Discussion in 'Black Powder Shooting / Muzzleloaders / Handguns' started by LeadSlinger, Apr 6, 2011.

  1. LeadSlinger

    LeadSlinger New Member

    Mar 10, 2011
    Florida West Coast
    Anyone have any experience with making and using paper cartriges in thier revolvers. I know they were pretty standard for long arms in CW but never heard much about revolver ammunition until recently. Was reading letters from a trooper in Hampton's Legion to his father in S.C. requesting that he send his slave, Jesup, back to him in Virginia. Seems Jesup was paritcularly adept at putting together pistol cartriges besides being a crack shot. The whole troop missed him, both to take care of their ammunition needs and to keep the community cook pot filled with squire and rabbit. Just what kind of paper would you need and how would you go about putting together paper cartriges? Rifle cartriges used a waxed or greased paper to help keep the powder dry while in amunnition crates and individual pouches.
  2. Hawg

    Hawg Well-Known Member

    Mar 23, 2011
    When I make them I use tea bags. They're stronger than cigarette paper and burn cleaner plus they don't leave any unburned paper behind. They are a PITA to make tho. I roll a paper around a 3/8 wooden dowel and glue it with Elmers white glue. Slide it off the dowel and tie off one end with thread. drop in a ball and twist it behind the ball and tie it off. Pour in a pre measured charge of powder and twist and tie again. If you want a traditional look you can fold the tail over the cartridge and tie it around the cartridge but I just cut the tail off close. No need to tear it open before loading or prick it through the nipple. Standard caps have no problem blowing through. If you leave the tail you might have to prick it through the nipple and it might leave unburned paper behind, I never tried it.
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2011

  3. LeadSlinger

    LeadSlinger New Member

    Mar 10, 2011
    Florida West Coast
    I thought about cigarette paper but would never have thought about tea bags. The wood dowel is a good idea that I'll be sure to use since I have plenty of those in the shop. Wax paper would probably be to heavy you think?
  4. BullShoot

    BullShoot New Member

    May 9, 2010
    missouri ozarks
    I haven't made any combustible cartridges since the mid 70's.... but what I did was make and use "flash paper." I found a recipe that I used. Sorry, I don't think I have it anymore but I know where to look and will post it if I can find it again. It makes a liquid that I would pour into a casserole dish. I took a sheet of onionskin paper, soaked it in the solution in the casserole dish for several hours, then removed it and hung it up to dry on a clothesline (indoors). When it was dry it had a slightly heavier feel to it and was a bit crisper - but only slightly so. I cut this up into rectangles. I wrapped the rectangles around a dowel slightly larger than my bullet size (When I was shooting my .58 cal I used a 5/8" dowel) then ran a small and very thin line of Elmer's glue down the seam line. After the glue dried. I slid the tube off the dowel, folded the base over and added a dab of glue to hold the fold. Later I poured in my powder charge, ran a thin wipe of glue on the bottom half of the bullet and then set the bullet in place on top of the powder. All that was left was to lightly crimp the paper onto the glue on the bullet. If I remember correctly I also used a twisting motion to make sure the paper was closed up tightly.

    It all sounds more complicated than it really was. It was a slow procedure but I used to do up 50 or so rounds at a time doing them all one step at a time. Different calibers required different lengths of paper and I learned those by trial and error.

    The "flash paper" was made to the recipe used by magicians to create sudden flashes of fire. It is NOT explosive but is an instantaneous flash.
    Did it work? You betcha!

    The glue never seemed to be a problem though that is what I was most concerned about when I started. When I fired a shot, the paper burned up completely, the glue disappeared, the bullet went downrange and the load was very, very consistent.

    I used to use these in competitions when I was shooting an old Bannerman's Special .58 cal rebuild from CW parts. I did well.

  5. BullShoot

    BullShoot New Member

    May 9, 2010
    missouri ozarks
    I re-read what I had written and found a mistake I had made (the 70's were a few years ago, after all). What I should have said was.... I folded over the paper to seal the base while the paper was still on the dowel. It all held together well when I slid it off the dowel even though the glue wasn't dry. After the glue was thoroughly dry I loaded the powder in and dropped the bullet on top - I was using a minie. The glue on the bullet actually made it slide easily into the paper tube.
  6. polishshooter

    polishshooter Well-Known Member

    Mar 25, 2001
    Dixie Gun Works has a recipe for paper revolver cartridges in their technical section of their's worth the $5 for the catalogue even if that's all you read...

    It uses gummed cigarette paper, and conicals and contact cement.

    But when I tried it for my 1860 Army they WORKED, but the two problems I ran into, one minor, and one major, were #1, the powder capacity was a lot less due to the volume of the paper now in the chamber, and if you were not consistent with your folds and glue, it was easy to make one too big, which meant tearing it open and pouring the powder to make it work, which defeated the purpose...

