.45 Long Colt box?


What can you fellows tell me about this box? A neighbor gave it to me. It is sealed and feels full. Movie prop/phony or real thing. Note spelling errors.Thanks, JH


Another picture of the box. End view. JH


I’d say the tipoff is that it’s Frankford Arsenal, not Frankfurt (that’s in Germany). Another issue is the .45 Long Colt caliber styling. It’s properly .45 Colt. The “Manufactured for exclusive use…” is just plain hokey.

I don’t know what it is, but it is most likely not authentic, probably made up by some individual for an unknown purpose. Not at all difficult to do, as I have made up many similar “old timey” - looking boxes for my reloads back when I did Cowboy Action shooting.


I’ve seen pictures of similar but more convincingly-executed prop boxes of .45 Government rifle ammunition in the Frasca and Hill book on the trapdoor Springfield. The fact yours has the heft of an actual box of cartridges perhaps suggests a different origin. Jack


Cowboy Action, without a doubt. I don’t know why they would choose to misspell Frankford or use an incorrect cartridge designation and Wells Fargo & Co. moniker unless they thought someone would glom onto it and pass it off as a collectible. Most all of the cowboy and soldier reenactment boxes I have seen (and made) were very authentic looking. And that was back in the days of Xerox machines. With today’s PCs anything is possible.



I would bet on it being a fake made up for sale to gullible tourists- the same ones that throw money away on junky ld shotguns with fake Wells Fargo markings, etc.
I would not be surprised if the contents are not even .45 Colt cartridges, but it would be interesting to see the headstamps. That may help with a “no earlier than” date.


I have no idea who made this cartridge box but just want to point out that there was an american Frankfort Arsenal in Kentucky. During the civil war they made .69 Musket (Round Ball) and .577 Enfield/.58 Rifle-Musket cartridges.


With the spelling errors and punctuation errors, beyond using the German city name of Frankfurt, I find it hard
to believe that this thing was made up by any commercial enterprise. Looks like the work of a somewhat illiterate

I also doubt it was made up for use at SASS (Cowboy Action Shooting) matches. Not with a confusing quantity of 18. SASS stages usually Have ten pistol and ten rifle shots on the stage. The rifle can vary, and sometimes a stage may specifiy only one handgun (five shots). Sometimes a stage may be written that includes a reload of one or two rounds in either a pistol or a rifle (most shooters, not all, use the same caliber in both rifle and pistols), which would usually make the stage more than 20 rounds of the basic pistol/rifle caliber. I just don’t see a guy bringing a bunch of 18-round boxes to a match. Not impossible that a stage might have ten pistol and eight rifle, but it is not the general amount fired.

Just my opinion but one based on 15 years of CAS.



The number of cartridges in the box would really having nothing to do with the actual course of fire. In my experience, the boxes were made for show only, not to carry the actual ammunition used by the re-enactor. The ones that I made for Indian War re-enactments contained only dummy cartridges to give the weight and feel of the real thing. The boxes were not even intended to be opened since that would destroy any value that they had to the re-enactor.

As far as making them 100% authentic, re-enactors were not cartridge collectors and could not have cared less if the boxes ended up in some yahoo’s hands who sold them as real. We were interested in re-enactments, not trying to protect some fool from buying our equipments and accoutrements at some later date.



Ray, With all due respect, reenactments have little to do with cowboy shooting. We don’t “display” things at
matches - we shoot them. We have at least two guys in our club that have some of the nicely made old fashioned boxes that are sold, and use them. I have one - I forget which caliber - that was left empty on the range after a match, and after offering it back to the owner at several match pre-shooting safety meetings, no one claimed it so I kept it just to put on my shelf. Some other guys load directly from the commercial modern boxes if they don’t reload and shoot factory or commercial reloads.

I actually discourage the wearing of dummy cartridges in belts, because of the chance of a mixup on any stage that requires a reload from the belt. I also try to encourage the shooters to brings only the correct number of cartridges to the loading table, although I don’t know of any SASS rule that outlaws bringing your cartridge boxes over, so we don’t prohibit it. It does make it easier though to load the wrong number of cartridges in a rifle, especially if the gun holds more than ten, or the stage requires less than ten. A loaded round left in a rifle can, under certain circumstances, result in a match disqualification.

I just don’t see any use at all for an 18-round cartridge box in the SASS situation. Again, reenacting I know little about, and the box in question could well have been made for that. For SASS or other CAS? Little chance.
I was only talling about CAS in my answer.


I think there’s general agreement that the box as shown is a fabrication. A couple of other considerations: Most period boxes would have been half-cover, this one looks to be full-cover. Also, even if it were made at Frankford Arsenal, why would a government arsenal make anything for WF&Co? In any event, the early Frankford .45 boxes (at least those I have seen) held 12 rounds, not 18. Unless someone has first-hand knowledge about a similar box, it’s unlikely its source or purpose will ever be known.


Ray, With all due respect, reenactments have little to do with cowboy shooting. We don’t “display” things at
matches - we shoot them

I guess we are talking about two different things. I’m referring to SASS and the big get-togethers where all the participants are dressed in period garb, are known by monikers, the ladies show off their fineries, and everyone shoots. Until recently, the annual meet in Phoenix even included riding and shooting from horseback but the do-gooders put an end to that particular phase which was always exciting to participate in, and to watch.

You must be referring to straight matches consisting of shooting only. I agree that the fake boxes would have little use there.


You are right that we’ll never know for certain. But I can almost guaran-damn-tee you that it’s a box made for re-enactments and/or display. I have seen and made enough of them, and it sure looks like a duck, to me. Nothing whatsoever to do with Frankford Arsenal or W. F. & Co.



There are also various “Living History” groups that could display something like this, and there is no shooting involved. They are seen at County fairs and local festivals. We have an annual event where I am right now that attracts such groups from all over the country, and they all have frontier-period items on display, some authentic and some replicated.


The reveal: Box contained 16 (not 18) rounds of live ammunition. 10 rounds of .45 Colt, and 6 rounds of .44 Magnum. Both factory and reloads. Thanks for the input guys! JH


To paraphrase MacHeath,

" . . .Oh, those cartridges are there just for the weight, dear. . ."


Fede: There was an arsenal in or near Frankfort, Kentucky, but to call it “Frankfort Arsenal” invites confusion and it appears that its preferred identification is Kentucky State Arsenal at Frankfort. The Library of Congress (the national library of the U.S.) seems not to have assigned what it regards as the proper form of nomenclature for this structure but what I have given in the previous seems to be the accepted form. Frankford Arsenal in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was named for Frankford Creek on the outskirts of Philadelphia. Jack


I didn’t mean to invite confusion but to comment that some small arm ammunition was fabricated at the “State Arsenal in Frankfort” (that’s the way in use at the Kentucky Military History Museum).


Fede: The name problem is an inherent one in a country where so many place names were repeated again and again by settlers recalling earlier places they’d lived (on both sides of the Atlantic) and in this case it seems like almost as many people call Frankford Arsenal (in Philadelphia) “Frankfort Arsenal” as by its correct name. I suppose “Watervliet Arsenal” is hard to spell, but at least it’s unique! Jack