paper cartridges

Help Support Muzzle Loading Forum:

swathdiver

45 Cal.
Joined
Jan 31, 2012
Messages
975
Reaction score
1
wicket said:
I followed your suggestion Swath, and tried waxed paper. In air it burns slowly and leaves a lot of crud behind on the test tile. I went ahead and rolled up a tapering cartridge from it, sealed the base with a single disk of wax paper, and loaded the cartridge with 15 grains of black powder and a conical. It didn't glue well with Duco cement, but other glues might be better. I loaded the cartridge into a clean chamber, put on a CCI # 11 cap and pulled the trigger.The cap fired, but the cartridge didn't. Second cap fired it.
There wasn't any residual paper left in the chamber nor an unusual amount of fouling, i think wax paper would make acceptable cartridges if the right glue was used (i had particular trouble getting the bullet to stick in the mouth of the cartridge), and if the cartridge base was sealed with a disk of cigarette paper instead of waxed paper.
Oh, and thank you for getting me interested in paper cartridges, it was your post about making them with your kids, and all the fun you guys had, that got me experimenting with the things.Have you tried flash paper Swath?
You're welcome! Nope, next time we'll try the flash paper.
 

crockett

Cannon
Joined
May 1, 2004
Messages
6,352
Reaction score
14
There is another option I've never thought about- not pc but I wonder if you can take black powder and mix it with some ingredient that makes a pill- like the pyrodex. You would then load the pill, a ball, and cap. A little slower but no worry on unburnt paper.
 

wicket

40 Cal.
Joined
Jul 4, 2013
Messages
156
Reaction score
0
In May 1861 R. Bartholow registered patent number 32345 where he combined what was basically finely powdered gunpowder with potassium chlorate and either collodion or shellac, and cast the mixture into pellets, which when they were dry he proposed to glue to the bullets with "marine glue".
 

sixgunner

32 Cal.
Joined
Mar 14, 2014
Messages
10
Reaction score
0
Okay, did some tests this weekend.
I tried what are basically tapered paper cartridges made with onion skin paper, loaded with 40 grains of FFFg black powder.
This is a fairly light load for my Uberti Walker.
I had to do various different tests, the paper cartridge test was just one of them, so I could only fire 18 of them.
When I inserted them in the chamber, and operated the loading lever, I could definitely feel the cartridge crumple and burst when rammed home.
I had no misfires, all 18 cartridges fired flawlessly.
I'm now doing some experiments about paper cartridge finish.
Somebody suggested painting with collodion, which is basically guncotton (nitrocellulose) dissolved in alcohol and ether, to make them stronger, somewhat water repellent and make them burn cleaner, leaving no residue.
I don't have collodion, I can find it only as teatrical makeup and is quite expensive.
What I did is use some smokeless powder, which is basically guncotton with combustion retardant additives added to regulate combustion rate, and dissolved it in acetone, to get a kind of varnish.
I then got some strips of onion skin paper and painted half of them with the solution, much like I'd do with the finished paper cartridge.
I then took a ceramic plate and ignited the samples over it, one after another, using a small blowtorch.
Non-painted strips of paper burn well until the flame reaches the point where the flat paper lies on the ceramic plate, then the paper extinguishes itself.
Onion skin paper with the guncotton varnish crumples a little during drying, and curls a little on the edges. I crumpled and curled a non-painted strip with my hands to get comparable burning conditions.
Plain paper still didn't burn completely.
Varnished paper burns slightly faster, slightly cleaner, but still no cigar.
I still got residues and unburnt paper.
I believe the combustion retardant chemicals in the powder, which are just a coating on the granules, get dissolved in the solution and act more effectively.
Since they are just a coating, when the grains of smokeless powder are dumped into the acetone this coating is the first to go, leaving white granules of guncotton which are slow to dissolve. So I believe I can first wash the retardants, then pour new acetone into the jar and get a cleaner guncotton solution to do some further testing.
I'll let you know.
 

