paper cartridges

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wicket

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DD, sorry your question got lost in the shuffle. You might try forming the base of your cartridges from a different grade of paper than the cartridges themselves. Ordinary white packing tissue works. Drill a hole into a block of wood about the diameter of your cartridge base, i use a brad point bit because it leaves a flat bottom to the hole. Sand the hole smooth, chamfer it lightly, and treat it with wax or silicone to prevent the cartridge sticking.
Punch out disks of tissue paper about 1/8 larger diameter than the cartridge base, and with the cartridge on its forming mandrel, lightly glue the cartridge lip, and press a disk into hole in the wood block with the mandrel, like capping a beer bottle only upside down.
You don't need to soak the tissue in anything. You could probably substitute flash paper for tissue if you felt like buying some online.
For glue i like partially evaporated nitro varnish, you can get it at any paint store. Nitro based clear nail polish works too, but it's difficult to find these days.
 

Wes/Tex

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Wicket's method is one of the easiest to use. The mandrel used to form the paper cartridge can be cylindrical or tapered, depending on which you like. Used either with treated onion-skin paper inserted in end. Use a dry type contact cement. Tried both conical and round ball variations and they're OK. Personally, it got boring and I gave it up. Found it almost as quick to use flask and did't have to spend extra time making sure the cartridge lined up correctly to function at it's best. Had better accuracy with loaded ball than any of the pre-made cartridge types. Your mileage may vary.
 

wicket

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Tex, my experience has been about the same as yours, though employing nitrocellulose paper makes the process a bit more entertaining.
When shooting time's limited it's nice to have some ready-mades, and they're great for walking around in the woods shooting cans and stuff, but a bit of a chore to make if you don't use templates and jigs.
Using conicals is a pain in the neck with my navies, but i own the mold, so i might as well use it i suppose, i'd go to round balls only that feels like cheating unless i'm loading loose powder.
Bottom line is that making cartridges is all well and good, but making caps would be a helluva lot more practical, damned Remington #10's are getting hard to find in my neighborhood.
 

Wes/Tex

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You have to bear in mind that the boxes of paper cartridges were a military expedient to get cavalry troopers loaded for combat and reloaded after the initial clash. It was easier to use the paper cartridges for training and ops than flasks and loose balls. Southern troopers somewhat cancelled out the reload problem by carrying a pair of revolvers rather than a single. Some units even toted from 4 to 6 Colts around their persons and horse. to my knowledge, none of the period gunfighters or cowboys ever mentioned using paper cartridges.
 

wicket

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I don't know much about the historical use of cartridges, though the Army manual of 1861 is based on a paper cartridge ripped open and poured, followed by the ball. The patents suggest that there was a drive toward something more readily loaded with an emphasis on limiting fouling and embers. How popular the things were after the war i've never heard, but based on my experience, they would have been quite convenient, which should have made them popular. My only complaint with true combustibles is that they are tricky to center under the plunger.
 

deadidick

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I remove the plunger from my Walker roll the paper around it slide it forward insert conicle glue, remove plunger drop powder twist end. they fit snuggly in the cylinder then seat . works ok for me
 

wicket

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Interesting Dead-eye, using the gun's plunger as a forming mandrel, never would have thought of that. I use a tapered wooden mandrel and cut my paper in bunches with a brass template. Wrap a paper, glue it, press on the bottom cap, pour in the measure of powder from the top, then brush a bit of glue around the conical below the first ring and press it into the top of the cartridge with a slight twist, like closing a jar of jelly. The things are a bit tricky to load straight in my Pietta navies, but that's got more to do with conicals than the cartridges.
 

crockett

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The original conicals were rather long and "Pointy" and the full diameter base was very short- that is- there wasn't that much bearing length of the conical against the bore/chamber walls. When a conical of that shape got rammed into the chamber it could easily twist out of line, so, accuracy was never very good.
Since there are some hazards to carrying around this stuff, for field use find or make some small, re-useable tubes with tight fitting caps. These tubes hold a single powder charge. You store these in a small Altoid can along with round balls, pre-lubed wads, and caps and you have lots of ammo and it is far safer than the combustibles, plus more accurate.
For me at least, the combustibles was just to experience what was done at the time.
 

wicket

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Combustibles aren't for everybody, that's a fact. The little plastic vials probably make more sense than rolling paper into a cartridge and then tearing the end off the thing to dump the powder into the chamber, seems like a lot of powder would get spilled.
The OP's topic though was how to seal the end of the cartridge without a lot of misfires. I've never tried it, but i wonder whether a drop of shellac or something on the actual powder would work to seal the thing, like they used to do with the fulminate mixture in caps back in the day.
 

