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DIY Black Powder pistol cartridges
#1
I thought, since this is one of the nefarious things I've been up to lately, I'd make a thread about it.

Grace thinks I should go 100% DIY. Does that mean I spend too much on ammo?

First, we'll start with the Hand Cannon:

[Image: attachment.php?aid=8659]

   

This is Betsy. Betsy loves me. Because Betsy loves me, I choose to feed her. She is a Confederate Griswold and Gunnison revolver, just like my great great grand dads (yeah, multiples) carried as Confederate cavalrymen. The Griswold Works in Georgia made a Confederate copy of the Colt 1851 Navy, with slight differences. This is what Betsy is. The Griswold and Gunnison copy. But she loves me, so it's all OK.

Now to begin with, we have to determine what Betsy likes to eat. She likes combustible cartridges, because they burn up almost entirely, and don't leave her with that bloated feeling. In order to make them, we have to first nitrate the paper we are going to wrap the cartridges with, to make it combustible. You would think that would be difficult, but it's not. You use potassium nitrate, which is pretty commonly available, It is an excellent fertilizer, because it contains nitrogen, which plants love. Fungus also love it, which may be more important. You see, fungus is what breaks down tree stumps and makes them go away. Because of that, potassium nitrate is used as a "stump remover" - it promotes fungal growth for the decomposition of tree stumps. and that is important to our discussion.  it's important because you can go to Lowes and buy it for about 6 bucks a pound. Look for "Spectracide Stump Remover". It's 100% potassium nitrate, and it is found in the garden section, because nitrogen is important for gardens... and getting rid of tree stumps.

It looks like this:

[Image: attachment.php?aid=8660]

   

Here is a video that shows you how to use this arcane stuff to do it's magic:





So, I nitrated coffee filters, just like Mark did. Now, I wasn't really going for the "authentic" look like he was. I just used the brown ones so Grace could tell my nitrated filters from her white ones, that she uses to make my coffee with. Different strokes for different folks, I guess, but potassium nitrate is also called "saltpeter", and it's called that because it allegedly makes your stiffer not peck up. I don't care to test that theory out.

I also used a tomato cage to dry them on. It was just a convenience. I got it for two bucks at Lowes while I was getting the stump remover. One stone, two birds sort of thing.

[Image: attachment.php?aid=8661]

   

The tomato cage is what actually limited me to 10 coffee filters at a time, because of the drying space available on one. Given the properties of potassium nitrate as a stump remover, I did not think it prudent to dry it off of the wooden porch hand rail, y'know?

I used. at the start, 1/2 cup of stump remover to 2 cups of water. Then, after all the stump remover dissolved, I added more and stirred it in until it stopped dissolving. that is what us physicist types call "saturation". It didn't take much more than the 1/2 cup to reach saturation. Protip: hot water dissolves more than cold or lukewarm water.

This is what saturation looks like:

[Image: attachment.php?aid=8662]

   

Unlike Mark, I bought my own dedicated mixing tools. Whereas his missus was gone, and would be none the wiser, I thought it prudent not to mix my nitrating tools with Grace's cooking tools. That "saltpeter" thing, y'know?

T'was a sunny day, so it only took 30 or 45 minutes for the filters to dry. When they dried, they grew a crystalline crust of saltpeter (easier to type than "potassium nitrate", and I'm lazy). I soaked them for about 4 minutes or so.

This is what the crystallization looks like on the filters:

[Image: attachment.php?aid=8663]

   

So. I dried the filters, folded them into quarters, and stored them in an airtight container for future use. Just so you know, most of the visible crystals fall off of the filters, so if you're gonna fold them, fold them over your saltpeter container, to save it. There is still enough saltpeter soaked into the fibers of the filters to make that shit fizz like a cannon fuse, so it's still good. Yeah, I set some on fire to test it. It didn't stay on fire long before it was entirely ash.

