Sunday, April 04, 2021

The Gun Culture of the Konyak Naga

 I recently learned of the Konyak Naga hill tribe of northern India and Mynamar (Burma). Apparently, guns are a big part of their culture and they make them themselves.

The Konyaks' guns seem all to be single or double-barreled muzzleloading shotguns with percussion locks. They make their own powder and caps.

There are a couple Youtube channels with information about the Konyak Naga gun culture that I've been watching lately.

This video has an overview of their gun culture:

Target shooting at a pig's skull suspended from a tall pole (apparently the object is to cut the string holding the skull):

And this one shows how they make percussion caps:

Finally, this video shows how they make gun powder:

I find this fascinating just because I am into black powder and muzzleloaders, but it also gives a glimpse of what's possible with primitive tools, a lot of skill, and patience.

Homemade Percussion Caps

The current crazy ammo supply situation has even extended to black powder shooting supplies, including percussion caps. Although I was able to pick up a 1200 count sleeve of RWS 1075+ caps from MidwayUSA earlier this year, I wanted a fallback option as well.  So, in early January I ordered a #11 cap maker and a packet of Prime All from It took about a month to come in due to their backlog.

To go with the cap maker I bought a 12" x 30" roll of .005" thick copper foil at Amazon. This is a bit thicker than the beverage cans recommended by the cap maker's manufacturer.

After the cap maker came in I punched out about 100 cups. I am able to do so by hand but it's much easier using a mallet.

Anyway, the cups sat until yesterday. Instead of using the Prime All compound, I charged about a dozen with some Scheutzen 3Fg black powder topped with two toy caps, secured in place with a drop of Duco cement. It's a nitrocellulose laquer that acts as a binder, waterproofing agent, and is flammable.

I used a scoop made from a large pistol primer cup glued to a piece of bamboo from a chopstick to put the black powder in the caps.

Last night I tried the caps in my Euroarms Rogers & Spencer. I used them with Triple 7 as the main charge. I wanted to see how they'd do with a propellant that has a higher ignition temperature than black powder.

They worked pretty well. The first cylinder was charged with 20 grains by volume of Triple 7 3Fg, a lubricated wad, and .454 ball. All chambers ignited easily and the caps didn't fragment.

I then tried some paper cartridges with the same powder charge and ball but with 0.5cc of cornmeal filler. These must develop a higher chamber pressure, because I noticed that the gun was harder to recock due to the caps deforming more. Also, in this cylinder I had one misfire where the cap popped off but the main charge failed to ignite. It went off with a second cap but there was a noticeable delay. I think the nipple was clogged.

The Rogers & Spencer with my homemade caps on the nipples. I used a Delrin punch that I use for pushing out the wedges on Colt-style guns to seat the caps on the nipples. They are tighter than RWS 1075+ or Remington No.10 caps on these nipples.

I also shot two more cylinders tonight with 20 grains of Scheutzen 3Fg BP and RWS caps.

I regard this experiment as a success. I'm getting a 1/8" hole punch so I can more easily get the toy caps off the paper roll, which will speed production. I also need to try the Prime All compound.

Making percussion caps is tedious. I don't expect to make a whole bunch but I want to have the capability, just in case.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Lithium Battery Price Hikes and Shortages

 This announcement was posted on March 1st by NKON, a large supplier of batteries in the Netherlands. (Link goes to FB so you might need to login to see it there.)

Most of my lithium battery supply is from Battery Junction. I've found that they often have better deals than Amazon.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Cap and Ball Revolver: Round Ball vs Conical Bullet

 This video from Paul Harrell provides a good comparison between round balls and conicals in percussion revolvers (in this case fired from a Ruger Old Army).

A few comments:

The conicals he used appear to have been cast from a Lee mold. They are similar in form to modern round nosed bullets that have been loaded in cartridges since the late 19th Century.

Conical bullets used in cap and ball revolvers in the 1850s and 1860s were generally more pointed. This would increase penetration but reduce terminal effectiveness because the bullet would be more prone to slip through tissue rather than punching a larger diameter hole.

Nowadays, more effective conical designs are available, intended for hunting, e.g. Kaido Ojaama's design, which has a wide, flat meplat.

