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Revolver crossfire prevention???

taperloctaperloc Member Posts: 420 ✭✭✭
I have a replica, 1851, Colt Navy, 36 cal. I use 25 gr. of FFFG. and a .375" round ball. The pistol is quite accurate with this loading. I use a heavy chassis grease over each ball to prevent crossfire, it is very messy.

Is there a wax or wad of some kind that I can use to eliminate the use of the grease?
If so, where can I purchase it?
If I use a conical bullet instead of a ball, do I still need a "plug" of some kind to prevent crossfire?


  • BlairweescotBlairweescot Member Posts: 2,014 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    You use a heavy chassis grease? What is the base? Bentone (clay)? Petroleum? Lithium?
  • taperloctaperloc Member Posts: 420 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Valvoline High Temp All Purpose Grease.
  • ken44-40ken44-40 Member Posts: 201 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    quote:Originally posted by taperloc

    Is there a wax or wad of some kind that I can use to eliminate the use of the grease? Yes, There are a number of sources for lubed wads that will eliminate the need for over the ball grease. Cabelas carries one brand, Wonder Wads are available most places BP supplies are sold. But, Wonder wads aint cheap. Cheaper sources of prelubed wads are are and . Buffalo Arms also sells dry wads that you can lube yourself. Lube formulas come in many guises; but combinations of two or more of the following ingredients are used. Beeswax, parrafin, tallow, crisco, bore butter, wonder lube, and olive oil. I use a 75%/25% mix of beeswax & Bore Butter. A fellow CAS shooter uses a beeswax/parrafin/tallow mix
    If so, where can I purchase it? See previous.
    If I use a conical bullet instead of a ball, do I still need a "plug" of some kind to prevent crossfire? I use wads with conicals and round balls; but, not to prevent chainfires.

    Taperloc. The source of chain fires - or Crossfire as you call it - is a debate that rages on these BP forums from time to time. IMNSHO chain fires can only be caused at the chamber mouth by by ill fitting or deformed balls. They are more often casued by ill fitting or missing caps. Primary reason using over the ball grease or lubed wads is to prevent tinning of the barrel and keeping the fouling soft.
  • mazo kidmazo kid Member Posts: 648 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    OK, first you need to stop using the petroleum based grease as thaose lubes cause a gooey mess that is hard to clean up. You can use something as simple as Crisco to put in front of the ball; or any number of lubes such as beeswax/tallow/olive oil mixes. Half and half beeswax and tallow with the olive oil to adjust stickiness. Also, you can get pre-lubed wads to put over the ball and they are much less messy to use. Good luck with you revolver; they are fun to shoot!
  • taperloctaperloc Member Posts: 420 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Hello mazo,
    My experience with Crisco.
    When I first started shooting BP revolvers, I experienced "crossfire" with a .44 1860 Colt Army replica. Five cylinders went off. Luckily, the only cylinder that didn't fire was the one directly inline with the frame. I didn't realize what had happened; it was quite a wallop.

    We were using Crisco on a hot day. The Crisco melted. I had to go back to the car and hold the Crisco can in front of the A/C vent to get it back to a solid state before we could continue shooting.

    Thanks to all for the info.
  • allen griggsallen griggs Member Posts: 34,332 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    This is a mutton tallow beeswax blend that the old timers used.

    Mutton tallow is hard to come by, so this is a great source.
    I use Old Zip as is for lubing the patches on my Hawken.

    For wads for the cap and ball revolver, take 2 parts Old Zip and one part paraffin. Maybe 2 teaspoons Old Zip and one teaspoon paraffin, you won't need much.
    Buy a bag of 100 pre lubed wads. These wads are lightly lubed.
    Put the Old Zip/paraffin in a bowl and melt in the microwave.
    Put all 100 wads in there and sop up the liquid.
    Now you have some well lubed wads for your revolver that won't melt in warm weather.
    Use these on top of the powder, and under the ball.
    This will prevent chain fire from the front of the cylinder.
    Also will keep the revolver well lubed so that you can get more shots off before fouling gunks it up.
    If you are in a cool climate, you could use straight Old Zip.

