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Thread: how long can you leave one loaded

  1. #1
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    how long can you leave one loaded

    This might be a stupid question, but how long can one expect to keep a cap and ball pistol loaded and still depend on it to do the job at hand? I mean like on the night stand or something not out in the weather every day.

    Do you have to fire it and clean it every so often?

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    I've read that Hickok, first thing each day, was to fire his revolvers, clean them then reload them. Other than being unlucky at poker, he did pretty good with that.

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    I read that same thing, or seen it on tv. This guy at work was telling me that they (somebody) has found old guns from the period that are still loaded and they would fire. I wonder if you can leave it loaded for extended periods of time, with out too much issue

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    but how long can one expect to keep a cap and ball pistol loaded and still depend on it to do the job at hand?
    forever ! , and that's a long time.

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    This question comes up every so often on here. Using the THR search function, you'll find several threads on it.

    If there's nothing inside the load (such as between the powder and ball, like a greasy felt wad) they'll last for months to years, and someone on here claims that a 100+ year-old percussion gun was found loaded, and that it fired after all that time. I tested my two 44s by leaving them loaded in my vehicle through several months including both hot and freezing weather. Powder, plus ball, plus Bore Butter over the ball. They fired perfectly. Another time I left one loaded with a "lube Pill" (see sticky. "Black Powder Essentials") over the powder and under each ball. They fired OK after a couple months, but the charge had been compromised and the velocity was very low.

    Look at it this way; a metallic cartridge, unless it's lacquer sealed, doesn't provide any better seal than a properly loaded cylinder and a tight fitting cap in a percussion gun. We store metal cartridges for years and expect them to function. I've fired 1960s vintage BMG ammo without problems.

    Too many factors involved to be able to put a number on it, because it depends on the components, loading method, handling practices, and the environment, but Hickok's alleged practice of loading daily was probably quite unnecessary unless he was living outside in a swamp during monsoon season. Some people have quirks, known today as OCD. Maybe that was one of his. In any case, his guns probably were very reliable, and it's hard to argue with success.

    I'll warrant it's possible to load a percussion revolver with a tight-fitting bullet, sealed over the top with a hard lube mixture, use a wax-sealed cap, keep it underwater for a month and, assuming the gun itself wasn't corroded too much, fire it normally.

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    When I was growing up in Maryland, it was not uncommon to hear that someone took Grand Da's cival war musket and fired the loaded round from it. No telling how long it had been loaded but it went off.

    The cannon that sits in the capital rotunda of Rhode Island was found to be loaded with a double charge, believed to be from some of their boys during the War Betewen the States. The powder was removed and found to be perfectly viable.

    As for Hickock firing, cleaning and reloading? That would amount to 4380 projectiles and powder charges per year. Quite a few.

  7. #7
    People have been killed doing stupid things with antiques that were loaded, thinking they wouldn't fire, but they did...

    Basically, they can last forever loaded...

    I suspect Hickock's practice of shooting his everyday and then loading, benefitted him more from the daily practice than it benefitted the guns.
    Sic semper tyrannis

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    I think Hickock's daily loading/unloading/cleaning/reloadinglegend is baloney. i could see him doing it once every week or two but not daily. One of his jobs as towm marshall was to shoot stray dogs. The dogs could be rabid but worse yet, they barked at horses and got people thrown and injured or tangled freighters teams causing injury to the horses (broken leg=shoot the horse). So, at times I could see him popping off a few rounds and having to clean and reload almost on a daily basis till the dog problem was cleaned up but I'd like to see some clear documentation on the daily reloading with fresh components he is supposed to have done. I bet it is mere myth.
    Gun control= OSHA for criminals

  9. #9
    kept a Ruger Old army loaded for 9 months no problem firing it

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    I once left my Ruger Old Army loaded and primed for about 13 months. It fired all six with no problem.

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    If you test this, be sure to thoroughly de-oil the cones before mounting the caps. Any oil there at all can goober-up the compound in the caps.

    I neglected this once, and the next day 5 of 6 caps were duds. After clearing the cones and applying fresh caps, all six charges fired.

    I have seen a person use clear nail polish to seal the caps to the cones, for carry in damp weather. He needed a carry gun suddenly, and had only a cap-n-ball gun intended as recreation. It worked out well, in all respects. No misfires.
    Burt Blade

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    Say you load in the following sequence:
    1. Powder
    2. Wad soked in wax or wax disc (Beeswax, parafin, Olive Oil)
    3.Ball with shaved ring
    4. Primers
    5. Nail polish over primers

    How long before the wax contaminates the powder?

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    "How long before the wax contaminates the powder? "

    It won't, as long as the tempreture stays below the melting point of the lube.

