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Old June 12, 2010, 02:27 AM   #1
Bill Akins
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No fuss black powder chainfire preventer?

Hi fellas.

I made this little wooden proof of concept piece for an old replica confederate blk pwdr revolver I no longer have. I think it was called a Griswald & Gunnison. It looked like a '51 navy but with a half round barrel. That revolver is long gone but I kept the wooden piece I made. It almost but not quite fits my Pietta replica colt. But it fit good enough for me to take some pics to show you my concept here. The main idea is to be able to load powder and ball without having to use greased felt wads or in the alternative, to have to use grease over the outside of the ball after it is chambered. My idea was to make this piece out of wood first and then later make one out of very hard plastic, just in case it ever failed that would be better than making it out of metal, so the ball could just shatter the plastic and go down the side of the gun rather than be trapped behind a metal disk and blow up the cylinder. Of course there would be nothing that could be done to prevent the very bottom cylinder round from hitting the lower barrel frame either with this chainfire preventer, or if your bottom cylinder hole chainfired without this preventer.

Anyway, I imagined a piece like this with the side facing the cylinder covered with a felt type of material that would be greased and the cylinder would rotate over this greased felt every time the cylinder turned. The tight fitting greased felt would take the place of greased wads or greasing over each seated ball.

I never got past the original wooden proof of concept wooden piece and I never attached any felt to it or made one out of hard plastic, nor did I ever try firing with it. But I just wanted to ask opinions here of the concept and if you think it would work just as well as using greased wads or greasing the ball after seating.

If it did work, it would enable you to load MUCH faster with only having to use powder and ball, and without using any greased felt wads or having to grease over the seated ball.

Here's the pics. (sorry they are a bit blurry from my lousy camera, but hopefully you can tell enough to see the concept). The wood at the very top of the wooden disk broke off from being so thin. But in another one I could make, that thin circle would not even be on the top anyway and the top would be open. I would not be worried about fire coming out of the TOP of the topmost chamber because that would not cause a chainfire anyway. I am just concerned with keeping the flame from the barrel to cylinder gap away from the other cylinders.

What are your opinions? Positive? Negative? Dangerous? Safe if made properly? Tie it to a tree and use a pull string and a less expensive revolver to test it out? I'd like to hear what you think.





It fits over the cylinder pin and the barrel's forcing cone keeps it from rotating and is cut to allow the loading of a ball as regularly and requires no modification to the revolver in any way.








Last edited by Bill Akins; June 12, 2010 at 02:39 AM.
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Old June 12, 2010, 06:38 AM   #2
madcratebuilder
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The chambers should be sealed when you shave that lead ring from the ball when seating. Plus chain fires can come from the cap end of the cylinder. Interesting idea you came up with.
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Old June 12, 2010, 09:40 AM   #3
Bill Akins
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Madcratebuilder wrote: "The chambers should be sealed when you shave that lead ring from the ball when seating. Plus chain fires can come from the cap end of the cylinder. Interesting idea you came up with."



Glad you liked the idea Madcratebuilder. My theory was to make something that would obviate the need for using greased felt wads or grease over the ball. The problem though with the chambers being sealed from the lead ball being squeezed into the chamber is this......

You are right that the ball being squeezed tightly into the chamber SHOULD THEORETICALLY seal against a chain fire from the flame from the barrel cylinder gap setting off another chamber. But what actually happens to create chain fires sometimes is that, a few grains of powder are on the SIDE of the chamber when the ball is rammed and seated, and if just so much as a grain is squeezed on the edge of the ball and exposed, if the flame from the barrel cylinder gap happened to hit that exposed grain, it would set off all the grains behind it causing a chain fire.

Back in the '70's I had bought a Colt Walker repro that came with some caps, balls and a flask of powder at a gunshow. I had no experience with black powder weapons at that time so I asked the seller how to load it. He told me how, but neglected to tell me anything about putting grease over the seated ball. Luckily for some reason I only loaded two balls. I did not use greased felt wads under the balls nor did I put any grease/crisco/vaseline/bullet lube/ect over the balls. I took aim and fired. The first shot went fine. No recoil from the big .44 Colt Walker repro. The next shot just went "snap" and only fired the cap. I held the gun at the ground for a minute in case it was a hang fire. Then I CAREFULLY AT AN ANGLE inspected the chamber that had not fired. The powder and bullet was gone!

