View Full Version : Blanks in a Henry
06-14-2006, 09:37 PM
In my slow but steady way of trying to acquire the various rifles used by Federal sharpshooters throughout the war (to have the proper arm for the particular reenactment), I have at last gotten my hands on a Henry rifle. I feel great about it, been dreaming of one for a long time.
The challenge of course is blanks: not making them but feeding them through the magazine. The magazine feed was, as one would expect, designed to feed and chamber a round made up of bullet and case, whereas a blank is little more than case.
Hopefully, there is a Henry rifle user or two or three frequenting this forum, who could share with me what modifications you have made to the rifle (and to the round, as necessary) to allow the magazine system to work with blanks.
One veteran has already kindly shared with me his method, which seems sure, but also seems rather complicated and is not totally benign to the rifle. Maybe that is the only way to go, perhaps there are other useful methods. I would appreciate hearing how some of you have solved this problem.
Brady Sharp Shooters
06-14-2006, 10:09 PM
There is one other thing I didn’t mention in the article I e-mailed you. When shooting a Henry wear a hat with a wide brim all the way around. This keeps the HOT spent cartridges from going down you back and burning your skin. I have personal experience with this occurrence.
06-14-2006, 10:20 PM
And, as a colleague of mine experienced, don't stand too close to someone firing a Henry, as my colleague had an upleasant surprise as he felt a spent case from his neighbor drop down the neck of his shirt. He quickly put some distance between himself and the Henry rifleman.
Brady Sharp Shooters
06-15-2006, 01:43 PM
As you are no doubt aware, the action of the Henry (as well as the 1866 & 1873 Winchester) being of a toggle link style, is heavily dependant on the proper length of cartridge. If you use a blank too short, the next cartridge in the magazine will extend into the "elevator" rendering the weapon useless. If the blank is too long it will extend into the magazine tube with the same result. Do NOT modify your weapon as there is no need to destroy a perfectly good weapon. You can purchase a "5 in 1" plastic blank from nearly any Old West sutler. However, be aware that these plastic blanks use flash powder which is (a) corrosive, (b) sounds rather anemic and (c) because they are plastic and the rim is rather small, you can pull the ejector through the plastic rim and have a stuck blank in the chamber. There are now manufacturers that are producing 5 in 1 blanks with Black Powder (we used to have to make our own). One place to start the search is www.gunblanks.com I believe they are using a brass casing (the cases are made from .444 brass if I recollect or as similar caliber that gives the overall length of loaded cartridge) which will give you the desired effect of smoke and the shining case flying through the air when ejecting the empty down your shirt!! I would recommend blanks that are brass and also ask how they are "crimped" on the end. Some are made with a wadding in the end and/or walnut or corn cob fillers for Cowboy Mounted Shooters. These types of blanks are a Safety Issue in an opposing fire situation. Occassionaly, even a properly crimped blank could (in theory) lose a peice of the case and or split in the sidewall if they are made from previously fired brass. I have yet to experience a problem with a piece of the case actually coming off but I suppose there is always that potential.
06-15-2006, 03:06 PM
You have some good points but I have to take issue with your statement “Destroy a perfectly good weapon”. The modification I discuss in my article Reenacting with a Henry http://www.9thnycavalry.webeditor.com/henry_article.html does not destroy it. The modification can be reversed by replacing the modified carrier block (about $35), or by just removing the set screw in the old one. The notch in the bolt does not affect accuracy or durability in any way and the gun will function normally once the modification is reversed.
I agree with your statement that the plastic blanks are rather anemic in sound and appearance. Recently someone told me that is was possible to buy just the brass to make your own 5 in 1 blanks. I checked it out and yes they are available but at more than twice the price of 44 Mag. brass. And when you are firing 200 to 300 per weekend that can add up. I also checked out the place you mentioned to get pre loaded 5 in 1 and WOW at $1 each + shipping I will stick with my 44 Mag. blanks which cost me under twenty cents each to make.
