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DIY Black Powder pistol cartridges
#21
As it turns out, there is a solution for home made percussion caps: https://www.dixiegunworks.com/index/page...+Cap+Maker 

I'll get this thing DIY from tail to tooth yet!

Now, to find a place that still has one of these gizzys in stock... 

In the meantime, here's how you DIY the powder for it:





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“The nature of psychological compulsion is such that those who act under constraint remain under the impression that they are acting on their own initiative. The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that he is a victim. To him the walls of his prison are invisible, and he believes himself to be free. That he is not free is apparent only to other people.”

-Aldous Huxley

-- Got mask? Just sayin'...




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#22
Excellent! 
 When I see how complicated some of these processes actually are, I often wonder how our ancestors came to invent some of the things they did. Somebody had to think all that stuff up.
Amazing, isn't it?
I am WonderCow....hear me moo!
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#23
(01-06-2021, 04:21 PM)WonderCow Wrote: Excellent! 
 When I see how complicated some of these processes actually are, I often wonder how our ancestors came to invent some of the things they did. Somebody had to think all that stuff up.
Amazing, isn't it?

Yea..... then you get to wondering about aliens and associated stories of them planting us and imbuing the intelligence with us. In the Old Testament it speaks of ?...Nephilim..? having skills in metallurgy, astronomy, apothecary and such.... Yea, where did these ancient  knowledges come from ?
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#24
(01-06-2021, 04:21 PM)WonderCow Wrote: Excellent! 
 When I see how complicated some of these processes actually are, I often wonder how our ancestors came to invent some of the things they did. Somebody had to think all that stuff up.
Amazing, isn't it?

Mrs. G's ancestors actually invented gunpowder - the rest of us just stole it, rode the wave, and made improvements wherever we could.

But I've often had similar thoughts - "Who on Earth ever originally thought that X was a good idea?" or "who was the guinea pig that figured out you could eat this, but that over there will kill ya if you eat it?"

Some of it comes from dealing with other things and gaining a general knowledge. For example, when I put my potassium nitrate solution into the refrigerator to get more out, it wasn't because I knew that would happen, it was a test to see if it would, because I knew that cold water holds fewer contaminants than hot water does, just like colder air holds less moisture than warmer air.

What I'd like to know is who first figured out you can get potassium nitrate out of manure and urine. How did that ever come about? Was it from barn fires starting in built up bedding? Inquiring minds want to know! Who first figured out that going into caves where bats have lived for millennia, and leaching the guano-laden dirt in them would yield powder-grade potassium nitrate? Mixing them to the right mixture was a matter of trial and error, but who figured out which raw materials to mix, and how to get them?

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“The nature of psychological compulsion is such that those who act under constraint remain under the impression that they are acting on their own initiative. The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that he is a victim. To him the walls of his prison are invisible, and he believes himself to be free. That he is not free is apparent only to other people.”

-Aldous Huxley

-- Got mask? Just sayin'...




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#25
So - 

I know how to make the gunpowder, and how to make the potassium nitrate and charcoal for it from local materials, but I don't yet know how to get the sulfur locally. The water we have here is called "sulfur water", and I'm wondering if that is a possibility. This area was first settled by Long Hunters, the Sword brothers, specifically because of the sulfur water. The water created "salt licks", which drew game in, and the Swords took advantage of that concentration of game, and eventually filed land claims to settle here.

But if there is sulfur in the water, how to you get it out and separate it from the salts? Does the sulfur content of the coal still in the ground here have something to do with it? Can one extract the sulfur from the coal?

I know how to mold the bullets, but not how to get the lead locally. Some old timers found relatively pure lead outcrops, but I've never seen one. There was an entire lead mine near Fort Chiswell in Virginia, but I've not found any around here.

I know how to make the caps and the primer compound, and there ought to be enough cans around here to supply a couple of generations already with caps.

I know how to get the iron out of the dirt, where it's found locally to get out of the dirt (there was an iron bloomery about 3 miles from where I was raised), and how to turn it into steel... I know how to work it down, but probably do not have the artistry to make it into a gun. That would fall to someone else, maybe someone I could trade iron and powder to... 

The point is, it's not me. I merely stand on the shoulders of giants just to see the way ahead, and I have no idea who those giants were, or how they discovered what I can use now, and I wonder about them frequently.