My first shot had caused my adjoining chamber to set off at the same time as the first. Luckily that chamber was unobstructed and the bullet just went down the side of the barrel. However, if I had loaded all six chambers it would have been a different story. The bottom most chamber is the one you have to worry about the most in a chain fire since the rest are pretty much unobstructed and the most that will happen is a ball will hit the wedge holding the barrel to the cylinder pin and might do some small damage there but not too much. But that BOTTOM most chamber is directly in line with the frame of the barrel and if a ball hits that, it can destroy your gun and injure you as well.

So my very first shot with a black powder revolver resulted in a chain fire for me and believe me, I never forgot that lesson. Plus the good Lord must have been with me that day and made me for some reason only load two chambers.

What had happened was, a grain or two of powder must have been exposed around the edge of the seated ball, and the barrel to cylinder gap flame from my first cylinder being shot, caught that squeezed between the ball and cylinder wall grain or two and set them off which caused the powder charge behind them to set off too.

Imagine having that happen to you on your very first time ever firing a black powder revolver! I was lucky. I never forgot it though and immediately before firing anymore, I got a book and found out about how to properly load (what the seller did not tell me) and how to put lube over the seated ball to act as a fire barrier to prevent chain fires from the flame of the barrel to cylinder gap setting off an exposed grain on the side of an adjoining cylinder ball.

That same fire barrier of a greased felt wad over the powder, or lube over the ball, is what the greased felt on the back of my chain fire preventive disk would do. At least that's my theory anyway. I haven't tied it down and used a string to set the trigger off to safely try it yet. My wooden disk model was just to see how it would fit. If I made one to actually try firing, it would be a strong plastic disk with a greased felt disk attached to the back of it.

On further reflection, the felt disk on the back of the barrier disk, would probably not survive the first firing since the force of the cutting flame, bits of burning powder and shaved lead would probably destroy the felt disk. Oh well, it was just an idea. Maybe not one of my best Lol.



.

Last edited by Bill Akins; June 12, 2010 at 10:07 AM.
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Old June 12, 2010, 01:03 PM   #4
Hawg
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Speaking as one who's had many chains from my first year of bp shooting a chain does no damage even when all six go off. I never had one with a Colt but have had many from a Remington. The balls have little force because there's no bore pressure. Balls only go a few yards. Even the one at bottom doesn't hurt anything and it comes out directly against ram. I have never seen a chain from the nipple end even tho I've tried to make it happen and couldn't do it. Not saying it couldn't tho. But if it did and your gizmo was in place there would be pressure that wasn't there before. Maybe not much depending on strength of plastic but could possibly be enough to really damage gun and possibly shooter..
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Old June 12, 2010, 02:24 PM   #5
Gator Weiss
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Chain fires dont happen often, but they do happen.

A chain fire is most often caused by hot gasses and burning particles coming out of the muzzle-end of the cylinder and igniting an adjacent chamber. Here are just a few of the reasons why it occurrs.

1. You are more apt to have one occur when the revolver has been fired out, and then reloaded and fired again. There is sticky grease all over everything and particles of new powder can lodge during loading in the sticky grease, lodging between a new ball during seating and the wall of the cylinder. These particles can be very tiny, and they are capable of ignition. After loading, ensure that no powder is stuck to the gun, particularly in the chamber area.


2. It is extremely rare to have one occur from the cap-end of the cylinder, because the caps are metallic and fitting tight onto the nipples. It can happen from the cap-side if you are using too large of a cap, because sometimes oversized caps dont seal air-tight and hot particles or gasses from the ignition next door can conceiveably ignite a neighboring oversized cap. The machining in the cap side of the cylinder makes this difficult, but it can happen.

