Black Powder Paper Cartridge The Kitchen Table Gunsmith
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Making Black Powder Paper Cartridges
by Roy Seifert

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Disclaimer:  This article is for entertainment only and is not to be used in lieu of a qualified gunsmith.  Please defer all firearms work to a qualified gunsmith.  Any loads mentioned in this article are my loads for my guns and have been carefully worked up using established guidelines and special tools.  The author assumes no responsibility or liability for use of these loads, or use or misuse of this article.  Please note that I am not a professional gunsmith, just a shooting enthusiast and hobbyist, as well as a tinkerer.  This article explains work that I performed to my guns without the assistance of a qualified gunsmith.  Some procedures described in this article require special tools and cannot/should not be performed without them.

Warning:  Disassembling and tinkering with your firearm may void the warranty.  I claim no responsibility for use or misuse of this article.  Again, this article is for entertainment purposes only!

Tools and firearms are the trademark/service mark or registered trademark of their respective manufacturers.   Click on any blue text to go to a product/seller web site.

 Pietta Remington 1858 New Army

Ruger Old Army


I have three black powder revolvers in my collection; a Ruger Old Army built in 1976 with the phrase, “Made in the 200th Year of American Liberty” engraved in the top of the barrel, and two 1858 New Army sheriff’s models built by Pietta.  All are of the “Remington” style with a top strap.  (I never did like the looks, construction or function of a black powder Colt.)  The sheriff’s models have 5.5-inch barrels; I didn’t like the feel or balance of the 8-inch model.  I have fired the Old Army several times with round balls and black powder and, at least in my experience, it wasn’t very accurate.  Ok, I really didn’t do any load development or accuracy testing, so the inaccuracy was probably all me and not the gun.

Loading a black powder revolver with loose powder and ball is somewhat tedious.  Fill each chamber with powder, add a lubricated wad, place a soft lead ball on top of the chamber and ram it down on top of the powder/wad.  If not using a wad add grease to the top of the ball, then add a percussion cap to the nipple.  I wanted to try making my own paper cartridges like they did during the Civil War.  I’m not looking for historical accuracy here, just an easier and quicker method of loading.

Making Paper Cartridge Forming Tool
I’ve watched many YouTube videos on how to make paper cartridges with the easiest one being from Dave Berken:

 Cartridge Form and Tamper

I decided to use Dave’s method because I plan to only shoot round balls from the Pietta Remingtons, although his method will also work with conical bullets.  Dave starts by making a cartridge form.  I made my own form out of a 1/2” aluminum rod.  The rod was 5 1/2” long because that was what I had left from a previous project.  I turned a 2 1/2-degree taper on one end which I use to form the paper cartridge and turned a 2-degree taper on the other end which I use to tamp the cardboard, wad, and ball into the paper cartridge.  The diameter of both ends was 0.325”.

Homemade Black Powder Bullet Lube
I researched a lot of videos and forum postings looking for a black powder bullet lube I could make at home.  The purpose is to dip the felt wad into the melted lube before assembling the bullet.  I couldn’t use a petroleum-based lube because it doesn’t mix well with black powder fouling; it creates a heavy crud that will eventually bind up the revolver.  I found a recipe on the Internet posted by Lloyd  His recipe is:

  • Crisco – this is made from natural vegetable oils
  • Beeswax

 Crisco Shortening

Beeswax Pellets

The beeswax is the base, but it is too hard to be used alone.  The Crisco acts as a softener.  Lloyd did not provide an exact mixture, but by adjusting the amount of Crisco, you can adjust the hardness/softness of the resulting lube depending on the use.  I wanted my lube to be hard enough to use in the summertime and not melt off the bullets, but soft enough to press into a chamber.  I purchased a 16-ounce tub of Crisco from Wal-Mart, and beeswax pellets from eBay.  The pellets were easier to melt than a block.

 Melted Homemade Black Powder Bullet Lube

I poured water into an old crockpot, turned it on high, and set a pie tin on top.  I started with a 50/50 mixture:  1/2-cup of Crisco and 1/2-cup of beeswax.  After everything was melted, I used a craft stick to stir the mix together.  I could have added some wax crayons to add color, but I really liked the golden color of the lube.  I tried adjusting the mixture, but the 50/50 mix seemed to work best.

