The Cartridge Caseits Development And Manufacture

THE major idea hack of handloading is the saving of the shooter's ammunition dollar. And the conservation of this means the salvage of the most expensive part of a cartridge—the brass ease. In truth, the empty brass cartridge case costs more to manufacture than any other component, and one can safely assume that it costs its makers more than all other components put together. It has a useful life, with ordinary care, of from ten to fifty reloadings. Why, therefore, should it be relegated to the junk heap as "fired" after being used but once? The handloading fan regards this unnecessary waste of good brass much the same as he does the buying of a suit for a special occasion— wearing it once, and then turning it over to die moths.

A thorough understanding of the history of the cartridge case, together with its method of manufacture today, will enable the handloader to better undcrstand the problems of the cartridge-case manufacturer, and enable him to get the greatest life out of his "empties."

Unfortunately, history does not give us authentic records of the historical development of ammunition any more than it enables us to trace the development of the rifle with any degree of accuracy. It is believed, however, that good old King Gus-tavus Adolphus of Sweden started things along these lines in the early 1600's when he ordered his soldiers to carry their powder and ball together in the form of a "cartridge." This was generally a cylinder of paper, twisted on both ends, with the round lead ball in one end and the measured charge of black powder poured in on top of it. In use, the troops bit or tore off the powder end of the tube, poured the sliinv grains into the mouth of the old smoke-stick, dropped the ball in on top, and then hammered the mass tight with the ramrod. Here is where the title "ramrod" came into being. It wasn't essentially a "cleaning rod" as we know it today, although it did serve that purpose. The rod was a rammer, and usually had a conical or cup end to fit the general contour of the ball or bullet. The other end often had a screw or auger point, with a slot back of the point. The auger arrangement was used to draw an unfircd charge—its screw point was turned into the soft lead ball and wads, in case the shooter desired to unload his gun without firing. The slot made the ramrod a "cleaning rod." . . .

There was no real development of the cartridge, however, until the Rev. Alexander John Forsyth, a Scotch clergyman, invented the percussion mixture known as "fulminate of mercury." Forsyth did not actually invent this chemical compound; it was known for several years, but he first applied it to the ignition of powder charges, and thereby won eternal fame. The complete record of primer developments is contained in the chapters on Primers and will not be repeated here.

Many attempts in all countries to experiment with "cartridges" met with mediocre results until Dreyse introduced the famous "needle gun" into the Prussian Army in 1842. This arm had its own means of ignition, in which the fulminate was contained in a cap in the base of the wad used to separate powder charge and bullet. The "firing pin" was a long sharp needle which penetrated through the entire powder charge and detonated the mixture in the cap. Paper was used for the "cartridge case" and later this was changed to oiled linen and, on occasion, oiled silk.

In America, brass cartridges came into being at an early date. Maynard was among the first to manufacture these—with Burnside, Sharps and a few others. Maynard brought out the tape primer in 1845—an automatic lock arrangement feeding a roll of paper caps to the nipple of the gun each time the lock was cocked. The idea back of this was almost identical with its present use—so-called "cap pistols" used by the youth of America on holidays for celebration purposes. This primer came first, and in 1851 Maynard patented his famous brass cartridge. This was a tubular brass case with a wide flat base soldered to the body. The center of the case was perforated with a needle hole, and the case was used in conjunction with the Maynard tape primer.

My first "collection" cartridge was a Maynard— and we had several of them. One was given to another youngster, and although this happened more than a quarter of a century ago, the details are still vivid. We were out "hunting" with .22 rifles, and as youngsters will, we figured that a campfire would be useful. There was plenty of material for a fire, and we bad matches—of the old "sulphur type." However, we had nothing to strike these matches on; so my companion dug this big Maynard cartridge from his pocket and scratched the match across the wide, flat brass head, all before I could remonstrate. There was one terrific boom and a couple of scared kids began to take stock. That Maynard cartridge had and this long-obsolete specimen of cartridge suits the needs of the ignorant subjects as well as the most modern of magnums. This .577 Snider cartridge came out about 1867 and was at that time the official arm of the British military forces. The British Small Arms Manual credits the Snider cartridge to the ingenuity of Colonel Boxer of the Royal Laboratory at Woolwich. (The Royal Laboratory is the official British ammunition fac-

