View Full Version : .36 Caliber Paper Cartidges???

January 11, 2013, 03:56 PM
Back in the 1980's I knew a guy who made theses little tamale looking things that he just dropped in the hole and fired them. It was charge and ball in a combustible paper.

Are they available???

Willie Sutton
January 11, 2013, 04:25 PM

Gather powder, bullet, cigarette rolling papers, glue, and some saltpeter.

Roll 'em up.

There are plenty of places on the net to see how to do it.

AFAIK they are not sold commercially.



January 11, 2013, 05:33 PM
Tried this... LOVED the idea! spent a ton of time doing it... didn't work out all that well. Turned out to be a waste of time for me. Not saying it won't work, they didn't ignite very well. Took several caps sometimes to finally get them to fire.


January 11, 2013, 05:55 PM
I used tea bags. They worked every time but are a PITA to make. At least for me.

January 11, 2013, 06:43 PM
For pistol and revolver, it's easier to just put the pre-measured powder and ball in small containers and then dump the contents down the barrel or in the chambers.
The containers can be ordinary paper tubes, since they're not going in the gun.

January 11, 2013, 06:54 PM
Ah but that wouldn't be historical fun;):D

Potassium Nitrate...hot water, correct size dowel rod and cigarette papers. You need to be extra careful if you've never done this. These have a chance of leaving smoldering traces of the papers in the chamber which could ignite the next cartridge you load. Causing obviously hand/finger damage or removal.

I make them up un-nitrated for ease of caring a cartridge box full...bite (or rip off :rolleyes:) the powder end, the place the bullet over the chamber for ramming... ripping off the remaining paper of as you seat the ball.

January 11, 2013, 06:59 PM
With tea bags you don't need the nitrate. They're porous enough for the cap to blow through and they burn clean

January 11, 2013, 07:02 PM
can you buy empty bags hawg....or you empty a bunch while watching Gettysburg:D (that would be my preferred method:))

January 11, 2013, 07:19 PM
I just bought cheap tea and dumped it. I disremember how many 44 cartridges you get out of a box but its a lot of them. I think I got four cartridges from each flo thru bag but I didn't try to optimize.

January 11, 2013, 07:28 PM
I was thinking about these also, have not done much work on it, You can tell as you hear this question, But what do you mean by Nitrating and un-nitrated.. ???? And how does one Nitrate these??? And what does it mean it I am carrying them around either way..???

January 11, 2013, 07:49 PM
Dissolve potassium nitrate(KNO3) in water. Soak your paper and hang it up to dry. It helps it burn easier.

January 11, 2013, 09:11 PM
And the un nitrated would be just regular papers with the powder on one end, a lead ball or conical bullet on the other with a thread tide between them. I do them like this as an alternative to using the plastic tubes. It keeps a ball and powder charge ready and neatly in the cartridge box...just rip the paper on the powder end and dump it in. Then rip off the rest of the paper from the ball and seat it. While it does the same thing as the plastic "speed tubes", it looks more "historical" than the plastic ones and honestly.....I like making them while I watch movies:)

like so...
I do apologize as these are really rifle cartridges...but you get the idea.

January 11, 2013, 09:17 PM
duelist1954 did a really cool video (as are all of Mike's moving pictures):) shooting an 1860 Army with pre made combustible paper cartridges he got some place. Wish I knew where he got them and if I could buy them...they are really cool. They were even in a period style paper carton.

January 11, 2013, 10:15 PM
Thank you Brendanss.. I was trying to remember where I had seen those packs of paper shells from . Now those were a true work of art..

January 12, 2013, 01:57 AM
I made them for my .45 single-shot muzzle loader, and they worked fine. First time, every time.

I made them with Zig Zags, formed over a mandrel to make them consistent sized. Lick them, roll, twist off the med, pur in 40 grains of Pyrodex, twist the end. Tiny dabs of white glue to keep the ends together.

January 12, 2013, 02:23 AM
I used zigzags for my Walker. Used an old bolt I had in the garage.
First, rolled the paper with just the ball at one end then inserted bolt and continued as if rolling a cig.
Did make sure bolt diameter was less than ball. Added 30gr pyrodex,
twisted the hell out of powder end.
Bit the tail before placing into cylinder. rammed the HELL out of the ball and I got what I believe was a faster ignition. It's very time consuming but fun when time permits.

