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Old February 22, 2008, 01:24 PM   #1
berkmberk1
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BP wads over or under ball?

This sounded strange to me at first, but then...I wonder....would it be practical? I was reading the loading instructions for my Traditions C&B pistol, an 1851 Navy. It went thru the whole process and at the end said to place a wad over the ball. I thought I had always read about putting the wad between the charge and the ball. The more I think about it, wouldn't this be a faster, less messy way of sealing a chamber than glopping a bunch of grease over the end?
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Old February 22, 2008, 04:47 PM   #2
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Wad goes under the ball. Yeah, it's faster and easier but also more expensive.
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Old February 22, 2008, 06:45 PM   #3
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Hi Hawg.

Like I said, that's what I heard. Still, it seems to me that a lubed wad over the ball would work just as well and be easier. It would still protect from chain fires, it would still lube the bore.......it would also look weird......, but I believe it would still work. One consideration though would be wad fit. If it fell out then, there you are! Still, all in all, there are some who use no wad at all!
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Old February 22, 2008, 08:42 PM   #4
long rider
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I read this piece in the muzzle blast mag, and it
was describeing the pitfalls of chain fire in the civil war
with cap and ball pistols. Most chain fires came from
lose fitting percussion caps, so chain fire does not
always come from the cylinder side.
Amazing what you can discover when you dig deep.
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Old February 22, 2008, 09:24 PM   #5
Hawg Haggen
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Quote:
Most chain fires came from
lose fitting percussion caps
I can tell you from personal experience that that's B.S. for the most part. Not saying it can't happen but I've fired heavy loads with full cylinders and only capping one at a time leaving the rest of the nipples completely open, no chains.
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Old February 22, 2008, 09:25 PM   #6
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The lubed felt wad was intended to be placed between the ball and the powder. It will not be fully effective in keeping fouling soft if loaded on top of the ball. There are two reasons:
1) the compression of the wad against the ball during initial combustion and then as the pressure wave pushes the ball down the barrel against friction serves to liquify the lube material and force it out of the wad, and
2) the combustion by-products (fouling) exist behind the ball (hopefully NOT in front of it) and are in immediate contact with the lube material; thus as they are deposited along the wall of the bore they are already in a modified condition. There is no risk of the ball wiping the lube away before it can act on the fouling material.

As for the anecdotes about 'most' of the chain fires initiating from the back of the cylinder, all that reflects is that for a certain period of time a certain group of people were either more careless about their cap placement or caps/nipples went through a period of interface failure. A chain fire is not a probabilistic event - it will occur when there is an open path between a flame face and the powder. The probability becomes a part of the issue only when one is more likely to be careless about sealing one end of the cylinder over the other.

A chain fire CAN be initiated at either end. Pay attention to BOTH ends.
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Old February 22, 2008, 09:44 PM   #7
long rider
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I was only passing on info that i read in this magazine,
true or false, just passing on info, it might be b.s.
I have shot cap and ball for a good 15 years and never
had a chain fire.
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Old February 22, 2008, 10:48 PM   #8
Hawg Haggen
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Quote:
I have shot cap and ball for a good 15 years and never
had a chain fire.
Quote:
The probability becomes a part of the issue only when one is more likely to be careless about sealing one end of the cylinder over the other.
I bought my first one when I was 12. That was 39 years ago. I had chainfires galore. My pistol took #9 caps and all I could find were #11. Even pinching them they didn't fit well and frequently one or more would come off under recoil. Oh yeah, I was using over 45 grs. of powder and no lube. The chains stopped when I figured out to put a drop of oil on the front of the balls. I never had another chainfire with it after that. Recently I've been hearring that chains come from the nipple end so being the adventerous Darwin seeker that I am I loaded the old girl back up with 40 grs. and left all the nipples open and fired them one at a time, no chainfires. I then loaded her back up and capped all the nipples but used no lube or wads. She fired off three chambers the first time and two more the second time. Now this gun is 39 years old and maybe the chambers aren't perfectly round but as long as I use a wad or over ball lube she will not chainfire. No way, no how.
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Old February 23, 2008, 12:25 AM   #9
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Quote:
The lubed felt wad was intended to be placed between the ball and the powder. It will not be fully effective in keeping fouling soft if loaded on top of the ball.
If the wad is improperly placed if it is in front of the ball, then what about those who post that they don't use a wad at all! Some say they grease the chamber mouths and some don't grease at all! If all these variations do not have a measurable effect on the immediate performance of the piece then it would stand to reason that putting the wad in last would at least keep foreign matter out and probably help protect against flash over at least to an extent, at least better than no seal at all.

As for lubrication, it seems to me, from my study, the use of components like grease and treated wads is more related to modern shooting practices than when the arms were first used. I may be mistaken, but I'm pretty sure soldiers carrying an 1851, 1858, or 1860 didn't normally carry a bag of Wonder Wads or a can of Crisco on their person.

