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Old May 4, 2009, 10:48 AM   #1
CaptainCrossman
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carrying spare cylinders-dangerous ?

much is said about the soldiers and civilians back in the 1800's carrying loaded spare cylinders for the cap-ball pistols, but this raises a safety question:

did they carry the cylinders capped, or just loaded with powder/ball ?

it just sounds dangerous to carry spare loaded cylinders on your belt, or in your pocket, with caps on them- one hit and "bang" the cylinder acts like a gun, and can shoot the person carrying it- I've loaded up spare cylinders, but never capped them- just looks too dangerous to me

I guess a lot of time was saved just carrying the cylinder loaded with powder/ball, and capping it when put in the gun ? Or was this a risk they took in battle to get reloaded quickly ?

any opinions welcome
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Old May 4, 2009, 11:43 AM   #2
Chris_B
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Might be a case for carrying additional loaded revolvers , assuming you had the choice

Unless you were carrying an 1858 Remington for example in the Civil War, then it would be a little inconvenient to swap out cylinders, it seems to me
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Old May 4, 2009, 12:43 PM   #3
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Remington changes out quickly, but so will a Colt if the wedge is heat treated/hardened forged steel, or stainless steel- most stuck wedges are due to the wedge being soft and deforming

my concern would be, fumbling with a loaded/capped cylinder during battle, and dropping it caps down on the ground, and it hitting a rock and discharging- or falling with a cylinder on one's belt, and discharging it

ouch
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Old May 4, 2009, 12:49 PM   #4
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It was much more common to carry spare revolvers than spare charged cylinders. They are in fact a danger.

However, discharging a chamber when not in battery, whether the cylinder was installed or not, is not as dangerous as when the chamber is in battery. The presence of the barrel makes a great deal of difference. Being hit with a round from a chamber that was not in battery is not pleasant, but it's rarely a significant injury; the ball simply doesn't achieve the velocity, and thus the energy, as on that's fired through the barrel.
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Old May 4, 2009, 12:50 PM   #5
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Quote:
carrying spare cylinders-dangerous ?
Only if they're made of brass.
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Old May 4, 2009, 01:11 PM   #6
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most stuck wedges are due to the wedge being soft and deformingmost stuck wedges are due to the wedge being soft and deforming
That's it. I'm going to a copper wedge.
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Old May 4, 2009, 03:53 PM   #7
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I was thinking about this, just the other day, and haven't reached a decision about it. The only way I'd do it, is if I thought I might need a fast reload. Since I don't CCW, it's not a concern.
One thing I did think about was, that the more powder you load in the spare, the safer it should be, because there's not as much chamber to act as a barrel. For instance, 35 gr. will discharge and spit the ball out, without having time to impart much velocity to it. And 15 gr. will have about 1/4 to 1/2 of the chamber, to accelerate the ball.
Anybody with a chrony want to run an experiment?
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Old May 4, 2009, 05:23 PM   #8
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mykeal is right.

During the War of Northern Agression it was more common to have multiple side arms at the ready than to have pre loaded cylinders because it was more convienient to simply reholster toe spent revolver & pull a loaded one than to try to reload cylinders in the heat of battle.
Remington did have it as an option for their service size revolvers & so did Colt with their 1848-9 pockets & Pattersons but again the practice was not as widely used as one would think.

The loaded & capped cylinder would not have the velocity necessary to imbed the ball into the body sufficiently enough to cause major damage but it sure would make you think & possibly have an accident..

Shotgun Willy;
I'd love to try one of my cylinders out through my chrony but 2 things prevent me from doing it.
(1) I don't have a way to secure the cylinder to the table to reliably fire one off with a hammer strike.
(2) being that the ball may have a mind of it's own in dirrection I'm affraid that shooting my own chrony is a BIG possibility.
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Old May 4, 2009, 05:27 PM   #9
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One thing I did think about was, that the more powder you load in the spare, the safer it should be
1/2 inch of chamber wouldn't make enough difference to worry about. A ball gets it's real pressure when it hits the rifling in the barrel.
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Old May 4, 2009, 07:10 PM   #10
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don't believe that a chamber alone won't create much velocity in a round ball