January 12, 2013, 11:09 AM
Here's just one of many sources from googling "empty tea bags"


When I was using my cig paper cartridges I always kept a pair of tweezers handy to dig out unburnt paper and visually inspected each chamber before reloading.

January 12, 2013, 05:57 PM
Have not had a .36 for years but all I shoot in my .44s is paper loads. Bugler paper seems to work pretty well for me. The trick is to get a taper to the things and clip the tail off as short as you can after twisting it. With a good taper they split at the rear when seated and go off every time. Tried folding the rear like some do and had ignition issues.

James K
January 12, 2013, 11:33 PM
BerdanSS's idea will work fine, but the original revolver cartridges didn't involve tearing anything. You just dropped the cartridge (shaped roughly like an ice-cream cone) into the chamber and rammed it. Ramming broke the paper, foil or skin (cartridges were made of all three materials) to expose the powder. Cap the nipples and away we go!


January 13, 2013, 04:11 AM
Sam Colt created the idea of combustible cartridges in his revolvers, back in the 1850s. He first used tin foil, instead of paper, for its waterproofness and durability.
However, it hindered ignition more than nitrated paper. Also, Colt had a problem finding quality tin foil in this country. Too much of it produced here had tiny holes that let powder leak. He ended up ordering tin foil from Germany, one of the more technologically advanced countries in the world at that time.
This raised the cost of his cartridges, forcing him to use paper, or animal skin or gut. At one point, he mixed a thick liquid -- a colloidin -- with black powder and formed cones of propellant, to which the conical bullet was attached.
A lot of different things have been tried.
I used to make my own combustible cartridges, soaking onion skin paper in a solution of Saltpetre (potassium nitrate), then hanging the paper up to dry.
This was also done by bookies, who kept notes on bets on such paper. When the coppers busted through the door, they only had to apply a cigar or cigarette to the piles of notes on their desk and the evidence went up in seconds.
The combustible cartridges I made worked fine, but I decided long ago that it was more trouble than it was worth. I dispense from a flask into a smaller container, then pour from that into each chamber.
Still, making your own combustible cartridges is a link to history, and there's always pride in making something yourself.

Have fun with making your own. Just don't smoke or do it by candleight! :D

January 14, 2013, 12:38 PM
Thinking about the silky-style teabags to make charges for a .58 Zouave.....Think that would work?????

January 14, 2013, 06:23 PM
I'm thinking those are made out of nylon. Not a good idea.

January 14, 2013, 07:13 PM
You may be right. But the paper tea bags would be great for .58 caliber rifle charges....

January 14, 2013, 07:19 PM
Yeah, I've used them in mine.

January 29, 2013, 01:01 PM
There are some videos on YouTube that show people making and shooting these. Most use cigarette rolling paper.

You may be interested in Dean Thomas' Round Ball to Rimfire Part 3. It details pistol ammunition.

Early on, it was packaged in cartridges just like muskets - a small paper tube with a ball in it and powder, and you had to tear the tail off, pour the powder, extract the ball, and ram it home. There were numerous complaints, namely that it was hard to hit the desired cylinder bore with the powder pouring out of the torn-open paper.

Later there were many variants of so-called combustible cartridges, made from a variety of materials and often varnished to give some level of waterproofness. In period testing it was often noted that the so-called combustible cartridges were not really combustible and the ash and residue was left in the chambers.

If you are going to use "combustible" paper cartridges have a care when loading to make sure there are no burning embers left in your cylinder bores.


January 29, 2013, 02:06 PM
Those are very nice looking cartridges BerdanSS! I've made them too and it is not as easy as it looks. I was all thumbs and after a while went back to the old pour and tamp method.

In the old days ammo factories made them employing women. It is delicate work. There is at least one tale of an ammo factory blowing up which distributed parts of female factory worker all over the neighborhood. Sad.

January 30, 2013, 03:42 PM
Nice write up here:


January 31, 2013, 02:25 AM
Read about them few years ago.
Decide last spring to try them
I finally got my system worked out where
from start to finish about as fast as a modern reload.
I use a wood dowel tapered so they slide off easier,
or a piece of copper tubing.
With tubing I can roll and fill at same time.
I have a 6 hole loading block I set the cartridge in
either filled or waiting to be filled.
When full I tie top off with thread.
I attach the bullet only on my1863 .54 cal sharps.
I roll my own 30 gr 44 remingtons and colt
50 gr for the walker
80 and 90 grn for the Sharps
70-80 grn for the .50 cal rifle.

