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Picture Page

August 2006

An interesting Winchester box insert....


.Here's a Winchester box in a caliber that probably offers more box variations than probably any other except possibly its little brother the .32 S&W. What I find most interesting about this box is the insert that came with it, which has the same Smith & Wesson company testimonial that appears on the side sealing labels of a couple of decades worth of these boxes beginning, I assume, in late 1898, based on the August 1st, 1898 date on this label. It seems a little odd that Winchester would include the insert in the box when the exact same information was already on the label, which leads me to believe that the insert was the original method employed for the testimonial, and the company probably used up their remaining supply of inserts by including them in the first of their boxes with this side label. Consequently, I would guestimate that this box was made between late-1898 and early-1899.     



The cartridges for Colt's Thuer conversions........

I included a picture of the two cartridges in the middle of this picture on my August 2004 picture page, but am now including the other two variations of the Thuer cartridges that make up the complete set. Having said that, I should point out that at least one other variation may exist, that being an experimental Frankford Arsenal inside-primed .44, but essentially these are the four commonly recognized ones. They are, from the left the .31 Pocket, .36 Pocket Navy, .36 Navy, and .44 Army. Alexander Thuer received patent # 82,258 for his system of converting percussion revolver cylinders to take a front-loading metallic cartridge on September 15, 1868. The purpose for using a front-loading design was to circumvent the 1855 Rollin White bored through cylinder patent that allowed Smith & Wesson exclusive rights to the rear-loading cylinder revolver. The peculiar nature of the front loading cartridges, coupled with the complicated cylinder arrangement for loading the cartridges and ejecting the fired cases proved to be unpopular; as a result, production of the Thuer conversions was limited. Norm Flayderman (Flayderman's Guide to Antique American Firearms and Their Current Values) puts the number at about 5000. R. Bruce McDowell (A Study of Colt Conversions) believes that the 5000 number is 'grossly exaggerated', based on the limited number of surviving examples. His reasoning makes sense, as the examples observed tend to be in good condition, indicating that many, if not all, saw little use, so it is not likely that many of them were worn out from use and consequently discarded. Nor is it likely that Colt had intended their 'New Patent Metallic Central Fire Cartridge Revolvers', as they were referred to in advertisements, to be a big seller but, instead, as a stopgap means to use up some of the accumulation of percussion revolver parts that they had on hand following the Civil War until a better design could be introduced once the Rollin White patent expired in April 1869. That better design was the Richards conversion which was being perfected by Colt factory employee Charles B. Richards shortly after the Thuer conversions first went into production. The most common of the Thuer conversion revolvers were the .44 Army models; the least common were the .31 Pocket models. Of the cartridges, which were produced only until 1870, the least common is the short .36 Pocket Navy that was intended for the Model 1862 Police and Pocket Navy revolvers.

The two primer tins in this picture hold the primers that are used for the Thuer cartridges. They were made by Eley Brothers, London, and are essentially just tiny percussion caps which fit over a nipple-like projection in the head of the cartridge, just as a standard cap would be placed on one of the nipples on the cylinder of a percussion pistol.  






Close up and personal with two Confederate Morse cartridges......

Confederate .50 Morse cartridges don't tend to be found in multiples, but the two pictured here were among five that were owned by a gun collector in Virginia, along with a leather cartridge box and the Morse carbine they were found with. In 1983, three of the cartridges were given by the gun collector to the gentleman I got these two from. They are so much alike, from the profiles and condition of their bullets to the dimensions of their cases, that I can't help but believe that they were manufactured at the same time and on the same equipment. The cases were made from drawn brass tubing and exhibit flaws that were produced during the manufacturing process. The one on the left has areas where the outer surface of the brass has delaminated, giving it the appearance of having been made from thin brass foil. Three striations running the full length of the case can be clearly seen on the one on the right. Both are primed with common musket caps, and their gutta percha sealing plugs are still in place in the bases.

The dimensions of these two are as follows:


bullet - .534"

neck - .542"

base - .550"

rim - .680"

case length - 1.506"

overall length - 2.142"



bullet - .533"

neck - .546"

base - .550"

rim - .678"

case length - 1.509"

overall length - 2.143"


Comparing four other .50 Morse cartridges for which dimensions were provided that I found in several different publications reveals that there didn't appear to be very close tolerances applied to the production of these cartridges, as all differed fairly significantly from each other in one or more of the dimensions. The high and low extremes of the dimensions of the four cartridges are as follows: 


bullet - .494" to .530"

neck - .539" to .547"

base - .535" to .553"

rim - .623" to .673"

case length - 1.500" to 1.573"

overall length - 2.143" to 2.160"


Note that the dimensions of the two pictured cartridges all fall very close to, if not within, these ranges. I would like hear from others who have examples of the Confederate Morse cartridge in their collections; and would very much appreciate it if they would provide me with the dimensions and descriptions of their cartridges.