3. A cracked cylinder is probably the least common cause, but it certainly will cause it to happen, and a cracked cylinder does not always fragment or split open immediately. Sometimes the crack is not visible, and it only opens slightly when under pressure. It can also be more of a tiny hole than a crack, and eventually if not immediately, it will work itself into a fault that will cause visible damage or fragmentation of a cylinder. When you have a chain fire occur, you need to be cognizant of the fact that you could be dealing with a cracked cylinder. Take it serious. Because if the cylinder frags agart like a grenade, someone may be seriously injured, blinded or killed. Isd the cylinder bored perfectly round in each chamber? Is the mouth of any chamber deeply etched, scratched or damaged?

4. Placing an object over the cylinder - be it felt or wood or leather - is dangerous, because it will direct hot gasses and burning particles over the face of the cylinder. That is what we are trying to avoid !!!

5. Make sure that the projectile you are using is of the proper diameter. It must fit correctly into the cylinder, or it could "leak." Make sure the projectile is "round" and not "oval" for obvious reasons. Use only well cast projectiles. It it doesnt look right, it may not seal right.

6. Obviously, you dont need to over-charge the revolver. More pressure makes more problems and more risks. If you want something that makes one hell of a bang, then consider a different handgun. These cap-n-ball revolvers are not magnums and should not be treated as magnums. Treat them right. Keep those charges at the levels that they are supposed to be at.

To further avoid problems, inspect your piece carefully when cleaning it. When firing it, listen to the sound it makes. If the sound changes on a particular chamber, it could indicate something is different about that chamber. Check it out. When you reload your piece, take a moment to wipe the piece free of grease and particles. Remove all fragments of spent caps and wipe back there as well. It will greatly reduce the possibility of the chain fire. Use only the exact projectiles designed for that revolver. Use only the correct cap. Use only the correct powder.

A tiny bit of crisco is all you need. It works well enough and it cleans up well enough. Dont over-grease or all you are doing is making a mess. You dont need wads and wads of grease smeared over the chambers. All you need is just enough to seal. Very, little. Many people over-grease a revolver and when they fire, crap is flying all over the place. You dont need that. You dont necessarily need anything under the ball. Seat that ball right on top of that powder charge, put slight amount of crisco over, and fire the piece. Wipe it down and reload. You should never have any problem.

Last edited by Gator Weiss; June 12, 2010 at 02:32 PM.
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Old June 12, 2010, 02:40 PM   #6
4V50 Gary
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Sorry Gator, but I'll go with Madcratebuilder's explanation. A proper sized ball that, when pressed into the cylinder, will leave a small ring. Being virtually airtight, it should preclude any transfer of sparks between cylinders. I think loose caps is the main culprit.
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Old June 12, 2010, 02:52 PM   #7
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I account for the chain fires I have had in three decades to be cone/cap related... two occasions with dry loaded lead balls of the .457" dia variety with full shaved rings. Two with lube pills atop the powder and a shaved lead ball atop um... I can't prove it to anyone but a nick on cone my 1861 Rem made in 1862 an original duplicated the same chain fire in the same two chambers firing the one chamber adjacent to the chamber with the nicked cone...cap end. Most of the read research and my expiriances indicate the cap end of the cylinder is the more dangerous end to concider in the event of a chain fire if the bullet end of the chambers have been properly sealed by lead or whatever means works best for you...

I like the consept and idea of your pictured device...shows promise and good thinkin' ... good job on makin' it too.
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Old June 12, 2010, 04:14 PM   #8
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I have a 58 Remington I bought new in 69. You can load all six and only cap one chamber at a time and it will not chain no matter how many times you do it. It does shave a ring when loaded but leave off the over ball lube or leave out a wad under the ball and it will chain every time.
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Old June 12, 2010, 05:09 PM   #9
arcticap
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gator Weiss
4. Placing an object over the cylinder - be it felt or wood or leather - is dangerous, because it will direct hot gasses and burning particles over the face of the cylinder. That is what we are trying to avoid !!!
This was what I thought about this chamber shield concept too after initially reading it's description. I would fear that there would always be some amount of gap in the shield in front of each chamber to cause gases to be "jetted" into the loaded chamber.
I'm not sure whether that would occur or not, but the plastic shield would burn away from gas cutting and cause the gap to grow larger and less effective.
But it's still a very interesting concept if there was some way to prove that it could work.

