Revolver chain fires

Discussion in 'Handguns' started by BIGBEAR, Jun 14, 2019.

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  1. Jan 1, 2020 #21

    Golfswithwolves

    Golfswithwolves

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    There is an alternate explanation which makes sense to me that if there is any powder in excess on the cylinder front while loading then a "fuse trail" of powder could form alongside the ball as it carries such an excess alongside itself; that this could cause chain ignition from the front of the cylinder. I don't know for sure but now I always make sure to only get powder into the chambers and not any spilling onto the cylinder front. About the loose cap hypothesis I don't know, maybe both routes can be involved.
     
  2. Jan 1, 2020 #22

    LRB

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    In years of shooting percussion revolvers, I've had two chain fires. In both cases I had neglected to put grease over the balls. In the 80's, I went to greased wads over the powder and stopped greasing the balls. Never a problem with that.I have used many oversized caps when I could not find ones that fit tight, by just pinching them so they would stay on. Never a problem due to that, and I doubt pinching would make a good seal, but maybe it was enough. I am of the opinion that chain fires come from the front, but my opinion is just formed from my experience of firing many hundreds of shots through 3 different Colt types. Oh, yeah, had a Remington type for awhile also. I had a friend that got me started, and taught me back in the early 70's. He had one chain fire from not putting grease over the balls when he first started, then never again. I don't know, do what you feel comfortable with.
     
  3. Jan 1, 2020 #23

    Rudyard

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    I once tied to affect a chain fire in an od pepperbox , it isn't that easy as I recall .Not heard or known chain fire in revolvers but I didn't shoot much revolver either.
    Rudyard
     
  4. Jan 1, 2020 #24

    rodwha

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    I’ve seen that stated a lot and question it. However my father had a chain fire and he used wads. The felt was most certainly cannot begin the trail of crushed powder so there had to be a gap in the “fuse” at the very least, though, the wads would scrape powder that may be sticking I’d think.
     
  5. Jan 2, 2020 #25

    dave951

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    Knock on wood, I've never had a chain fire. That said, I do smear a layer of lube on the front of the cylinders and always use correctly fitting caps. In a discussion I had recently with another bp revolver guy, he says that the most common cause of a chain fire is poorly fitting caps coupled with loose mechanical tolerances of repops.
     
  6. Jan 2, 2020 #26

    Stantheman86

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    Somewhere on YouTube a guy does in depth field work on what causes chain fires by trying to replicate chain fires with blank rounds.

    I think he found that loose fitting caps cause chain fires because he sealed off blanks with wax plugs and intentionally used loosely fitted caps.
     
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  7. Jan 3, 2020 #27

    Eras Gone

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    I've only had one chain fire. It was from a cheap FIE brass frame .36 Remington. This was about 1974 when I was a kid and had no idea what I was doing. I know now that the bullets cast from the cheap FIE brass frame was throwing under size bullets and the chambers were not sealing, even with some crisco on top. Scared the crap out of me but did not hurt the gun other than suet and lead smears on the side of the barrel.
     
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  8. Jan 3, 2020 #28

    flinter1977

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    I've only had one chain fire and that was in a old Italian 36 1851 . I had too long on nipples and fired five out of six at once . the recoil slammed the caps back and fired on the recoil shield. No damage but I learned a lesson .
     
  9. Jan 3, 2020 #29

    ugly old guy

    ugly old guy

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    Putting lube on the front over the ball is a waste of lube.
    It is all melted off after the first or second shot. Also, since you shaved a ring of lead off the ball when loading, no fire can reach the powder from the front.

    If you feel you MUST seal the front, use something like uncooked Cream of Wheat. It cannot burn, and seems to "scrub" fouling out of the barrel from previous shots, based on my experience doing CW reenactments. (the "slug" formed disintegrates upon impacting something … if not before.)

    If you must, put a dollop over each cap. (it still makes a mess) or better yet, just use proper fitting fitting caps.

    I never had a chain fire in the several years I shot a C&B revolver. I did not put a dollop of lube (or grease) over the caps, or anything but Cream of Wheat in front (and only then when shooting blanks)
    I did however, use caps that fit the nipples properly.
     
  10. Jan 6, 2020 #30

    Enfield58

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    My friend has had a couple of chain fires with his 1860 Army. He forgot to put lube over the balls when it happened. After doing it twice, he doesn't make that mistake again.

    I only had one chain fire in a LeMat. I suspect that the chamber in the LeMat is tapered. It's larger at the opening then get's smaller toward the rear.

    So I was attempting a 25 grain charge when it happened. With that charge, the ball was very close to the edge of the chamber. So very little lube was covering the ball. Due to the tapered chambers there must have been a gap between the ball and the chamber walls allowing a spark to enter.

