Performed at Fort Wayne, IndianaJuly 15, 2012
At the Fort Wayne event Zack Carte and I tested out the Dynamit Nobel wingless percussion caps that can commonly be found at sutlers. They have the appeal of being significantly cheaper than the normal RWS or CCI caps, so several of us have been curious to try them out to see if they could be used as an alternative.
The price of the wingless caps are between $5 and $6, about half the cost of the RWS and CCI 4 wing caps. However, these are probably not period correct, as all photos I have seen of dug up caps have wings.
Our examination as a possible alternative is for infantry only—for other purposes this review does not apply. For example, if you are cavalry and considering using these caps for your weapons, please ignore this review since the issues noted may not apply. This review is to take into consideration having men standing immediately next to you, on either side, and being affected by what you do. Cavalry, for example, is not likely to have someone in close proximity, unless dismounted.
We fired about 10 caps with no powder. Their behavior was similar to the 4 wing RWS. With one exception there was no tearing and no evidence these would fragment. In a control test we ran a few 4 wing RWS caps through the same testing and got nearly identical results—only one exception to no tearing or evidence of a risk of fragmentation. We then proceeded to fire 2 rounds double charged (about 130-140 grain) with no issue.
Our control tests included the 4 wing RWS caps, the 4 wing CCI caps and the 4 wing Navy Arms caps. As expected, and consistent with previous testing, the RWS and CCI caps had no issue, but the Navy arms caps showed tearing. The Navy Arms cap wrapped one wing around the hammer, tearing nearly in half.
From the perspective of risk of fragmentation, the caps are safe. However, they sparked brightly, like having a sparkler light up on the nipple. Zack reported others using these wingless caps in battle lines and getting sparks hitting his face, and based on the amount of sparking it is obvious how dangerous they can be to the eyes of all nearby. The biggest risk would be to a soldier in the front rank when fired from a soldier in the rear.
I personally test-fired a series in battle at Sharon Woods. I was at right end of line, so was in a safe position in relation to other soldiers. They are quite small and a bit difficult to manage, but that bright sparking was disruptive and disturbing. I supposed one could get used to it, but I do not like it. It was like having a firecracker at your face.
That sparking into the eyes of someone is enough to say that these caps should NEVER be used in infantry battle lines. If you always fight in skirmish lines only, or are not infantry—there is no issue. There is no fragmentation so they are safe from injury in that perspective, but sparking in close infantry lines is not something that should be risked. Any captain reading this should take the responsibility to pass this information on to his men to not use these caps out of consideration for the eyesight of his comrades.
Review of musket caps tests:4 Wing CCI caps: acceptable. No fragmentation. Cost is about 20% less than the 4-Wing RWS caps. Regular use over time showed a bit of residue over the nipple after firing, which could potentially cause blockage if your nipple hole was small. My nipple hole is large and I have never encountered a problem. Reliability does seem to be a bit less than the RWS 4-wing caps. I have encountered about 1 per 100 that are outright duds (they were nothing but copper).
4 Wing RWS caps: best choice, but the most expensive. Did experience fragmentation one time during battle from the soldier next to me, though I feel this was a fluke.
4 Wing Navy Arms caps: wings on the caps showed tearing after every firing, regardless of load, suggesting an unacceptable risk of fragmentation. Every double-charged load caused fragmentation. Price was comparable to the 4-Wing CCI caps, but they are difficult to find (at least here in Ohio).
Dynamit Noble Wingless caps: least expensive and reliable, but had a much brighter flash when fired that could be disconcerting until the soldier gets used to it. Also a risk of sparking in the eyes of soldiers on either side. Avoid if in infantry lines to prevent eye injury. If authenticity is important, you will need to pass on these anyhow as 4-wing caps are the period-correct choice.
6 Wing CCI caps: fired hot and loud. Price is nearly as inexpensive as the wingless caps. Almost don't need a powder load when firing one of these. Have not tested for fragmentation, but rumor has it that these are prone to fragment like the Navy Arms caps, though my experience suggest otherwise. I find these acceptable, but only if the entire unit is using them as you will stand out due to how much louder they are. They also have a bit more flash to them, but not as bad as the wingless Dynamit Noble caps. If authenticity is important, you will need to pass on these as 4-wing caps are the period-correct choice.