Last edited by arcticap; June 12, 2010 at 06:38 PM.
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Old June 12, 2010, 05:17 PM   #10
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Shaving lead when seating helps accuracy and good pressure. The idea it "should" prevent chain firing is a dangerous concept. There is nothing neat or clean about bp shooting. If you don't want to use wads or grease, hang up the c&b and buy a modern gun.
Somebody who has had many chains is not someone I want to be around when he is handling guns....of any kind.
In 40+ years of muzzle loading shooting, I have witnessed only a few chains and never had one myself. They happen but with care and proper loading they can be (almost) totally prevented. And, they can, and do happen from the back end also.
As to the gadget....dangerous. C&B revolvers are designed to let the balls fly when the revolver chains. You are trying to prevent that. Who knows which way blast and lead can fly with your gadget. If is was a good idea, it would have been invented more than 150 years ago.
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Old June 12, 2010, 06:01 PM   #11
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Good post Gator.

Oly
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Old June 12, 2010, 06:31 PM   #12
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Hawg - curiosity makes me ask - if you leave out the wad and/or the grease on your '58 Remy . . . . . what is your theory on why it chain fires. I know this subjuect could be "beat to death" but I really am curious to hear what you have to say about it. As I read what you said, I would have to assume that the chain fire is coming from the barrel end of the cylinder, not the cone end. I've witnessed a chainfire when a person was shooting "blank" loads, but honestly, have never experienced it in my '51 Navy. Again, if you are shearing off a ring of lead when you load, it seems like the ball is actually a "pressed fit" into the cylinder and there should be no "gaps" for want of a better word. Everybody uses their own load for what works best (measurement wise) so in theory, you may seat your balls deeper/more shallow than the next gentleman. I've never "miked" the ID of my cylinder chambers - is it possible for the ID of the chamber to vary the deeper you go into it towards the cone end? Is it possible for the opening (barrel end) to be a thousandth or so smaller at the opening than say a quarter inch or so deeper towards the cone end? If it is, then you would be actually seating an "undersize ball" it seems like which maybe would allow enough room for hot gasses/flame to set off the adjacent chamber from the barrel end. Just my thoughts on it as I was reading the posts and am curious to hear what you think causes it on your revolver if you don't grease or use a wad. Many thanks!
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Old June 12, 2010, 06:58 PM   #13
Bill Akins
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Gator Weiss, you wrote: "4. Placing an object over the cylinder - be it felt or wood or leather - is dangerous, because it will direct hot gasses and burning particles over the face of the cylinder. That is what we are trying to avoid !!!"

I don't think the flame and hot gases would be directed over the face of the cylinder Gator. Look carefully at the picture below. Notice how the area on the wooden disk where it fits over the forcing cone is chamfered/angled approx at a forward 45 degree angle to allow the forcing cone to completely fill that area of the disk? The hole in the disk is larger than the cylinder hole and is chamfered/angled outward to boot. That means any flame from that fired cylinder would go to the path of least resistance which would be not only through the forcing cone of the barrel, but any flame that wanted to "fan out" and go over the cylinder face would be stopped by the tightly fitting disk and also be inclined to be deflected forward because of the V shaped chamfered angle of the hole of the disk that goes over the forcing cone. Look closely at the pic. See how the chamfered hole in the disk for the top chamber is chamfered/angled outward at about 45 degrees and that same hole is larger than the cylinder hole which not only seals around the cylinder hole, but also via the chamfer directs the gases forward at a chamfered angle AWAY from the cylinder face and its other cylinders? See what I mean Gator?



