View Full Version : reloading your cap & ball, how long?

October 18, 2010, 08:00 AM
how long does it take you to reload your cap & ball revolver?

its taking me 5+ mins, and i know there has to be a faster way.

how long did it take the cowboy era guys?

October 18, 2010, 08:07 AM
Wassa hurry? Relax, enjoy. No injuns chasing you.

October 18, 2010, 08:51 AM
I don't know as I've never timed it. Cap & Ball is not a speed sport.:D

You may be able to decrease your time if you want to, by changing the sequence in which you load. I discovered early on the difference between loading a step per cylinder for all of the chambers & loading a complete chamber them moving on to the next one is significant. (always cap last whatever else you do before someone else screams "safety violation")

I also discovered that because you have so much "stuff" to keep track of it's a good idea to come up with an organized system for what goes where on a bench, or in the field.

October 18, 2010, 09:58 AM
At Friendship wife and I shoot the timed fire revolver matches. You have 10 min. to load and shoot 10 shots. You may start with five chambers loaded and
capped. This is plenty of time. I just use one chamber so I am loading and
shooting that one chamber 10 times in 10 min. I think next year I am going to
start with five already loaded. I'm getting slower as I get older "68" now.

Andy Griffith
October 18, 2010, 10:46 AM
Use combustible cartridges, or get another cylinder if speed is needed.

A loading stand, pre-measured charges and a grease dispenser helps greatly. ;)

Doc Hoy
October 18, 2010, 11:06 AM
....is as fast as I can do it.

I have a loader which rams all six at one time. I built it thinking it would speed the proess but it is not much help. It's main advantage is starting the balls into the chamber which is the action which puts most of the stress on the pistol. I then ram and seat the balls and lube the chambers with the loading lever once the cylinder is back in the pistol. Much less stress on the pistol.

I am still working on this technique trying to get it to where I can consistently seat all of the balls and grease the chambers before putting the pistol back together. I need to make jigs for all of the different cylinders that I have. I made one for Remington .44 which has a removable sleeve for Colt .44s. But that is not quite right for .36 and it is way too small for the Walker.

I have spent way too much time trying to reinvent the wheel regarding loaders. I do it because it is fun.

Fingers McGee
October 18, 2010, 11:32 AM
At at CAS match, It usually takes me 3-4 minutes or so to load two 1861 Navy revolvers with 5 rounds each at my gun cart, using the loading lever on the gun. Of course, I've been doing this 2-4 times a month for the past 7 or 8 years.


Possibles bag under the stand holds flask, ballbag, wad tin, extra caps, flask spouts, nipple wrench, powder measure.


Andy Griffith
October 18, 2010, 11:46 AM

How many fellers would buy a loader that actually pressed the balls in six chambers at once?

Looks to me that a piece could be cast to do that that pretty easy, either out of cast steel or bronze. Might have to do two or three to fit most revolvers.
Then just mount it to a press. Just don't have a clue how many would buy it though, and that would be fly in the ointment on getting it done.

Seems someone did a press that loaded six chambers at once some time ago...

October 18, 2010, 01:22 PM
a grease dispenser helps greatly
I guess so, but I use pre-lubed wads so they just drop in after the powder is dropped. Maybe there is a time difference for wads/lube?:eek:

Ideal Tool
October 19, 2010, 02:39 AM
Hello, I too was going to suggest comb. ctg's. If you really wanted speed..you could always try "wadded Balls" like the early British percussion revolvers were designed for. These had a felt wad attached to a small "tang" on ball or conical..tang was bent over to hold wad in place. User pushed in with thumb. The cavalry had problems with these..the jogging of the horse would result in a holster filled with loose powder & ball. The Colt's were superior & hit harder with their tight fitting loads & rammer. Brits soon installed side rammers & used larger balls. But if you don't ride...??

October 19, 2010, 05:14 AM
Discussing cylinder changing and reloading with a few friends we have done some timed reloading. After a lot of practice you can load five in about a minute. It's much more enjoyable to take your time and experience it, 4-5 minutes is not overly long.

October 19, 2010, 11:57 AM
If you're so inclined, you can try putting together your own paper cartridges for them. That's what the Colt, Remington, etc. factories used to sell in the War Between the States period. They generally used conical bullets in these, but I've found that one can use RB's just as easily.

I used cigarette papers, but Dixie Gun Works used to have an instruction sheet and materials list on making your own period-correct nitrated paper for the more anal of the "Authenticity Uber Alles" types.

When treated felt wads started becoming more easily available commercially (you used to have to make your own, which was messy and tedious) I started adding one between the powder charge and the ball/bullet on mine.

These do work to speed the reloading process a bit, but they're relatively fragile (mostly a storage and transport issue) and IMO I ended up spending whatever time I thought I was "saving", and probably a bit more, putting them together.

As I shoot my C&B revolvers primarily for grins and relaxation, I finally went back to just using a flask for reloading. Nobody's very likely to be shooting back at me at our range, and I've found other ways to spend my spare time that I enjoy more.


October 19, 2010, 12:05 PM
When treated felt wads started becoming more easily available commercially (you used to have to make your own, which was messy and tedious) I started adding one between the powder charge and the ball/bullet on mine.
Not an attempt at a hijack, but can you post a thread with details on this?

I'm making paper carts with ball & powder, but am trying to find out how to include a pre-lubed wad & can't figure out a couple of points such as stopping lube contamination & figuring diameters out correctly.