crockett

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Well between this morning and now I was reading a magazine and this guy uses spent brass casings and those foam ear plugs as an easy way to store single charges of black powder. I never thought about that but it ought to work fine, in fact you could probably find some foam at a craft store and cut out some plugs/stoppers for the brass cases. As I said, if you want to run around out in the woods, with the brass case containing a single charge of powder, and a pre-lubed wad, and then a ball- you have all the components you need for a powerful and accurate load- far better than any combustible cartridge- and it is a whole lot safer to use because there is no chance of unburnt paper residue in the chamber. All this talk about combustibles....remember- THEY'RE COMBUSTIBLE.
I can get at least 20 such rounds in an Altoids can.
On sealing a gun- years ago I was at the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond,(a 5 minute drive off the Interstate) and lots of things to see. Lee's Colt navy was there and the curator told me it had been sealed with red sealing wax. It might have been done at the start of the war and never fired. In any event seven years after Lee's death someone tried the gun and all chambers fired- so some sort of sealing wax ought to work. Actually, I think percussion revolvers are underated, I think they were very reliable. In an Army 44, plenty powerful. I think just loading as is ought to be fine unless the gun gets dunked in water.
 

wicket

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Nitrocellulose combustibles do make me a bit nervous, but i like the science and having something to play with nobody else has.
Am curious about whether the casing contributes pressure to the charge, going to run some tests on wood blocks eventually.
In keeping with the topic, i sliced the end off a cartridge today to expose the powder, then dropped a bit of shellac on it. Enough of the powder hardened to seal the cartridge and the thing fired ok after it had dried for about four hours, the report was a little dull and it threw more sparks than usual though.
Since i was in science mode, i did a water absorption test on 2.5 grams of cartridge paper, then saturated the same quantity of paper with 7.5 grams of KNO3 in a supersaturated solution. After drying i did a burn test on a porcelain tile. It was ugly, with nitrate globules clinging to the porcelain rather like welding spatter.
 

crockett

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That's sort of interesting because one of the manufacturers back during the Civil War did it sort of the same way, a black powder pellet with conical attached and then the whole thing shellaced to make it waterproof.Essentially- there was no case. The Firm was Johnson and ? (If it's important I can find it in my records. The thing is, the Army would test and buy some and then test more and decline. The ammo had to soak in water for 4 hours and then still fire. Colt and Sage got around the problem by packing their cartridges in waterproof wood boxes that were about the same size as a deck of cards. The waterproof test was why Colt used the tin foil in the beginning. The tin foil cartridges were put into a heavy wrapping paper type container called a "packet". When Colt changed to a wood box the thing was still called a "packet" even through made of wood.
 

wicket

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Sounds like Bartolow's patent no.32345, Johnston and Dow(# 34061)patented a method of waterproofing the conventional nitrocellulose combustible cartridge with collodion.
I've used shellac on nitro cartridges, not for water proofing but simply to stiffen the paper a bit, but they can leave some residue behind. Got some nitro lacquer around but haven't tried brushing it on cartridges other than in a thickened form as adhesive, i'll have to try it as an overall coating.
I read a report at some point about Army Ordnance ( Inspector P. Drayton 1863) testing Johnston and Dow cartridges in Remingtons, and objecting to the fouling and inferior powder. Might have been the fault of a subcontractor though working under the J & D patent, as i recall Johnston and Dow's factory in New York was destroyed in an explosion.
 

crockett

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That all sounds like what I was trying to remember, pretty interesting stuff. When you think about it, it is sort of surprising no manufacturer today has come up with similar ammo. There used to be prodex pellets for the Army but you still loaded the ball or conical sperately, etc.
 

wicket

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There's a patent out there from the 1970's i believe for combustible percussion cartridges, but it doesn't seem to have gone anywhere.
I've been looking around for another shooter who's actually used magician's flashpaper or homemade, but no luck. Everybody seems to stick with curling papers or tea bags or nitrate soaked rolling papers, and they all seem to give up eventually and go back to loading loose.
Interesting subject though, and the historical packets some folks make are quite appealing.
 

Poor Private

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Dixie Gun Works carries .44 cal paper cartrigdes. They are in a packet of 6 with period wrapping. Cost though can be a bit steep for some 20 bucks not including shipping. they are in nitrated paper with Hornady Balls, and Goex powder. If your looking for something for a living history example this may be it. but for firing thats a bit high.
 

BowerR64

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When i first started i watched ALOT of youtube videos and i watched a guy at my local gun range shoot his. IMO this is what drives people from shooting black powder is all the steps and junk required to shoot them.

I watched a few videos with the paper cartridges and it was very intriguing so i gave it a shot and it was fun for a while although not very accurate. The issue with the burnt paper or ember hanging around in the chamber was scary for me but i usually took 2 guns and i let one "cool" before i reloaded it as i shot the second.