I evaporated the solution to recover the saltpeter. Imagine my surprise when I recovered almost all of it. It really doesn't take that much of it to nitrate paper for cartridges. Imagine my further surprise when I realized I had ordered 5 pounds more of it from a greenhouse, and realized that I would probably never need that much, ever, for the rest of my days.

You should also be made aware that, just as hot water dissolves more of it, making the water cold precipitates it right back out, So I set it in the refrigerator. After a couple hours, when the water got good and cold, great hulking crystals of the saltpeter had formed:

(Well dammit, it won't let me add another attachment!!)

More tomorrow. I will complete this post, and move onward to the actual cartridge making. 

More later.

Nin.

ETA - preview: When I took it out of the fridge, I poured the water off the crystals,set the water in the sun for a bit to warm and evaporate it somewhat, then set it back into the fridge to grow more crystals. Meanwhile, I dried the crystals and added them to the saltepeter pile. Wash, rinse, repeat until there isn't any more water to worry about.

.
“There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter.” ― Ernest Hemingway

"It's the hillbilly way. We kill people and burn their shit down." -- Jim Powell, in "Blood and Banjos" by Franklin Horton




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#2
Part Two of "Nitrating the Paper"

So, as I mentioned previously, to precipitate the saltpeter back out of the water solution, I set it in the fridge to chill. It then precipitated solid crystals back out of the solution that looked like this:

[Image: attachment.php?aid=8667]

   

I poured the water off into a styrofoam cup through another coffee filter (I got hundreds of them) to make sure I caught all of the solids out of it, and then dried the crystals and evaporated the water a bit more, and set it back into the fridge to precipitate some more.
Eventually, the saltpeter crystals got bigger and longer as more of it came out of the solution:

[Image: attachment.php?aid=8668]

   

I then repeated the process over and over until I recovered all of the unused potassuim nitrate, put it all back into the original nitrating container, and crunched the crystals up:

[Image: attachment.php?aid=8669]

   

See? I got almost all of it back, and very little - but enough - of it actually got used in the filter paper. Now, it originally comes out of the bottle as a powder instead of these bigger chunks, but that doesn't matter so much. I'm not making gunpowder, just nitrating paper, and these crystals dissolve in hot water same as the powder does.

That's it for the nitration of the paper. Next up is rolling yer own cartridges out of it.

Nin.

.
“There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter.” ― Ernest Hemingway

"It's the hillbilly way. We kill people and burn their shit down." -- Jim Powell, in "Blood and Banjos" by Franklin Horton




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#3
That is Just DAMN  smallawesome

Yes it is, Very, Very Educational for the members stuck living in cities where Ammo and Black Powder will be Monitored soon.
People need to pay attention, because Black Powder has Sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo many Uses other than for the cap and ball fire arms.

Yes, next learn to make your own fuse.
Make things go BOOM!  asiansmiley
Once A Rogue, Always A Rogue!
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#4
I think Betsy deserves all that hard work.

The way reloading components are going, I am thinking of making spears and pointy rocks.
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#5
(11-20-2020, 11:05 PM)guohua Wrote: That is Just DAMN  smallawesome

Yes it is, Very, Very Educational for the members stuck living in cities where Ammo and Black Powder will be Monitored soon.
People need to pay attention, because Black Powder has Sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo many Uses other than for the cap and ball fire arms.

Yes, next learn to make your own fuse.
Make things go BOOM!  asiansmiley

There are already several localities where black powder guns cannot be shipped to, in defiance of federal law. New Your City is one of those places. Under federal law, black powder weapons are not classified as "firearms", and do not have to go through an FFL Dealer to get to you - you can just order them and have them delivered straight to your door by UPS, no paperwork necessary.

Under Federal law, felons can hunt with black powder, because it is not technically a "firearm". Some localities muck that up, though. New York, parts of Illinois, and several other localities require black powder sales to run through a FFL Dealer. In some places, they are banned altogether. In Virginia, I know of one guy who was parole-violated over having access to a black powder gun, and sent back to prison on that account, which ought to be illegal - if the Feds don't stress over them, then neither should wussie local legislators.

