50-70 Proof Loads


Were Cal. .50 rifle cartridges (50-70) proof load cartridges manufactured in that caliber during or after military usage time frame?
@ 1870- @ 1900
If yes, how were they marked or denoted IE; dark case or dark headstamp etc ?
Any information on this or other proof loads from that time frame would be appreciated.
Early large caliber Rimfire proof loads?


Can’t say I’ve ever seen a specifically labeled .50-70 proof from that era. Not that I’ve seen everything.

I’m not sure guns were proofed, as we now know it, at that time. Smokeless powder (ca. 1888) and re-loaders having now extra space in the case created high pressures while with most B.P. cases you filled the case up & tucked in the bullet. Sometimes the B.P. was even compressed (Mk I Powder .303"). Some firearms were proofed but that was done by the maker in-house and the ammunition most likely was made as needed, here in the US. In Britain the Gun Barrel Proof act was enacted in 1868. This act gave specific loads for different case types and the makers sent the barrel and action to the proof house for proof and the Guardians manufactured ammunition using commercially available components to the needed specs. Sometimes breaking down factory loads and re-loading to the required specifics. Those were usually marked with a color stripe on / across the head or sometimes on the body.

And the only “thought to be” military proof from that time I’m aware of was the .45 Lengthened Chamber aka .45-80 2.4" Sharpshooter which used a heavier bullet. (see Hackley, Vol.1 rev. pg 200)

Blackened cases from the US were dummies but were also proof depending on the time and the company generating them.

Large caliber rimfires in Europe used a heavier bullet in the case-types I’m aware of to create proof.

Anyhow hope this is of help & use.


I forgot to mention that other than re-loaders being a factor for needing proof, were new kinds of steel and most importantly the different pressure curves between black and smokeless powder.


Pictures below are the 4 dark cartridges cases I have.
I am wondering about the dark cases and what that signifies or denotes if anything.

  1. 56-50 Spencer (no headstamp). No marks on rim face at all. Very flat smooth surface.

Three Cal. 50 Rifle Cartridges ( 50-70)
2. IP Benet pr. Steel Anvil - Frankford Arsenal?
3. Centerfire
4. Centerfire - Farrington pr?
Who manufactured 3 & 4?



In black powder times, steel quality was not what we know today. Proof in the sense of a high pressure test was usually done at a very early stage in barrel manufacture. Even as late as the 1920s, around 0.1 to 0.5 percent of raw shotgun barrels blew up in this test called Vorbeschuss (provisional proof). This way, investing a lot of work in completing specimens which would not survive definitive proof was avoided.
German military M/71 raw barrels, still unrifled, were closed with a provisional base plug and loaded in the fashion of a muzzle loader with a double charge of black powder (10 g/154 gr versus 5g) and a lead slug of 44.1 g (681 gr; 1.76 times the ordinary bullet mass). After this, no additional high pressue test of the completed rifle was done.
This type of procedure could explain why no black powder proof cartridges for rifles seem to be known.


Krag rifles were proofed as described by Jochem, wherin a cartridge smaller than the standard Krag round would be used to proof the unfinished barrel. If the barrel passed proof, it was then final finished.



I would suggest your examples are not factory darkened but darkened by time and storage conditions. But I may be wrong (1st time this last ten minutes).

Does the color go down into the fold evenly where the rim meets the side of the case? Almost looks like two different case makers on the two to the right ?

The primer on the far right example doesn’t look right,

Spencers & the .50-70’s were made well after your time frame noted in the first post, up into the 1920’s for Spencers. But not the Benet primed 50-70, so ?


Color goes down to the fold evenly where the rim meets the side of case.
I have no answers - only questions on this one.
Entirely possible that time and storage darkened the cases.


Another thought that perhaps someone was fooling around with a home gun-blueing kit?

The Remington blackened proofs I’ve seen are more of a matte or dull black and of a more solid black.
This looks somewhat similar to what Olin is currently doing being sort of thin brown-black. But that yellow tinge may be due to your light source.


Pete deCoux is right the color of those rounds is from storage I do have some myself looking the same allow
me to relate what can happen over these discolorations.I recently picket up a 45 stamped EC42 the cartridge
was in top condition but almost black the offer was cheep my first thought was funny looking steel case than
by accident I punched into the Forum post concerning these 45 from the Evansville plant and in particular the
discussion regarding the EC42 round in BRASS and remembering the bitter complain from FEDE not being
able to find one well suddenly something clicked I got a hold of that round and it turned out the discoloration
was not steel it was Brass needless to say my joy was tremendous for 0,50 cents.


Of course in the case of the Krag it begs the question of proofing the completed rifle, most particularly the bolt and receiver, which were also subject to metallurgical shortcomings. It’s pretty certain, I think, that by the time of the '03 rifle, proofing of the rifle rather than the barrel alone was standard. Maybe Springfield had more faith in their actions than their barrels pre-1900. Jack