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“The nature of psychological compulsion is such that those who act under constraint remain under the impression that they are acting on their own initiative. The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that he is a victim. To him the walls of his prison are invisible, and he believes himself to be free. That he is not free is apparent only to other people.”

-Aldous Huxley

-- Got mask? Just sayin'...




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#26
This guy went full DIY too. makes his own caps, powder, and bullet:





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“The nature of psychological compulsion is such that those who act under constraint remain under the impression that they are acting on their own initiative. The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that he is a victim. To him the walls of his prison are invisible, and he believes himself to be free. That he is not free is apparent only to other people.”

-Aldous Huxley

-- Got mask? Just sayin'...




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#27
A minor update.

Here are a couple of the bullet molds:

The Colt bullet mold - 

[Image: attachment.php?aid=9061]



The Richmond Laboratories Type III bullet mold - 

[Image: attachment.php?aid=9062]



The Colt mold is the original bullet designed for the Colt 1851 Navy, in .36 Caliber.

The Richmond Labs mold is for the bullets developed by the Confederacy for use in Colt 1851 Navy revolvers and all of the many .36 caliber clones developed and manufactured by the Confederacy during the First American Civil War. That is the bullet that was generally issued to the Army of Northern Virginia Cavalry units, including Mosby's guerrillas... and including my great great grand dad's cavalry unit, the 22nd VA Cavalry. Another great great grand dad was in the 19th VA Cavalry, also attached to the Army of Northern Virginia during the Valley Campaign. Another was in a Yankee cavalry outfit from West Virginia (and doubtlessly used the Yankee Colt designed bullets), and yet another was in the 10th Kentucky Cavalry, a Confederate unit. You'd think with all those cavalrymen in my family tree that I'd own a horse, but I don't.

The Colt bullet has a gas sealing ring on it, and a lubricant groove just ahead of that ring to hold lubricant to prevent barrel leading and help keep the powder fouling soft for easier cleanup. The Richmond labs bullet has no such amenities. The bullet diameter itself is 0.15" larger in diameter to create a seal by shaving off the lead when the bullet is seated to match the diameter of the grooves in the bore, and they were just dipped in lube (made from a mixture of paraffin and tallow) to coat the entire bullet after the cartridges were made and allowed to dry.

So, I have the molds, I have some lead, but have not yet been able to mold any bullets to load up into cartridges. it's been too cold outside to mold them, and I ain't about to work with molten lead inside the house, so it will have to keep for a bit. it's not like it was when I was in junior high school and lead was completely safe, with teenage me molding lead fishing sinkers in a science classroom while the teacher was making moonshine in a complicated-looking science rig in a cabinet under the counter. Lead has gotten considerably more deadly in the intervening 50 years or so. Hell, I hear kids ain't even allowed to season their fruit loops with paint chips any more!

On the "make your own percussion caps" front, I need to figure out a way to fetch one of these:

[Image: attachment.php?aid=9063]


I'm not handy in a machine shop.


If I can manage to wrangle one of those, I can punch out my own pre-formed percussion cap cups (out of beer cans, of which I have no shortage of supply) to fire the charge. All I have to do then is make some priming compound and dab a bit of it in each cap and let the compound dry, and I'll be DIY on this pistol from tooth to tail, no longer reliant on the whims of the ammunition market to feed her.

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“The nature of psychological compulsion is such that those who act under constraint remain under the impression that they are acting on their own initiative. The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that he is a victim. To him the walls of his prison are invisible, and he believes himself to be free. That he is not free is apparent only to other people.”

-Aldous Huxley

-- Got mask? Just sayin'...




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#28
So.

I broke down and ordered a cap punch and die to make the percussion caps. It looks like this:

[Image: IMG_4386_1024x1024.JPG?v=1471040729]

A video showing how it works:







As it turns out, turnaround time on them is forever, in dog years anyhow. I ordered it last Sunday evening, thinking it would get sent out over the course of this week. When this evening rolled around with still no shipping notification, I started investigating, and it sounds like delivery time is in the range of 4-6 weeks.

Maybe it'll be here in the spring, when it's warm enough for me to finally mold some bullets, too.

ETA: Got a message from the vendor. About 4 weeks total before shipment. That's some serious lead time in this day and age, but I can't do anything with it anyhow until the spring thaw, so it's all good.

.