    One little can will last a long time, and it won't go rancid either.
    I have a can that I have had for 22 years, still good as new.
  • glabrayglabray Member Posts: 679 ✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Back in the early days of replica black powder revolvers, we did an extensive study on the multiple discharge "problem". We had heard all the rumors that still get bandied about today and wanted some hard data. We started by interviewing a very old, old-timer who claimed to have had extensive experience with several original revolvers "back in the day". His comments were: (1) Use only round balls. Conicals never fit tight enough in the chambers. (2) Cast your round balls out of only pure lead to ensure that they are soft enough, and make sure you use a mold that casts them several thousanths larger than the cylinder diameter. (3)Seat the balls hard on the powder, compressing the powder and expanding the ball tight against the chamber walls. (4) Use snug fitting caps and pinch them onto the nipples. He told us that he never knew anybody who used any kind of lube over top of the bullets.

    The bottom line from all the tests that we ran confirmed exactly what the old timer told us. We were able to intentionally create multiple discharges by three different methods: (1) By leaving a cap off the nipple of a loaded chamber that was adjacent to the one being fired. (2) By using balls or conicals that were slightly under chamber diameter, and (3) By using so small a powder charge that the ram did not compress the powder with the bullet. If the ball was pure lead (soft) and we stacked hard wads between it and the powder so that the ram pressed down hard that usually solved the problem.

    With the undersize balls or conicals, we didn't have a lot of luck eliminating multiples by using over the bullet lubes. Soft lubes seemed to be useless since the blast through the cylinder to barrel gap would usually blow the lube away. Harder wax-like lubes fared a little better but not a lot.
  • taperloctaperloc Member Posts: 420 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    Hello glabray,
    Thank you for your excellent info on my "cross-fire" question. It is exactly what I was looking for.
    I would appreciate it if you would answer a few additional questions.

    How do you go about pinching a primer cap? Do you squeeze it a little with your fingers?
    In your tests, did you try a paraffin wax over the ball?

    What I want to do is to be able to carry the revolver and not worry about any mess.
  • chigerchiger Member Posts: 40 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    Hey taper,

    Being one of those old timers...I'll tell ya, yep. Pinch um between the fingers. I use 1 CCI No 11's on my main rifles and the pistols. Just a little squeeze will hold um on.

    And yep, I've been using wax over the the load for nearly 40 years. But ONLY when I'm loading it to leave it loaded for several days of hunting. I also seal around the cap with candle wax for the same reason. Melted block Paraffin wax will work, but a birthday candle is easier. Just a few drops and scrape off the excess so the hammer hits the cap properly. Works fine. Just don't get carried away and try to fill the cylinders. You should at least be able to see the ball when you're done. And you have to do the caps if you intend to leave it loaded.

    Just a note on chain/cross fire. I have SEEN chain fires happen! Got sprayed at the range from my buddies brand new 1975 Stainless Ruger using rounds made for the bigger Ruger cylinder and felt wades they sold back in the 70's. No missing caps, no mismatched ammo, no light just happened. Probably shot 50 times that day before it happened and,ba,boom! He went right back to Crisco. Just a good thing it was a Ruger.

    I've seen examples in gun shops of destroyed cylinders, bent and broken Colt style strapless frames of older guns because of chain fire. As a matter of fact, I think it was a Myth Busters program a couple months ago or maybe it was a show on one of the outdoor channels, but they actually had an inadvertent chain fire. They included it it in the show just to show the danger!

    Chain fire does happen. But I've never had one in nearly 40 years. That's because when I was shown an exploded cylinder, told it could happen and that I should seal over the ball to prevent it by the guy that sold me the gun...I did.

    From the first shot I ever made to today. Crisco is all I've ever used for just shooting. 10's of thousands of rounds and buckets of Crisco. Doesn't take much. Just a little dab smeared around the edge where the ball meets the cylinder. Don't have to cover the whole thing.

    It doesn't have to be Crisco. Other guys use a lot of different stuff, like the things you've seen suggested here and never had a problem. But the point is....USE SOMETHING to make sure it doesn't happen. It doesn't take but 1 time to turn a great day of shooting into a trip to the emergency room for you or the guy next to you!

