(.700 member)
23/11/21 08:27 AM
Re: Muzzleloader Alchemy: Making Percussion Caps from Aluminum

Decent article, Ripp. With the slow-down on shipping, caps are likely in short supply as well as powder. I still have a couple thousand and since only my 14 bore is a cap gun, those will last me likely for the rest of my life.
I bought my own "Forester Percussion Cap Maker", virtually identical to this one, back in about 1977. At that time, our pop and beer cans were made out of thin steel. The cap maker worked just fine, although seemed to make slightly nicer looking caps than the ones shown in the article. That might have been simply due to the material. Due to the steel and non-hardened "cutter", I had to sharpen it after just 50 or so caps. I case hardened the teeth and they didn't need sharpening again.
I am quite intrigued by the "compound mix" though. For mine, I used the kid's toy caps as suggested with the "kit", cut out with a standard pliers-like hole punch for the first few caps I made. It takes about 3 of the caps to make a decent "pop" & of course the paper can end up blocking the flash hole. I didn't like that.
I used the old mix for "Pill lock" & "Tube lock" systems used in England shortly before the percussion cap system was developed.
5 parts Potassium Chloride, 1 part Sulfur, 1 part charcoal.
I used "sublimed" sulfur and ground up a briquet for my charcoal. This mix, mixed up in a slurry made a wonderfully powerful compound. I used an 1/8" diameter steel shaft to "pick" up single drop of this grey slurry, and drop that single drop into each cap. Once dry, these caps were quite powerful, as "Good" as the modern magnum caps however due to the Potassium Chlorate, they were also corrosive. Prompt cleaning of the bore and side of the barrel around the nipple was MOST important.
I would have to clean the bore again the next day to stop rust from forming. I still have that barrel, which is very mild pitting, one end to the other. It also took a beating around the nipple seat, showing pitting there. I only used this compound for a year or so - maybe 200 to 300 shots.
Like Pyrodex & some other phony black powders which are comprised of 17% (Per)Chlorates(Potassium Chlorate an extra oxygen molecule, I think) my caps with the old compound are corrosive.
After writing up my formula in the Primitive Rifleman's magazine, I was contacted by the magazine's editor John Baird and a chemist who warned me against using the compound due to it possibly being a very dangerous one and saying that it had been outlawed in England in the late 1800's as being dangerous. He also noted that I had used Sublimed sulfur, which was Flour of Sulfur & that I had also used briquets & that only the Lord knew what chemicals I had introduced. He also noted that if mixed as a serpentine mix, dry, that it might not be as dangerous, but mixed in a slurry, made it very dangerous. Well it is said that the good Lord protects fools. So - it worked for me and what components I used may have made it more stable, or not.
I do not suggest the formula I used, be used by anyone else.
After stopping using this method, I made a device to hold a small rifle or small pistol primer over the "nipple" for discharging my rifle. Not having a lathe, I made the device using an adjustable speed electric drill as my lathe, with files. LOL - that device worked well and was not corrosive. It was, however slower to cap and a fast second shot was somewhat slower to make.

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