As far as the star crimp on the brass, I along with you have never seen or heard of any instance where the brass tip broke off or even a piece of it broke off. I along with the rest of my unit have been using the 44 Mag. blanks for over 5 years and never had any problems. We never try to reload spent brass and only put a wax paper spacer and some lube in the end. We have found that if the wax paper does not disintegrate in the barrel it will sometimes go to a maximum of about 10 feet and then flutter to the ground. Since we always aim over the heads of our opponents even if the event calls for elevation within 30 yards there isn’t any possibility for any injury.
In my opinion using a Henry with the 44 Mag. star crimped blanks is more economical and just as safe as using a musket, but a lot more fun.
Now I want to make myself perfectly clear I am not scolding or arguing I am just exchanging information. Do you use the brass 5 in 1 from Gunblanks.com? If so how many do you usually shoot in a weekend and do they give you a better price than is on their web site?
06-15-2006, 04:19 PM
I did not know what modifications you were speaking of in regards to your Henry and in that fact, I stand corrected. You are correct of course as I had envisioned something much more drastic. I have been an Old West reenactor for nearly 15 years and our club, The Old West Society of Minnesota, makes all of our own blanks. That way we can be assured of safety. A piece of paper wadding, wax or cardboard (not to laugh, I have seen this being done!!) can penetrate a body at 10 feet enough to be more than uncomfortable. Lube fired from a weapon would be very hot on the face (if it by happenstance, didnt burn up immediately) so we would never consider using that. Our policy is that a blank fired at a piece of white paper can not move the paper, nor leave a mark on that white paper at 6-7 feet. All opposing fire is a minimum of 20 feet for pistols, 50 feet for long guns. Granted, these ranges are substantially closer than a CivWar situation will most usually occur at. In Old West reenactments, gunfights occur very close and for that reason, there can be no subsitute for extreme safety. All weapons are discharged down and to the right of the opponent for safety. We use Cream of Wheat as a filler which when fired, will just add to the smoke cloud. This must be bulk Cream of Wheat as the prepacked type contains sugar which turns to glass shards with the heat of a charge of black powder. We have also used the green floral foam but there are differences in that stuff so ya gotta make sure you aquire the correct foam. Frankly, I have not personally fired the blanks from GunBlanks.com and I suppose there are several other suppliers out there for less than a buck a shot. We use the longer brass because with a .44-40 taper die you get a blank that fits the chamber better without any blow back into the chamber. The .44 is probably approaching being a bit short with a crimp isnt it? Obviously, as you have been using them, it must work for you. As with your statements, I am not scolding nor arguing, simply exchanging information.
06-15-2006, 05:52 PM
I don’t know how many blanks you shoot at one time before you can clean the Henry. We shoot between 100 and 150 for each battle. The lube is used just to keep the fowling soft. We only put a tiny amount in each cartridge (about the size of a small maggot)
Do you have any problem with the black powder fowling getting hard and making it difficult to clean the gun at the end of the day?
The .44 Mag. brass is short that is why the modification to the Henry is needed. You might find the article I mentioned in my earlier post a fun read and it would explain better what I am typing about.
06-20-2006, 09:52 AM
Nice article. Sounds like you fairly well have it figured out alright. I have not used my Henry in a CivWar situation. I suppose 50-60 rounds in day of Old West reenacting is the extant of usage I have had the pleasure of doing. At that, I have not had much problem with fouling. Your small amount of lube, would indeed, help with that. Have you (or anyother Forum members) ever tried the American Pioneer Black Powder substitute? A fellow at this weekend past event was using some. He was speaking very highly of it and truly did not have much of a cleaning mess. Curious as to how much of this may be in usage on the field these days.
06-20-2006, 07:02 PM
Glad you enjoyed the article.
Even with only 50 -60 shots per day you should still come up with a good deal of fowling in the barrel. As long as you keep working the carrier block up and down jamming from it getting encrusted with black powder should be minimal. I find that if I have been loading and firing single shot for any length of time the carrier block will sometimes freeze up on me. But a little shot of water from my canteen and it loosens right up.
I tried Goex clear shot when I first started and it did make less of a mess than regular black powder but the cost was just too much. I can get cheap powder for less than $10 per pound as apposed to $16 to $20 for the substitutes and the substitutes don’t smoke or sound as good.
See you around the camp fire.
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