The main problem I have come to recognize as a flaw in my design thinking, is flame cutting the felt on the back of the disk and blowing it out. If I could somehow get a replacement material for the felt, that would render itself to greasing and be a tight fit against the cylinder face, but unlike the felt be impervious to flame or flame cutting. Perhaps a very high temperature resistant plastic for the disk and some kind of flame and flame cutting impervious material for the felt replacement. Then it might work. I think I'll check around for high temp resistant plastic and a flame/flame cutting impervious fabric material. Then mill one out and strap it down and test it over and over again with a trigger pull string for safety. (But with a cheapo blk pwdr revolver rather than my good one just in case).

I appreciate the opinions fellas. It helps me to think this out.




.

Last edited by Bill Akins; June 12, 2010 at 07:20 PM.
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Old June 12, 2010, 09:32 PM   #14
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Bill, Even if you made your invention out of brass or steel, eventually it would wear (gas cut), to the point of worthlessness and allow gasses to escape and possilbly ignite the adjoining chambers if the balls were't seated well. Unfortunately, being a bit of an inventor, I've found some things have been worked to death, I've spent time reinventing the wheel myself if you know what I mean. Lubed wads are a "new' invention in BP and as far as I can see, state of the art. They don't melt in the heat (or when firing), they don't make your hands and holster a gooey mess and you can make a couple of hundred in a hour...without a mill or lathe. If it ain't broke don't fix it....unless you're of the career military persuasion in which case the saying goes, "If it ain't broke, fix it till it is " LOL!
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Old June 13, 2010, 04:24 AM   #15
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Bedbug I honestly don't know. I bought the gun new when I was 12 and didn't know diddley about them. My first loadings chained out of it. I bought a .451 mold with it and it shaved a thin ring so don't believe chambers are out of round. I use .454 balls now and it will still do it. As long as I lube the balls or use wads it's fine. I can leave all the caps off save one and it wont chain.
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Old June 13, 2010, 04:45 AM   #16
arcticap
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Akins
I don't think the flame and hot gases would be directed over the face of the cylinder Gator. Look carefully at the picture below. Notice how the area on the wooden disk where it fits over the forcing cone is chamfered/angled approx at a forward 45 degree angle to allow the forcing cone to completely fill that area of the disk? The hole in the disk is larger than the cylinder hole and is chamfered/angled outward to boot. That means any flame from that fired cylinder would go to the path of least resistance which would be not only through the forcing cone of the barrel, but any flame that wanted to "fan out" and go over the cylinder face would be stopped by the tightly fitting disk and also be inclined to be deflected forward because of the V shaped chamfered angle of the hole of the disk that goes over the forcing cone. Look closely at the pic. See how the chamfered hole in the disk for the top chamber is chamfered/angled outward at about 45 degrees and that same hole is larger than the cylinder hole which not only seals around the cylinder hole, but also via the chamfer directs the gases forward at a chamfered angle AWAY from the cylinder face and its other cylinders? See what I mean Gator?
Bill, please click on this TFL file photo link below that was posted by RK65 to see the tremendously powerful amount of hot blast and powder flash that emanates from the forcing cone area of an 1860 Colt at the time that it is fired. Because this is a daytime photo, only some of the flame is being seen and not all of the invisible hot gases.

http://thefiringline.com/forums/atta...1&d=1242067224

I really believe that it would be folly to think that the chambers adjacent to the one being fired off are going to be completely sealed off from that powerful blast of hot gases by a shield without any kind of jetting.
Even if there was only a fraction on an inch of gap, the gases are jetting out and would most likely be deflected into the adjacent chambers.
Since these same small gaps in the fit of percussion caps on the nipples have already been know to be able to cause chain fires from the rear, then why try to suppose that the front chambers can be sealed by a part that must allow the cylinder to move past it?
Plus the shield would need to fit and seal every individual gun equally well!

The danger of what will happen to the fully charged ball that was chain fired through the nipple end once it hits a plastic shield is a scary thought. How would you be able to test for what would happen during a chain fire coming from behind without intentionally setting off adjacent chambers that were covered by a shield and then seeing what happens next?
We all know what happens when it's not covered, the ball safely exits. But you would be creating a new more potentially hazardous situation with shards of plastic or lead next to your body that could become shrapnel from the shield failing to contain the ball and powder explosion in a safe manner.