    Just my 2 cents on chain fire.
  • ken44-40ken44-40 Member Posts: 201 ✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    The two most important things you can do to prevent a chainfire is:
    1. Ensure the balls/conicals you are using have no flaws and are a good tight fit.
    2. Ensure your caps are a tight fit on the nipple without pinching. Pinching them to fit still leaves gaps around the edge that will allow a chainfire.

    I've shot C&Bs off and on for the better part of 40 years and have seen numberous chain fires happen. Sometimes, it is hard to determine just what went wrong to allow one to happen cause the ball has gone down range and the cap has exploded or fell off after the fact. Most times it has been because one of the two previously mentioned rules (if you will) was ignored. A fellow CAS member was having chain fire troubles at a match a few years ago with an older 1860 Army, as many as 2 sympathetic ignitions on a cylinder. His cast balls weren't all that good, and his caps didn't fit the nipples very well. After insisting that he use my swaged balls, lubed wads & caps, the chain fires miraculously ceased. With all the problems he was having, there was never any spraying of lead that got anywhere near bystanders. The most that happened was a smear of lead on the wedge.

    I've been shooting C&Bs almost exclusively in 3 to 4 CAS matches a month for going on 10 years. In that time, I've had one chainfire on a chamber that I failed to cap cause I wasn't paying attention to what I was doing at the loading table. The only indication on the pistol that it happened was a small spot of lead on the wedge.

    I use .380 balls in my 36s; .454 balls in my 44s. I always use lubed wads over the powder and #10 Remington caps on Treso nipples. I have never used any sort of over the ball wax, grease, miracle lube, etc.

    You might want to read this article about capping revolvers. It include a section about out of battery ignition (chainfires)

    I doubt very seriously that a chainfire would cause an exploded cylinder or mangled arbor. Overcharging a weakened cylinder, smokeless powder, duplex load, or an air gap is a more likely cause IMHO.

  • k_townmank_townman Member Posts: 3,588
    edited November -1
    I would use Bore Butter.
    James Butler (Wild Bill) Hickok carried 2 1851 Colt Navy 36's.
  • chigerchiger Member Posts: 40 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    Ya know Ken, I didn't feel compelled to call the old man that showed me those destroyed cylinders and bent guns a LIER! Especially since I didn't know him from Adam and he was making the guns that a lot of us shot at the time.

    He was after all nice enough to walk us around his facility and make recommendations for my first gun, tell us stories about the history of black powder and his 100 or so collectibles, point out the labels that said, "Destroyed by Smokeless Powder" or "Bent During Chain Fire" on the more than 20 examples of damaged and destroyed historical and replica hand and long guns he had collected over his more than 60 years. So calling the man a lier...well, it just seemed in bad taste!

    And I don't know bystanders from biscuits about competition shooting. I'm just a guy that shoots for the love of it and to be a more efficient killer of game. But I dang sure know what hot lead feels like. If you don't...consider yourself lucky!

    Me, I've never had a chain fire. Never load but 5 holes. Always pinch my caps. Always seal my cylinders. Never did like depending on luck. Usually runs out!
  • BlairweescotBlairweescot Member Posts: 2,014 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited November -1
    ...but can't a pinched cap promote chain fire by igniting another cap? By definition, a pinched cap is deformed, and a deformed cap cannot accommodate a nipple evenly around the nipple's other words, there's a gap at the top and bottom of the pinch. There's quite a lot of energy in a cap
  • chigerchiger Member Posts: 40 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    Hey Blair,

    That's what some say, but you know...I never had a problem. I have had a problem with caps coming off from recoil, especially depending on the cap manufacturer. I use to use an inline caper. On several occasions early in my revolver experience I would pull back the hammer and let rip just to hear a click and on inspection find that the cap had come off. Started pinching the caps and never had the problem again. Of course I also use properly fitting caps and make sure I push um up good an snug on well maintained nipples. But I should have listened to the old boy that sold me the gun about that too.

    And I've gotta say that the fact that I've never had a chain fire incident, even on uncapped and fully charged cylinders may say something about the actual cause of chain fire in the first place. However, not wanting to depend on just being lucky as the only reason for not getting a chain fire...I pinch the caps and push um on securely with my thumb. Just to make sure they don't come off. I'd rather risk a microscopic gap than an open nipple whole.

    May be overkill, but it only takes a second to do.
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