wicket

40 Cal.
Joined
Jul 4, 2013
Messages
156
Reaction score
0
They appear to have worked, but not perhaps as well as Bartholow hoped since he filed a second patent (36066) on forming pellets by mixing black powder of various grain sizes with collodion, leaving out the potassium chlorate. Surviving examples of Bartholow cartridges have a strip of collodion binding the bullet to the pellet, so seemingly the "marine glue" of the original patent didn't work very well either.
 

wicket

40 Cal.
Joined
Jul 4, 2013
Messages
156
Reaction score
0
Sixgunner, did the paper cartridges you tested in your Walker all burn away completely without leaving any paper residue in the chamber?
 

crockett

Cannon
Joined
May 1, 2004
Messages
6,352
Reaction score
14
If I remember what I read there was an off again-on again relationship- the military would buy some of the bartholow ammunition and then later on cancel additional orders- I may be getting confused between him and another outfit (Johnson & Dow???) but if I recall the Army soaked the ammunition or the packet for 4 hours and if it didn't fire or too many didn't fire- they would reject the lot. So..for a short soak the bartholow stuff worked okay- the long soak was the trouble.
I think a lot of the science of statistics started with the military in testing ammunition lots.
Getting back on topic- I don't want to blow myself up :grin: so I don't want to go experimenting with mixing black powder with various glues- etc- I was just wondering if anyone had heard of such a thing.
 

wicket

40 Cal.
Joined
Jul 4, 2013
Messages
156
Reaction score
0
I don't know much about Government purchases of combustible cartridges, i'm more interested in how the things were made. Whether or not Bartholow's cartridges were rejected, he was a very interesting fellow in his own right. He was an Army surgeon serving in the Southwest when he began inventing cartridges. Bartholow eventually left the Army to teach medicine and performed the first experiments with electricity on a living human brain; gaining a reputation in some circles as a bit of a Doctor Frankenstein.
Johnston and Dow had some cartridges rejected, but the problem may have been related to inferior powder used by a subcontractor filling orders after Johnston and Dow's factory blew up in 1863,(the location is currently John Jay Park on New York's Upper East Side).
A point worth remembering is that even professionals have accidents while working with explosives, it's definitely not something amateurs should be messing around with. I'm not a nanny state guy, or one of those "you'll shoot your eye out" types, American inventors large and small took risks and contributed a lot to the prosperity our country. Energetic chemical compounds are best left alone though, the potential risks of experimenting with them are considerable and not always readily apparent.
 

crockett

Cannon
Joined
May 1, 2004
Messages
6,352
Reaction score
14
Yes, Colt had a seperate building in Hartford for making the cartridges (not to be confused with the Hazard Plant) and if I recall that Colt building blew up. (Not the main plant). There was another powder company (Philadelphia?) that blew up. The point is- for anyone getting too excited about this topic- dangerous stuff.
AND BTW, in the warm and cuddly department they used women predominantly to make the combustible cartridges. Apparently their small and delicate hands did a better job. :grin:
 

wicket

40 Cal.
Joined
Jul 4, 2013
Messages
156
Reaction score
0
When the Confederate munitions factory on Brown's Island blew up, it killed around 40 women who worked there. In the interests of saving women from further misfortunes, i'm developing methods of making cartridges suited to my larger clumsier hands, though i'm sure if i asked nicely my long-suffering wife would be glad to pitch in.
 

wicket

40 Cal.
Joined
Jul 4, 2013
Messages
156
Reaction score
0
See whether i can post a picture of a conical and a round ball cartridge, and some of my packets...

