38 S&W rimfire?

I have 3 cartridges in my collection that are old rimfires. They appear to be the same as a 38S&W centerfire, except for the primer system of course. (Attempts to photo and post have met with utter failure.) That is, same case length, diameter, etc but the bullet is a soft lead with groves in it (3 under the case, 1 exposed). The case seems to be copper, not brass. They are very dark, having been poorly stored and exposed to unfriendly conditions.

Are these something I should keep or trade off? Metallic rimfire cartridges are really not my area of interest.

are you sure they aren’t inside primed cartridges instead of rimfires?

No, I am not sure they are rimfire… I would not know the difference between inside primed and rimfire. They do not have an exposed, exterior primer. In fact, the head is smooth, no markings even.

Shotmeister, please post cartridge dimensions and it will be easier to help you.


Any “grooves” or “crimps” just above the rim? IE something that looks like it might be used to hold a insert in place?
In the photo, 5th from the left, is one type of inside primed case (it’s a 45-70 blank). Note the retaining groove.

I apologize for the size and quality but this is my 1st successful posting of a pic! There is no detent in the case.
The case length is .75, the diameter .37 and the rim .43
Cartridge length is 1.19

From what I can see they are rimfires

That’s a plain vanilla 38 Short rimfire. Copper case. ca 1860s.

It is actually .375 caliber.

The copper cased rimfire cartridges always look like they are valuable but they’re not, except for a few exceptions.


Thank you Ray!
I never suspected them to be valuable (not my luck) but old… and not as old as you stated. I thought perhaps 1890’s or early 1900’s. I have seen some little rimfire Iver Johnson and S&W pocket pistols that I thought would use something like these.

Heck, I’m more excited about posting the pic! Man, I’m gonna be dangerouse now!

Correct me if I am wrong, (i often am) but they could have been much newer than you might think.
These cartridges were made well into the 20th century. The ones in the picture do look very “18 something”.

Although the pistols were obsolete by about the 1890s they made a lot of them for the low budget market . Believe it or not it was also used in rifles which probably accounts for its lifespan.
Pistol tend to be bought but never fired (the one box syndrome) but a small game rifle would.

COTW suggests it was made up to the 1940s which I find remarkable.


You are right. I did not mean to imply that the cartridges pictured dated to the 1860s, only that they were first used in that era.