chain fire before, Badger.

 

 

Loaded two 1860 Confederate 44 C & B with .451 lead balls. Both pistols shaved off some load when seated. 40 grains of "Holy Black" and lubed fiber wads over the powder.

 

That's where things differ.

 

One pistol I greased the lead balls with real bear grease I rendered myself.

 

The other pistol, nothing.

 

The pistol with no grease over the lead balls had all four rounds go off as I fired the first round.

 

The other pistol with the bear grease fired off all five normally.

 

 

Did the flames get past the lead ball ?

 

Did the flames enter through the nipple hole ?

 

I don't have a clue. All I DO know is , for what ever reason , grease over the lead balls works !

 

 

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This gent is 'protecting' himself with a 1855 Colt Root Sidehammer Revolver. Most were in .28 caliber but a small portion were .31 caliber. This is Colt's first solid-frame pistol. The cylinder pin unscrews and pulls from the rear, near the hammer.

I guesss he heard that he was headed to a 'civil' war and figured he could get by with this tiny gun.

 

For up close and personal, yeah, it should do the job. Got just a little more range than a knife. Not much more, but some.

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I have been shooting mine for over 30 years. Never had a chain fire and never lubed or used any discs. Just powder and ball. My Father told me years ago that a lot of the chain firing was due to bad fitting caps. During recoil a cap that was too loose could move around and go off. That and many people pinch loose caps to make them fit better and this leaves an opening along the side of the cap allowing flame to reach the inside of the cap and set it off. He had been shooting cap and ball since the 1930s and was taught how by HIS grandpa that used them in the war. Not going to find a better teacher than a guy that used them in combat. LOL

 

So it is much more likely that the cap is going off rather than flame reaching powder. Also if it was getting in from the front, the result could well be a blown chamber as powder ignited from the front can double the chamber pressure. It is pretty simple as the least stabile component is the cap so it is the most likely thing to fail due to shock or heat.

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