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Old July 13, 2011, 08:20 AM   #1
twobit
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Corrosiveness of BP and storing one loaded without caps?

After 45 years of shooting, I am thinking of getting into black powder with a 1851 Navy clone.

I understand the need to give one a good cleaning after firing to prevent corrosion from the BP residue.
I found this thread http://thefiringline.com/forums/show...ight=corrosion about storing one loaded for extended periods (even years) and it got me to wondering about the corrosive properties of unfired BP.
*Is black powder only corrosive after it has been fired?
Although I would not store one with the caps installed,
* are caps corrosive before being fired or only the residue after?

I know I have seen many old relic BP guns with corroded nipples. The thread I referenced above seems to indicate that only the residue from fired BP and fired caps is corrosive. but I wanted to ask the experts.

Thanks for helping with these BP newbie questions.
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Old July 13, 2011, 08:31 AM   #2
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From what I understand BP and caps aren't corrosive if unfired. The corroded nipples comes from firing without proper cleaning. Any humidity or moisture from the environment the weapon is stored in will cause the powder to get damp over time,so its best to store with cap on to get an air tight seal, just keep the hammer on an empty uncapped chamber.
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Old July 13, 2011, 08:36 AM   #3
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I believe dry black powder is not corrosive but BP absorbs water from the air and will then be corrosive. If you keep a loaded chamber dry it will not corrode. Put a shiny steel nail in a container of BP and see if it corrodes with the cap on .
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Old July 13, 2011, 08:39 AM   #4
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Black powder is hygroscopic, meaning that it will absorb moisture from the air.

So yes, it can lead to rusting even if not fired.
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Old July 13, 2011, 10:06 AM   #5
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As long as no moisture gets to it it wont rust. Those relic nipples were from the days when they used fulminate of mercury for priming compound.
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Old July 13, 2011, 11:03 AM   #6
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Thanks for all the informative replies. I am trying to learn all I can about the peculiarities of black powder vs. smokeless. I may plan on a black powder birthday (November) or a black powder Christmas.
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Old July 13, 2011, 03:46 PM   #7
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Testing One

I thought about this some time back. Loaded up one of my revolvers back on May 1st Will see how well it fires on Nov !st. I understand this may not be a long time but this is the first time I've tried anything like this with one of my revolvers. This is to find out if the revolver will fire like it should and if some may not go off. If I want to carry one of these revolvers would like to know how long I can carry it and know it will go off when I need it to. if not then may as well stay with the smokeless powder revolvers.
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Old July 13, 2011, 08:37 PM   #8
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I always angled a loaded bp w/ muzzle pointed downward so that any oils won't drain back into nipples and foul caps. put it in a holster or wrap in a cloth and lay the grip on a small book or something that keeps eveything pointing downward at a small slope

WBH
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Old July 13, 2011, 10:02 PM   #9
Mike Irwin
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"As long as no moisture gets to it it wont rust."

That's the rub.

You can never be quite sure that you've created that moisture tight seal until you unload the gun and find rust. Or not.

Too much of a crap shoot for me.

That's why they invented ball pullers.
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Old July 14, 2011, 05:55 AM   #10
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Deleted.

Last edited by mykeal; July 14, 2011 at 05:57 AM. Reason: Deleted as redundant
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Old July 14, 2011, 11:18 AM   #11
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bp corrosive?

Years ago my grand father gave me a muzzleloading double shotgun that had hung above his fireplace for many years.Wasn't in to bad a shape,little surface rust,nipples were worn and corroded.I checked the bores which didn't look bad.On dropping a cleaning rod down the bore I thought it didn't go in as far as it should.Measured barrels and rod and there was about a 2 inch discrepancy-hmmm.Took a worm from my muzzleloader box and inserted into the bores and HELLO pulled cloth a mixed bag of assorted size shot and powder dribbled out.The sucker was loaded for who knows how many decades.Would it have gone off if a cap had been snapped? I don't know.Back to the point-the powder was still somewhat grnaular and as best I could tell the bores were not badly corroded.I can only guess this gun had been left that way for 20,30 or more years.Couple of conclusions-beware of "unloaded muzzle loaders" And under certain conditions the powder doesn't corrode badly.
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Old July 14, 2011, 11:34 AM   #12
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I found an original 1858 Remington hanging in an old barn. All six chambers were loaded and capped. The outside of the gun was pretty rough but once I pulled the balls the powder was fine and the chambers looked like new. I fired the powder out of a repro and it was fine. The caps didn't work tho.
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Old July 15, 2011, 12:14 AM   #13
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I read--probably around here somewhere--that General Lee's pistol was fired seven years after the war. No one knew how long it had been kept loaded, but it fired all chambers.

I keep two loaded blackpowder pistols in the house. The balls are well swagged and the german caps I use (Dynamil Nobel) fit tightly. The have never failed to fire when taken out for some exercise. I have no external rust--but I have rubbed them down well with a silicon cloth instead of oil.

I noticed someone say something about ball pullers. I don't understand why one would need one with a pistol--all I've ever done was unscrew the nipple. pour out the powder, and push the ball out with a rod from a cleaning kit for a .22.
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Old July 15, 2011, 01:07 AM   #14
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Quote:
I don't understand why one would need one with a pistol--all I've ever done was unscrew the nipple. pour out the powder, and push the ball out with a rod from a cleaning kit for a .22.
Its faster to screw a wood screw into the ball and pull it with a pair of vice grips.
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Old July 15, 2011, 06:20 AM   #15
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I've seen warnings against doing that, ColtNavy.

