Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Analysis of Navy Arms Musket Caps

I recently visit a gun show in Columbus, Ohio and stumbled onto a vendor (The Ammo-Man, http://www.ermcollc.com/, out of East Rochester, Ohio) selling Navy Arms musket caps for $20 for a tin of 250 caps.  Since this price is competitive with the RWS and CCI musket caps, I thought it prudent to test the caps out to determine if they’d be useful for re-enacting use.  The more choices we have as reenactors, the more the competition, and the better the prices.

Navy Arms Musket Caps tin

I used my 1861 Armi-Sport Springfield for this test, like I did for the CCI caps.  I capped (no powder) 10 caps, followed by two with powder.  The caps seemed rather stiff—if you needed to squeeze them to keep them from falling off the nipple, you might have a problem.  In my case, they were a rather snug fit onto the nipple of my Springfield—I had to give it a good push to fully seat it.  In the middle of the ten, I slipped in one RWS cap to see if anyone would notice.  The sound of all caps were about the same—you could not tell by the sound alone which one was the German cap, which seemed promising.  You can always tell when someone is capping with one of the six wing CCIs—they fire pretty hot.

Unfortunately, we spotted a pattern with the Navy Arms caps.  Every one of them had one of the wings knocked a bit farther out then the rest, with tearing all the way to the top of the cap—the caps fired with powder (about 65 grain) show about the same tearing.
Spent Navy Arms cap.  Note the tear into the head.

I therefore added a new test—firing with a double-load (about 130 grain) and paper-rammed.  Although paper-ramming is not something done during a battle, double-loading does happen.  The paper-ramming would just pack the power enough to get a bit of extra compression.  If the caps passed this test, then safety could be assured as this should be only an extreme condition.

Doing this last test twice produced exactly the same result—fragmentation.  Both times the Navy Arms cap blew off one of its wings.  This would be absolutely disastrous in a company line as it could seriously injure the man next to you.  To confirm the results, I tested once more with a paper-rammed double charge with an RWS cap.  The RWS cap hardly showed any difference—no fragmentation and no tearing.

The vendor I bought these caps from normally supplies them for the North-South Skirmish Association (http://www.n-ssa.org/), who does live-fire.  He assured me these work well, but I assume he was not considering the safety factor while in a company line—they probably fire better for live-fire situations.  I hope they only do it in skirmish lines or individually.  In a skirmish line, or capping-off in a safe distance from others, you are probably okay to use these caps.  But in a company line, you would not want to use the Navy Arms caps under any circumstances due to the danger of fragmentation.

Therefore I cannot recommend the Navy Arms Musket Caps for use by reenactors.  Only if you absolutely never fire in a company line would you even want to consider using these.  Every Civil War infantry unit should make it a clear company policy never to use these caps.

I never performed the paper-rammed double-charge on the CCI caps.  At my next opportunity, I will perform that test to confirm the safety of the CCI caps and edit my review of those caps with the results.

EDIT (05/24/2011): I performed the double-charge test with the CCI caps, (here).

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