20 years ago, I bought a gross of M-80's for July 4th, and put one on the ground and lit it, and ran away from it- I was about 60 feet away, when it went off- it shot the wax plug out the end of the M-80 like a projectile/bullet- the wax slug hit the top inner side of my right arm above the elbow, and took a small chunk of meat out of my arm- the scar is still there to this day

it easily would have taken someone's eye out

if that was a hard lead round ball, and the range closer, it would have been even worse
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Old May 4, 2009, 07:31 PM   #11
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grymster2007
Quote:
That's it. I'm going to a copper wedge.
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good choice- it would match your frame

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brass#Properties

Brass is any alloy of copper and zinc; the proportions of zinc and copper can be varied to create a range of brasses with varying properties.

attachment- a decorative brass paperweight, along with zinc and copper samples.

The malleability and acoustic properties of brass have made it the metal of choice for brass musical instruments such as the trombone, tuba, trumpet, euphonium, tenor horn and the French horn. Even though the saxophone is classified as a woodwind instrument and the harmonica is a free reed aerophone, both are also often made from brass. In organ pipes designed as "reed" pipes, brass strips are used as the "reeds".

Brass has higher malleability than copper or zinc. The relatively low melting point of brass (900 to 940°C, depending on composition) and its flow characteristics make it a relatively easy material to cast
Attached Images
File Type: jpg 250px-Brass.jpg (8.0 KB, 33 views)
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Old May 4, 2009, 07:56 PM   #12
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Hawg and the Captain are not really correct. The cylinder alone will fire a bullet with enough velocity to cause death or severe injury. It is easy enough to try - just put a cylinder with one loaded chamber into a Colt and don't install the barrel. The cylinder inertia will hold it until the cap fires. Use any convenient means of measuring the velocity/energy involved.

The troopers did indeed carry spare cylinders and they did carry them loaded and capped; in effect it was just like inserting a fresh magazine in an auto pistol. But they were young and in a war, and safety took a poor second place to survival.

I have seen a loaded and capped cylinder roll off a bench at a range and fire; fortunately the ball did not strike anyone, but it could have. The shooter explained that "they did it in the war." I explained that he was not in a war and that safety came first on the range.

Jim
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Old May 4, 2009, 08:03 PM   #13
grymster2007
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Quote:
good choice- it would match your frame
Changed my mind. I'm going with a butter wedge now. Cap'n says it's not quite so mushy as the steel in Italian revolvers. Plus.... well, I just like butter!
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Old May 4, 2009, 11:37 PM   #14
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Raider2000 is right about Mykeal being right.

FM
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Old May 5, 2009, 12:24 AM   #15
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If you load a C&B Cylinder you should cap it or it is a uselss and possibly dangerous endeavor. You have a powder container with 5 or 6 ports that powder could fall out if or a contaminant fall in to. I cap any cylinders in or out of a revolver when loaded. The do make cylinder holders for the belt with an encloser to save the feeble from having them fall out.
More fast moving Cavalry outfits surely would carry multiple pistols of the belt type and/or horse pistols. Cavalry units such as the 43rd Virginia Cavalry C.S.A. Mosby's Rangers would conduct business in this manner.
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Old May 5, 2009, 01:01 AM   #16
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I do wonder about the potential for serious injury with the larger Walker chambers loaded up with balls and up to 50+ grains of powder.
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Old May 5, 2009, 03:46 AM   #17
Hawg
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Quote:
Hawg and the Captain are not really correct. The cylinder alone will fire a bullet with enough velocity to cause death or severe injury. It is easy enough to try - just put a cylinder with one loaded chamber into a Colt and don't install the barrel. The cylinder inertia will hold it until the cap fires. Use any convenient means of measuring the velocity/energy involved.

The troopers did indeed carry spare cylinders and they did carry them loaded and capped; in effect it was just like inserting a fresh magazine in an auto pistol. But they were young and in a war, and safety took a poor second place to survival.
I never said it wasn't dangerous. I just said 1/2 inch of chamber wouldn't make enough difference to worry about. It won't have anywhere near the velocity of a ball going through the barrel tho so in that sense it would be less dangerous.