    Oneshooter
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    Black powder does not deteriorate like smokless does. I've read that black is just as good 100 years later as it was the day it was made.
    The other components would fail before the powder.
    Michael

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    When I was growing up in the 1950s, a buddy of mine who lived down the block had an old Springfield Model 1855 horse pistol. We always called it the "pirate pistol". It had the Maynard tape primer on it, and one day we got some cap pistol caps, and trimmed them so that they would fit, and popped a few of them. On about the fourth or fifth pop, there was a huge boom, and a .58 caliber round hole appeared in my buddy's garage door. His dad came running out of the house, and took the pirate pistol away. I never saw it again, and don't know what ever happened to it. Too bad. They're worth a lot of money these days.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kaptin
    how long can one expect to keep a cap and ball pistol loaded and still depend on it to do the job at hand?
    Simple answer is 'Until you decide to fire it'

    As long as it is kept clean and dry, it's no different than a catridge gun.
    Fingers (Show Me MO smoke) McGee = AKA Man of many Colt's - alter ego of Diabolical Ken,
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    I suspect Hickock's practice of shooting his everyday and then loading, benefitted him more from the daily practice than it benefitted the guns.

    That's what I'm thinking as well. If it's true at all.

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    That and many people may have been following Captain Marcy's "Overland Traveler", which was one of the more common manuals for the prairie touring set.
    In it Marcy advocates that the loads be pulled each morning and replaced with fresh powder.

    Likely as time wore on and people found that they could get around without firing the weapon all the time, they just left weapons loaded. And when many of these guns went out of use, they remained loaded and forgotten until much later.

    However have fired one caplock revolver which have been left loaded for several years with only one misfired cylinder (it had been left loaded but uncapped so if it had been capped likely the misfire would not have occurred). And likely with period weapons since these used either nitrated paper cartridges, or a load with grease over the chamber these probably lasted longer than would the modern method of greased wads and the like. And historically one of the tricks they had was to place beeswax or candle wax around the sides of the cones and caps.
    "What improves the circumstances of the greater part can never be regarded as an inconveniency to the whole. No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable." Adam Smith.

  19. #19
    I had pyrodex loaded in a damp room for two months. No cylinder fired effectively, most gave no reaction beyond the cap.
    I'm not sure how much better black powder is in palpable dampness but I get the impression it's way better than pdex. Having trouble finding comments on se7en.
    I'll be buying some nail polish. I'm wondering if crisco on top of balls will seal out moisture without significant "ooze-by".
    How hard is bees wax? Can you grab a little piece with your fingers and smudge it into a revolver chamber?

  20. #20
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    I'm not sure how much better black powder is in palpable dampness but I get the impression it's way better than pdex.
    Man has always had trouble with wet (damp) black powder. But, you can always dry it out. The subs, at least some of them draw moisture from the air, and over time will form a large clump. I don't know if it retains its energy as well as real black or not.

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    How hard is bees wax?
    Too hard to use "as is"
    I have for years been using a mixture of Beeswax and olive oil,
    use a double boiler(big can /small can) to melt the wax and mix in the oil,(1/1) it will be the consistancy of shoe polish and liquify as you rub it.Place this over your load.
    I also use this on my BP weapons to protect from rust, the stocks as polish, and even on leather.
    If you know a bee keeper, he may even give you "Brood Wax"
    Unlike Honey comb the brood wax is the nursery combs that are filled with the detritus of bees,and bee parts,and is yellowish in color, but quite acceptable for our uses here.
    As to how long loaded; its' been reported that Gen. R E Lee loaded his Colt Pocket Navy at the start of the war, and it was still loaded at the cessation of hostilities.
    "Be like the serpent,son;keep your mouth shut,till the strikes begun. "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntt3wy-L8Ok

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    To expand on General Lees' revolver.....it went to (I think) his son when he died. Somewhere down the road, like twenty years, the son brought out Dads pistol and fired it to celebrate the occasion. Of course, it fired perfectly. Going strictly from memory on this, so my numbers might be off a tad. But the lesson is a black powder gun, properly loaded and cared for, is a dangerous thing for decades.

  23. #23
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    lets just say in cool and dry conditions, 20 years is not at all out of the question.

    My Grandfather kept a BP shotgun over the back door, my dad shot it and it worked just fine some 10 years after GP's death. The receipt inside the possibles box said it (powder and cap) were bought in 1896 Dad shot it in the '60's
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    I have kept my 2 BP revolvers (a '58 Rem .44 and an ROA) loaded for months, maybe as long as 6 months with a Lee mold slug over the BP and stiff grease/mix atop and stored indoors and they fired perfectly. I always carefully pointing the muzzle in safe direction use the hammer with thumb pressure to press the caps on the nipples snugly.
    I would not hesitate to trust them for s-d or h-d if no modern gun available.

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