    I decided to go back to the 20 grain charge which permits me to seat the ball deeper in the LeMat. Haven't had any problems since then.
     
  11. Jan 6, 2020 #31

    rodwha

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    Except lube doesn’t have tubes through it does it? Unless you are loading wide meplat bullets as I do even the conicals have a lot of space along the edges where this counts. I’m having a hard time digesting this as the culprit.
     
  12. Jan 6, 2020 #32

    Enfield58

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    I just shoot round balls. I use a mixture of beeswax and vegetable oil for lube that doesn't get blown away with the first round.

    The other shooter uses the same lubricant.
     
  13. Jan 6, 2020 #33

    Colonial Boy

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    This experience was not a chain fire but full auto, (I may have posted this earlier, somewhere), the late Lynton McKenzie, of gun engraving fame, had an original Remington Army, it was battered and worn and the nipples were rusted closed.
    Lyn drilled them out with a 1/16 th inch drill, this was 60 years or so ago and shootable cap and ball pistols were thin on the ground in Australia, Lyn loaded up, grease over the balls and fired, bbrrrrpppp!!, the hammer had been blown back to full cock and as the trigger was held down the six shots went full automatic. We realised this when we saw that the caps had each been hit.

    I've often thought that Colt would have been well aware of this from experimenting with nipples, so full auto would possibly have been known in the early nineteenth century.
     
  14. Jan 6, 2020 #34

    Treestalker

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    By the Saints they'll be after our Colt's next!
     
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  15. Jan 6, 2020 #35

    BillinOregon

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    Never had one, never saw one. My first cap-and-ball revolver circa 1970 was a brass-framed Navy .36 imported by Hawes, if anyone remembers that brand. I was more worried about greasing the chamber mouths in those days and didn't pay much attention to cap fit, so I think I was just lucky.
     
  16. Jan 6, 2020 #36

    ugly old guy

    ugly old guy

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    There is NO WAY chainfire is caused by no lube over the chamber mouth.

    TURN ON YOUR BRAIN AND THINK ABOUT IT:

    1) 100% OF THE TIME, ALL OF THE LUBE is melted off ALL the chambers with the FIRST shot.

    In other words, and to make it simple:
    AFTER THE FIRST SHOT THERE IS NO LUBE OVER ANY OF THE CHAMBERS.

    2) When the proper size ball is used, you shave a ring between 0.002 to 0.004 inch off the ball. The ball to chamber wall clearance is 0.0000...inch/ZERO/NONE.
    In order for the heat or a spark to reach the powder from the chamber mouth there has to be a gap between the ball and the chamber sides.

    3) 100% of Chain Fires are caused by loose or missing caps on a loaded chamber.
    (a) A loose cap or caps CAN be and ARE knocked off by recoil.
    (b) You get sparks and heat out of the nipple when you fire. Yes, enough to cause a chainfire if the cap(s) are loose and/or missing.

    To prevent chainfire you have a couple options:
    (from least practical to most practical)
    1) Only load one chamber at a time.
    2) Put a dollop of grease or lube over each cap. (Yes. This is as messy and a bigger PIA than it sounds)
    3) Pack dry uncooked Cream Of Wheat or Malt-O-Meal cereal over the ball.
    4) USE SNUG FITTING CAPS AND MAKE SURE THEY ARE FULLY SEATED.

    I did not use over powder wads or cards.
    When shooting blanks (powder only, no ball) I packed uncooked Cream Of Wheat over the powder.
    I did not pack Cream of Wheat (or Malt-O-Meal) over the ball when shooting live rounds.

    During that ten year period, I had exactly ZERO chainfires or hang-fires.
    I shot both the Colt open top, and Remington solid top reproduction revolvers.
    They were loaded the same way.
     
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  17. Jan 6, 2020 #37

    45man

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    I agree with UOG. I feel lube over a ball is needed to keep fouling soft in the bore so each shot removes the fouling. Not to prevent a chain fire. I use a much thicker BPCR lube over the balls as it hangs on better.
    I had only one chain fire long ago with an 1860. I found no cap fragments on that chamber. They were too loose and one fled the scene.
     
  18. Jan 6, 2020 #38

    rodwha

    rodwha

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    I’m not so sure any lube would melt away. Some have a very high melting point that I’m thinking could withstand the extremely quick heat that’s there and then gone. The fellow above and his buddy claim it works for them.

    I have an extremely hard time buying chainfires from the front unless there’s an issue with the chamber wall being pitted or out of round. I have a hard time believing that a grain of powder could furrow lead, and there’s just no give in the steel. Two extremely tough materials against an easily crushed powder granule and I feel it’s just not possible to my thinking. But my sense of logic has let me down before...

    But I don’t really use balls in my revolvers anymore since I prefer a wide meplat for hunting. Now I just need a rifle that will shoot a patched .457” ball so that the mold doesn’t just sit there...
     
