Paper cartridges for percussion revolvers

This post delves deep into technical esoterica, so unless you have a specific interest in percussion revolver shooting you may as well move on.

I got interested in black powder firearms some years ago, which led to percussion revolvers, which led to making paper cartridges similar to those used in the mid 1800s, and used in great numbers during the Civil War.

My new video demonstrates how the “pull tab” cartridges are made, and why they’re important as part of using the 40 round belt box that I designed. These are the same cartridges I used (with the lube cookie) this month in a 102 round proof test. Hope you like it, and that you try it out for yourself.

My technique is a variation of the system detailed by capandball. His video is also a must-see if you’re going to make the cartridges.

This cartridge-making method goes hand-in-hand with my thread “Cartridge Box (speaking of field carry)“.

The 102 consecutive round test is detailed here, showing that, with the right methods, even the dirtiest powder cannot prevent you from shooting a large number of rounds, trouble free.

With all of that information, you can enter the field with naught but your pistol belt, a capping tool and your ear plugs. That as opposed to the “buffet table” full of loading components, tools and accessories that is often employed by today’s cap and ball shooters.

Business catering to black powder revolver shooters will often tell you that you’ll not be able to get off more than twelve or eighteen shots before you have to remove the cylinder and clean the cylinder arbor, else the cylinder will become too difficult to turn, but I proved that to be very incorrect.

Have fun.


4 thoughts on “Paper cartridges for percussion revolvers

  1. You know, a simpler way is to just glue a bullet on top of a Pyrodex pellet.

    • Been there, done that. It works pretty well too (with caveats). Here is my article on the subject;
      Click here.

      Now the caveats. The pellets are more expensive per shot than even the most expensive loose black powders or substitutes. You’re constrained to the “30 grain” pellet size. Don’t know how you’d make a cartridge with a round ball. Using grease behind the projectile is problematic at best (though I had good results without it). The pellets don’t come in 36 or 31 calibers, last time I checked. The pellets exhibit hangfire pretty often in some guns unless you use an initiator charge of black powder, and the need to do that wipes out any benefit of convenience (I toyed with the idea of building an ititator into the cartridge, and I believe that such could be done, though I never got around to making it really sing. They’re actually more fragile than a good paper cartridge. You’d have to Gerry rig some sort of pull tab on them to make them work in my “field carry” system, with the belt box, and if I can’t “field carry” it I have no use for it. Adding some sort of tab could certainly be done, but that’s yet another offset to the convenience that the pellet would seem, on the surface, to offer.

      If you’re shooting from a fixed position, with a table (“range style”, as I put it, derogatorily) the latter wouldn’t matter (you could load out of a conventional cartridge box sitting on a table, which is what I did in my experiment), but the hangfire issue remains, at least for some if not most revolvers. The hangfire, as I state in my article, is very short in duration, but it’s enough to turn what would have been a hit into a miss.

      Other than all of that though, the pellets are great, and I would encourage anyone interested in the subject to give them a try and play around with it for a while. Maybe in so doing you’ll see something I failed to see.

  2. Do you have any issues with the lube cookie sticking to the back of the bullet and causing accuracy problems?

    • I’ve heard of that as a concern for BPCR (black powder cartridge rifle) shooters, who are reaching out several hundreds to a thousand yards or so, but as I stated in one of my reports (linked from the OP above), my 97th to 102nd of 102 consecutive shots landed in a group about as small as I’ve ever fired with that particular gun (Pietta repro of a Remington New Model Army) at 25 yards.

      BPCR shooters sometimes use a grease cookie for fouling mitigation, but (I’m told) in that case they’ll place a card wad between the cookie and the lead, thus allowing the grease to fall free upon exit from the bore. Such could just as well be done in a pistol load, whether using cartridges or loading with loose components, if it should turn out to be a problem.

      A common variation on the grease cookie is the felt wad impregnated with the lube. I’ve fired a lot of that sort of load, and always the wads tend to spin off to one side and land about fifteen yards or so in front and about five feet or so to the right of the gun (you see those things when shooting in snowy conditions). Likewise; one could load a wad impregnated with GF1 lube in a cartridge, or by using loose components, though the tapered paper case might prefer a slightly smaller wad diameter for easy assembly (the wads they sell for the 44 caliber guns tend to fit pretty tight in the chamber). Using the right grease formula is important, so as not to degrade the powder when left in assembled cartridges or left loaded in the gun in contact with the powder for extended periods. Gatofeo #1 (GF1) does not seem to degrade the powder at all, at least not in the temperature range in which I’ve tested it so far. The pre-lubed felt wads WILL degrade the powder, so you have to load and shoot, or count on weak loads later on. Some have w “dry lube” in them, which I can’t see as doing much for fouling mitigation.

      One of my main points here is that, inspite of many of the “experts” telling us that we won;t be able to fire more than eighteen or so shots before the gun stops functioning due to fouling build-up, I have demonstrated that one can fire essentially indefinitely if one uses the right materials and loading methods (OK; it will eventually get dark, and/or you’ll get too tired to shoot, and THAT is what stops you, not the fouling).

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