This picture ain't got nothing to to with nothing. I'm just dropping it here for @Finspiracy :

   
“The nature of psychological compulsion is such that those who act under constraint remain under the impression that they are acting on their own initiative. The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that he is a victim. To him the walls of his prison are invisible, and he believes himself to be free. That he is not free is apparent only to other people.”

-Aldous Huxley

-- Got mask? Just sayin'...




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#29
So the cap-maker punch arrived today. I punched out a few caps to see if it works ok.

here is the punch and the raw materials I used:

[Image: attachment.php?aid=9168]


I punched out a few caps with it, using strips of the Miller beer can. The strip cut from the can is on the left, showing the holes the caps were punched out of, then a few of the caps, and the punch on the right:

[Image: attachment.php?aid=9169]


It took about 5 seconds per cap to punch them out. Line up the aluminum strip, slap the plunger (I just used my hand instead of a rubber mallet to slap it), and then tip the punch up to drop the cap out of it. Move on to the next.

The caps were most definitely not pretty, especially when compared with a machine made cap, which is the cute one on the right, not the ugly one on the left:

[Image: attachment.php?aid=9170]


But in the end, they fit the pistol nipples well, and gave no signs of trying to fall off:

[Image: attachment.php?aid=9171]


[Image: attachment.php?aid=9172]


So there it is. They're not pretty, but so long as they work, they'll do. I fit a cap to a nipple on the cylinder, and it fit and refused to fall off. I rotated the cylinder through a few full rotations, and the cap always cleared the recoil shield, and did not impede the cylinder from rotating freely.

I told my son about it, and he said "well damn! You mold your own bullets, and you make your own caps... you gonna make the powder, too?" heh, heh, heh... you betcher ass I am! I can make a little over 9 pounds of powder, enough powder for around 3750 shots, for 25 bucks, a substantial savings over store bought powder or online ordering. I also avoid the hazardous material shipping fees that way. I gave 30 bucks PER POUND for Triple Seven black powder substitute, and real black powder costs about the same or a bit more, and it's harder to find. So, for around 25 bucks, I can make roughly 275 dollars worth of black powder, and avoid the shipping fees, so why not?

Black powder is 15 parts by weight of potassium nitrate, 3 parts charcoal (also by weight, but charcoal weighs a lot less than potassium nitrate per unit of volume, so the volume measure looks bigger, which is what makes black powder black), and 2 parts sulfur. Potassium nitrate can be made at home as well, but I'm not gonna fool with it as long as I can just buy it in bulk. Charcoal can be made at home from wood (willow is best for black powder) using a retort made out of a coffee can or a paint can. I dunno how to get the sulfur yet without buying it, but I bet there is a way, and I bet I eventually find what that way is.

After mixing the ingredients, the powder has to be "milled" - tumble mixed in a rock tumbler with a bunch of lead balls (lead to avoid sparks, 'cause sparks are a real bad idea when dealing with black powder) for at least 6 hours, but not more than a day, and then "corned" - wet into a doughy mass and grated through a screen to get a uniform grain size, then dried and canned or kegged up to keep moisture out.

As regular ammo gets harder to find and more expensive, I'm diversifying, thinking laterally. I've said it dozens of times - you cannot disarm a man who is determined to remain armed.

Currently, black powder supplies are getting scarce, too. BP revolvers are almost impossible to find, and almost everywhere is out of proper bullet molds. I don't know if it's because other folks are getting this idea too as ammo dries up, or if there are other, more inimical forces at work. I've been trying to find a double cavity Lee mold for .375 round balls, with no luck. If you can find one at all, it's being sold at scalper prices, and I'm not paying them. That mold should sell for, at most, 25 dollars. I can't find one at all for less than 35, and most places that claim to have one are charging 50 to 75 dollars, WAY too damned much... and on top of that, they are fly-by-night, and can't be trusted that the mold really is .375, instead of a mold for a .44 (most popular caliber for black powder revolvers these days). There is no way to cram a .44 ball into a .36 chamber, so I'm not taking any chances on wasting way too much money.

So there you have it. If I have to, I can stick with my home-made conical bullets, home-made caps, and home-made powder, and still light up the night at will.

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Attached Files Thumbnail(s)
                   
“The nature of psychological compulsion is such that those who act under constraint remain under the impression that they are acting on their own initiative. The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that he is a victim. To him the walls of his prison are invisible, and he believes himself to be free. That he is not free is apparent only to other people.”

-Aldous Huxley

-- Got mask? Just sayin'...




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#30
The boolits. 