Then i stumbeled on these charge tubes and it changed everything. IMO the key to shooting these guns is to develope a system the more simple the better, the less steps the better and the less equipment the better. Once you get a system down you can then focus on your accuracy.

I couldnt hit a thing till i figured out a system i liked and it wasnt long after that i started to actually hit what i was aiming at. THATS when the fun began.

Here are my charge tubes in the cabelas 454/50 plastic case. I still havnt found a powder i like im kinda playing with them all right now. I group different loads and powder types in groups of 6 then lable them at the top.


Close up of the tubes and my S&W40 scoop


This is my preload setup, as if you would pre make your paper cartridges i just weigh my powder then use a small funnel and cap it with a pre weighed ball. (I weigh a level .40 scoop then round up to the nearest grain and weigh them all the same) .40 is around 20 grains (3F) and 45acp i use for (2F) usually around 26g


And this is an image of how i load with them. Pretty easy pinch the tube the ball pushes out, dump the powder remove the funnel and ram the ball in.


Some times i will use bore butter sometimes i dont im still undecided on lube over the ball.

This is my most simple range kit. Ive made a few trips to the range with just this. (loaded cylinder) and 6 more shots. If your careful and dont rush the load you can pour the powder fine right from the tube. Pinching the tube can create a little pour spout. The stand and funnel just makes things easier and you can really load fast without spilling any powder.

 

wicket

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I've not tried the cartridges from Dixie gunworks, but i rather doubt that they are fully combustible. Along with the trouble it takes to make cartridges, folks object to the fact that so-called combustible cartridges sometimes leave charred paper behind that can smoulder and ignite a subsequent load.
Saturating paper with potassium nitrate provides an oxidant (the nitrate)which helps ignite and consume the paper when it is fired. The Dixie cartridges are most probably made from nitrate saturated paper. The problem with cartridges made from such paper is that they do not always burn completely since paper and potassium nitrate both leave residue behind.
The completely combustible cartridge, which was invented prior to the Civil War, was not made of simple paper or paper saturated with potassium nitrate. Instead, inventors like J. Henry Ferguson (pat. no. 24548) substituted nitrocellulose, also known as guncotton, for the paper. Though guncotton can be made from paper, the cellulose which the paper contains has been transformed at the molecular level. Nitrocellulose burns both rapidly and completely, among other things it's used as a component in modern smokeless powder.
The distinction between paper soaked in potassium nitrate and paper converted to nitrocellulose through chemical action is lost on most people, which is why the discussion of combustible cartridges among black powder shooters never goes anywhere.
For years folks out here have complained about smouldering paper, suggested soaking with potassium nitrate, using tea bags or hair curling papers, and often concluded that the best solution is to weigh out individual charges into some sort of container and load that way.
The fact is, making truly combustible cartridges would be beyond the skill level of most black powder shooters even if they understood the distinction between nitrated paper and nitrate soaked paper. Folks desiring to try paper cartridges should resign themselves to the fact that they can leave fouling and live embers behind and are tedious to make, and either accept these limitations, or stick to loading loose powder and ball.
For those interested in truly combustible cartridges as manufactured 150 years ago, a search of the original patents followed by some Googling will be instructive, though my personal suggestion to those interested in paper cartridges is to simply make them carefully the popular way and without excessive paper, then make sure the chambers are clear before reloading.
 

crockett

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Hey Wicket- sounds like you are pretty much up to date on this topic. I've read some of Terry White's books plus articles of his in the Gun Report. In any event, as you said, the stuff we make today works but it is not the same as the combustibles made at the time. If I recall, at least one manufacturer also used sulfuric acid which was corrosive but the military didn't care.
I went to all the trouble to recreate the wood boxes. The Sage mono block wasn't too difficult but that two piece Colt design was DIFFICULT as the amount of wood between the cavities is paper thin. I printed out old labels on tan paper and then glued the labels on the wood boxes with string under the Sage and wire under the Colt and VOILA! I had something pretty much like the originals. It wasn't enough for me just to load and shoot combustibles, what I wanted was to experience the use of the entire package. Taking a clean, unfired for the day Navy 1851 I ripped open the packets and loaded up and capped and fired the ammo. Pretty fast. I can't recall the exact time but I compared it to a 1873 Colt Peacemaker where I had to knock out the fired cases and put in new rounds, drawing them one at a time from a belt loop. The time was about the same.
The other thing on this subject was very early on, almost as soon as Colt had worked out his revolver design, he was working on the combustible cartridge concept. Percussion revolvers IMHO were a technological advancement far ahead of their time. Even today, if you had a pair of 1860 Colt Army revolvers with their long barrels and faced some bad guy with a short barreled semi-auto, you might be the better armed.
 
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