I can make fuse already. I can also make electrical detonators, and I can make my own black powder in a pinch. ANFO can be set off with a battery, some wire, a christmas tree light bulb, and a bit o' black powder...

.
“There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter.” ― Ernest Hemingway

"It's the hillbilly way. We kill people and burn their shit down." -- Jim Powell, in "Blood and Banjos" by Franklin Horton




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#6
(11-21-2020, 07:03 PM)ABNARTY Wrote: I think Betsy deserves all that hard work.

The way reloading components are going, I am thinking of making spears and pointy rocks.

Odd you should mention that. I've noticed in the past month or so that black powder weapons and supplies are flying out of stock, too. I can't blame it on black powder hunting season, because it's the pistols that are flying out of stock the fastest.

I've been waiting two months now for a proper bullet mold to make my own Richmond Labs Type III bullets for Betsy. They've been out of stock, but are supposed to be back in stock towards the end of this month. So, until then, I've been rolling cartridges with round ball bullets instead of the ones that you are supposed to use, the ones that were designed for it. They look funny, and it's harder to get the balls seated and sealed, but they work the same once you get 'em sorted.

I actually used to hunt with sticks and stones when I was younger, just so I could learn how to make them and use them, in case the gun-grabbers had their wicked way with the US Constitution. It can be done. Right now, I've got 4 crossbows (two shoulder-fired, and two "pistol" versions) just in case, and 3 or 4 store-bought steel headed spears, also just in case. I got mine from Cold Steel, but I don't think they make the kind I have any more.

BUT - if those "go away" too, I can still make 'em from scratch...

ETA: I can tell you this for certain - anyone coming around to do me harm would much rather I had a big old noisy gun so they can locate me instead of those far more quiet "primitive" weapons... but I reckon they haven't thought that through just yet... with the "quiet" stuff, I can pick off the "last man" in a column and move forward through that column before anyone knows I'm even there. Who needs a "silencer" that they worry so much about when you can do better, more quietly, with a simple crossbow and a bad attitude?

.
“There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter.” ― Ernest Hemingway

"It's the hillbilly way. We kill people and burn their shit down." -- Jim Powell, in "Blood and Banjos" by Franklin Horton




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#7
@ABNARTY  and @Ninurta 

"Odd you should mention that. I've noticed in the past month or so that black powder weapons and supplies are flying out of stock, too. I can't blame it on black powder hunting season, because it's the pistols that are flying out of stock the fastest."

Americans are serious about Election fraud, if the Opposing Party can Lie, Cheat and Steal the Presidency, then they can come and take your Guns and Freedom unless we show them we'll Fight!
Once A Rogue, Always A Rogue!
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#8
(11-21-2020, 11:27 PM)guohua Wrote: @ABNARTY  and @Ninurta 

"Odd you should mention that. I've noticed in the past month or so that black powder weapons and supplies are flying out of stock, too. I can't blame it on black powder hunting season, because it's the pistols that are flying out of stock the fastest."

Americans are serious about Election fraud, if the Opposing Party can Lie, Cheat and Steal the Presidency, then they can come and take your Guns and Freedom unless we show them we'll Fight!

I have said something similar often. If that same mind set didn't care about thugs burning down your business or shooting you, they didn't give a care about your vote, what makes you think they are concerned about any of your rights/individual liberties?
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#9
I really don't know anything about these things. But Betsy is really beautiful! minusculegoodjob
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#10
(11-22-2020, 06:47 AM)Finspiracy Wrote: I really don't know anything about these things. But Betsy is really beautiful! minusculegoodjob

She's a Griswold and Gunnison, Confederate revolver. See, after the war started, the Confederacy couldn't very well buy any more Yankee guns, for obvious reasons, and the Colt 1851 Navy Pistol or "Belt Pistol" was made by Yankees in Connecticut. So, several Southern manufacturers tooled up to produce weapons for the Confederacy.