If troopers in the CW carried spare cylinders where's all the pics? I've seen countless pics of troopers carrying four to six revolvers but never saw a pic of a cylinder pouch.
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Old May 5, 2009, 05:14 AM   #18
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I am sure

In the 1800's, soldiers (or possibly civillians) might have carried extra loaded cylinders, and they were probably capped, otherwise the powder would end up coming out of the nipple hole & also, they would have wanted to reload quickly, so having to insert a fresh cylinder, then to have to cap it (& hope there was enough powder left in it) would make the speed thing irrelivant..

I think in the wars, the likelyhood of being killed by being caught with your gun empty (caught reloading) than it would have been to have a pre-loaded cylinder go off for some reason..... I mean, in battle, the soldiers often kept the lead balls in their mouths, put powder down the barrel, then spit a ball onto the barrel then ram, cap, fire & repeat.

I am sure most would have had spare cylinders, extra pistols..... extra anything that might keep them alive

As for dropping a capped cylinder, I am sure it has happened that it discharged, but I believe it would be VERY unlucky to be able to drop it on something hard enough, and have the cylinder hit at the precise angle to acheive a discharge..... especially in the 1800's when there was much less concrete or asphalt (if any) .... to drop a cylinder the right (wrong) way up and land precisely on a rock to discharge it would have been near impossible (but not impossible)

IMO if a cylinder were dropped and discharged, I would be as worried/more worried about where the cylinder ends up, rather than the ball, of course the ball would be able to do damage, but the cylinder would also take off at a fair rate of knots as well & could also inflict damage its self (especially if a cap or 2 fell off and it chainfired) or it landed and discharged another cylinder...

However, in this day and age, I don't think there is any need to preload cylinders (except using a small press to load the cylinder out of the gun) at the firing line/range.... and if you choose to load this way, just be careful & dont be distracted whilst doing so
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Old May 5, 2009, 07:10 AM   #19
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I have never read or previous to the Clint Eastwood movie PALE RIDER, seen anything about carrying a spare cylinder. I have read about carrying mulitple pistols, though.

That leads me to think that the carrying of spare cylinders is a product of modern times and cowboy action shooting.

Is it dangerous? I don't really think so. If in a pouch, it will not be subject to any more jostling than a loaded gun would be in a holster. I've never heard of a tin of caps exploding or a gun shooting while in a holster (save for Barney Fife)

The Doc is out now.

PS, oh yes, I comes to me that it might be a dangerous practice if that cylinder was made of mush! The powder might spill out, run down your leg, leave a trail, and then Bugs Bunny would light a match on that trail and you, Yosemite Sam, would explode.
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Old May 5, 2009, 09:15 AM   #20
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Hawg and the Captain are not really correct. The cylinder alone will fire a bullet with enough velocity to cause death or severe injury. It is easy enough to try - just put a cylinder with one loaded chamber into a Colt and don't install the barrel. The cylinder inertia will hold it until the cap fires. Use any convenient means of measuring the velocity/energy involved.

I have seen a loaded and capped cylinder roll off a bench at a range and fire; fortunately the ball did not strike anyone, but it could have. The shooter explained that "they did it in the war." I explained that he was not in a war and that safety came first on the range.
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Jim- good post- but go back and read my posts- I'm saying that the open cylinder WILL shoot with sufficient velocity to maim/kill, and that it's as dangerous as the loaded gun is- I started this thread to that effect- for some reason, you've misunderstood my posts.

I agree that troopers would carry spare cylinders, if they could not get spare pistols- if they could get cylinders and didn't lose them in the heat of battle, and had time/ammo to reload them. One of the big perks of the early Colt pistols was, the perceived option of pulling the wedge, and changing cylinders out- instead of laboriously reloading a single shot pistol. Your post makes sense, in battle personal safety is compromised, they'd carry a cylinder for the benefit of extra firepower, and accept the risk of it going off.

The soldiers would empty their firearms, but as the distance closed, it became hand to hand fighting with bayonets and swords. Who had time to reload- taking your eyes off the enemy, meant getting cut with a sword, or stabbed with a bayonet.

Personally I'd not carry capped cylinder spares walking around in the woods- I'd rather carry another pistol, and/or the cylinders loaded but uncapped. Reason: we're not at war

Last edited by CaptainCrossman; May 5, 2009 at 09:22 AM.
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Old May 5, 2009, 09:28 AM   #21
CaptainCrossman
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"Doc said:

have never read or previous to the Clint Eastwood movie PALE RIDER, seen anything about carrying a spare cylinder. I have read about carrying mulitple pistols, though.

