View Full Version : Setting clothing on fire with c&p revolver

May 16, 2010, 08:41 PM
I heard something kinda hard to believe. Is it true that if you shoot someone 18-24 inches away with a large caliber c&p revolver, it will set the person's clothing on fire? That would be one hell of a bonus!!

James K
May 16, 2010, 08:46 PM
I suspect it might be true; it should be easy to try (with cloth on a sandbag, of course; using a live target would be frowned on). I have never heard of setting clothing on fire, but I have stomped out grass fires set by burning patches.


May 16, 2010, 08:48 PM
Sure, if it's dry and flammable. The down side would be if they were in your house, of course.

May 16, 2010, 08:53 PM
Hardcase has a point. It would be a shame to lose your home because of a burning scumbag POS.
And it burns, burns, burns, piece of &%@# on fire, piece of &%@# on fire...(my version of Ring of Fire)

May 16, 2010, 08:55 PM
Prolly just smolder.

May 16, 2010, 08:57 PM
Hawg, You could splash gasoline on his shirt first.

May 16, 2010, 09:00 PM
Now that might work.:D

May 16, 2010, 09:07 PM
Better yet-dust him with black powder first and light him up like the 4th of July

May 16, 2010, 09:11 PM
RemTim, You are one twisted dude. I'd hate to **** you off!

May 16, 2010, 09:20 PM
If you shoot someone at 18-24 inches with a large caliber BP revolver, burning clothes will be the least of his worries.

May 16, 2010, 09:26 PM
With a 36 or larger ball in his gut the little fire might feel good and cauterize the wound! :)

May 16, 2010, 09:31 PM
the hap baker firing range in westminster md burned down because of a black powder rifle too close to the foam sound proofing. appearantly the foam had accumulated enough unburned gun powder that it was just a matter of time before this happened. the shooter and rangemaster were the only people in there at the time and luckily both of them and the shooters guns all made it out ok.heres a lnik i just found


May 16, 2010, 09:58 PM
BustaCap, I was just kidding or maybe not. Seriously, that would be cruel and unusual torture. It would be difficult to explain dousing him with bp or gasoline before shooting him to a jury.

Doc Hoy
May 17, 2010, 05:11 AM
There is a sequence in one of the recent movies on Wyatt Earp in which a victims clothes catch fire when he is shot. I don't know whether it was intentional or just a malfunction of the prop.

I think the movie was the Kevin Kostner version of "Wyatt Earp".

This post is not much help in answering the question. Just more grist for the mill.


May 17, 2010, 06:36 AM
Happens all the time in the movies! At close range it would be possible I suppose.

Doc Hoy
May 17, 2010, 07:13 AM
......Does anyone, who reads the historical material religiously recall any description of this? I am not talking about, "The Duck of Death" stories, but actual accounts.


May 17, 2010, 03:47 PM
Doc, you are referring to Ed Masterson's ( Bat's brother) death. Historically, yes it did happen. According to witness accounts Masterson was shot at close range and his clothes were set on fire. He managed to put out the fire, kill one of his attackers, wound the other and stagger down a nearby ally before he collapsed. He died the next morning. Another historical account was a lawer named Houston Chapman in Lincoln county NM during the Lincoln co. war of Billy the kid fame. In fact, the kid was a witness. Jesse Evens( a known killer) had a grudge against Chapman, accosted him on the street one night, pressed his six gun into his ribs and shot him. He said "my God, I'm shot" and fell over. His clothes were in flames. His charred body was discovered later that night. So, yeah it can happen with BP.

May 17, 2010, 04:11 PM
It's possible...

Doc Hoy
May 17, 2010, 04:11 PM
Now that is useful information.

Tnx abundantly.

May 17, 2010, 04:43 PM
We've all seen the slow motion videos of BP arms being fired. Their is a considerable plume of smoke and it burns slowly in comparison to smokeless loads, burns at a lower temperature and dirtier, that is, what is ejected from the muzzle has very real burning particles of black powder in it.

IF, a piece of cloth were shot at close range, (point blank), with a WALKER loaded with 55 grains of good black powder, I think there is a VERY good chance it would catch on fire.

I have heard anecdotal stories from the wild west that it was considered very dangerous to discharge a black powder firearm near a table with drinks of whiskey or high volume alcoholic beverages and the particles of black powder ejected could easily fall in the drinks and light them afire.

This was one of the concerns of barkeeps when shooting started in a saloon, the bottles break, one shot ... THOOM ... saloon fire rages.

Doc Hoy
May 17, 2010, 06:14 PM
Lets swap environments just a little.

