45-70 Morse Pattern Cartridge ID?


I am in an area I know nothing about again.

The below was identified to me as a 45-70 Morse Pattern cartridge. The case is tinned and there looks to be a 500 grain bullet loaded in the case. From the date on the headstamp, I think it is from the correct time period. I have never seen one so I don’t know.

Can anyone confirm this?



Yes, that is a Morse Removable Head round. The clue is the thin joint line near the edge of the case head.

Beleive the Morse primer was an experemental 58 caliber centerfire cartridge made between 1856 and 1860. The anvil was soldered inside a Bronze or tinned brass case and the base contained either a “gum elastic” or fiber base plug that held the primer cup in. The head you picture is just a regular Frankford Arsenal 45-70 made in 1884. This would be 7 years after the Custer battle. Where they were using mostly Bennet primed copper 45-70.


Gamgjm–This is the Morse Patented Removeble Head Reloadable .45-70 not the Morse Primer. I will upload some documention in about an hour.

I believe that Ron has correctly identified this 1887 specimen.
However, Gourd has got it at least part right as well, although the 1887 production of Morse patent cases is obviously something new to him.

George Morse was a clever inventor. He invented a design for the Model 1816 .69 caliber flintlock muskets which converted them to breechloaders using a .69 caliber centerfire cartridge. Around 650 were made just prior to the Civil War but work stopped when the war broke out, and those being converted at Harpers Ferry were destroyed when that armory was burned. (I’d like to get one!)

During the Civil War, Morse cast his lot with the south, and ended up working at the South Carolina State Works in Greenville, SC. There he produced an entirely different design .50 caliber breechloading carbine, again using a centerfire cartridge, making about 1,000. In 1864, Morse began making “Inside Lock” muskets at the State Works which featured a novel lock needed fewer parts. These were otherwise fairly conventional muzzle loading muskets, not breechloaders.

After the Civil War, in the 1870s, Morse got involved with Andrew Burgess and the Whitney Firearms Company making lever action rifles- The Whitney-Morse-Burgess model.

So, there are a variety of cartridges related to Morse, the .69 breechloader, the .50 caliber carbine and the 1887 vintage Frankford Arsenal ammo made on his patent.

I hope someone will post examples of the first two.

The Morse cartridge was first made in 1886 on a limited basis. It was officially known as the “Caliber 45 Rifle Cartridge, Morse Pattern, 1886”

Here’s a poor photo of one diassembled. The case, rubber gasket, and the removable base with primer.


Here is some more information on what was called by Frankford Arsenal the “Cal. 45 Rifle Cartridge, Morse Pattern 1886”.

This shows the breakdown of the components. I’m sorry for the bad quality, but it is a scan of a bad Xerox copy. It is from “Cartridges for the Springfield Trap-Door Rifles and Carbines, 1865-1898” by Walter P. Reuland.

Here is a drawing and information from “Cartridges” by Herschel C. Logan.

Thank you all for the information. What a great education.


Here are a couple of pictures of the other Morse cartridges that John S discussed; the only similarity between these and the 1887 Morse cartridge is the use of the rubber seal. The first picture shows a couple of .54 Morse Type 1 with drawn brass cases, the one on the left with a little of the original tin plating remaining. Next is a .54 Type 2 with a steel base. Last is a .64 Morse shot cartridge

The second picture shows two .50 Confederate Morse cartridges with rolled brass cases; these have seams on the sides which appear to bave been soldered or brazed, more obvious on the one on the left as the uneven line angling towards the left from the base to the mouth of the case. The straight lines visible on the right case are cut in the surface, perhaps caused when the case was formed or the rim was flared out.