The hum­ble snap cap

Shooting Gazette - - Great guns -

We’ve all got them, plas­tic ones, chrome ones, brass ones – the ubiq­ui­tous snap cap found in ev­ery case and sold in ev­ery gun shop. They are so com­mon and ob­vi­ous that no­body ever gives them a sec­ond thought but some­body must have in­vented them.

That some­body was no less than Alexan­der Henry of Ed­in­burgh. In patent no. 3257 of de­cem­ber 13, 1870, Henry in­vented the snap cap that has since been in pro­duc­tion in its hun­dreds of thou­sands.

In his patent he did not re­fer to it as such pre­fer­ring the term “dummy car­tridge” or “a new and im­proved blank car­tridge”. He stated that the car­tridge could be made out of wood, metal or pa­per with a small cen­tre “pad” in place of the per­cus­sion primer and that the pad could be cush­ioned with ei­ther India rub­ber or a small spring.

In ad­di­tion to this pri­mary pur­pose, Henry pro­posed cov­er­ing the snap cap with leather or wool sat­u­rated in oil to serve as a stop­per for dust or damp ingress thereby pre­serv­ing the bore from rust or cor­ro­sion.

The patent draw­ing for Henry’s snap cap of 1870. A spring­pow­ered primer (top) and an India rub­ber primer (bot­tom).

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