In his book Sixguns, Elmer Keith recounted that Civil War veterans that he knew as a boy stated that round balls were more effective for antipersonnel use than the pointed conicals of the period.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Combustible .44 Caliber Paper Cartridge Target Loads

 Today I finished up making another batch of paper cartridges for my .44 cap and ball revolvers.

For these, I used permanent end papers AKA curling papers for the tubes and the end caps. This paper seems a little easier to work with than cigarette rolling papers and is cheaper, under $5 delivered for a box of 1,000.

As before I used .454 round balls. The powder charge in this batch is reduced, however, at 20 grains of 3Fg Triple 7 measured using the 20 grain spout on my flask. Because of the lesser amount of powder, I added 0.5cc of cornmeal filler, to ensure that I get enough compression.

The first picture shows some rounds in various stages of construction. The top two in the leftmost row have been charged with the powder and filler, and have balls dropped in. The third one down has the powder and filler, while the 4th has the funnel from my Guns of the West kit inserted, ready for the cornmeal. Finally, the one on the bottom has powder only. (Click on each pic to enlarge.)

And two completed cartridges:

I've noticed recently a lot more interest online in making paper cartridges for percussion revolvers. I suspect that this is driven at least in part by the current ammo shortage situation, driving folks to take another look at their cap and ball sixguns to get some shooting in. Paper cartridges allow you to get a lot more shooting in during a range session than if you load with loose powder and ball.

In some of these discussions I've seen comments about how making the combustible cartridges is tedious. To a certain extent it is, which is why I break it up into batch jobs. I'll make up some tubes until I have 50. At a later time I'll get around to loading them. Done this way it's not really any worse than loading metallic cartridges on a non-progressive press. At least with this I don't have to recover, clean, resize, and decap my brass. The overall amount of work is probably less, in fact.

Friday, February 05, 2021

Adapting a US M1917 Holster to Fit Pietta Sheriff's Model Percussion Revolvers

On Blackie Thomas’s YouTube channel he shows carrying a Pietta NMA Sheriff’s Model in a replica holster for the US M1917 revolvers. He got his from Sportsman’s Guide. I bought this one from Sarco for $25 + tax and shipping. The quality seems pretty good — nice thick leather and good stitching. There’s no indicator where it was made but I have a feeling it’s from India.

As received, with a Pietta 1858 Sheriff's Model in it. The flap cannot be buttoned.

So, I added an extension by riveting on a piece of leather. I got the color to almost match just by applying some neatsfoot oil.

With the extension added:

It also fits my Pietta 1851 Navy Sheriff, maybe even a little better than the Remington.

I used a Tandy rivet setter and rivets to attach the extension, after punching holes using a hollow punch from a Harbor Freight set. I did not punch the hole for the button in the extension until the new piece of leather was attached to the holster flap. I did it afterwards, after marking the correct spot.

This will be a good option for field carry.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Pietta Dance Brothers Revolvers

Last week I ordered two Pietta Dance Brothers percussion revolvers from Jedidiah Starr Trading Co. in Michigan. I paid extra for two day FEDEX shipping and got them on Wednesday.

One is a gift to my father from my brother and I for his 80th birthday, while the second revolver was for me.

Both guns have "CC" in a box date code stamped on the frame. That translates to 2008, which means they have been sitting in stock for over a decade, which I found surprising.

The Pietta Dance revolver is a replica of guns built by the Dance Brothers in Brazos, Texas for the Confederacy during the Civil War. Only about 500 were made, mostly in .44 caliber. Some were in .36 caliber.

Original Dance revolvers were between the Colt Navy and Dragoon in size. As you can see from my pictures, stylistically, it resembles a Dragoon with the octagon-to-round barrel and straight cylinder.

Ian McCollum of Forgotten Weapons put out a nice video about the history of the Dance revolvers:

Mike Beliveau has a video in which he shoots a Pietta replica.

The most notable feature of the Dance revolver is that it lacks recoil shields on the sides of the frame, behind the cylinder. There are a couple of theories why the originals were made that way. One is that Dance felt that by omitting them the chance of cap jams was lessened. Another is that the frames were cut from iron or steel boilerplate, which was only thick enough for the frame without the shields.

