Tuesday, February 24, 2009

How I Make Paper Cartridges by "Coyote Nose"

I've gotten several inquiries as to how to make paper cartridges for percussion revolvers and have referred folks to various books. Now "Coyote Nose" has authored a description of his method and taken the accompanying photographs.

I get quite a few questions at the range on this, figured maybe you guys would be interested in one way to make paper cartridges for cap and ball revolvers. First a preview:

The gun is a 3rd gen Colt 1851. I just love this gun and the wood is absolutely outstanding. That's the way it came from the factory too! To the left of the case is Pyrodex, a wood block, paper printed with the label I use to wrap, and the round balls. On the lid of the case is the cigarette papers I use, the wood form to roll the papers with, completed cartridges, and a filled cartridge box. You must make the form by turning a 1/2" dowel on a lathe or drill press. I put a 7 degree taper on mine.

First lick the gum on the paper and roll it around the form. I cut the tail to about 1/4" long with scissors then lick the tail and fold it back onto the form. Slide it off the form to dry. A note on paper. Tops brand is too thick, I get too many misfires or hang-fires with it. Zigzag seems to work the best for me...it is real thin.
This picture shows the paper rolled on the form

After the paper tubes are dry (only a few minutes) I charge them up using the flask...mine throws the equivalent of 18 grains blackpowder, but I use Pyrodex P. Then drop a ball in each, twist the top..the tighter you twist it the sturdier the cartridge becomes, but don't over twist or it will rip. Experiment a little. Then using cotton or linen thread (not nylon!) tie the ends off.

A note on tying, if the cartridges are not for shooting but for display, I tie them the way old ones were: 1 loop under the ball, then take the thread up over the ball and tie off the twist. This bottom loop under the ball stops powder from migrating up over the ball. It is time consuming and I found it is not necessary if I twist the top tight to push the ball in, as the taper of the tube causes the ball to seal the powder off tightly. Still, if they are to be handled as when showing people it is best to put that loop under the ball. The picture shows 3 tubes with powder only, 3 with ball seated, 3 with the top twisted, and 3 with the thread tie on top. The loose ends and the excess paper above the twist will be trimmed off with scissors.

You can take these out in a plastic ziplock bag or any other container, but after several years of this I wanted something more historical, so I printed up a label and with the computer printed them out on colored paper. I made wood blocks with 6 holes in them (blind holes, block dimension is 1/2" + X 1 1/2" X 3") Wood is basswood. Glued a strong thread on one end to help in ripping the paper wrapping open, cut out the labels and form them over the wood. Glue only the paper to itself, not to the wood since every time you use a pack you simply glue a new paper wrap on.
Shown here are completed cartridges, paper wraps, completed cartridge packs, and the wooden holding blocks.

In use I rip open the pack clear across the top which allows me to dump out the cartridges, then either load them normally, paper and all, or rip open the back end and dribble a little powder in first then seat everything normally. If I don't rip the back end then before capping I use a long wire or pick and pierce the paper from the nipple. Doing one of these 2 I have never had a misfire or hang-fire using thin Zigzag paper. If I don't do this I never had a misfire but have had a small amount of hang-fires so BE CAREFUL. using other thicker papers I have had both misfires and hang-fires. I have both greased over the cartridges and also fired them w/o grease. Normally I use wonder wads but they don't lend themselves to these type of cartridges so I recommend grease over the top. Very rarely is paper left in the cylinder after firing. I mean rarely...I can't remember the last time it happened but you should check anyway to make sure nothing smoldering is left in there.

Also, when the ring of lead is shaved off when seating, often the very top of the paper comes off with it...no big deal as it does not seem to affect anything. I mainly use these in the winter when my fingers are frozen and I don't feel like messing with powder flasks, loose balls, etc.

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