[/URL][/img]
 

sixgunner

32 Cal.
Joined
Mar 14, 2014
Messages
10
Reaction score
0
wicket said:
Sixgunner, did the paper cartridges you tested in your Walker all burn away completely without leaving any paper residue in the chamber?
As far as I could see, yes.
I don't know if the paper burned completely or any residues were blown out.
I made the cartridges with a SINGLE layer of onion skin paper. I cut onion skin paper in a trapezoid, so that the edges had a straight match when making the cone on a wooden dowel, and glued it on a thin overlap. The "point" was glued close by folding half of the tip of the cone, and then folding the other half over it.
The cartridge is made entirely of very light paper and, with the blast of 40 grains of gunpowder, there's very little chance of such a thin layer to survive.
On the down side, such a paper cartridge is very fragile, and has to be handled with care, stored with care and lugged around with care.
I used an MTM Case-gard plastic box for 30-06 cartridges to carry them to the range. It was too big, but was the only suitable conteiner I had in a pinch. During transportation in my backpack about half of the 40 cartridges I had made came out of the compartments, and 2 of them ruptured.
5% being an unacceptable rate of damaged cartridges, I'll have to find a better solution.
A tin can of sweets seems a more viable method of storing them.
 

wicket

40 Cal.
Joined
Jul 4, 2013
Messages
156
Reaction score
0
Maybe with a 40 grain charge you can get away with heavier paper and still have the cartridges burn away completely.
 

Bear Rider

45 Cal.
Joined
Mar 24, 2005
Messages
544
Reaction score
2
Try putting six of them on a packet of aluminum foil and folding it up like a little sandwich. Swap them end for end so that the packet is square rather than trapezoidal. I've done that for years and it protects cartridges made of zigzags very well. I just throw several of the packets in a belt pouch and I'm good to go.

Here are thirty rounds, with one packet partially open:


As you can probably guess, my wife wraps all the gifts.
 

crockett

Cannon
Joined
May 1, 2004
Messages
6,352
Reaction score
14
Bear- the original Colt combustibles were wrapped up in something similar although it was heavy brown wrapping paper- looked about the same.
Getting back to the tapered shape. I never thought about it before but now I'm wondering if that was done to deliberately rupture the base of the cartridge as it was rammed into a chamber of different proportions. The base would first contact the back of the chamber but there would be space between the case and chamber walls, when the conical was forced all the way down the powder would be pushed against the sides of the chamber- breaking open the case- or so it seems. The case would about have to break apart. If you look at the original stuff the taper is very noticeable.
AND...I know some folks fold over the back of their cartridges- do all sorts of things. As I said- I make an isosceles trapezoid with a tab at the base that gets folded over an open end of the paper tube. With only that single layer of cigarette paper and a tapered shape- maybe I'm breaking open the cases as I ram them into the chambers. That may explain some differences folks have on ignition. I did what I did because I saw Colts original patent and that's how the thing looks in the drawing- the little trap door.
It may also explain why the Army used a smaller powder charge than what you would think. Some ammunition in the 44 used a charge of 17 grains of powder- you could certainly use more if the case was more parallel than tapered. Now I'm wondering if the taper was omitting some powder (and a more powerful load) for more positive ignition if indeed the taper shape caused the cases to rupture upon being rammed all the way into the chamber.
This has been a really interesting thread with a lot of new thoughts on this topic I never considered.
 

Bear Rider

45 Cal.
Joined
Mar 24, 2005
Messages
544
Reaction score
2
I'm certain that the tapered shape is intended to rupture the case. I currently use a fold like you find on a grocery bag to seal the bottom of the cartridge, which results in multiple layers. My first cartridges were cylindrical, and I had ignition problems. I had to resort to using a nipple pick to ensure ignition. Since I went to the tapered cartridge, I've had almost no ignition problems.
 

wicket

40 Cal.
Joined
Jul 4, 2013
Messages
156
Reaction score
0
Various combustible cartridges based on "flash" type NC paper or pressed powder also had a tapered form, though there's no reason why an NC case or pressed pellet required being burst to fire, both ignite readily and burn completely.
A taper certainly appears useful with a modern cartridge that has questionable ignition characteristics, but i suspect the original function was primarily to allow the cartridges to be angled as they were loaded into the chambers.
 
2

Latest posts

Top