IMO it hasn't been proved in theory or reality that a shield is a viable idea that's worthwhile pursuing. Even if the front chambers could be sealed which I really don't believe that they can be well enough, why would you want to try knowing that there could be a chain fire from behind?
Please don't ignore the fact that chain fires can start from both ends by loose fitting and missing caps due to recoil.

Lastly Bill, you should be aware of the tremendous amount of gas cutting that can occur from the hot gases produced during firing. Since steel can't withstand it indefinitely, what makes you believe that plastic could withstand it?

I respect that you want to continue developing the idea, but understand that you would need to try to intentionally make the shield fail by intentionally firing off adjacent chambers in order to thoroughly test it. If it was really a good idea, then you should be able to sell that idea to a company to develop and test it for you. But I don't think that any company would want the risk of developing it because of the liability of trying to alter the already successful time tested design of a Colt revolver. Why mess with an already successful design? I don't believe that there could be money made with the design and possibly there would be a lot of liability. We had a thread about all of the over powder wads that can be virtually made for free with a homemade punch and household materials.
So much for a "no fuss" chain fire shield.

http://thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=411414

Last edited by arcticap; June 13, 2010 at 01:03 PM.
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Old June 13, 2010, 08:39 PM   #17
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Hawg - thanks for your reply! That's a "head scratcher" for sure and I guess it just goes to show that each one is an animal unto itself. I've never had a chain fire - I've never used the cream of wheat treatment but have always used a felt wad under the ball and then greased the chamber end with a stiffer mix of crisco and beeswax. I guess there are a lot of "theories" on the cause but when it comes right down to it, who really knows? If you leave your loaded chambers uncapped and it doesn't do it, I would think that it would be a safe call that it is happening on the barrel end of the cylinder. I'd really like to read some documented accounts of the 1860s & 70s to know how much of a problem chain fires were for the original users. I know from several "relic" pistols that I have had the opportunity to examine that were still loaded that greasing the end of the chambers was a common practice. However, I still wonder if they were as prone to it with the use of a nitrated combustible cartridge . . . . . but I guess that might have to wait until I make it to the "great beyond" where I can ask them in person. Thanks - I appreciate you comments Hawg!
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Old June 15, 2010, 11:28 AM   #18
Gator Weiss
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4V50 Gary, were that the case, no one would be greasing revolvers

4V50GARY POSTED: Sorry Gator, but I'll go with Madcratebuilder's explanation. A proper sized ball that, when pressed into the cylinder, will leave a small ring. Being virtually airtight, it should preclude any transfer of sparks between cylinders. I think loose caps is the main culprit.


GATOR POSTS: Hey Gary, we grease a revolver on the business end and not the cap end. There is a reason that it is greased at the business end, and that would be to prevent chain fires. Your comment on loose caps certainly would be true. Loose caps can cause chain fires and there is no doubt about that. It has happened before.

As for me, I think I want to continue to grease the business end of my revolver cylinder.

Hope to meet you someday

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Old June 19, 2010, 01:23 AM   #19
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On another forum, we had a long talk on the subject of chain firing. We ended up taking a poll. In almost all cases the chain firing occurred on the first cylinder full for the day. In a lot of those instances the folks that had the chain firing did not first snap a cap on each nipple to burn off any oil. We checked a lot of guns that use powder, ball, lube(Crisco) and found a lot of times the lube got burned away after a couple of shots but goes unnoticed because the whole cylinder normally gets shot at one time.
The general consensus was that a chain fire could occur at either the nipples or end of the cylinder but the nipple area was the most likely, that loose fitting caps or caps getting knocked off, etc were a problem. It was a surprise to me because I thought ALL chain firings happened at the cylinder end and from loose fitting balls or failure to use wads or lube over the ball.
So... for those that have had a chain firing, share what happened. How many other cylinders went off, how did you load the gun, etc.
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