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December 2003

Great boxes aren't always in the best condition.....

This early 44 WCF box by the Union Metallic Cartridge Company has a lot of things going for it, but condition certainly isn't one of them. Nearly every edge has split, much of the side sealing label  has flaked off, and the print on the top label is difficult to read as the result of fading and soiling. Just why it is still around is a mystery to me, but I'm most grateful to those who encountered this box through the years and chose not to dispose of it. I'd be even more appreciative if they had taken a little better care of it, though. The reference on the top label to 'Colt's 44 Cal. C.F. Army Pistol', and on both ends of the box to 'Colt's 44 C.F.' might have led to a bit of confusion to anyone looking over the boxes of ammunition on the shelves of a frontier gun shop or general store. When I first glanced at the box, I mistakenly thought it was for the .44 Colt CF cartridge, intended for many of the converted percussion revolvers and the Colt Model 1871/72 open-top revolver. It was only when I spotted the references to the Winchester Model 1873 that I realized my error. Note the two Colt's Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Co signatures with the rampant colr on the sides. I've included a close facsimile of the top label here which is much easier to read than the original. The two S.W. Wood's patents noted in the small print at the bottom pertain to the process of manufacturing the shell; A.C. Hobbs' patent applies to the primer. This box was made sometime between 1877, when Colt first offered their Model 1873 revolver chambered for the 44 Winchester  cartridge, and about 1883, when UMC began using round cornered boxes.     

Another one of those .38 Smith & Wesson boxes....

Here's a .38 Smith and Wesson box that looks about as 'American' as they come. The round corners and indented top are characteristic of the boxes introduced by UMC in the mid-1880s and used by Remington-UMC until about 1920. The red, white and blue label just screams USA, and the company name 'Keystone Cartridge Company' naturally points one in the direction of the great state of  Pennsylvania. However, I have not yet found the city of Austria on any map of Pennsylvania. So, I have to reluctantly accept the fact that box is an immigrant to this country, probably from around the 1920s, and most likely the product of one of the two major Austrian ammunition makers, Hirtenberger or Roth. The characteristics of the box suggest that it was produced for a retailer in the United States. I have not been able to find any information on the Keystone Cartridge Company, but suspect this could be a trade name used by an American retailer for the line of ammunition they sold. I would appreciate any information regarding the Keystone Cartridge Company, and would like to hear about other similar boxes.   

What do all those tiny little letters mean ?????

I've never made much of an effort in pursuing shotgun shells, as metallic cartridges are the primary focus of my collection. In spite of this, I've managed to accumulate a pretty good assortment of shotgun shells over the years, which have their way into several very heavy cardboard boxes that I've been tripping over and moving out of my way for what seems like an eternity. I am now in the process sorting through them, trying to establish a degree of order. In so doing, I've found among the British shells these four early raised headstamps by Eley Brothers, each with a small letter that means absolutely nothing to me. Beginning with the 10 gauge pinfire on the left, the letters are B, H, D, and G. I have observed shells in a couple of my old auction catalogs with the letters F and C, leading me to suspect that the letters A and E also exist, thereby representing all the letters in the aphabet from A through H. These letters might indicate the grade of the shell, or perhaps the date of manufacture. If anyone can help with these, please let me know.  

So much for condition....

This would be a good box if there were just more of it, but the top, with most of its label, and the lower portion of one side are all that remain. These came to me in a paper bag, along with a handful of the original extended case shot cartridges. This was originally a two piece box made sometime prior to 1926, when Winchester took over production of the US cartridge line. Technically, I suppose it could still be considered a two piece box. The primers on the cartridges are interesting; I have no clue what the meaning of the underline on the superimposed US is. Here's a closeup of the headstamp; the mark on the primer is upside down in this picture. These primer marks are more commonly found without the underline, at least that's been my experience. My purpose for showing this box on my web page is to illustrate, along with the UMC 44-40 box up above, that a box doesn't have to be in the best of shape to find a place in my collection. Until I locate a better example, this one will have to do.