Griswold and Gunnisons were made in Griswoldville Georgia from early in 1862 to November 1864 when an Ohio Cavalry unit burned Griswoldville to the ground during Sherman's march to the Sea.

They are a near direct clone of the 1851 Colt pistol, with a few minor exceptions. The frames on Colts were made of iron, but iron was in short supply in the Confederacy, so Griswolds were made with brass or bronze frames. Colts had an octagonal barrel, but Griswolds had a round barrel instead, as that was easier and quicker to machine out. The butt on Griswolds tilted a little more to the rear than the buts of Colts.

About 3600 of them were produced during the 2 years or so they were in production.

.
“There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter.” ― Ernest Hemingway

"It's the hillbilly way. We kill people and burn their shit down." -- Jim Powell, in "Blood and Banjos" by Franklin Horton




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#11
So. Cartridges.

You can use any sort of thin paper, like cigarette papers, hair rolling papers, or coffee filters. I've used both cigarette rolling papers and coffee filters, and have found that I prefer the coffee filters. They hold the nitration better, and are a little sturdier than the cigarette papers.

It also helps to have a rolling jig, of which I have a couple. Those go a long way in making each cartridge fairly uniform and squared away.

These are my cartridge rolling equipments:

[Image: attachment.php?aid=8693]

   

In the plastic box, from left to right, are: a plastic mandrel and die cartridge former, A powder funnel and Xacto knife to fill and trim the cartridge papers, cigarette rolling papers and lube, a bunch of pre-cut paper circles to close the bottom of the cartridge with, and a tube of paste glue to glue it all together with. Outside the plastic box is another cartridge former mandrel made of plastic and die made of a wood block. The kit came from Dustin Winegar at "Guns of the Old West" and the other former came from Balasz Nemeth at "Cap and Ball" in Budapest.

Here's a video of Dustin showing how to use his paper cartridge kit to make cartridges:





Here's a video from Cap and Ball showing how his cartridge former is used, and shooting them in an original Colt 1851 revolver:





There are a few other videos showing how it's done at Youtube. A note about the cap circles for the bottom of the cartridge - I don't yet have a punch to cut them out of the coffee filters, so when I am using nitrated coffee filters, I just use a square of paper for the bottom cap instead of a circle. Still works fine, and that is how it was done at times at the Richmond Arsenal during the war, too.

Here are some of the cartridges I made:

[Image: attachment.php?aid=8694]

   

The three on the left are made from the coffee filters, and the three on the right are made of the cigarette papers. I got lazy on the left-most two, and didn't bother to trim the paper. It worked out ok, though, since when you load them into the pistol, and ram them down, it shaves off a ring of lead from the oversized bullets to seal the chamber, and that ring brings the extra paper with it when it falls off.

Size comparison of one of these cartridges with a 9mm store-bought cartridge:

[Image: attachment.php?aid=8695]

   

Once you get them made, it's a good idea to carry them in a protective case, since they are a might more fragile than the brass and steel cased cartridges we are used to. During the war, they were often carried in wooden blocks bored out to accept the cartridges and protect them, inside either a paper wrapping or a cardboard box.

This is what the wood  blocks look like, with the first cartridge placed in the tube bored to hold it:

[Image: attachment.php?aid=8696]

   

I got those from Mr. Nemeth at Cap and Ball in Budapest, too. They are a bit pricey, but are hand made in the same way as they were made in the 1800's, they come with a reusable cardboard sleeve to slide over the block and hold the cartridges in, and the sleeve has authentic period labeling on it, so it's kind of value-added. You can see two of the cartridge packages in the first photo in the OP up top. The "Richmond Laboratory" package has 7 holes in the wooden block, the last hole is to hold a paper tube of percussion caps to fire the cartridges with, The other package has only six holes for six cartridges, with no provision for caps, but it has a hinged lid to cover the tops of the cartridges, too.

