.50 Cadet cartridge

A friend has found a couple of 1.32" bar primed .50 cases, along with a number of bar primed .50-70s (1.75"), while metal detecting in Wyoming. I believe these are .50-45 cases for the Cadet rifle, as the .50-55 carbine cartridge used the same case as the .50-70 rifle. If the short cases he found are actually Cadet cartridges, why would they be found out West. I suppose they could have been sold as surplus, meaning they could have been fired by anyone, but as I understand, the Cadet rifles were made for use by the cadets at West Point. Is there any record of the Cadet rifle being used in the field, or perhaps the Cadet cartridge being issued to troops in the field?


As an old metal detector, let me say one word. Location, location, location. Exactly where the cases were found will tell you more than anything else.

My guess is that they were surplus cartridges sold by the likes of Stokes-Kirk or Bannerman and shot in an equally surplus rifle, carbine or cadet rifle. But, that’s only a first-blush SWAG.


The one on the left I’ve had as a .50-55 Carbine bar primed. From readin’ up on this thread, I need to change this to a .50-45 Cadet. So there are the .50-45-400 Cadet, .50-55-430 Carbine, 50-70-450 Rifle? (Picture lacks the Carbine).

Were these Cadet loadings a product of FA? Were there ever commercial loads in that case length?

I have always loved the dug items with some story to tell. Little time capsules.


The cartridge on the left side in your picture does appear to be one of the .50-45-400 Cadet cartridges. The cases for these range from 1.250" to around 1.332". The most comprehensive source of information I have on these is Richard A. Hosmer’s The .58 and .50-Caliber Rifles & Carbines of The Springfield Armory 1865-1872. According to him, the .50 Cadet cartridge was intended to be used in the 1867 Navy Cadet rifle made by Remington, which used their rolling block action. This rifle had a short chamber which would not chamber the .50-70 case. It was intended for use by the Navy cadets at Annapolis (and not the West Point cadets as I stated in my original post). The .50-55-430 Carbine cartridge used the same 1.75" case as the .50-70 cartridge, with the empty space in the case filled by card wads seated just under the bullet. It was used in the Model 1870 Springfield, Remington, and Sharps Carbines, the Model 1871 Ward-Burton carbine, as well as in the Models 1867 (aka 1866) and 1869 Cadet rifles. Therefore, this cartridge should actually be called the .50-55 Carbine and Cadet. These 1867 and 1869 Cadet rifles were scaled down Springfield ‘Trapdoor’ rifles, and were the rifles used by the West Point cadets.

The copper cased bar primed and Benet primed .50 Cadet cartridges were made at Frankford Arsenal. The .50 Cadet length cartridge was produced commercially by at least two companies, these being Winchester and UMC. However, they referred to these as .50 carbine cartridges, and they were headstamped as such. I have a .50 Cadet length external primed cartridge with a brass case with rounded head that I believe was made by Remington.

This seems relatively straight forward, so I’ll introduce some confusion. Charles H. Yust published an article in one of the early Gun Digests (the exact year I don’t know) which was included in The Cartridge Collectors Notebook, edited by Stephen L. Fuller. Yust states that the .50 Cadet is one of the names given to the .50 Carbine cartridge, which was intended for use in the Sharps and Remington carbines and the Remington Cadet rifle. He differentiates this .50 Carbine cartridge (.50-45) from the longer version .50-55 Carbine cartridge by saying that “these rounds … should not be confused with the 50/55/450 carbine cartridge of 1872, which used the 50-70-1 3/4” case, but with a 55-gr. powder charge". So, if Yust is correct and it was the short .50-45 Carbine cartridge that was originally intended for the Sharps and Remington Carbines, this would answer my original question about why the short .50 cases would be found out West.


Thanks for the very detailed information. All very interesting stuff…