The fit and finish of the Piettas is decent but not as good as my 1992-vintage Uberti 1851 Navy. I took down both of them. Removing the wedges took quite a bit of effort with a hammer and drift punch. After removal, I deburred the wedges and arbor slots.

I did a full, detail strip of both guns because they felt a bit gritty. Takedown is like any other Colt-type percussion revolver. While the guns were apart I took the opportunity to debur the internal parts, clean everything, and relubricated with Ballistol.

I lubricated the cylinder arbors and wedges with Bumblin Bear Grease from October Country. (I bought the jar of BBG on a lark a couple years ago. It works great but I'm not sure it's worth the price compared to Track of the Wolf's Mink Oil Tallow.)

With the mechanisms cleaned out and properly lubricated the guns cock smoothly.

The triggers have some creep but aren't too heavy.

The front sights are thankfully more like an 1860 Army than an 1851 Navy. The lever latch engagement is solid. The lever did not drop under recoil on my first range trip.

Last night I went along with Dad to his indoor range where we both shot mine.

I really like the gun, it’s a good shooter. This target is 18 shots, 1 handed at 7 yards. For ammunition we used combustile paper cartridges I'd made up ahead of time. The load was Hornady .454 ball on top of 25 grains of Swiss 3Fg, with no lube or wad. (The benefit of lube is to keep fouling soft in the bore. Chainfires are due to improperly fitting or missing caps.)

The lack of recoil shields makes it easy to cap and to see if you still have unfired chambers left. I'll note that if you do get a chainfire you'll likely get caps back in your face. Wear eye protection with one of these!

Dad’s cylinder was the last of the night, making 24 shots through the gun. By the end the gun was feeling a bit crusty and the cylinder didn't want to rotate without some manual assistance. I field stripped it for a quick clean before heading home (I'll do full clean today) and you could not see rifling. The fouling felt hard.

The gun has almost no barrel/cylinder gap so the arbor doesn’t get too badly fouled. I did wipe off the cylinder face and put a few drops of moose milk behind the cylinder, because it was getting sluggish.

I shot the first two cylinders with RWS 1075+ caps, the third with Remington No.10s, and the final with CCI No.11s. All worked fine but check this out:

Those are two RWS caps. I’ve never seen caps perforated in this way. Normally they bust wide open. The CCI and Remington caps fragmented normally.

Dad brought along a Nagant revolver with some 1978-vintage Soviet surplus ammunition. I put a cylinder through it. I find it remarkable that the Imperial Russian Army replaced the Smith & Wesson No.3 Russian with this clunker. Even the single action trigger pull is atrocious -- heavy and creepy. Given the choice, I'd take any one of my full sized cap and ball revolvers over the Nagant for anything other than punching holes in paper, including self defense.

After leaving the range, Dad came over for a bit of bourbon and conversation. All in all, a pretty darn good night.

Battery Operated Fuel Pump

We are forecast to get up to over a foot of snow and sleet here in Southeastern Pennsylvania. I just got inside from opening the locks to my sheds so they don't freeze shut, and putting gas in my snow blower. I keep gas in military surplus jerrycans.

This battery operated pump works really well for transferring gasoline from a can into the fuel tank of a generator, snow blower, or whatever without making a mess. I bought one in October and have used it a few times now. I wish I had one years ago.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Directions for Loading Colt's Pistols

 This is a photo of the instruction sheet that came with Colt percussion revolvers in the 19th Century:

Click on the image for a full size picture.

Some things worth pointing out:

1. Colonel Colt referred to them as "pistols." Internet know-it-alls who insist that you shouldn't refer to revolvers as pistols, please take note.

2. "N.B." at the beginning of the second paragraph is an abbreviation for Nota Bene, Latin for Note Well. This is no longer a commonly used phrase and I've seen questions about it elsewhere.

3. N.B. ;) that you can safely load them with as much powder will fit under the projectile.

4. There is no mention of using wads or grease to prevent chain fires. As long as you are using a properly oversized ball or bullet, it will seal the chamber and you cannot get a chain fire due to flash over at the front of the cylinder. Chain fires are due to flashover at the rear of the cylinder, from loose or ill-fitting caps.