Demonstration on Shooting a Percussion Rifle by the Author: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iTuwOY7pUjc&list=UUYJMYY9kMcb6vdNLYSddfPA
Noone truly knows who invented the percussion cap but by the 1820s rifles, pistols, and shotguns started popping up in American cities and were readily accessible to more wild regions of the continent by 1830. Percussion caps, a cap filled with a sensitive chemical, was struck sending a jet of flame into the ignition chamber of the gun was the latest and greatest. Many old flintlocks were converted to the new system and new guns were being turned out as well. Not only was the cap more reliable and waterproof but also it would allow for the first practical repeating guns and cartridge guns later down the road. But the percussion cap gun was made obsolete officially in 1865 with the end of the American Civil War. Reenators, hunters, and other groups continue using them . A testament to a rock solid design.
How It Works
Percussion cap or caplock muzzle-loaders feature an enclosed tube projecting from the barrel. That tube is tapped for a perpendicular mounted tube of smaller size called the “nipple” and this nipple rides underneath the hammer. When loaded, the hammer strikers the percussion cap on the nipple causing explosive flame to shoot through the nipple and the tube to the main charge in the barrel. This allowed for waterproof and more reliable ignition as well as making future cartridge guns possible.
How To Load and Fire
Before loading, its good to place percussion caps onto the nipple and fire them to clear out any oil that may be present when your gun was stored. A pipe cleaner cleans any residue and you are now free to load for reliability.
1) Place the rifle’s butt end on the ground
2) Pour black powder or an approved substitute, never smokeless powder, into a powder measure from your flask. A powder measure can be adjustable or fixed and can be made. Black powder is measured by volume, not by weight. In case there is a hot spark in the barrel only the powder in the measure will light not the can. So powder measures are also an added safety and accuracy measure too. Do not exceed the maximum recommended powder charges listed by the manufacturer.
3) Pour your gun powder down the barrel and put your measure and flask away. Next you may seat the bullet. Since it a muzzle-loading gun the bullet must be placed where the bullet comes out of the barrel and pushed down to the breech. While most muzzle-loaders during this period were loaded with a round ball surrounded by a tight fitting cloth patch later on the Minie ball bullet would be loaded in issue rifled muskets during the American Civil War.
A) Patched round ball loading: Place a slightly undersized soft lead ball over a thin piece of cloth that is on the muzzle of the gun and push the ball down with your thumb. Then withdraw the wooden or steel rod from below the barrel and use it to push the ball down the barrel. It must be seated firmly on the powder and much of the ramrod will not be visible when the ball is properly seated.
B) Minie or Long Bullet loading: These are slightly undersized but does not need a patch. Simply place the bullet in the muzzle, start it with your thumb, and push it down the barrel with the ramrod.
4) Remove the ramrod from the barrel and replace it. This is your tool for loading and cleaning the gun afterwards.
5) Bring the gun up from the ground and bring the hammer of the lock one click for the half cock safety. Here you place your percussion cap onto the nipple. From here you may go about and carry your gun into the field and when ready to fire, simply cock the hammer to its second click, or full cock, aim and pull the trigger. That is how you fire a percussion gun. Playing with different powder charges, ball, bullet, patch combinations for best accuracy is rewarding and useful too!