Colonel Boxer

Evolution of the modern cartridge case. Left to right: The old paper cartridge for muzzle-loading percussion muskets; paper cartridge for Colt revolvers; the Maynard percussion rifle cartridge with wide thin rim soldered to base of shell, hole through the center admits flame from pcrcussion cap; the Burnside percussion carbine, loaded from the front of the chamber, uses pcrcussion caps; .577 Snider coilcd cartridge case, case manufactured of three layers of sheet tin and paper, cemented together and rolled into shape, compound head built up and soldered on; the .577/450 Martini-Henry coiled case, ease body made of soft brass, rolled and pressed into shape, can be readily mutilated with the fingers. Composite head soldered together and similarly attached, both of these coilcd cartridges are centerfire numbers; solid drawn .577/450 Martini-Henry designed for same rifle; the .58 musket rimflrc; .50/70 rifle, Springfield Armory make, with inside primer—looks like rimfire—identified by crimps on body near head; .50/115 Bullard centerfire with semi-rimmed head, one of the first of the semi-rimmed cases; .405 Winchester;

.257 Roberts rimless; and last the .300 H. & H. Magnum belted head

Evolution of the modern cartridge case. Left to right: The old paper cartridge for muzzle-loading percussion muskets; paper cartridge for Colt revolvers; the Maynard percussion rifle cartridge with wide thin rim soldered to base of shell, hole through the center admits flame from pcrcussion cap; the Burnside percussion carbine, loaded from the front of the chamber, uses pcrcussion caps; .577 Snider coilcd cartridge case, case manufactured of three layers of sheet tin and paper, cemented together and rolled into shape, compound head built up and soldered on; the .577/450 Martini-Henry coiled case, ease body made of soft brass, rolled and pressed into shape, can be readily mutilated with the fingers. Composite head soldered together and similarly attached, both of these coilcd cartridges are centerfire numbers; solid drawn .577/450 Martini-Henry designed for same rifle; the .58 musket rimflrc; .50/70 rifle, Springfield Armory make, with inside primer—looks like rimfire—identified by crimps on body near head; .50/115 Bullard centerfire with semi-rimmed head, one of the first of the semi-rimmed cases; .405 Winchester;

.257 Roberts rimless; and last the .300 H. & H. Magnum belted head exploded in my friend's hands without scratching or burning him. We spent a couple of hours looking for traces of it, but without success. . . .

Sharps rifles used linen cartridges—a linen envelope containing the charge of powder and the ball. In England, the Snider "coiled" cartridge came out, a brass and steel head with a body built up of thin brass foil and paper in layers. A strip of this paper-metal sandwich stock was coiled or rolled around an anvil and its edge glued solidly to form the coiled cartridge case. Strangely, Imperial Chemical Industries of Great Britain, the big combine that controls the ammunition industry over there, including Kynoch and Eley, still makes this coiled cartridge for the Snider. A few years ago when I inquired the reason for this, I was informed that it was much easier to make, therefore cheaper, and was strong enough for the low black powder loadings sold to natives in colonial possessions.

It seems that England is not anxious to have these natives armed with guns of modern nature, tory, corresponding to Frankford Arsenal in this country.)

In 1871 the Snider cartridge, as the official British caliber, was dropped in favor of the then-new .577/450 Martini-Henry, one of the first attempts in England at a bottle-neck cartridge. This case had a .577-caliber body necked down to hold a .45-caliber bullet; hence the complicated British title. Construction of this case followed that of the Snider except that no paper was used. Thin soft brass, together with a built-up head of combinations of brass and iron, formed this cartridge, which is distinctive in appearance. The Boxer-Snider looks like a paper tube cartridge built along the lines of the modern shotgun shell until one examines it closely and locates the layer of brass. The Martini-Henry does not use the coil of thin brass slashed off parallel with the axis of the bore, but instead angles up, much like the two-thickness paper bullet patch described later. It was built over a mandrel similar to a .577 caliber, and then necked by wrinkling it (see illustration). Oddly, too, this cartridge still remains one of ihe standards among the British ammunition makers' numbers, since it is cheaper to manufacture, despite the fact that Kynoch manufactures both the Snider and Martini-Henry in solid drawn brass cases as well as the "coiled" form. The early Mauser rifles also used the Snider type of coiled cartridge.

In America, the coiled case was never popular. Drawn brass cases came into being early with the advent of the Civil War. Burnside developed a cartridge of drawn brass which was inserted in the its three major components—powder, primer and bullet—being combined into a single unit by means of a copper case. Burnside, Maynard, Sharps, and other inventors had depended on some form of percussion cap together with a cartridge case containing only powder and ball, and ignited through an opening in the head of the cases. Flobert in France pioneered his "BB Caps" (Bullet Breach Caps), but Smith & Wesson developed the first successful rimfire cartridge in this country in the now common .22 Short, first produced for re-

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