Both of those companies, Cap and ball and Guns of the Old West, were a pleasure to do business with. Brigitta at Cap and ball kept me informed via e-mail of order developments, and she combined two orders into one just to save me money on postage. I actually got a partial refund from them due to that. Dustin at Guns of the Old West sent the order out in record time, and it got here earlier than expected. I can't say enough good stuff about either company, they were that good.

Next installment will involve loading them into the revolver.

.
“There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter.” ― Ernest Hemingway

"It's the hillbilly way. We kill people and burn their shit down." -- Jim Powell, in "Blood and Banjos" by Franklin Horton




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#12
An informational video on the Griswold and Gunnison revolver, while we wait for me to get my crap together:





.
“There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter.” ― Ernest Hemingway

"It's the hillbilly way. We kill people and burn their shit down." -- Jim Powell, in "Blood and Banjos" by Franklin Horton




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#13
I almost forgot - I've got these handy-dandy gizzies, too.They are "template jigs" to cut the nitrated paper to the proper size. You set them down on the paper, then cut around them with a razor blade or Xacto knife. I got them from an Etsy Store called "Mesa Winds". They appear to be made out of 3D printed plastic, and work very well. They leave a slip of paper sized and properly curved to wrap around the mandrel to be glued together. The black one is for use when you are making cartridges with conical bullets, and the blue one is for making cartridges with round balls.

[Image: attachment.php?aid=8697]

   
“There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter.” ― Ernest Hemingway

"It's the hillbilly way. We kill people and burn their shit down." -- Jim Powell, in "Blood and Banjos" by Franklin Horton




Reply
#14
Loading 'em up.

You just drop the paper cartridge into the chamber butt-first, roll that chamber under the rammer lever, and ram the ball home. They seat pretty tightly into the chamber, which is a GOOD thing. This is what they look like when you're done ramming them:

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When you seat them, the edge of the chamber reams off a ring of lead, which is how you know they are sealed properly to the chamber:

[Image: attachment.php?aid=8702]

   

You see there the lead rings shaved off, and in the case of the cartridges I neglected to trim the paper from, a paper ring, too. It trims it down to bare shiny lead, of exactly the proper diameter for the chamber. The brass gizzy there is an "in line" capper. If you look close at the left end, you'll see percussion caps lined up in it, ready to be placed on the revolver chamber nipples.

Some folks lube the bullets right after they get done making the cartridges, but I use separate lube when I load them. I use ordinary Crisco grease, which is also what I lube the gun itself with, at the moving parts. To lube the bullets, I just dab a gob onto my finger, pack it into the chamber mouth on top of the bullet, and wipe off the excess. The grease keeps the powder fouling soft for easier cleanup, and using natural grease has the added function of "seasoning" the barrel. Folk familiar with cast iron skillets will know what I mean by that.

When it's all done, the business end of the cylinder looks like this:

[Image: attachment.php?aid=8703]

   

There ain't no mistaking whether it's loaded or not with that big 'ol white circle staring out of the chambers.

When it's all done, this is the view from the target's perspective:

[Image: attachment.php?aid=8704]

   

Now all that is left to do is cap the chamber nipples with percussion caps, and find a target to shoot at.

As a bonus, this is how the revolvers come packaged. Although this is Dustin from Guns of the West, mine came in exactly the same packaging, with everything he has to dig out of the box to get to the gun. He's right - they are loaded with oil when they get to you. Dustin has a long complicated degreasing process, but I just wiped mine down with paper towels until it no longer tried to slip out of my hand, and left a film of the oil on it for protection.

Trivia: In the beginning and again at the end of the video, Dustin is in a bar talking. Look at the portrait behind and above the bar to the left of Dustin, right over his shoulder, and compare it to that beardy bastard above behind the gun in my last photo. Spooky, huh?





.
“There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter.” ― Ernest Hemingway

"It's the hillbilly way. We kill people and burn their shit down." -- Jim Powell, in "Blood and Banjos" by Franklin Horton




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