In past blogs, we’ve talked about the limitations of a cap and ball weapon because it can’t be reloaded quickly. A muzzle-loaded long gun gives you one shot. A cap and ball revolver with six shots is just that—six shots. Your hero won’t be reloading it while running from the bad guys or riding to the rescue. Keep reading and you’ll understand why.
Unlike a modern cartridge, where the bullet, powder and primer are enclosed in a brass case, reloading cap and ball takes 6 steps for each chamber. That’s six steps times six chambers to fully reload a revolver.
I took most of these pictures of my friend and fellow cowboy action shooter, Major Misalot reloading his cap and ball revolver cylinder. The reloading can be done while the cylinder is in place on the revolver, too.
The loading is done in reverse order of the firing process, from the barrel side of the cylinder:
1. Add powder
2. Place a lead ball on the powder in each cylinder
3. Ram the ball home, all the way down into the chamber. Major Misalot is using his modern reloader, but this can be done using the ramming rod on the revolver, as in the picture to the right. The rod is firmly pressed into the chamber then the cylinder is rotated until all six lead balls have been rammed pushed into place.
4. Grease the cylinder to prohibit chain firing – where the burning powder from one shot ignites the others in the cylinder = obviously not a good thing!
5. Cap the nipple (think blasting cap here)
NOW its finally ready to fire.
With practice, it doesn’t take all that long to reload a cylinder, but you really can’t pour powder, ram a ball, cap the nipple and grease the chamber at a gallop. I can certainly see why many who relied on a cap and ball revolver carried fully loaded spare cylinders.
And, just to remind you that someone shooting black powder can’t hide…
Her Christmas Wish in “Wishing For a Cowboy” Anthology – available now from Prairie Rose Publications.