But getting back to my original observation....I find it curious that the distributor would put the loading instructions in that order. (Yup! just re-read it. "13. Fill each chamber with grease seal or Revolver Wonder Wad.")
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Old February 23, 2008, 12:45 AM   #10
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Quote:
As for lubrication, it seems to me, from my study, the use of components like grease and treated wads is more related to modern shooting practices than when the arms were first used. I may be mistaken, but I'm pretty sure soldiers carrying an 1851, 1858, or 1860 didn't normally carry a bag of Wonder Wads or a can of Crisco on their person
Colt in their literature said not to use wads. Safety is a bigger issue today than it was back then. There have been guns found that were loaded way back when that still had a waxy substance on top of the balls. General Lee's .36 Colt was one. I have two modern repros that I have fired without wads or lube and they didn't chainfire but some kind of lube is needed to keep fouling soft.
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Old February 23, 2008, 07:42 PM   #11
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I use a dry felt wad with a lubed Lee mold slug. gets me somewhat tighter groups and is cleaner shooting. I make my felts with a hand punch. they are expensive but good to use IMO.
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Old February 23, 2008, 08:58 PM   #12
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I've had my share of chain fires, & maybe a few were from the nipple end but I'm 100% sure that a many were from the front when I didn't use any grease infront of the ball or a wad behind.

Now a days I use mostly Balls for my C&B revolvers with an occasional conical "too much $$$ in my opinion with the amount that I put through em," but I keep a lubed wad behind that ball & so far I've yet to have a chain fire in almost 20 years.
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Old February 26, 2008, 07:15 PM   #13
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After shooting my Navy for the first time (first BP ever) I will acknowledge that at least putting a wad over the powder makes reloading more efficient (you can put it down if you have to). I would still contend that a wad over the ball would serve the purpose of lube and flash protection........it just makes more sense overall to powder, wad, ball.....
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Old September 21, 2008, 11:00 PM   #14
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I'm brand new to this forum, but an old hand at BP shooting. I started with cap 'n ball revolvers in 1970 and like them better than modern fire arms.

Several observations regarding the wad/grease/tight ball/ chain fire issue. First, some sort of grease over the cylinder is the current best and most accepted prevent measure regarding chain fires. That being said, there are other considerations.

First, history. Back in the Civil War these revolvers were rarely loaded with loose powder and ball. They used combustable paper cartridges. That's what I use today, and I roll 'em myself. I cast my own bullets using the Lee .450 double groove mold. I treat cigarette paper with potassium nitrate and roll them into tapered cartridges, closing the bottom of the cartridge over the end of the rolling dowel with a fold and a dab of Elmers white glue, load in .30 of fffg, melt bees wax into the grooves, and use the residual wax on the bullet to attach the cartridge to the base ring. I trim off the excess with a razor blade. This is exactly how the originals were made more or less. There is (was) no provision for a wad between the slug and the charge. So, what did they do in the field? Depended on the situation. If the shooter got himself into a reload situation he probably dispensed with the grease step and depended upon the tightness of the bullet and the wax in the grooves to protect against chain fires. If it was General Lee riding about on Traveler, rarely if ever actually shooting the weapon, the weapon was handed to an orderly who reloaded it, and probably added some axle grease or tallow to seal the chambers. Truth is, most were not sealed with anything other than the wax in the grooves.

But, like everyone else these days, I do use loose powder once in a while, I load with both a loader or the guns own ram, I carry extra cylinders in my belt, I use round ball if it's all I have, and I even use conversion cylinders with .44-40 cartridges, sometimes both, sometimes all of this stuff! I use Crisco, 3 in 1 oil, grease, patch lube, depending on what I have. However, I have never put a wad between the load and the bullet, but when I use the combustable cartridges I have used a Cabellas pistol wad on top of the bullet. I get pretty good groups, dependability, and cleaner firing.

I did get a chain fire once, back in '77. It came from a cap falling off a nipple. I had a bad batch of caps, many were falling off, and I got careless and tried to use 'em anyhow. This chain fire came in spite of the cylinders being crisco'd over, during a NSSA match, and caused a great deal of concern, finger pointing, shouting, accusiations, an investigation a few weeks later, and ultimately my leaving the event early! That was before I started using paper cartridges.

It takes time to roll and assemble cartridges, but I have lots of time these days. Hell, I used to roll 'em at work while waiting for customers to come in!

Short answer, wads on top won't hurt, but there ain't any prevent for what carelessness might cause.

Harry
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Old September 23, 2008, 08:34 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by 60's Refugee
some sort of grease over the cylinder is the current best and most accepted prevent measure regarding chain fires.
Nope. There's certainly a debate, and that's one position, but I cannot agree that it's THE BEST or even THE MOST ACCEPTED method.

