Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hanes Excelsior Percussion Cap Grenade

Here is one from the bad idea bin. The Hanes Excelsior Percussion Cap Grenade. It was patented in 1862 by an W. W. Hanes for use in the American Civil War. It is a cast iron orb filled with gunpowder like the classic "Rocky and Bulwinkle" bomb. However instead of the classic open burning fuze, it is instead liberally covered with 10 nipples for percussion caps, which are small pressure sensitive explosives used to ignite a larger charge. It only took the detonation of one cap to set off the grenade, so if it were dropped or handled roughly it would certainly blow up inadvertently. And percussion caps are not always easy to use in the best of situations. To imagine Civil War soldiers in a trench, scared, hungry and being shot at using this thing without blowing themselves up is a stretch of the imagination. There is no record of their use in battle, so we can hope that no one was killed with this thing, either or purpose or on accident. Very few exist today.


  1. This is incredibly interesting to me, I'm an N-SSA competitive black powder shooter. I can however honestly say that it'd actually be reasonably easy to use this thing safely, far safer than a lit fuse at least.

    Most percussion caps had little fins to make them easier to handle. This particular device looks to use the larger musket-style caps which have said flaps (pistol caps typically do not). So assuming you didn't get shot while loading it and drop it, putting the caps on would be exceedingly easy - this is something that as a shooter for black powder I can say even in the freezing cold, getting numb hands to place a cap on a nipple is pretty easy. They're also relatively stable. It takes a solid hit to set one off, so merely jostling it won't make them blow up.

    My biggest concern would be getting the powder to expand fast enough to blow up the orb without escaping through the 'vents'. Most likely pistol powder (finer grade) would have to be used. This alone would preclude it's use in the civil war simply because that's a damn lot of expensive powder (and caps!)for one ball that is of questionable effectiveness (it's too solid to fragment effectively).


  2. Looks a lot like a sea mini sea mine if you think about it. I agree I would not want carry a live one around. I love odd weapons like this Great! Find Kevlar!