Sometimes I get carried away with all of the myriad details of a project that I forget what I know very well that I know. In the video “Modern Percussion Revolvers. Part 4. Shooting.” I forgot the rather obvious step of crimping the bases of the percussion caps to make sure they were tight fits on the nipples. In practically, this crimping process presents some problems and inherent dangers – more about those later.
Two unexpected events happened in the first video. The first, and most spectacular, was when the 6 O’clock chamber of the cylinder of Traditions’ 1873 Peacemaker percussion revolver fired when I shot the gun. Two loads went off at once with much smoke and noise. One bullet went out the barrel and the other impacted the bottom of the frame to form a flattened fused lead mass that prevented the cylinder from rotating.
This was not the usual chain-fire event where flame jumps from chamber to chamber, gets around the ball into an adjoining chamber and ignites more than one propellant charge. I had wax wads over the top of the balls and felt wads beneath them to prevent this type of occurrence. What apparently happened was that the recoil from the first charge was sufficient to slam a cap into the back plate with sufficient force to fire the cap and discharge the bottom chamber. On “Take 2,” I crimped the caps on the nipples, and this time three chambers fired simultaneously.
The number 11 caps were a somewhat better fit on the Traditions gun than on Cabela’s Pietta Buffalo revolver. On this Pietta, moving the gun was sufficient for the caps to fall from the nipples. Crimping these caps on the nipples solved this problem, and on “Take 2” the gun fired all six chambers without any difficulties.
With percussion revolvers the only practical way to put a crimped cap onto a nipple is with the fingers, rather than using a capping device. This is very difficult to do when the cylinder is in the gun. First use the fingers to press the bottom of the cap slightly with the fingers and then push them onto the nipples. Then, you place the capped cylinder into the gun. Should this cylinder fall onto a hard surface and one of the caps hits, that chamber is very likely to fire with the ball going in a random direction and perhaps into a leg, foot or the lower body.
I cover my shooting table with carpet. Not only does this provide a non-scratching surface for the guns, it also prevents events like inadvertent cylinder discharges.
I did not understand why there was such a difference in sound in the Traditions revolver when the other five rounds were fired in the first of the two videos. The pellet in the next shot did fire, but very weakly, as if the charge had been spoiled by being wetted. The four other charges had a much more normal response. I had used these pistol pellets for reloading .44 Magnum pistol cartridges, and they had performed very well. The pellets that I used were from an old partial container, and perhaps one of them had somehow become contaminated. I have since received reports of other people having inconsistent results with these pellets, including one who lost a deer because the pellet was a squib load. This sort of performance might be O.K. with plinking cans, but not when hunting.
Although they only fired a cylinder-full of loads in this video, the other revolvers worked fine during the first video. The North American Arms .22 was the most challenging to shoot because of its light weight, primitive sights and relatively hard trigger pull. It grouped about 2 1/2 inches below and left of its point of aim. The point of impact can be raised by filing down the front sight, but lateral errors can only be compensated for by aiming to the right of the target.
When looking back over the first video I did not like it because it gave too much of a negative impression of the guns, and I decided to do another version of this video as “Take 2” using four of the five guns. The gun I omitted, the brass- frame CVA Confederate Revolver, is now featured on a separate video, “Shooting Replica Civil War Revolvers” at: http://youtu.be/50-N_0a9X7I .
Modern Percussion Revolvers. Part 4. Shooting. Take 2. may now be seen on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSWL6tCXDrU. Except for the Traditions 1873, all of the other guns worked perfectly. The new Cabela’s Buffalo 1858 Remington-pattern revolver shot a very good first group at 10 yards with a mixed set of loads.
It took only two shots with the Traditions to empty all six chambers. Both the Pyrodex pellet and 30-grain load of FFFg were too much for the gun. Pressure is not the problem. It is that the recoil generated by the load is causing the nipples to slam against the recoil shield and fire their respective chambers.
Exactly how this is happening I do not yet know. I had used the gun previously with FFg black powder and round ball loads without any problem. Changing percussion caps, powders or even shortening the tops of the nipples might help. For now the most expedient solution is to drop back to a lower recoil-generating load of 20-25 grains of FFg black powder for this gun. STICK TO LOW PRESSURE LOADS WITH THIS GUN for best functionality.
I extracted some stills from the video showing the multiple-fire events and spliced these stop-action shots into the Take 2 video. This was just one of those interesting and unexpected events that take place when you shoot black-powder guns. The only damage to the gun was the end of the cylinder pin retaining plunger assembly was torn off the gun. This complicated removing the cylinder, but I managed to extract the broken plunger parts and pull the cylinder pin. This allowed me to clean and inspect the gun’s frame to make sure it was not damaged by being slammed into by three pistol balls.