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Thread: Durable combustible cartridge?

  1. #1
    Naphtali is offline
    Visitor (non-N-SSA Member)
    Join Date
    Sep 2011

    Durable combustible cartridge?

    I have never created a "combustible cartridge" - that is, a piece of saltpeter-saturated rolled paper containing black powder. What I want to do is have a packet of black powder from which I tear the breech end. Then with no further action I load it. Cartridges I have seen used have the powder poured into the muzzle, then the paper container follows as detritus or "wadding."

    I have seen percussion revolver cartridges that are combustible, but they are fragile. If there is a type or brand of paper (or cloth??) from which to make a combustible cartridge that is durable against rough handling, please identify it, and how to make it.
    In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. George Orwell

  2. #2
    ian45662 is offline
    Genl Wm T Sherman's Bodyguard
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Portsmouth Ohio
    Midwest - Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana
    Are you wanting to use these in your revolver or carbine? If you are thinking about trying them in your musket although they did use combustable cartridges in muskets during the war I would imagine a cook off would be catastrophic while loading a cartridge that has bullet and powder attached as one. Or are you wanting the combustable paper to act as a type of wadding? I make them for my sharps and I am going to start making them for revolver but not for n-ssa use but rather my own enjoyment. I use plane ole printer paper and put hair curler paper on the back so the cap will burn through. I nitrate the paper with stump remover since it has potassium nitrate in it.

  3. #3
    jonk is offline
    Genl Wm T Sherman's Bodyguard
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Midwest - Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana
    I'm not sure entirely what you're asking... if you tear the end off the cartridge you're going to have to pour the powder in first anyhow, just as you describe you've seen in the past, then push the ball and paper down as wadding.

    British Enfield cartridges were often made to have the ball paper patched, so I'd start by looking for those on youtube or elsewhere on the internet.

    If you're looking to simply ram the whole cartridge down without tearing, having a paper that's thin enough to burn through would be troublesome. Having the whole mess jam up at the muzzle as you begin to try to shove it down would be even harder.

    I agree with Ian as well, with any combustible round there is the chance for a cook off due to smoldering paper in the breech area. Be very careful in your loading procedure.

    As for paper type, nitrating process, etc., note that using potassium nitrate (or stump remover as Ian does) isn't equivalent to making flash paper or anything. It makes the paper SLIGHTLY more combustible, slightly hardens it, and so forth. I shoot a sharps as well and many times I've opened the breech block to find a charred paper tube left that didn't quite burn up. You do NOT want that happening with the musket.

    For what it's worth for sharps tubes, I like heavy brown wrapping paper as it supplies a little more support than printer paper, but for your use I might suggest using extra wide cigarette paper. Pre-made as ready to burn, and thin enough that you should get no residuals left- even if the resulting cartridge is fairly flimsy.

    If you're going to do this 'like they once did' you'd also want a plain side bullet with no grease grooves a bit undersized with the paper wrapped at least past the ogive if not to the nose. Then dip the bullet portion in suitable musket lube after the wrapping is done and glue is dried.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Deep South - Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi and Texas
    Agree there is some confusion here as to what you are asking.

    I highly recommend the 4-volume series "Round Ball to Rimfire". It details the development of ammunition prior to the advent of metallic cartridges.

    There were in fact many innovative attempts to create self-contained cartridges prior to metallic cartridges.

    The most common method was a paper container from which the bullet and powder were removed and loaded and the paper discarded. Sometimes, as with smoothbore ammuntion, some of the paper of the cartridge went in with the ammo.

    Some bullets, like the Gardener cartridge, had a lead collar that crimped onto the paper cartridge, so joining the paper powder container to the bullet. This bullet was disliked by the Confederate ordinance department as the paper frequently broke free from the bullet and the exposed lubricated bullets picked up the loose powder and other dirt and became fouled.

    There were also attempts to attach guncotton to the back side of bullets as a unified cartridge that could be loaded in one piece.

    Revolver cartridges were generally combustible, though early in the war they were made the same as rifle cartridges where the bullet was removed and powder poured. But this turned out to be ineffective as it was hard to get the tiny cartridges to accurately pour the powder into the desired chamber.

    There were also various attempts to make the cartridges waterproof. Foil, skin, shellac, and other items were used to more or less effect to achieve this.

    Again, I highly recommend the "Round Ball to Rimfire" series. It is amazing to see the development of period ammunition.


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