It makes sense that to set garments on fire one would need to be relatively close.

How about historical anecdotes of grass fires on battle fields kindled by the muzzle discharge of the weapons, most notably the artillery. I have read fairly extensively on the Napleonic period and have never read of such an instance. Plenty of examples of artillery used deliberately to cause fires in the enemy position (Hougoumont Farm or a multitude of naval engagements).

You would think that there would be enough hot stuff coming out of the muzzles of a line of infantry that sooner or later the dry grass would catch.
The re-enacters in the group may have some evidence or observations here. Fire a volley and then stomp out the embers three to fix feet in front of the line.

May 17, 2010, 08:49 PM
I have witnessed wadding/patch fall to the ground smouldering. Would not take much in a dry, grassy area .... We have an early, black powder deer season here and one of the warnings is to be careful 'patch fires'. My patches are usually old cotton t-shirt material and it can smoulder for soem time. Chances are probably very slim, but .....

May 17, 2010, 10:05 PM
They probably practiced street fighting tactics in those days.
But instead of throwing dirt in their opponent's face they would toss a drink on him and then as they said in their contemporary vernacular "cap 'em"
or "light 'em up"! :D
Sort of like the hockey player tactics of today where they pull the opponent's jersey up over his head so they can pummel him without allowing him to return fire! :p
Wait a minute, "without allowing him to return fire", that must be a
"pun intended". :rolleyes:
Of course you all know I'm just kidding around! ;)

May 17, 2010, 10:09 PM

I would think that it would be so common place that it wouldn't be worth writing about. The cannons in the civil war and wars before them were not being fired in bush-hogged fields, most were wild fields. I would think that grass and brush fires caused by firing artillery was so common it might no be worth mentioning in writing.


That's actually a really pretty picture, kind of like fireworks.

It's scary to think that happens everytime you pull a trigger on a black powder revolver, and it happens almost faster than the eye can see, especially in daylight.

This is why you DO NOT shoot next to the loading table.

I wonder if any old cowhoot took a slug of shine and shouldered a flintlock having dribbled a bit into his long, tangled beard ... OW !

May 17, 2010, 11:26 PM
Black Powder powdered Revs will save you a bundle in replacing blood stained carpet if a perp happens to make it thru your door... not only will it burn clothing but will cartarize a leaking dead guy in your house.
Seein' how that's the way it has to be in CA to be legal only after you have tried to escape and to no avail ... had to fire a BP Rev indoors.


May 18, 2010, 12:28 AM
Like someone replied to Docs post, the Ed Masterson shooting with his clothes burning is documented in several books on old west and gun fighter history.
And back when I was reenacting I was at the Selma AL event and I saw the grass catch on fire in front of a skirmish line after a volley fire and it started to spread pretty quick and the line had to run forward and stomp it out in the middle of the battle :D

May 18, 2010, 01:02 AM
send something to mythbusters about it. i posted the artical about the gun range burning and upon doind a little more research i found this artical...

Mary Scott 31.OCT.07

The smell of gunpowder and the loud popping of rifles made it clear the Hap Baker Firearms Facility’s rifle range is now back in action for hunting season.

The rifle range was closed after it was destroyed in a fire in February, and it reopened on Oct. 4. During the reconstruction process, more concrete was added to prevent similar fires from happening again.

“We have increased concrete, an extra apron that goes out in front,” Jeff Degitz, county director of Recreation and Parks, said. “There is nothing to ignite there.”

The fire was caused when loose black powder that is used to spark ammunition ignited, and the fire got out of control.

“Some landed in grass that was very dry on a cold and windy day,” Degitz said.

The rifle range was destroyed, but the pistol range was largely unharmed and was reopened in March.

The rebuilding of the facility cost approximately $250,000, according to Degitz, although the county’s insurance covered almost all of the costs.

Both the rifle range and pistol range will be open for operation Wednesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. until one hour prior to sunset until Dec. 31.

From Jan. 1 until March 31, Hap Baker will be open Fridays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to one hour prior to sunset.

and here is the direct link

May 18, 2010, 09:00 AM
Someone mentioned brush fires and Civil War guns. 1864 battle of the wilderness, the discharge of thousends of rifles set the woods on fire and many boys on both sides burned to death.

May 18, 2010, 09:21 AM
Someone mentioned brush fires and Civil War guns. 1864 battle of the wilderness, the discharge of thousends of rifles set the woods on fire and many boys on both sides burned to death.

Indeed, one of the costliest battles, in terms of bloodshed, of the war. Between the fighting and the fires, the North suffered 18,000 casualties and the South 11,000.