I cast some bullets a few weeks ago when it was still too cold outside, and forgot to make a post about it. Since I'm going all the way from tail to teeth, them boolits would be the teeth.

First, I'll re-post the pics of the molds I have, because they're a pretty fair distance upthread:

The Richmond Labs Type III bullet mold - 

[Image: attachment.php?aid=9062]

This was a Confederate bullet, designed and produced in Richmond, VA. It weights 147 grains, and has a largest diameter of 0.390 inches, which gets crammed into a chamber that is .360 inches in diameter, and that process shaves a really big lead ring off the outside of the bullet to insure that it is sealed well on the chamber. The outside of the chamber mouth just shaves off what doesn't fit into the chamber tightly. There is no lubrication groove in the bullet to hold lubricant to soften powder fouling, so these bullets were just dipped in molten lubricant up to the paper wrapper when they were made in Richmond.

Next up is the Colt bullet mold - 

[Image: attachment.php?aid=9061]

These bullets were produced by Colt in Connecticut, for use by Union forces. It weighs 126 grains, and has a .380 diameter, slightly larger than the the round balls I use, but considerably heavier - a little bit over half again as heavy as the round balls - the round balls are just 80 grains in weight, 0.375 diameter. The chamber mouth also shaves a ring of lead off of this bullet to insure a tight fit, but a smaller ring, given the smaller diameter of the bullet than the Richmond Labs bullet. There is a lubricant groove just forward of the drive band on these bullets, to hold lubricant in to soften powder fouling.

Now me, I just dab a gob of Crisco cooking grease into the chamber mouth when I load the cartridges, and wipe the excess off the cylinder face instead of worrying over lubing the cartridges themselves. I have been experimenting with home made lubricant. I bought 100 "tea light" candles for about 4 dollars at Walmart. They are are made of paraffin in China I think, but seem to be softer than the Gulf Wax version of paraffin. They probably don't have the stearic acid added to make the wax harder. I'm experimenting with adding tallow, or potentially Crisco, to soften it even further. The formula was, I believe, during the Civil War, 8 parts paraffin to 1 part tallow. I'll start there, and work with it to see what happens. may use Crisco as a substitute for the tallow. Seems reasonable to me.

After melting the lead in a Hot Pot II, and heating the aluminum mold by letting it sit in the molten lead for a minute or so, I molded several bullets of both designs:

[Image: attachment.php?aid=9179]

The Richmond Labs bullets are on the left, the Colt bullets are on the right.

After the bullets cooled, I wrapped 6 of each up into cartridges using the bullets I cast and the cartridge wrapper paper I had nitrated way back when, towards the beginning of the thread. I used that paper, the cast bullets, and a 17 grain charge of FFFg "Triple Seven" black powder substitute for each cartridge:

[Image: attachment.php?aid=9180]

The Colt cartridges are on the left, the Richmond Labs cartridges on the right this time.

Now, after the cartridges were rolled, I started running into problems, particularly with the Richmond Labs bullets. Due to their larger diameter, they would not fit into the cartridge packaging I had available. The Colt cartridges fit like champions:

[Image: attachment.php?aid=9181]


Now in this picture, the colt cartridges are SUPPOSED to stick up above the wooden block. You will notice in the hinged - on a strip of cloth glued to the block - lid of the block there are corresponding holes bored to admit the bullet part of the cartridges that stick up above the block, so when it is closed and wrapped, it's all good to go, and the cartridges are securely held.

However, the Richmond labs cartridges encountered difficult with their packaging:

[Image: attachment.php?aid=9182]


You will notice immediately that in this case, the cartridges also stick up above the wooden block. In this case, that is a problem, because the cardboard sleeve below the wooden block in the photo is supposed to slide tightly over the wooden block, but it will not, because the bullets are in the way. The .390 diameter of the bullets is too large to slide fully into the holes bored in the wooden protective block. The Colt cartridges will fit just fine, but the Richmond Labs cartridges will not, and that is a problem, because the block is made for the Richmond bullets, and the sleeve is printed up to label them.

I did try to fit a naked bullet into the holes, but even without the cartridge or even just the paper wrapper, it was too big to fit. The .375 round balls also fit  fine after being made into cartridges. So .375 and .380 fit ok, but the .390 is just a bit too much.

The holes are plenty deep enough for the cartridges, but the cartridges won't seat into them because of the bullet diameter, too big for the block. 

