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Curtis Steinhauer

Home of the Old Ammo Guy's Virtual Cartridge Trading Table


Picture Page

 December 2009

A Kynoch box 8mm Lebel cartridges......

This Kynock box of 8 x 50R French Lebel cartridges was sealed when I received it from friend who was cleaning out his work area and decided he had no more use for it. I have always considered unopened boxes to be much less interesting than opened ones, so it didn't take me long to pull out the pocket knife and carefully open the top flaps to see just what was inside. The first thing to catch my attention was the old style flat nosed Balle M bullets, indicating the cartridges were probably made prior to 1898, when the pointed ' Spitzer' Balle D bullet was adopted.   

The second thing I noticed, much to my surprise, was that the cartridges didn't have the K  *  8M/M * headstamps that I expected, but instead were headstamped S.F.M  *  *  with the back to back GG logo, indicating production by the French ammunition maker Societe Francaise de Munitions of Paris. SFM was formed from Gevelot and Gaupillat in 1886; the GG logo in the headstamp represents the two earlier firms.

Perhaps Kynoch contracted with SFM to produce cartridges for them at some point, but I seriously doubt it, and until evidence surfaces of such a relationship between the two companies, I will have to assume these cartridges were repackaged, either prior to import to the US or after arriving in the US by someone who had an empty box and 10 loose SFM cartridges, and no concern that the cartridges were incorrect for the box. Here is one of the cartridges that should have been in the box.




Revisiting those early .32 and .38 S&W cartridges....

Some months ago, I included pictures of and discussed a couple of sets of Smith & Wesson reloading tools for the .32 S&W cartridge. These tools are pretty basic, but serve their purpose quite well. The mold casts a bullet with a single groove, of the early style referred to as outside lubed. When loaded, the bullet groove remains outside the neck of the cartridge case, and would be filled with lubricant during the reloading process. One of the bullets is shown on the left in this picture, along with one that has been loaded in a case using the tools shown above.

Of note is the lack of crimping to the neck of the cartridge case after the bullet is seated. These reloading tools rely on friction alone to hold the bullet in place. When Daniel B. Wesson was developing the .38 Smith & Wesson cartridge in the 1875 or 1876, he was convinced that crimping the bullet in place reduced accuracy and resulted in a cartridge case that could not be reloaded easily. The company  preferred that ammunition makers producing cartridges for their revolvers not crimp the bullets in place, as noted on this cautionary notice above taken from the cardboard box that held an early Smith & Wesson .38 Single Action 1st Model (aka Baby Russian) revolver. The first contract that Smith & Wesson entered into for the  production of .38 S&W cartridges for the Baby Russian revolver was in 1876 with the United States Cartridge Company. One of these cartridges and the box it would have been sold in are shown here. Based on the lack of a crimp on this cartridge, it is obvious that USC Co followed Smith & Wesson's specification regarding this detail when producing the contracted ammunition. That this practice of not crimping the cases was not insisted on by Smith & Wesson for very long is evident by the general lack of uncrimped factory loaded Smith & Wesson cartridges that are found today. Other than these early USC Co cartridges, I am not aware of any other .38 S&W or any .32 S&W cartridges that were manufactured without a neck crimp.

The following four .38 S&W and .32 S&W boxes are the earliest I have in these calibers. All four boxes were made by Union Metallic Cartridge Company, and the cartridges in all four have the early outside lubed (grooved) bullets, as well as  crimped necks. This first box was probably made in 1877, based on the A. C. Hobbs Oct 31st, 1876 patent date on the label, and the fact that the Baby Russian shown on the label was produced in 1876 and 1877, being discontinued with the introduction of Smith & Wesson's .38 Single Action 2nd Model revolver. With its introduction, the new model revolver would also have replaced the old model on .38 S&W cartridge box labels produced for the company. This box, as well as the other three shown below, has the Smith & Wesson signature on its sealing label, indicating that the ammunition was made for them to their specifications, but also suggesting that they were no longer specifying uncrimped necks on their ammunition as early as 1877. The cartridges in this box are primed with the Wesson primer, as noted on the small blue  label that is attached to the inside the top.      