My great-great grandfather was part of the Wandering IX Corps in that battle (Company G of the 27th Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment.) I wish that we had some of his letters from the time, but either he didn't write any or they've been lost over the past century and a half. But I do have several photos and one gem that is utterly priceless as far as I'm concerned:


May 18, 2010, 09:54 AM
Beautiful rifle Hardcase. I have been a CW buff for 17 years. I have family that fought in both sides of that war, including a Missouri bushwhacker.:)

Doc Hoy
May 18, 2010, 11:45 AM
The things you all are posting are exactly the type of material that answers the question posed by the OP and then by me..

I have a way of taking these threads to places that the OP, in many cases did not intend to go. Sometimes I go too far astray.


May 18, 2010, 11:56 AM
I heard something kinda hard to believe. Is it true that if you shoot someone 18-24 inches away with a large caliber c&p revolver, it will set the person's clothing on fire? That would be one hell of a bonus!!

No way. :D Seriously, I've fired flintlock muskets in large formations of men, three ranks deep, sparks going everywhere. No one's clothing has ever caught fire. There is a reason that cartridge boxes have a heavy leather flap cover, however.

I have also personally seen several fires started in the summer when the grass is tall and dry.

May 18, 2010, 02:01 PM
i don't know, anyone ever weld wearing flannel and denim with tattered holes in it? i found myself on fire a few times from tattered cotton... it doesnt take much to get cotton burning...lol...

May 18, 2010, 04:04 PM

May 19, 2010, 09:47 PM
Never experimented with being in front of my gun, but I know from experience that you get badly burned fingers by getting your hand in front of the cylinder/barrel gap.

May 29, 2010, 01:12 PM
You also have to remember that it’s not just the un or burning powder, it’s also the grease that was used back in the west, depending on what they were using (bear grease?????) That will also help catch things on fire.
Back in my early days (20’s) I did a lot of fast draw with my 44 Navy. I would usually stand about 7 feet from the target and shoot from the hip. I got respectable at speed and accuracy, at least I impressed my instructor/friend at the time.
Well I was using Crisco for bullet grease filling the end of the cylinder to keep the gun from multiple fires.
I had fired several cylinders, 4 or 5, when I empted the gun I walked back to the bench and started loading another cylinder when my friend came out of his garage yelling something about a fire and running out with a bucket of water. When I turned around the target was on fire.
It was his range at his house and only a single station, we put the fire out and most of the target was still on the board. Only the top had burnt. But what I noticed was that the lower portion of the target was covered with liquid splattering. It turned out to be the Crisco grease.
Between the shredded paper targets, covered in grease drippings and flaming power, I set the target on fire. At the time I quit using any type of grease and started using a non flammable product called “spitball”. Came in a hand lotion container that made it easy to fill the chamber top and never had the same problem again.

May 29, 2010, 08:20 PM
Way back when, the most common "grease" was beeswax.

May 29, 2010, 08:59 PM
Way back when, the most common "grease" was beeswax.

Beeswax isn't grease. Most common grease was lard.

June 1, 2010, 09:55 PM
That's why the word Grease was in ""

June 6, 2010, 09:31 PM
I've read a few accounts of the old days, when a victim's clothing caught fire after being shot. I don't doubt it. However, I'd be more inclined that cotton, especially flannel, would ignite. I don't think wool ever does ignite; I've never seen it do so. It melts or shrivels like hair. Polyester clothing such as windbreakers might burst into flames. Not sure.

Had an interesting experience recently. I have a cotton shop towel in my cap and ball box for wiping my hands. Over time, it gets fairly greasy.
I draped it over the sandbag on my pistol rest, while shooting a newly acquired .36 Remington.
After a few shots, that greasy shop towel began to smolder and smoke. It didn't burst into flames, but I'm sure it was seconds away from it. I was shooting in a gravel pit, with nothing but dirt around and no combustibles, so I threw it on the ground and doused it with my water bottle.

Years ago, while shooting my .50-caliber rifle prone, I set dry grass on fire around the muzzle. My buddy and I saw it immediately and stamped out the blaze. Scared the heck out of us, and I've always been mindful to not shoot over dry grass with black powder. This was on public land, so I could have set the whole place on fire.

In dry season, I may place a long target on dry grass, but I shoot from a bare dirt or gravel area.
I can find places like that here in the northwestern Utah desert, so it's not a problem. Others who live in grassy country may find such places difficult to find.

Set clothing on fire with black powder? Yep, I believe it.