October 19, 2010, 12:51 PM

Don't think it needs another thread, as it ain't a real involved process. The wads I use/used most are Ox Yoke Originals "Wonder Wads" which are "dry" lubed and cut to just a hair under nominal cylinder diameter for the caliber. Never had any issues with powder contamination with 'em so long as they weren't stored where direct sunlight hit the container or temps were liable to get near or above 100 F.

I made a little conical rolling jig to form the papers around (Dixie used to have some, but mostly for Sharps, etc.) and pushed the wad down on top of the charge with a piece of dowel. On the pre-cast conicals (also available from Dixie) there was usually a pretty sizable sprue left on the bases so sometimes I used to just push a wad on that and it's stay put long enough to fit and glue it to the paper cone.

If you would rather not go the those lengths, I found that one can just rub a tiny bit of Elmer's on the 'fattest' part of a ball of the proper size and use it to form a cylinder out of the paper. You have to secure the 'long' edge (I rolled 'em so I could use the existing 'gummed' edge for that) at the same time, so a piece of dowel rod approximately the same size as your ball or conical is a big help, as is an Exacto knife or single-edged razor blade for trimming. Then you can (with a bit of care) push the wad up to meet it and upend the resulting cylinder to add your charge from a flask. Twist the open end shut, dab with a little Elmer's and set it aside to dry.

I used cigarette papers because they were cheap, easily available, burn cleanly and are easily ignited by the cap flash. They resulting cartridges are more fragile that the originals or those "uber authentic" ones made with a heavier-grade nitrated paper, but they're a whole heckuva lot less labor and cash-intensive to produce and work just dandy.

October 19, 2010, 01:52 PM
I did something similar, but I made cylinders (actually, slight cones) of 1/2 sheet of cigarette paper using a "Sharpie" marker as a guide. Insert the wad in the larger end about 3/8" deep, place a ball/bullet with a dash of Elmer's over the wad and smooth the paper to the ball/bullet, set aside 'till the glue dries. From the other end, pour in the powder, make a small crease to increase the taper, another dab of Elmer's secures the double fold to seal the end.

October 19, 2010, 04:33 PM
It looks like I've been either missing the obvious (highly possible), or need to rethink my assumption that the diameters of the ball & wad would prevent this from working.:o

Either that or I have oversize wads.:eek:

October 22, 2010, 10:12 AM
I never actually timed myself, but it can't take more than 3 minutes. I don't use any wars or grease. Just powder and balls. Load one chamber at a time. If you have a flask that throws a pre-measured amount of powder, you can go even faster.

October 22, 2010, 10:37 AM
FYI: With my style of paper cartridge, the paper glued to the ball/bullet is sheared off as you ram the cartridges into the cylinder.

October 22, 2010, 11:47 AM
same with mine, I just don't have a wad in there (yet):D
I did just mic a wad though mine (Ox-yoke originals) are a little over-sized at .463" (average of 5) my chambers take a .454 ball with a complete ring shaved off so I'm assuming a chamber diameter of close to .452/453.

This is going to get interesting as I'm getting a different brand of wads this weekend.:)

October 22, 2010, 04:27 PM
When I saw Ox-yoke wads listed at $10+/100 earlier this year, I figured that was just too much -- something wasn't right -- I wasn't going to spend more on wads than it costs me to reload .38 Spcl wad cutters. So, now I punch my own wads and make my own wad lube.

Considering the time required to make up the paper cartridges, I've gone back to loading powder-wad-ball/bullet with a cylinder loading press. In the long run, I think it's faster than cartridges when you consider the time required to make up the cartridges. Of course, if you want faster loading at the range, go with the paper cart's.

At first, I used to make sure to prick the paper before priming, but I found it unnecessary. But, I must confess, I've had a few cases of slow ignition with unpricked paper.

October 22, 2010, 05:29 PM
However long it takes. No hurry.

October 23, 2010, 05:15 PM
I've gone back to loading powder-wad-ball/bullet with a cylinder loading press. In the long run, I think it's faster than cartridges when you consider the time required to make up the cartridges.
I agree! This was just an experiment to see how it was/is done, not an attempt at becoming a speed demon. I'll probably quit playing in a while myself but I do love to experiment with such things first.:o

October 23, 2010, 07:05 PM
About 20 years ago I did a speed loading of my 1860 Army using premade paper cartridges with ball, I don't remember the exact time but it was under 4 minutes w/ 6 shots loaded & ready to fire.

If I remember right it was demonstrate how a soldier of the time would have had to do it in the least amount of time to be back in the fight.

I've gotten smarter & more relaxed now so I could care less if it took me 10 minutes to load 5 chambers now a days.

October 23, 2010, 07:57 PM
However long it takes me to slide a new clip in . . . Oh Oh . . . wait a minute . . . wrong gun! :D I've never timed it . . . probably could do it a lot faster if I had a War Party bearing down on me with the idea of giving me a haircut. Actually, I just take my time and play safe. I don't shoot competition like some of the fellas so there's really no hurry. But if that War Party shows up . . . . . :eek:

October 24, 2010, 11:38 AM
It didn't take Robert E. Lee any time to load his pistol.
He got his slave and body servant, William Mack, to load the pistol.

October 25, 2010, 12:13 PM
Do it as best security as you can...
it's take 2 minutes for me.
(2 minutes.... to midnight.... Sacrifice is going on tonight !!!!)

dark waffen
October 25, 2010, 05:52 PM
if its a cap and ball revolver.
paper cartridges can speed things up. or just keep an extra loaded cilinder if you have a rem.

October 31, 2010, 09:33 AM
pyrodex pellets are the fastest way to load ,besides a spare cylinder,but you must use magnum caps,and ox yoke wad,very accurate light load in my r o a ,very little fouling:D