That leads me to think that the carrying of spare cylinders is a product of modern times and cowboy action shooting."



Doc, I have heard they carried spare cylinders- knowing several re-enactors who reseached Civil War battles, it was back in the late-1970's they told me the soldiers carried spare cylinders- it only makes sense. Capped or uncapped, spare cylinders would still make for quicker reloads- the challenge would be, removing the wedge in the heat of battle. If they could get a spare pistol, more power. The battlefield would be littered with firearms afterwards, it would be relatively easy to get a spare battlefield pickup weapon. As we all know, the wedges don't always slip right out on the Colts for cylinder change. I take a small hammer with me to the range, just in case.
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Old May 5, 2009, 11:23 AM   #22
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CC

If you carry a loaded cylinder (say in a pouch, on its side) wouldn't the powder flow out of the nipple holes as you walk/move about? then you would end up with some powder in your pouch, eating the leather? If the pouch holds the cylinder upright, moisture might get in and dampen the powder in the nipple and may cause a FTF? I always keep my ROA's capped at the range, but the hammer in one of the safe slots between chambers. Carrying an uncapped cylinder would worry me, both for powder coming out & moisture getting in? I would be capping them if I were ever to carry a spare cylinder (which I dont), but thats just my opinion

Like I said before, to drop a loaded capped cylinder on something hard enough, precicely enough to get it to fire would be difficult (but I agree, not unheard of)
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Old May 5, 2009, 11:36 AM   #23
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Even if the wedge came out easily on an open top Colt, now you have four parts to juggle- the frame, the barrel, and two cylinders

Even if you simply discard the empty cylinder, that's still more parts than hands. I cannot conceive of even walking normally through a feild and easily swapping out the cylinder on an open-top Colt.
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Old May 5, 2009, 12:20 PM   #24
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Doc, I have heard they carried spare cylinders- knowing several re-enactors who reseached Civil War battles, it was back in the late-1970's they told me the soldiers carried spare cylinders- it only makes sense.
So, out of curiousity then, why is it, in the photos I have seen of soldiers who are holding, brandishing or otherwise displaying their guns, I do not see any pouches for spare cylinders.

I've been in many, many museums and seen cartridge boxes, cap boxes, and bayonet or sword frogs displayed, but I cannot recall one time since 1963 seeing a spare cylinder carrier.

Gettysburg, Antietam (Sharpsburg), Manassas (Bull Run), Shiloh, Athens, Harpers Ferry, Appomatox, Murphreesboro, etc... and many more. I do not recall seeing one - at all. You would not have a photo of an authentic Civil War era pouch, would you?

Perhaps, they melted away like the brass-framed revolvers? Oh, wait, I saw those. Maybe, the cylinders were made of mush and they melted away, taking their carriers with them?

The Doc is out now.
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Old May 5, 2009, 12:48 PM   #25
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Maybe just not very common back then to have inexpensive spare cylinders as it is today.

Quote:
By the time of the Civil War, most percussion revolvers were fired with commercially made combustible paper cartridges, constructed of a powder envelope (usually paper) glued to the base of a conical bullet...

Combustible cartridge bullets were already pre-greased with beeswax...

The combustible cartridge loading method speeded revolver loading considerably, simplified ammunition management, and became the loading method specified by the U.S. Ordnance Department just prior to the Civil War.[4]...
Combustibles were usually loaded with a special high performance sporting grade black powder, using the minimum charge required for a specified impact level, usually determined by pine penetration tests. The special powder and minimal charge reduced black powder fouling, allowing revolvers to be fired as much as possible before cleaning was necessary. [5][4]...

The [Remington] cylinder swap takes 12 seconds, or even less, depending on practice and skill.
(NOTE - to anyone attempting to duplicate this feat: For safety reasons, the replacement cylinder should not have the primer caps applied until after it is installed in the revolver, in case it is accidentally dropped!)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remington_Model_1858
Why risk keeping a spare cylinder capped when there's alternative ways to plug the nipples of a loaded cylinder? Just cover the nipples with spent plastic ring caps or short pieces of aquarium tubing that have been plugged up.

Last edited by arcticap; May 5, 2009 at 12:58 PM.
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