The plasma envelopes the cylinder. That's simply a fact; there are plenty of pictures showing that to be the case. Any opening at either end is an opportunity (I did NOT say guarantee) for a chain fire to occur. THE BEST method is to ensure that both ends are sealed: properly fitting caps combined with properly fitting projectiles, wads and/or grease.
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Old September 23, 2008, 10:36 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally posted by MYKEAL
Nope. There's certainly a debate, and that's one position, but I cannot agree that it's THE BEST or even THE MOST ACCEPTED method.
+1. FME lubed wads & properly fitting caps work best - and are not near as messy.
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Old September 23, 2008, 01:41 PM   #17
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I agree with Mykeal ... and know for a fact that a chain fire can occur from either end of a cylinder. And I'd try to explain it to the disbelievers but it would do no good. You gotta waite and expiriance it yourself(y'all must be from Missouri)

For shootin' conicals dry with Zig Zags yeah like it was done sorta, but not as accurate as a Round ball with a Lube Pill behind sittin' atop fffg Black Powder? No it ain't, I been there and done it.

Crisco...use it if you want it works, hope you don't live in the Desert. May as well lube just the first chamber, cause after you fire the first shot the Crisco is gone, did 30 yrs. ago before I learned of Beeswax and Parafin, tallow or Olive/Soy Oil.

Wooly wads you use um I hate um...prefer to shoot naked than use wool wads lube or not. Lube Pills or Grease Cookies as called in the old days work best...shoot all day no binding , soft fouling , improved accuracy...the whole Ball a Wax so to speak.

You can call these facts my opinion, but all ya gotta do is try what I typed.
Just remember a smokin' gun will give the facts...HeeHee!

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Old September 23, 2008, 02:29 PM   #18
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wads

The debate continues.
I shoot a .36 New Police. Have shot it for years. Load powder, wad, ball. No grease. No chain fires yet.
I know that Cfs happen. I understand the problem at the percussion cap end. What's the mechanism at the open cylinder end? Seems to me that if I load a ball that shaves a ring of lead, I have pretty well sealed the cylinder. Putting a wad between the ball and powder just adds to the seal. Or not?
Pete

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Old September 23, 2008, 10:33 PM   #19
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Putting grease over the chamber IS the most commonly given instruction. Hell, practically every loading video on line says to do it. I was told to do it back in the day. But, it is only after you shoot a while that you begin to hear about other methods. Just watch Cabella's video for an example. But, as my previous post suggests, there is a time for everything. I teach my students to grease the cylinders. I show them conical bullets, but offer them round ball bullets to actually fire. I don't even mention paper cartridges. In time they may try loading something different after doing an investigation on their own, but as a beginner they need to learn the safety basics. It has only been in the last 20 years or so that I first began to see wads being used to any great extent. That's when I started to use them.

darkgael is right about tight bullets being a seal, and I think that historically this kept the chambers safe enough.

Harry
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Old September 24, 2008, 02:37 AM   #20
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Quote:
What's the mechanism at the open cylinder end.
IMO the Failure Mech. at front of cyl. would be crevises in the ball... molding voids if you will. Or an undersized ball/oversized chamber.
Most critics and testers agree 90% of chain fire come from the rear...jus' can't be proven they are random mishaps no evidence left to prove anything, that's why they call happenings like this an accidental discharge. Most guys can relate to that.

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Old September 24, 2008, 04:10 AM   #21
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My experience has been completely the opposite. I've tried to get a chain fire from the rear but never could do it. I can get one from the front tho.
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Old September 24, 2008, 05:08 AM   #22
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LoL! Hawg!!! Like anything else in life if you try too hard it never fails that it won't happen. In a relaxed unexpected situation with a lube pill in it's proper place the rear will open up with multiple explostions and there you have it a chainfire from the rear. Purely accidental can't be reproduced...otherwise we'd have a cure...the bandaid is be careful and pay attention. And it can still happen.

Good One Hawg...HeeHee!

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Old September 24, 2008, 05:43 AM   #23
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Ch. Fr.

Hawg: "I can get one from the front tho."
I'm assuming that you were trying to do so. What did you do to cause the chain fire from the front? What were the conditions? I'm not going to try but I sure am interested.
Pete
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Old September 24, 2008, 10:43 AM   #24
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Well, the ONLY chain fire I ever had came from a missing cap. Go figure!

Harry
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Old September 24, 2008, 11:28 AM   #25
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I do not shoot a CB any longer, but I did extensively in the early 70's and we would always put powder in cylinder and Corn Meal over that then seat the ball. The corn meal would almost ensure no chain fire would occur. This would also keep the ball from being seated too deeply in the cylinder. We would place grease, all purpose auto, over the RB. Worked well and never had a CF.

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