You will also notice a space at the end of the block. A seventh hole is bored there, to contain a paper tube of percussion caps to fire the cartridges with, which is a handy feature. In the original issue, 7 or 8 percussion caps were rolled into a paper tube and dropped into the seventh hole, so that when you opened a cartridge pack, you had 6 cartridges to fill the chambers of your revolver, and enough caps to cap the chambers, even if you fumble fingered and dropped one.

The holes in the block to contain the cartridges appear to have been bored with a 3/8 drill bit, or it's metric equivalent, at about .375 inches. The problem arises because of the .390 inch diameter to the Richmond Labs bullets. It's just too big to cram into a .375 hole.

Further, the Richmond Labs cartridges are difficult to load into the revolver. Part of that is no doubt due to their .390 diameter versus the .360 diameter of the chambers they have to be crammed into, but part of it may also be a function of the lead I used to cast the bullets. I used lead sinkers I bought at Walmart, and they may not have been pure lead, and so were probably more difficult to shave down to size due to the potentially harder alloy. I thought I was going to have to stand on the loading lever to get them crammed into the chambers.

I did not envy my great great grand dads after that experience. I can only imagine trying to cram those bullets into those chambers under fire.

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Attached Files Thumbnail(s)
               
“The nature of psychological compulsion is such that those who act under constraint remain under the impression that they are acting on their own initiative. The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that he is a victim. To him the walls of his prison are invisible, and he believes himself to be free. That he is not free is apparent only to other people.”

-Aldous Huxley

-- Got mask? Just sayin'...




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#31
I'm baaack!

I was going to post a GIF of surveillance footage of my laboratory during a recent priming compound mixing session, but the file was too big, will not post here, so no luck. It was a lovely fireball, though!

In my continuing quest for firearms self-sufficiency, I stumbled across information that I should have already known. I was actually looking for how to identify salt springs to render salt from like they used to do back in the day, but of course as the internet does, that click led to another click, and another, and another, and suddenly I found myself staring at an article on sulfur springs. Now, I had heard all my life of sulfur springs, but somehow it had slipped from memory.

"Sulfur springs" are a thing in the Appalachians. They can be detected because they emit hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide smells like farts or rotten eggs, and that smell travels well enough that they can be detected at some distance. After all that information clicked from reading the article, it dawned upon me that there is a certain area near Vansant, VA, that always smelled like farts as I was driving through, as well as an area farther up Levisa Fork from Vansant, towards Shorts Gap that smells the same. I bet there are sulfur springs there to go along with the salt springs that color the Levisa Fork River a lovely turquoise shade. Can't render the salt from Levisa because of all the mining runoff that has polluted it with PCBs, but going to the source springs ought to alleviate that.

As a matter of fact, the well for this house pumped out what they called "sulfur water" or "stinking water" - but a coal mine running underneath the house fixed that by cutting the bottom out of the well as they were merrily mining along, destroying the well. The coal company paid to have the well filled back in and the house hooked to county water, but there went my nearby source of sulfur water...

Now all I have to do is track down the sulfur springs around Vansant, and figure out how to extract the sulfur from them, and I will have a readily available source of sulfur for gunpowder and priming compound outside of the commerce chain that is so vulnerable.

SO - I can make the primer cups, and the components of the gunpowder (potassium nitrate from bat caves and barnyards, charcoal from willow, and now sulfur from springs), and mold the bullets by hand at home. The primer compound components are next on my list, to make the compound from scratch, too. That compound, as nearly as I have been able to determine, is potassium nitrate, sulfur, and antimony sulfide together with shellac as a binder agent to keep it together and stuck inside the caps. The antimony sulfide is a sensitizer - it's what makes the caps go "BANG!" when you whack 'em with a hammer. Black powder is real stable, and won't do that. It has to be set off with a flame, a flame that comes from the caps.

So now I need to find a source of antimony sulfide, too... and maybe a substitute for the shellac, since there are no lac bugs here to make it naturally. I'm wondering if white pine sap, which is flammable on it's own, would work... I have a white pine tree right here, in spitting distance of my deck...

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“The nature of psychological compulsion is such that those who act under constraint remain under the impression that they are acting on their own initiative. The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that he is a victim. To him the walls of his prison are invisible, and he believes himself to be free. That he is not free is apparent only to other people.”

-Aldous Huxley

-- Got mask? Just sayin'...




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