50-70 Govt.?

Last one for now, measurements never seem exact but is this 50-70 Govt?

Bullet dia. at the case mouth is 0.512.

Neck dia. is .538

Base dia. is 0.560.

Rim dia. is 0.646

Rim thickness is 0.053

Case length is 1.715

Cart. OAL is 2.268




Yes that’s a plain vanilla 50-70 Govt. You’ll find minor variations in dimensions for all of those old cartridges. Go to the Old Ammo Guy’s site and you can probably ID the particular brand based on the case. Or maybe he will chime in and tell you what it is.


I’m about as confused as anyone else regarding most of these unheadstamped cartridges. If I were to guess, I might say United State Cartridge Co based on the rounded head out towards the rim. I’d expect to see one of the characteristic concave copper Farrington primers on this, but at some point, I believe the Farrington primer evolved into a regular looking rounded primer cup, making it impossible to distinguish from other primers from the outside.

Think E. Remington is maker.

Its always a big help when a Remington case has one of those beautiful raised headstamps, but lacking this, I would expect a Remington case to have more of a beveled rim. Do you base your identification on the thicker rim or what?

rounded head and lack of a Farrington primer. Nothing concrete just looked E. Rem.

Guy and/or Pete

So what do I have? A bad primer punch??


I suspect you are just putting me on, but, on the slim possibility that you are serious, I’ll bite. Yours appears to have a Farrington primer, in which case it would have been made by the US Cartridge Co. The early Farrington primers are usually concave, often having the appearance of a glob of copper colored putty that someone has smeared into the primer pocket with the tip of their finger, and sometimes having a little raised off-center blister, similar to the one on yours. I don’t recall seeing a ‘blistered’ Farrington primer that had a convex shape as yours does.

Ray, what period did they use vanilla powder in the 50-70? What is the diameter of your primer with the bump? In all my verified Farrington primed cases the primer is bigger than .210.



I kid you not. I take my primers very seriously.;) That’s why I posed the question.

I’ve had this cartridge for years and always wondered what the primer is. I’d characterize it as flat with rounded edges and the “blister” of copper. You can probably see that there is also a circular blemish. It makes me wonder if it’s nothing more than a bad priming punch.

It does look very much like the one on your web site.


It’s hard to measure a primer diameter with round edges but I’d say it’s the standard .210". Maybe a blonde hair bigger, but not much.


I just removed a Farrington primer from an empty case; it measures .211". The primer itself is interesting, having an inner cup that is slipped into the outer cup. I have not disassembled it, but would assume the inner cup acts as the anvil, and only the priming is sandwiched beween the two cups.

Bob Taylor informed me in an e-mail that he recalls that the loading instructions in the 1881 US Cartridge Co catalog say that the primer is supposed to be ‘driven’ into the pocket. It is his opinion that this is what caused the primers to look like they do, with the concave outer cup. Makes sense to me. The primer pocket of this case definately shows an impression around the edge just slightly above the bottom of the pocket resulting from the primer having been put in place with a good amount of force. Checking the primer pocket with my caliper revealed that it tapers from about .210" at the top to about .205" at the bottom.


I now think my 50-70 is nothing more than a Farrington that isn’t quite as concave as most. I got out a 45-60 Wesson for comparison and as you can see in the photo it is virtually identical to the 50-70 except that it is very clearly concave. Even the “blisters” are the same shape.

Not a good photo. I had to take it without a flash and the hands could have been a little steadier. Maybe I’ll take another tomorrow in the sun.

What do you think??


Your picture is good enough to make your point - the primers do look remarkably similar. Perhaps they weren’t hammered in enough to attain the concave shape.

Looking at how the primer is constructed, with the sides of the inner cup slipping inside the copper outer cup, resulting in the assembled primer looking like a short cylinder or can. If it was the standard practice to drive the primer into the pocket, I think it is this construction that allows this to be done without much concern about ignition, since the sides of the inner and outer cups result in a double thick wall that would be supported by the sides of the pocket, providing the support needed to keep the primer from compressing to the point of igniting.


The big question (to me) is, what is the blister and what is its purpose, if any??


Ray & Guy–Here are the pages from the 1881 U.S.C.Co. catalog on reloading. The reason for the convex dimple in Farrington primers is explained by the last sentence of the 1st page.

The Lee Loader ca. 1881. The Lee had a priming punch as part of a base unit. You put the case and primer on the base and then hit it with a hammer. It wasn’t a lot of fun when a primer would pop off. A pucker-factor of close to 10. I imagine it was the same in 1881.

Thanks Ron.


Ray–Yah, I used a Lee Reloading set for .45 Colt. About 1 in 10 of the primers would go off. Of course, the only damage was the ears. I soon learned to use shooting muffs when I was repriming a batch of .45’s.

I took the Farrington primer apart (quite a difficult task) and found nothing internally that would require or cause the blister. The priming compound fills the inner cup level with the ‘rim’ of the cup. Perhaps the convex surface of the capping punch (part b in Ron’s directions) was made either intentionally or inadvertantly with a depression that formed the dimple as the primer was hammered into place. This picture shows the interior of the primer pocket and the priming-filled inner primer cup. Incidently, the inner cup is .180" in diameter and .078" high. The wall of the outer cup is .015" thick. The inner cup appears to be a little thicker. The bright ring visible near the bottom of the primer pocket was the level that the inner edge of the primer reached after being hammerd into position. There are two scrape marks on the side of the primer pocket visible in the picture above the shiny bottom mark that likely indicate that it took at least three blows before the primer bottomed out, after which it went no deeper with successive blows. As can also be seen in the picture, the vent hole is very much off-center.

away at the moment but George Blakesley (SP?) wrote a nice article in the Rockey Mtn. journal several years ago, about the Farrington primers & how to identify each variation/progression.
Send me an e-mail & when home (14th) I’ll send you the issue number or a copy.