January 31, 2013, 03:35 PM
I like the dowel idea. My thoughts are to roll, twist end, slide off dowel, fill with powder, top with ball, seal with wax, cut off excess paper...tubing idea is hella smart...

February 1, 2013, 02:47 AM
Tried the dowel idea and the lack of taper did not do well. So went to using a .22 high power case that has about the right taper you need so they will load well and tear so you dont need to worry about fail to fire issues.

Rainbow Demon
February 1, 2013, 03:22 AM
The original paper cartridges for revolvers were tapered for easier insertion.
I've been considering ordering some "Flash Paper" from a magicians supply store.
From what I've seen this should work better than homemade nitrated paper.

I usually just fill a .38 Special case with powder and tape a ball on the case mouth. The cases hold just short of 25 grains of Goex FFFG.
Undo the tape, pour powder, then seat ball.

February 1, 2013, 06:02 AM
I just use bugler ciggy butt papers and that seems to work just fine.Rolling paper comes nitrated to a degree.

February 1, 2013, 11:52 AM
You guys just twisting the end????

February 5, 2013, 07:42 PM
Been fiddling about this....

No need to soak the entire length of the cigar papers, since only the folded end will be subjected to the cap's discharge.

Once rolled, I drop in a ball and then drop them (balls down) into a cartridge tray. Once filled with powder, make an 'accordian fold' (I like to double-fold them and squeeze gently with pliers) and then paint the ends of the fold with Potassium Nitrate.

That's it!!!!!

Only question is, where can I get liquid potassium nitrate????

February 5, 2013, 07:45 PM
The reason for nitrating the whole paper is so you get a clean burn.

February 5, 2013, 11:05 PM
Been making paper cartridges for while now.
As with anything it takes practice.
I use zigzags as quick and easy, already nitrated
Now from start to finish I can complete one as fast as you cn do a complete brass cartridge recycle. Maybe even faster.
Do it in easy chair watchin TV.
Then when out shooting , just insert paper a ball cap and shoot.
But to each his own

February 6, 2013, 09:57 AM
@ DD4lifeusmc,

Could you PM me??? I got a few questions...Thanks...

February 8, 2013, 10:06 AM
Made a few experimental cartridges last night....

February 8, 2013, 11:18 AM
Would like some more input on your experiences in making these...

Bob Wright
February 8, 2013, 03:29 PM
Hawg Haggen said: I used tea bags. They worked every time but are a PITA to make. At least for me.

I'm sorry, but I couldn't help visualizing a Colt Navy with five of those strings and tabs dangling from the cylinder!

Bob Wright
(Who, obviously, is not into black powder)

February 8, 2013, 03:54 PM
I'm sorry, but I couldn't help visualizing a Colt Navy with five of those strings and tabs dangling from the cylinder!

Well...the first time I posted pictures of my authentically-made cartridges on facebook, one of my female friends said, "Exploding tampons?"



February 8, 2013, 04:01 PM

February 10, 2013, 12:55 PM
Ok, I'm interested too! So What is a "zig zag"? Is that a rolling paper? And How long of a rolling paper is needed. They come in different sizes. I may try this out, even though I can git er done, with a 30gr. spout, and my press. But it would be cool to have some of them "EXPLODING TAMPONS"!!! :D

Willie Sutton
February 10, 2013, 08:28 PM

Obviously not a college student of the 70's... :rolleyes:

Zig Zag is a popular rolling paper for those who roll their own... err... cartridges.

Now DD4lifeusmc is making partial cartridges, he's just rolling up the powder charge, not gluing in the ball. That works fine and is half of the work, with about 80% of the benefit. Maybe more. Not authentic to the 1800's but a darn sight better than carrying a powder measure into the field.

The real deal is to have the ball glued into the open end of a conical paper cartridge so you just ram the entire thing into the cylinder, paper, powder, ball, and all.



February 11, 2013, 10:33 AM
Here is an excellent video concerning very accurate reproductions of paper revolver cartridges:



February 11, 2013, 03:14 PM
Thanks for the link!!!!!

February 11, 2013, 08:10 PM
Obviously not a college student of the 70's...

Too True, Willie Considering I was born in 1977 :D. So what length paper to get?

February 14, 2013, 03:10 PM
A little harder with a ball as opposed to a conical...