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Picture Page

March 2008

Two unusual cartridges........

The odd looking cartridges in this picture are examples of a .30 caliber front loading pistol cartridge that is thought to have been produced at the Frankford Arsenal in the early 1870s. The one on the left shows the effects of corrosion that has eaten through the case wall from the inside, probably a result of moisture getting to the powder; that's a piece of tape holding the two halves together. The association of this cartridge with the Frankford Arsenal is the result of one having been included in the arsenal's collection of cartridges that were displayed at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876 as item #141, described as 'outside cap, front flanged .30 caliber, front lubricant'. It seems unlikely that such a small caliber cartridge would have been experimented with in the 1870s by the Army, as they didn't seriously think about a cartridge less than .44 caliber until the late 1880s when the work that would result in the adoption of the .30-40 Krag and the .38 Long Colt cartridges was begun. Perhaps it was in some way associated with the Navy's economy-minded program to convert a number of their .36 caliber percussion revolvers to fire metallic cartridges between1873 and 1876. However, the use of a front-loading cartridge wouldn't be likely during this time-frame, since the Rollin White patent on the bored-through cylinder that had kept other gun makers besides Smith & Wesson from producing successful metallic cartridge revolvers throughout the 1860s had expired in April of 1869. As a result, there would have been no incentive to use a front-loading cartridge for any developmental work in the 1870s. The primer on these cartridges appears to be the Milbank primer, which was patented in May of 1870, again, when there was no longer a need to circumvent Rollin White's patent. Until some meaningful information surfaces on this cartridge, it will remain an intriguing mystery to collectors.  




A great label.....

According to the fellow I received this label from, his father picked it up on a visit to Francis Bannerman's, the military surplus dealer in business in New York City from 1866 to about 1970. This Joseph Goldmark label is a desirable one. They were in business from 1859 to 1881 and are better known for their percussion caps, but it is believed that they produced rim fire cartridges over just a three year period, from 1864 to 1866, all being made on contract for the U.S. Government. The cartridges produced included .56-50 Spencer, .56-56 Spencer, and .58 Musket. Headstamps commonly found include an underlined impressed 'J.G. on .56-50 Spencer and .58 Musket, a non-underlined impressed 'J.G' on the .56-50, and usually no headstamp at all on .56-56 Spencer. Rarities include the .58 Musket, at least one .56-56 with the underlined 'J.G.', and a non-underlined larger-than-standard 'J.G.' that will occasionally be found on the .56-50.  



 Those confusing .45 Colt & Schofield headstamps...

Within a couple of years after the U.S. Army adopted the Colt single action revolver and its .45 Colt cartridge as their 'standard' handgun and cartridge in 1873,  the salesmen at Smith & Wesson had managed to secure a contract from the Army for 3000 of its Schofield revolvers. The shorter .45 Smith & Wesson cartridge would chamber in the Colt Revolver but the .45 Colt cartridge was too long to be used in the Smith & Wesson revolver, so the Colt cartridge was dropped in favor of the Smith & Wesson cartridge, which was designated the .45 Colt Government and issued for use in both revolvers. I believe it was in the interest of distinguishing between the two cartridges that the name .45 Long Colt came into use in the civilian market for the original Colt cartridge and continues to be used today, even though the .45 S&W was discontinued in the late 1940s. The headstamps used for the two cartridges by commercial ammunition makers sometimes are confusing, as shown here in the pictures of the cartridges produced by UMC/REM-UMC and Winchester. It appears that early production of the two cartridges by these companies used the Colt and S&W designations to differentiate between them. Later, perhaps to save the expense associated with maintaining two separate sets of headstamp dies for the cartridges, both companies opted to use the .45 Colt headstamp for both cartridges. 


Peters Cartridge Company apparently made an effort to avoid the confusion in their line of cartridges, but added a little more uncertainty for the shooting public. While REM-UMC and Winchester used the .45 S&W and .45 Colt headstamps for the Schofield-length cartridges, Peters chose to use the military designation of the cartridge, .45 Colt Government,  headstamping theirs as shown in this picture. I have not managed to locate a Peters example with any other headstamp. Perhaps I just haven't looked hard enough; if anyone has another Peters headstamp, I'd appreciate hearing about it.