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Picture Page

September 2004

An early group of .44 Henry cartridges.....


At least three of  the .44 Henry rimfire cartridges shown here were made by the New Haven Arms Company, makers of the Henry repeating rifle, and predecessor to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. The first three cartridges are the early style pointed bullet, having no grooves on the exposed surface. The first two have a segmented neck crimp to hold the bullet in place. This style neck crimp was applied using a 4 section tool which squeezed the case neck around the bullet, leaving four visible 'pinches' in the copper spaced 90 degrees apart around the neck. This was the first neck crimp used by the New Haven Arms Company when they began production of ammunition for their Henry rifle in 1860. Two employees of the company, Darwin Ellis and George Stetson, developed and patented an improved method for forming the neck crimp in 1865, which involved spinning the cartridge and forcing it against a fixed die which turned the copper at the edge of the case mouth in against the bullet. The result was a smooth crimp without the segments. As Winchester Repeating Arms Company was not formed until 1866, this would mean that all the rimfire cartridges made by Winchester should have the turned crimp, and the segmented crimp cartridges should all be New Haven Arms Company production. The second cartridge has both the segmented crimp and the raised 'H' headstamp, evidence that both companies utilized this headstamp. The third cartridge has a turned crimp, and could have been made by either company. The last cartridge has a bullet style that is usually attributed to the New Haven Arms Company. It has a turned crimp, and an unusual multilevel head profile.


An assortment of .44 S&W Americans and an unknown.....

If I had to name one thing that I find most interesting in this hobby, I'd have to say its the unheadstamped cartridges. With all the information available today, the headstamped cartridges are usually fairly easy to identify. Its the unmarked cartridge that provides the biggest challenge, and which can start my heart pounding when I suspect it may have found a rare one. The cartridges in this picture were made for use in the Smith & Wesson Model 3 American revolver, of which approximately 28,000 were produced between 1870 and 1874. One thousand of these were delivered to the U.S. Army in March of 1871, the first true cartridge revolver purchased by the Army. Until the adoption of the Colt Single Action Army revolver in 1873 as the standard sidearm for the US Army, these 1000 S&W American revolvers, plus a mix of converted Civil War percussion Colts and Remingtons, served the needs of the Army. The two copper cased, Martin primed cartridges on the left were produced at the government arsenals in 1871 for use in the military S&W Americans revolvers. The shorter of the two was made at the National Armory in Springfield, Massachusetts; the other was made at the Frankford Arsenal in Philadelphia. The third cartridge with the long two grooved bullet was probably made by the American Metallic Cartridge Company. The next cartridge, with its single, wide grooved bullet and small copper primer, may have been made by the Phoenix Metallic Cartridge Company.  The last cartridge doesn't really fit in here, except that it was identified in error as a .44 S&W American in a collection I purchased. Dimensions are:
bullet - .428 "(measured at the case mouth),  neck - .453",  base - .456",  rim - .512",  case length - .918, and length overall - 1.360"
This one seems to fit within the wide variance in the dimensions Jacob Brandt lists for the .44 S&W Russian in his book Manual of Pistol and Revolver Cartridges, I'm going to assume that is what this one is unless someone can convince me otherwise. 


And speaking of .44 S&W Russians.......

The Smith & Wesson Model 3 Russian revolver was the result of changes made to the Model 3 American 1st Model revolver at the request of the Russian military attache, General Alexander Gorloff. The first contract with Russia for 20,000 revolvers was signed on May 1, 1871. Between this date and 1878, over 130,000 revolvers were produced for the Russian government, plus another 50,000 or so that were sold commercially and to the governments of Turkey and Japan. I've included an assortment the US and foreign cartridges for this revolver in the picture. The first example on the left with its 2 grooved outside lubricated bullet is a true 'Russian' .44 Russian, headstamped 'n  8  83', the 'n' being the Cyrillic character for 'P', indicating the cartridge was made at the Petersburg government arsenal at St Petersburg. The second cartridge, which has no headstamp, was probably made by Winchester in the 1870s, and has a single grooved outside lubricated bullet. Next is another unheadstamped cartridge, this one a multi-ball load made by the Phoenix Metallic Cartridge Company.  Its green paper sabot contains three lead balls. The remaining cartridges all are later production with inside lubricated bullets. The first of these was made by the United States Cartridge Company. The more common .44 Russian cartridges by this company are headstamped 'U.S.' or 'U.S.C. Co.  44 S & W.R.'; this one with 'RUSSIAN' spelled out is a more difficult headstamp to find. The next one was made by the Union Metallic Cartridge Company, and has a 'self lubricating' bullet, recognizable by the three holes in the bullet, through which grease is forced as the bullet moves down the barrel. Technically, I suppose this one might be considered to be an outside lubricated bullet. The next two are of foreign manufacture, the first made by Eley of  London, and the second made by Compania Brasileria de Cartuchos S.A. of Sao Paulo, Brazil.