Apparently the thinking is that, while the chance is very remote, that the act of unscrewing the nipple could create enough localized friction (especially if a grain of powder were in the threads) that it could set off the charge in the chamber.

I know of no cases of that ever happening, but it would keep me from attempting to do it.

I normally just unload my C&B guns (don't have any now, unfortunately) by shooting them.
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Old July 15, 2011, 07:39 AM   #16
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I used to unload them by shooting them when I used to own some. The other unloading procedures were used carefully (VERY CAREFULLY) the two or three times they misfired. Never tried it, but since then I have wondered if a hypodermic needle injecting oil thru the nipple would make the powder safer for unscrewing the nipple.
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Old July 15, 2011, 07:50 AM   #17
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Fired black powder is moisture attracting (hygroscopic). Unfired bp is an inert chemical mixture.
I kept my Ruger Old Army loaded and capped for years as my home defense pistol. Not a hint of corrosion and I live in a fairly humid area.
My practice before ml hunting season is to load my rifle and leave it that way (unprimed/uncapped) until I shoot or the end of the season.
The gun must be completely clean and dry before loading. No cap snapping no burnt residue.
As others have stated, bp guns loaded a century earlier have been shot.
Answer: Yes.
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Old July 20, 2011, 12:58 PM   #18
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Wild Bill carried his navy 36s long after self contained cartridges were available. To assure that they would reliably fire every time he needed them he loaded them every morning and unloaded them every night. Yes as long as you have an air tight seal on the chambers it can be fired years after its loaded. you can use a .22 cleaning rod or a nail to remove the ball from a revolver if it cannot be fired.
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Old July 20, 2011, 01:36 PM   #19
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Quote:
the act of unscrewing the nipple could create enough localized friction (especially if a grain of powder were in the threads) that it could set off the charge in the chamber
I have a very hard time understanding how unscrewing a nipple could generate enough kinetic energy to raise the temperature of anything (much less steel threads) to 700 degrees, even in a very tiny area of high friction. On a simple energy transfer basis, this makes no sense to me.

Quote:
Wild Bill carried his navy 36s long after self contained cartridges were available. To assure that they would reliably fire every time he needed them he loaded them every morning and unloaded them every night
Perhaps. I suggest, however, that his motivation for 'unloading' his pistols was primarily to practice shooting.

Every time this subject comes up someone relates how they keep a bp revolver loaded and capped as a self defense weapon for long periods of time, feeling very confident that it will be reliable. As it regards the viability of the powder and caps, that seems reasonable. However, how can anyone feel confident in their own skills shooting that weapon if they never practice with it? Doesn't it make sense to maintain proficiency with the very gun that you are counting on to save your life?
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Old July 20, 2011, 01:57 PM   #20
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Not to worry

Rule #1 is don't cap them! Safety first.
The loaded cylinder will last a very long time provided moisture is avoided. Spans of Months are definatelly within reason!
Cleaning after shooting has a MAX limit of 3 days. I am responsible for pushing that limit and I know corrosion starts to set in after that. You can clean a 3 day stored gun pretty easilly with no special solvents needed,just not a good idea!
Best way is shoot em and clean them the same day.
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Old July 20, 2011, 02:26 PM   #21
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One of the longest times I have left a cylinder loaded and capped was almost 8 months. Revolver was also carried on my belt in both a covered and uncovered holster, in rain and snow.

All loads fired without a single issue. Nipples and chamber mouths were waxed liberally.

It is not the powder that causes corrosion, it is the salts left from the burning of the powder that causes rust.
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Old July 20, 2011, 03:40 PM   #22
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Cleaning after shooting has a MAX limit of 3 days. I am responsible for pushing that limit and I know corrosion starts to set in after that.
I've gone nine days after shooting Pyrodex with no rust or corrosion.
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Old July 20, 2011, 08:19 PM   #23
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Ok - keep the gun angled if you are using substitute powder. Now I must ask my friends here that have more expertise, doesn't pyrodex have graphite? And the others? Real BP, I think will hold in chambers a long time since there are no lubricants in it. I might be wrong but my captains will be glad to discuss

WBH
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Old July 20, 2011, 08:27 PM   #24
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Ive gone days without cleaning my weapons after a heavy reenactment and had a little rust on the bluing of the gun. BP has 3 main ingredients potassium nitrate, sulfur, and carbon,Only thing that matters is the amount of each ingredient you put in you mix. Graphite is inert material. If your going to put lube put if over the ball after its firmly seated to help create a seal and stop chain fires.
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Old July 21, 2011, 01:18 PM   #25
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Quote:
Ok - keep the gun angled if you are using substitute powder. Now I must ask my friends here that have more expertise, doesn't pyrodex have graphite? And the others? Real BP, I think will hold in chambers a long time since there are no lubricants in it. I might be wrong but my captains will be glad to discuss

WBH
All powders are tumbled in a graphite tub after a batch is completed. Substitute powders are no exception. This had been done since DuPont started mass producing black powder in America during the antebellum period. Graphite not only lubricates the powder, it keeps individual grains from chipping other grains and lead to the accumulation of serpentine priming powder in the can. Graphite may be inert but it is also carbon, which burns upon ignition of the charge as extra fuel. Very minute on the overall performance of the charge, but it is still burned.
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