 Solidified Bullet Lube

My wife and I eat a lot of Chinese food and I keep the plastic containers.  They work great for holding small parts when I’m disassembling a firearm, or for storage because they come with lids.  I poured the melted lube into a plastic Chinese soup container and allowed it to solidify, then covered it with a lid to prevent it from becoming contaminated. 

Making Lubricated Wads

 100% Wool Felt

I purchased some 100% wool felt from  It measures from 1/8 – 3/16 thick; perfect for making lubricated wads.  You can also find felt at  I used a 7/16” punch to punch cardboard separators from cat food can boxes and to punch out felt wads.  I punched on top of a piece of leather so I wouldn’t damage the mouth of the punch.

Lubricated Felt Wads

I held a wad with small forceps, dipped it into the melted lube, then set it on wax paper to dry.  After drying I placed the lubed wads into a plastic container.  I put the cardboard separators in another plastic box, so now I’m ready to assemble the cartridges.

Forming the Cartridges

 Jumbo End Papers

Dave used jumbo end papers used in the cosmetic industry for coloring hair.  I went to my local Sally Beauty Supply and purchased a box of 1,000 for about $3.25.  If you don’t have a beauty supply store handy, these cost about $5.00 from  These papers are very thin; I can see why Dave doesn’t need to nitrate them.

Rolling the Paper

I followed Dave’s video and rolled a paper around the short-tapered end of the form and sealed it with a glue stick along the edge. 

 Sealed End

I added a dab of glue on the exposed end flap and folded it over to seal the end.  The resulting tube is very easy to crush because the paper is so thin.  I lined them up in a Lyman case preparation box; now they’re ready to be filled.

Adding Powder

Adding Powder

I added 30-grains of Pyrodex black powder substitute to each paper case.  Although the photo above shows me pouring from the measure directly into the paper case, I found that this method would cause powder to get caught in the folds of the paper (notice the tube on the far right).  To prevent this from happening, I held the paper tube upside down, placed it over the powder measure so the top of the measure was deep into the tube, then turned everything over so the powder would fall into the bottom of the tube without getting caught in the folds.

Adding the Separator

 Adding the Separator

I rubbed the long end of the forming tool with the glue stick and pressed it against a cardboard separator, then pressed it into the tube on top of the powder.  (Sorry for the blurry photo!)  The separator prevents the lubed wad from contaminating the powder.  I have also done this with small forceps like I do with the wad.

Adding a Wad

Adding a Lubricated Wad

I used small forceps to add a lubed wad to the tube.  You can also use tweezers.  I tamped the wad down on top of the separator with my tamping tool.

Adding the Ball

 Adding the Ball

I again used the small forceps to add the ball to the paper tube, sprue up.  I then tamped it down with the forming tool so the ball was on top of the wad. 

 Completed Cartridge

After the ball was in the tube, I squeezed the top of the ball from outside of the tube to press the separator, wad, and ball tightly against the powder, then twisted the end of the paper. 

 Cut Tail

I cut off the twisted end but left a small tail.  This prevents the paper from coming unwrapped and makes it easier to remove from the box and load into a chamber.  The paper cartridge is now completed and ready to be loaded into the revolver. 

 Loading a Paper Cartridge

When I’m ready to load the revolver, I put the hammer on half-cock, drop the cartridge into a chamber, rotate the cylinder until the ball is under the ram, ram the ball down into the chamber, then throw away the paper tail after I is cut off.

 Storage Box

I stored the paper cartridges in a MidwayUSA #507 plastic ammo box designed for .45 Colt.  They fit perfectly, and the little tail makes it easy to remove a cartridge.  MidwayUSA no longer sells their own branded plastic boxes, but they do sell plastic boxes from MTM and National Metallic in different colors and capacities (50 or 100).

Making a Leather Pistol Cartridge Box
I wanted to carry a quantity of cartridges on my gun belt in a leather cartridge box similar to what was used in the civil war.  American Civil War Kits makes a leather civil war cartridge box kit that you have to assemble and die.  This box is designed to carry two 6-round .44 or three 6-round .36 cartridge packages.  You can also find pre-assembled boxes elsewhere on the Internet.  I decided to make my own pattern because I wanted to carry 24 of my .44 paper cartridges, which would give me two full cylinders for each revolver.  I carry both revolvers in left and right holsters on my gun belt.

