257 Condor - Norma Re case -information request


#1

I found a loaded round at a gunshow today. The case headstamp is : NORMA Re with a horizontal line - 257Condor. I know that this cartridge is based on the Norma 7x61 S&H cartridge case necked to .257 caliber and using a 160 grain Barnes projectile . The primer is a rounded brass version much like 8 x56 1937 rounds. On carefull examination this case has been fired once and reloaded.

Does anyone have any more information on this special lot of brass ?

Glenn


#2

Glenn - here is what I have on the 257 Condor:

*********257 Condor
This cartridge was produced by Norma and is only known with “NORMA Re - 257 CONDOR -” hs. Reported to have been produced in one lot of 50,000 cases (most unloaded), this quantity appears to be too large as this cartridge is now fairly scarce. This has a long distinctive bullet of at least 160 grains.

Believed to have been produced c1956 (this cartridge is mentioned in a 1960 Guns Magazine). This case has a sharp shoulder as used in the other early Norma belted cartridges; the 8x61 Kvale and 7x61 S&H.

This was probably designed by Nils Kvale, the Norma designer of that period who designed most of the belted Norma case types. However; Ackley, vol 1, page 352 states that this was designed by Dr Ramon Somovia of Hollister CA. D. Ramon Somavia of the Somavia Ranch in California

It appears that there was a longer cased prototype of this called the 258 Super Condor which was never commercially produced.


#3

Thank you . The bullet in this case is probably a Norma design-it has a very small hollow point and does not match the Barnes appearance. I will email Norma next and see what they can tell me.

I had only the information in PO Ackleys two books . I think that Bob Fokker might have written something on this cartridge also .

Glenn


#4

In 1965 when I first started collecting, I found a single round a gun store in Tucson. I later learned that it was unusual when Jim Tillinghast told me he had never heard of it. I wrote Norma who referred me to Dr Ramon Somovia of Hollister CA who sold me a few boxes of these cartridges. In the late 1980s/early 1990s, I ran across Dr Somovia’s address in my files and wrote him. We talked on the phone a number of times and I bought the loaded rounds he had/was willing to sell, and he had some dummies, case & bullet (probably that he put together) which I also bought-most are still buried somewhere in my dupes in the basement-not sorted out over the past 3 or 4 house moves.

Dr Somovia told me he designed the 257 Condor and had Norma make it to his specification. He was basically a very serious hunter and was looking for something special in a hunting cartridge. I suspect what that meant was that he knew the performance he wanted (bullet weight, muzzle velocity, etc.) and the overall cartridge length, and Norma did the detail design of the case and bullet. Somovia told me he made/had made rifles for members of his family and some friends, but I don’t remember how many guns were made or even if he ever told me. He may have mentioned the number of cartridges/cases, but I don’t remember that either. I may have some notes somewhere. If you are interested, check the IAA index on the homepage of this Forum and search.


#5

It’s always been my understanding that the 257 Condor started life as a wildcat. The one in my collection has the usual NORMA Re + 7x61 S&H headstamp, the shoulder is rounded ala Weatherby and the bullet is a two diameter “bore rider” type that projects a full 1 inch from the case mouth. The bullet appears to be copper rather than GM so I have always assumed that it is one of Barnes’ creations. Barrels to fire these long bullets have to be special made because of the fast twist needed to stabilize them and the need for a long throat for other than bore rider type bullets.

Another of those “wildcat or not?” cartridges.

Ray


#6

Ray, Could have been a wildcat that Dr Somovia picked up on, but he told me he designed it. Clearly it is not a wildcat (or only a wildcat) anymore since he had cases and bullets and loaded rounds made by Norma. This is a long time ago and I seem to remember hearing that he died or I assumed that because he sounded pretty old when I spoke with him long ago! He also had reloading dies made-I bought a set-and whoever would up with guns in this caliber may have been using S&H cases to make ammo—with whatever bullet works for them. The wildcat may post-date the cartridge, not predate it.

Cheers, Lew


#7

Lew, have you got a rifle chambered for it?


#8

Lew

I really don’t see how a wildcat can post-date a factory cartridge.

I suppose this is another of those mysteries that we will never find the answer to since most, if not all, of the initial players are gone.

If I had to guess, I would say that Dr. Somovia did indeed design the original cartridge as a wildcat and then convinced (or paid) Norma to manufacture both brass and loaded cartridges to his specs. (Don’t forget, the 7x61 S&H started life as a wildcat and was later picked up by Norma. The 7x61 S&H is different in that rifles chambered for it were made and sold on a commercial basis. Any rifles chambered for the Condor would be custom re-barrel jobs.)

There are other examples of the same thing happening during the last Century and today, with so many case manufacturers in business, it happens quite often.

All of this, in turn, raises the age old question of, “is it still a wildcat?” Does the simple act of having brass made with your own headstamp turn a wildcat into a non-wildcat? If the 258 Condor is no longer a wildcat what about the Rocky Gibbs cartridges and more and more of the Ackley designs that we see today in new brass with a proper headstamp?