  19. Jan 6, 2020 #39

    Enfield58

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    First of all, you must be one of those keyboard-cowboys who communicates differently with people over a forum than if you were face-to-face with them.

    Telling me to use my brain infers that I may not be intelligent enough to know what I'm talking about.

    I like to have a certain degree of anonymity on these forums for reasons that I won't get into. With that said, you would have thought more carefully about your "turn on your brain on" remark before you made it if you knew what I do for a living. Because I want to protect my identity and privacy, I won't tell you what I do. Besides, my employer would not appreciate it.

    So, I'm not an idiot.

    You state that you have shot various cap & ball revolvers for a ten year period with zero chain fires. Well, I've been shooting cap & ball revolvers for well over 40 years.

    It wasn't until last year that I witnessed a couple of chain fires and experienced one for myself. So give yourself another 30 years and you might have one.

    IMHO, the reason for chain fires is for both a spark entering an unfired chamber through either the mouth or an uncapped nipple. In my friend's case, I would say that it was definitely because of a spark entering the chamber mouth and getting past the ball.

    I believe we can eliminate the uncapped nipple scenario as he's in the habit of pinching the caps before putting them on. I've also shot with him a lot and have never seen an un-fired cap depart from a nipple. So I don't think it fell off on both incidents.

    We both use the same lube and it stays in the chamber after the first round fires. He simply forgot to lube the chambers and freely admits to that. Furthermore, the chain fires stopped when he made a conscious effort to lube the chambers. So there is a good possibility that lack of lubricant was the culprit.

    In the case of my LeMat, I was trying a heavier charge with paper charges. The caps also fit tight on the LeMat. They haven't fallen off on it yet. And I've had that revolver ever since Navy Arms first offered it.

    That LeMat also uses a .445 round ball. When I first got it, the .451 balls were extremely tough to load. In fact the loading lever bent twice on me. Navy Arms repaired it both times. After measuring the chambers I determined that a .445 round ball was the correct diameter. To everyone else that is shooting .451 balls out of your LeMat, that's great and I won't argue with you. You are the one that knows what works with your revolver. All I know is they sold me one that takes a .445 round ball and voilà, no more bent loading levers.

    Now back to the weird chambers on my LeMat. After I had the chain fire in it I looked at the chambers and noticed that as it got closer to the nipple end that it got tighter. In that area of the the chamber where the ball is seated it is very tight. Closer to the mouth of the chamber is where the ball was with the heavier charge.

    Even with the lube in place, I got a chain fire. By the way, I was also using a paper charge with ball already lubed. So I didn't have as much lubricant as if I had loaded with loose powder and ball. I've went back to a lighter charge, loose powder and ball without any problems.

    IMHO, I don't think there is enough data, in the form of high-speed videos or photographs to say for certain what one culprit, over the other, of chain fires are.

    Empirically speaking, we know of only two possible avenues that a spark can enter the chamber of the revolver causing a chain fire. I don't have to turn my brain on to realize that.

    What this discussion gets down to is; what is the cause of a chain fire? It is either...

    1) Only a spark entering the chamber through an un-capped nipple.
    2) Only a spark entering the chamber past a loaded ball.
    3) Either a spark entering through the un-capped nipple or past a loaded ball.

    IMHO, I think it is number 3.

    You also make the definitive statement; "AFTER THE FIRST SHOT THERE IS NO LUBE OVER ANY OF THE CHAMBERS."

    Perhaps you and I are not using the same lubricant. In my early days of shooting cap & ball revolvers I used Crisco like a lot of us. With that lubricant, I agree with you entirely. It all comes off with the first shot.

    You don't say what type of lube that you use, but if you don't mind a little experimentation you might try a 50/50 mix of beeswax and vegetable (or olive) oil. During colder weather I use the 30/70 mix of beeswax/oil. It stays in place on every un-fired chamber of my revolver.

    Like I said, I've been shooting black powder firearms for over 40 years but will admit that I can always learn something new from anyone; even you, if you ever have something good to say.

    Now I would suggested that you exercise a little discipline by engaging your brain before you type out bold and insulting statements to people that you don't know. Then, perhaps, your comments might be taken a little more seriously.

    Please have a great day.
     
  20. Jan 6, 2020 #40

    TFoley

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    Well, I beat my dear old pal Bill by about two years, but I admit that the revolver, a .36cal Navy Arms 'sorta' Navy [it had an hexagonal barrel] was not only pretty much beat up, even then, but was not mine. But I DID shoot it for almost two years without getting the underwear-threatening BLA-BLA-BLA-MMMMMMMM effect. I've been shooting pretty BP revolvers much constantly since that time, mostly my own, and have never encountered a chain-fire, nor even seen one, although, like most, I've been told an 'it happened to me' story.
     

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