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Picture Page

 May 2009

A trio of .45 British Whitworth cartridges.......

Sir Joseph Whitworth is credited with developing a rifle for the British Army which bore his name, and which had a hexagonal bore that used a long six-sided bullet molded to precisely fit the bore. In 1863, the British government contracted with Whitworth to supply them with 8000 of his rifles, which saw limited use due in part to the high costs associated with producing the rifle, and ultimately, to the development of the adoption of the Snider breech-loading system in 1866. A number of his rifles were also purchased by the Confederate Army during the American Civil War for use by their sharpshooters. During the siege of Charleston, South Carolina, sharpshooters using these rifles picked off Union soldiers manning the cannons at Fort Wagner that were firing on the city at ranges of up to 1500 yards.While less interesting but more common (and more affordable) than their hexagonal cousins, Whitworth rifles were also produced that used round bullets; I've included pictures here of several of the pre-loaded Whitworth charging tubes which utilized these round bullets. I don't generally go looking for the pre-metallic cartridges for my collection, as the ones I have managed to accumulate in the last 30 or so years have had a tendency to slowly self-destruct over time. It is terribly disappointing to go looking for a paper cartridge only to find that it has been reduced to a naked bullet comfortably nestled in a mixture of powder and paper particles - this in spite of the fact that I keep them all in a separate 'fragiles' container and try to handle them as little as possible.

These loading tubes contained a pre-measured powder charge, a wad, and the cylindrical bullet. To use the loading tube, the tear tab was pulled up to remove a paper cover over the end of the tube that held the powder, which was dumped down the bore. Then the bullet and wad were pushed through the the tube with the ramrod and down the barrel until they were seated against the powder. The longer tube in the picture of the three tubes above held the powder in the smaller diameter portion, while the bullet was in the larger diameter portion. Slits in the side of the tube allowed it to expand as the bullet was pushed through. These grooves can be seen in this picture of the two shorter tubes. Oxidation of the bullets has caused the tubes to expand, opening the slits on both tubes. The cannelure seen on the right end of these two tubes was intended to keep the bullets from sliding out of the open ends of the tubes.



Three USC Co .41 rimfires...........

Typically, when one thinks of American .41 rimfire cartridges, only two come to mind - the .41 Short and the .41 Long. That pretty much covers the possibilities for all US ammunition makers except one, that one being the United States Cartridge Company. In their 1881 catalog, they include the .41 Short and Long, as well as a .41 Extra Long, which they show as being adapted to the Fowler & Fulton, Smith's Patent Revolver. The illustration in the catalog shows a belted round nose bullet with a single exposed groove.

A documented example of the .41 Extra Long as illustrated in the USC Co catalog has not surfaced, but in 1987 a small number of .41 rimfire cartridges with cases longer than the .41 long, and loaded with pointed .41 short style bullets were found by a New Hampshire cartridge collector. The cartridges were in pristine condition and were headstamped with the raised 'US' in a depression. I had the good fortune to trade for one of these cartridges in December of that year, which is shown on the right in this picture, along with a .41 short and .41 long, also made by USC Co. The case length of the extra long cartridge is .723", that of the .41 long is .635"

Also in 1987, John Barber published The Rimfire Cartridge in the United States & Canada, which included a picture and discussion of one of these extra long cartridges with the pointed bullet, which I assume was one of the New Hampshire cartridges. His remarks leave some doubt as to whether this is actually the elusive .41 extra long, due to the inconsistency of the bullet shape and the presence of the headstamp on these cartridges, which would place its production four years or more after the 1881 catalog date, as USC Co did not begin using headstamps until about 1885. Robert Buttweiler included four of the New Hampshire cartridges in his auctions beginning in 1989 (Collector's Ammunition, Volume VI, Number 3), and his descriptions leave little doubt that he believed this to be the .41 extra long regardless of  the shape of the bullet. I would have to agree with him, and attribute the pointed bullet to an error made in the illustration, or less likely, a production change made by the company, which would mean there would be two variations of this cartridge for us collectors to look for.     

Regarding the 'Fowler & Fulton, Smith's Patent Revolver' noted in the catalog, Buttweiler mentions in his Volume X, Number 3 description for the last cartridge he auctioned that he had not been able to locate any information on Fowler & Fulton, but that the Smith patent revolver cited may be the Otis A. Smith type produced in the 1870 to 1890 period. When I began looking for information on Fowler and Fulton beginning shortly after I obtained my cartridge in 1987, I assumed they were manufacturers of revolvers, but had been unable to locate anything on either a Fulton, a Fowler, or a Fulton & Fowler revolver over the intervening years. While trying to locate a good picture of an Otis Smith .41 rimfire revolver (which I include here, obtained from for this write-up , I solved the mystery when I stumbled upon Google's digitized copy of the Sportsman's Gazetteer & General Guide published by Charles Hallock in 1877. On page 671, under Sportsmen's Outfits is "Guns, Pistols, and Sporting Goods, Fowler & Fulton, 300 Broadway, N. Y. Their specialties are: Smith's patent revolvers, Maynard rifles ...". This indicates that Fowler & Fulton were nor makers of revolvers, but rather, agents for the Smith patent revolver, which was Otis Smith's line of revolvers. These were typically marked on the barrels 'SMITH'S PATENT  APR. 15, 1873'. It is also possible that USC Co produced the .41 Extra Long cartridge specifically for Fowler & Fulton to market with the Smith revolvers, since the catalog lists only one revolver as using the cartridge and specifically mentions Fowler & Fulton by name. It would be interesting to see what was printed on the original box label for these cartridges.    



.303 British cartridges made in Iraq......

With the coverage of the war in Iraq, all one typically sees in the news stories are automatic weapons being used by fighters on both sides, I can't help but wonder what happened to all of the old British Lee-Enfield bolt action rifles that were used by the Iraqi Army beginning with the British administration of that country shortly after World War, and continuing in use until well into the 1950s. Ammunition for these rifles was first produced in Iraq beginning in the mid 1930s, using equipment purchased from the British firm Greenwood and Batley. This would explain the very 'British' appearance of the Iraqi-made ammunition. Everything about them looks British, from the three neck stakes that hold the bullet in place to the finish and appearance of the metal, and the flat Berdan primer to the lengths of cordite that fill the case. The headstamps, however, make the Arabic connection to this ammuniton very obvious. Two examples of these cartridges are shown above, one produced in 1935 (on the left) and the other in 1957. The 1935 headstamp is probably the earliest headstamp, while the latest is thought to be 1959, as shown here. It should be noted that cupro-nickel jackets on the 1950's production cartridges was very un-British, as the Commonwealth was using gilding only metal jackets by around the end of World War 2. The two characters at the top of the headstamp are thought to indicate that the ammunition was property of the republic of Iraq.