It used to be hard enough to define a “wildcat” but I pity the poor soul who decides to make that his collecting specialty today.

Aaaargh!

Ray


#9

I researched the IAA Directory of Articles, and the only thing on the .257 Condor mentioned is a picture of the box, from the collection of John Schultz (deceased), that appeared in Issue 315, page 24, of the IAA Journal.

If anyone has any magazine articles on this cartridge, I would love to get an electronic copy, or a xerox copy. I will gladly pay any expenses incurred.

John Moss


#10

Lew probably used the wrong word in following the course of conversation and saying that the “wildcat” could post-date the factory load. Forgetting the term wildcat, which is becoming meaningless with all the small brass manufacturers making “factory” rounds out of a lot of them, it is easy to explain why such a round could exist AFTER the factory load was made. Someone wanted to have a gun in that caliber and couldn’t obtain any of the small quantity of original brass that was made, so they made the cases from something else. I made 7.62 x 39mm out of 6.5mm Mannlicher Norma brass in the 1960s for a Chicom SKS I acquired, before any 7.62 x 39 ammo was available. A single round of what is now considered common headstamp was going for ten bucks in 1967 dollars. It really isn’t a wildcat, but easily explains why there could be a round with an improper headstamp made after the fact of the factory cartridges.


#11

John

You are right as usual. The proliferation of small (and some not so small) cartridge case manufacturers has blurred the definition of wildcats at best, or destroyed it at worst. But it has probably created a new collecting catagory - Used To Be Wildcats.

But, as we old guys say, it’s better to be a Used To Be than a Never Was.

Ray


#12

Ray, I agree. Lest anyone think I have something against “wildcats,” I should note that I collect any made for auto pistols, myself! I don’t have a lot, but I have some, and like them.


#13

Guns made here in Prescott AZ by Fred Wells of Wells Sport Shop fame.


#14

Pete

What does Fred use for brass? And bullets?

Ray


#15

What was in use when it was originaly made. Fred passed perhaps a year ago. I was talking when it was originaly developed, Wells Sport Shop made the guns.


#16

Have to throw my hand in on this. Lived in Hollister from 1947 to 1957. Ramon Somovia was a pilot as was my father knew Somavia and was at his large land grant ranch. For a full story of the development of the Condor series try contacting Rube Wells son of Fred Wells. He has the whole story. Rube told me that Somavia would fly to Prescott and fly him and his dad back to the ranch in Hollister where they did some of the test shooting. There were several different calibers in the series. Rube had several of the experemental cartridges at the 2007 Prescott show. Some with VERY heavy bullets were used in the experements.


#17

Gamgjm–Since you know the people involved with this project it would be great if you were to get all the information together and write an article for the IAA Journal. I am sure Chris Punnett would gladly publish it. This project should be documented before everyone associated with it are gone and the history is lost. If you need help to write the article, I am sure there are people who would volinteer (Ray–are you willing) to help out.


#18

Just to put all the information in one place, here is a scan of the box label as it appeared in the IAA Journal that I mentioned previously.

The picture was originally in black and white, and not as sharp as I would like, but I thought it was worth adding to this thread.

John Moss


#19

Gamgjm - I doubt that you need help in writing an article judging from our postings, but as per Ron’s great suggestion that you write an article on this since you seem to know all the people involved, I would be most happy to act as an interim “editor” of sorts for anything you’d care to write. I am sure there would be no problem in you using the box label picture I posted since it came from a previous IAA publication, and once I get permission, I could send you some photos for the article that a member sent me. I am sure that with proper photo credit, he would be willing to let you use them. He may even be posting them here.

Not every member, by far, sees this Forum (I don’t know why, but it is true) and all the odds and ends from here could be drawn together into a cohesive story.

Just a thought - a very good suggestion by Ron.


#20

[quote]If I had to guess, I would say that Dr. Somovia did indeed design the original cartridge as a wildcat and then convinced (or paid) Norma to manufacture both brass and loaded cartridges to his specs. (Don’t forget, the 7x61 S&H started life as a wildcat and was later picked up by Norma. The 7x61 S&H is different in that rifles chambered for it were made and sold on a commercial basis. Any rifles chambered for the Condor would be custom re-barrel jobs.)
[/quote]

Ray, When I said the wildcat perhaps post-dated the factory load, I didn’t mean the case design, but rather the loaded cartridge. You indicated that your 257 Condor had a very different bullet from the factory load, in my mind making the load a wildcat since it was never a production load. Now I am splitting hairs…

Dr Somovia told me he ordered the 257 Condor from Norma and implied that he received all that were produced. He said he was the only source, though of course, those who bought from him clearly could have sold them. I don’t believe that Norma ever offered the cartirdge for sale and produced the single lot for Somovia.