    And #2, they did not last even for a couple of weeks in any decent container I tried to store them in, eventually I ended up with a margarine dishe, pouch, metal container, whatever, with a mess of loose powder and paper and balls at the bottom, and that was just laying around the HOUSE and not jostled around in a pouch on my belt or worse, on a HORSE.

    It made me conclude that the use of non factory made and controlled musket paper cartridges was a LOT less commonplace than we think, and people just carried another revolver....

    ....kind of like the myth of the "spare cylinder...."

    I know also that one of the reasons Wilder wanted first the Henry and then settled on the Spencer Rifles for his "Lighting Brigade" was NOT mainly because they were repeaters, but from his experience with paper cartridges disintegrating in the ammo pouches, especially for mounted troops. Now I read that in several books, granted, possibly all from the same primary source, and it was obvious he was referring to factory made RIFLE cartridges, but the principle would be the same I guess.

    My theory is that modern man has a tendency to get used to advances in technology, and then look BACKWARDS with the idea that the modern advances are so invaluable that ANCIENT man must have been striving to achieve them as well, so we "project" them backwards, while the truth is most of us don't know what we are missing and manage to live WITHOUT them if they are not available, whether it be indoor plumbing, microwaves, cell-phones....

    ....OR metallic cartridges, speedloaders, high cap mags for defense, etc.

    The truth is metallic cartridges were sought after not only for quicker loading even as a SINGLE shot, but as much for water proof ammo, sealing the breech from gas escape which plagued any breechloaders to date, and the ability to load without standing UP....or on horseback.

    "Repeaters" were GRAVY, but not necessarily earth shattering.....

    The revolver would have been such a great technological leap over single shot muzzleloading pistols, 5 or 6 TIMES the rate of fire, that NO ONE, or at the very least, FEW shooters would have given a thought at all to "tactical Reloading."

    IF you needed more than 6 shots with your pistol you were either probably a goner anyway, or you needed ANOTHER one, is probably the thought process at the time...
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2011
  7. jim brady

    jim brady Well-Known Member

    Sep 22, 2009
    Simla, Colorado
    That chemical was potassium nitrate (salt peter?) I'm pretty sure. I used to make paper cartridges for a .58 Springfield musket. Think maybe that's what Bullshoot was referring to. That disolved in water. That onion skin paper or tea bags is a great idea. I just used a light grade letter paper stock, but that onion skin would have been better. I think I used a 1/2" dowel for .58 cartridges.

    I still have 20+ cartridges in my cartridge box, and I'm pretty sure they still work from more than 20 years ago.
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2011
  8. sewerman

    sewerman New Member

    Last edited: Apr 8, 2011
  9. ElvinWarrior

    ElvinWarrior New Member

    Guys, Guys, Guys...

    Just buy the flash paper from the major pyrotechnical supplies (fireworks supplies) companies, its really cheap, like a $1.60 for a 8" X 9" sheet, or, a "pad" of 20 sheets of 6" X 4" for around $6.00

    I do sometimes make my own black powder, and when I do, I purchase my supplies from outfits like that, they offer chemical grade ingrediants at bargain basement prices. Yes, I know, you can buy Saltpeter from Chinese/Oriental Markets, they use the stuff in pickling and pickled meats, pretty cheap... Yes I know, you can buy Sulphur, from large gardening supply shops or departments in very large supplier outlets, and yes, I can grind my own charcoal, I still have two hands and ten fingers.... BUT, NONE of those sources supply high grade chemical grade ingrediants, they are all home/garden and food grade components... Not so hot really.

    And there is the time factor, I mean, making the damned BP is nearly a mini-profession in and of itself, do I really want to waste another couple days chasing down the stupid supplies too?

    I suppose if I were 75 years old, and living on $200.00/month, I might consider such extreames, just to fill my time up with, because I didn't have anything better to do, and even if I did, I wouldn't have the money for the gas to do it.... I would probably even consider making my own damned paper from old newspapers... But, I am not that far over the hill... YET !!!

    I am over the hill enough to know however, paper cartridges are few and far between, and expensive when you can find them, so, doing the bare minimum necessary to make those makes sense. In my case with BP, living in Los Angeles, where, even matches are stored behind locked gates at the grocery stores, BP is a rare bird in these parts... It's not about the cost with me with BP, it's the damned availability.

    NE-Wayz... I digress...