This next box of .38 S&W cartridges has the .38 Single Action 2nd Model revolver on the label. As discussed above, the 2nd Model revolver was introduced in 1877. However, as indicated on the label, the cartridges in this box use the U.M.C. No 0 primer, which was introduced in 1883, placing the production of this box sometime






.  between 1883 and about 1885, when headstamps were first applied by U.M.C. on their centerfire cartridges.  I removed one of the bullets, which has only the single knurled grease groove, a cavity in the base, and shows the effects of the case crimping, giving the bullet the appearance of having a slightly heeled base.


The next two boxes contain early outside lubed .32 S&W cartridges. This cartridge was also developed by D. B. Wesson and introduced in 1878 with the Smith & Wesson Number 1 1/2 Single Action revolver. This revolver was quite popular, and continued  in production until 1892. The label of this first .32 S&W box has an illustration of the Number 1 1/2 Single Action revolver on it. The cartridges in the box use the Wesson primer, as there is no mention of the U.M.C. No 0 primer on the label. This would place the production of this box sometime between 1878 and 1883. However, it is likely that it was made no later than 1880, when Smith & Wesson introduced their .32 Double Action First Model revolver, and would have begun illustrating their labels with the new double action revolver for marketing purposes. 

The label of the next box of .32 S&W cartridges is illustrated with one of Smith & Wesson's double action revolvers, this one the .32 Double Action Fourth Model, which was introduced in 1883, coincidentally the year as the appearance of the U.M.C. No 0 primer. Production of this box would have been between 1883 and probably no later than the mid-1880s, when the company added a logo to the labels of their center fire ammunition, which consisted of the letters U.M.C. in an elongated (racetrack shaped) oval.

I also removed bullets from cartridges from each of the .32 S&W boxes to determine if they were basically the same as the .38 bullet and the bullets that I had cast with the mold from the set of loading tools. The pulled .32 bullets were just smaller versions of the .38 bullets, with the single knurled grease groove and the base cavity. All of the bullets in the boxes had a coating of hard waxy grease, which can be seen in the pictures above. The .32 bullets from the boxes weigh about 88 grains, while my cast bullets are about 93 grains. This picture shows one of the cast bullets on the left with one of the pulled bullets that has had its coating of waxy grease removed. 




An interesting headstamp on a .30-06 M1909 blank.....

Here are a couple of blanks that utilized cases made in 1954 at the Twin Cities Ordnance Plant in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The one on the left is headstamped as expected, with the letters and numbers oriented to be read in the 12 and 6 o'clock positions, respectively. On the one on the right, the '4' is rotated 90 degrees, as well as being in a different font.

I posted a question about this odd headstamp on the IAA Cartridge Forum, and received this response from Frank Hackley, one of the authors of History of Modern U.S. Military Small Arms Ammunition

"M1909 blanks made during this period were authorized to be made from "Second Class" cases, which includes minor imperfections that do not reduce form, fit or function. This case was probably culled out of normal production during visual inspection and ear-marked for M1909 blank use.

During the Korean War production period, Twin Cities did not have an "in house" tooling capability and thus was forced to sub-contract all their perishable tooling needs - including case heading bunters. To save time and money some contractors used bunters with "embedded" letters and numbers and I assume it was one of these that produced the mis-placed 4 in a different font. There are other inconsistencies in TW headstamps during this period, including the placement, style and spacing of letters and numbers, which we assume to be caused by the different tooling makers not strictly following the contract specifications for bunters."

For those who are waiting for Volume 3 of History of Modern U.S. Military Small Arms Ammunition, Mr. Hackley included the following bit of welcome news:

"Regarding HWS Vol. III, the final draft is completed and Gene Scranton is busy working on the remaining illustrations - as of now we have over 900 drawings, 400 photographs and 1300 typed pages of manuscript. Under the circumstances, it is possible that Vol. III will have to be published in two parts, because of its size."