 Wooden Insert Pattern

First, I made a wooden insert to hold 24 cartridges.  I designed the insert with CorelDraw v12 then exported it to BobCAD CAM v20 and generated the G-code for my CNC mill.  I took a piece of
4” x 4” x 7” which is really 3 1/2” x 3 1/2” x 7”.  I cut 1 1/2” off the top leaving a 4” x 2” x 7” block.  I mounted the block onto the cross-slide table of my CNC table-top mill and used a 3/4” straight router bit to mill off 1/4” from the top.  I used a 1/4” straight router bit to drill the holes and cut out the final outline.  I took some 320-grit sandpaper to smooth the surfaces and round the sharp corners, then coated the wood with polyurethane.  I designed the cartridge box pattern to fit this insert.

Wooden Insert

The purpose of the insert is to protect the fragile paper cartridges.  I suppose I could fill the cartridge box with loose cartridges, but I’m not sure how well they would survive.

 Cartridge Box Pattern

I created a pattern using CorelDRAW v12.  I included a 1-inch square so you can copy and size the pattern accordingly.  Once properly sized you can print them on standard letter-size paper.  This box is not exactly historically correct, but it is functional and when completed, looks great on my gun belt!

I cut out the leather pieces from 7-ounce leather, skived and slicked the edges, dyed with saddle-tan, then finished with a leather-lotion/wax finish.  I used saddle tan because that is the color of my gun belt and holsters. 

Grooving and Stitching Wheel Tools

 Front Piece Marked for Stitching

I used a grooving tool to make a stitching groove 1/8-inch in from the edge around the front (smooth side) of all the leather pieces.  I then ran a stitching wheel with a 5-stitch per inch wheel in the stitching grooves where the pieces would join together.  I ran the stitching wheel in the front piece first starting in the upper corner, then counted the indentations.  I counted 42 indentations in my front piece.  I made 21 indentations on each side of center on both edges of the side piece and the bottom of the back piece.  It’s important to have the same number of stitching holes so the pieces will line up, and they need to be centered horizontally.  I used a 1/16 drill bit and my Dremel tool to drill a hole in each indentation.

I riveted the two belt loops to the back of the box; I had to cut them to length so they would fit on my gun belt.  I then installed the button stud to the center of the side piece.  I positioned the stud closer to where the front of the box would be as shown in the pattern.  I hand-stitched the box together using a saddle-stitch by running the needles and thread through the predrilled holes.  With the wooden insert in place, I marked where the hold-down strap would go, riveted it to the top flap, then punched a hole and cut a slot where it went over the stud.

Cartridge Box Front

  Cartridge Box Back

Cartridge Box Bottom

Cartridge Box Open

Cartridge Box with Wooden Insert

Making an Inline Capper Case

 Traditions Inline Capper

I purchased two Traditions inline cappers #A1203 from  Each capper holds 15 caps, but I only load 12 which gives me 24 in total to match the number of paper cartridges I carry in the above box.  I wanted to make a leather case to carry the two inline cappers on my gun belt:  kind of like a dual magazine pouch.  Notice the two screws on the side; these hold the keeper spring in place. 

 Molding the Leather

I made two wooden forms 1/4” x 3/8” x 4” which will make the pockets for the two cappers.  They needed to be wide enough to accommodate the two screws that attach the keeper spring to the side.  I measured where the thumb knob would be at its highest position and marked each form.  Notice the pencil mark on each form.  I thoroughly soaked a piece of 3-ounce leather and molded it around the two forms.

I laid the wet leather on a piece of wood and nailed two 3/8” pieces in the middle.  I then molded one side of the leather and nailed a piece of wood to hold it down.  I molded the bottom and nailed another piece of wood to hold that in place.  I performed the same process to the other side of the leather.

After the leather dried, I trimmed it, then cut out a 10-ounce backing and 3-ounce belt-loop and cover.  I died the leather with the same saddle-tan color I used on the belt, holsters, and cartridge case, then finished the leather with a leather lotion.

 Completed Capper Case

I stitched the molded pockets onto the 10-ounce backing, then riveted the belt loop/cover to the back.  I installed a small button stud to the bottom to hold the cover closed.  I added a 3/4” piece of leather to act as a hold-down strap.  I riveted one end to the cover, then punched a hole and cut a slit on the other end to fit over the button stud.  The case fits perfectly on my gun belt next to the cartridge box and allows me to quickly and easily cap a revolver without having to fumble for loose caps.


   © Copyright 2020 Roy Seifert.