    I also purchase flash powder and gun cotton from those pyrotechical supply houses. I use the flash powder in a 50/50 by volume mix with 4Fg BP as my priming powder for my flints. It flashes faster, hotter, and with a larger flame burst. I have found that using this mix ignites my flinters much faster and more reliably than just priming the pan with 4Fg priming powder by itself. It even works well on very damp, rainy days, I almost never have misfires on my flinters anymore, even in the worst of weather conditions. (someimes I even buy the "fancy" ones, the ones that gold sparkle, or silver sparkle, or red or green colored flashes... for the holidays and "Special" occassions, like, when I show up at a civil war re-enactment, dressed up as a green forest elf, prancing around with my nickle plated and ivory simulated flintlock Zuave... firing my musket, screaming at the top of my lungs... "You Go Girls !!!" Yes I know, I'm a bit eccentric, aren't all us old BP dudes WiLd 'n CrAzY??? I mean, think about the average mentality of the average mountain man... These were not exactly "normal" people, and didn't want to be...)

    And, the gun cotton, (Nitrated Puffy Cotton).... It "flashes", just like flash paper and flash powder, it was also a key ingrediant in early smokeless powders, so, be very STINGY with it's use. I use that as a flamable cotton wad, I just stuff a small tuft of it down the barrel, on top of the powder charge, before I seat down the lubed conical or min-ball. I do this to have a pad inbetween the lubed conical/mini and the powder charge so that the lube will not soak into the powder. Needless to say, I don't do this with patched balls, waste of good gun cotton that. Although I haven't tried it yet, I suppose using a teency bit of the gun cotton, instead of those super overpriced, pre-lubed overpowder pads in revolvers would work perfectly well too.

    Heck, if some BP'ers are so full of pocket money they want to overspend on everything, I just may start making the damned flash paper, special flash priming powders, and gun cotton tuft wads myself, in mass, and market the stupid things to Dixie and the others, for a 300% markup, who will, offer them for another 300% markup.... THINK ABOUT IT GUYS !!!

    ALL, of those supplies, ALL OF THEM, and MORE, like fuses, CHEAP FUSES, are available from the pyrotechnical supply houses....

    Here is a link to one, not the best, not the worst, but a good one with good prices.


    Have FUN with it Guys !!!


    ElvinWarrior... aka... David, "EW"
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2011
  10. BullShoot

    BullShoot New Member

    May 9, 2010
    missouri ozarks
    That all sounds good, Elf, EXCEPT... the flash papers listed are described as being "extra thick." I used onion skin and someone else used tea bags to avoid excessive thickness.
  11. ElvinWarrior

    ElvinWarrior New Member

    Most paper cartridge conicals were a tad undersized from the factory, to compensate for the paper. I have a friend, who collects LeMat's, and he has a LeMat Mold that casts like 5 different types of projectiles from one mold. All of the conicals, in that mold, are a bit undersized, a bit sloppy in the cylinder. He made up some paper cartridges, and VIOLA, they snug down just fine now !!! He beleives this means that the conicals cast from the LeMat molds were designed to be used with paper cartridges.

    Flash paper does feel "thick", I think thats because when the paper is soaked in the nitrate solution, it bonds, chemically with the nitrates in the liquid, and "puffs" the paper up a bit. It also feels a bit rough. The link I gave, says the separate paper 8" X 9" sheets are made from onion skin paper, which is, very thin.


    ElvinWarrior... aka... David, "EW"
  12. Hawg

    Hawg Well-Known Member

    Mar 23, 2011
    Hmmmm, God made man etc. with pic of Remington.:confused::D:D:D
  13. BullShoot

    BullShoot New Member

    May 9, 2010
    missouri ozarks
    Elf, I'm not trying to be argumentative here but I am somewhat confused. When you first mentioned the site I was interested enough to check it out. It was an interesting site and I thank you for posting it. However, I cannot see where you come up with "says the separate paper 8" X 9" sheets are made from onion skin paper, which is, very thin."

    Quote from your cited link:
    "Flash Paper
    Large 8" X 9" Sheets. Extra thick. Great Price. Burns completely and leaves no ash. Safe for magic and hand tricks. Light it and toss it in the air. then watch it burn up completely in mid-air without touching the ground. Guaranteed Lowest Price: Click here for MSDS
    Item# FPAP Only $1.60 ea. Qty: "

    and the material safety data sheet does not mention onion skin either but does say it "Looks like tissue paper ." So far I read "extra thick but looks like tissue paper."

    I only pursue this point because the apparent thickness of the paper is, in my opinion, an undesirable feature in creating a combustible cartridge - and your reference only advertises "extra thick" and one that is "more than twice the thickness of normal flash paper."
  14. ofitg

    ofitg Active Member

    Feb 25, 2010
    EW, I have never played with flash paper.... from what I have read, it is prepared by treating paper with nitric & sulfuric acids... which convert the paper to nitrocellulose.... in other words, it is a thin, flat sheet of guncotton.

    I believe you when you say that it works great for combustible cartridges, but it is quite different from "traditional" nitrated paper.
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