Another 45-70?


In 1877 Frankford Arsenal did experimenting with reloadable cases for the 45-70, one was the Gills Removable Anvil and the other was the Berdan primer. If I’m not understanding what I’m reading how do you tell the difference between the two loaded cartridges when you don’t have the boxes. Are the primers of a different dia. between the two.


I’m not sure what the ‘Gill removeable anvil’ was, but there is a Gill primer, which was the standard primer that Frankford Arsenal Arsenal used when they changed from Benet inside-primed cases to the reloadable outside primed case. It was patented in 1879. Here’s the patent drawing:

Here’s a tin of these primers:

and the primers themselves:


here is the patent of the Gill’s Removable Anvil


Carolyn: Just to try and clarify nomenclature, are we in fact sure that the 1877 use of Gill’s removable anvil in a primer and use of the Berdan primer in fact are two separate projects and not one? I ask the question because it would be very easy in informal speech to describe the primer shown in the patent drawing as Berdan; it varies only in that the anvil isn’t attached to the case body. The year 1877 is a problem to research from materials in print, as the works on the Philadelphia Exposition cover only to 1876 and Hackley et al. begins in 1880. Jack


I think that they are two different primers


Carolyn: I was afraid you’d say that. That means there are two cartridges I need. The Berdan version then uses a primer like the big UMC Berdan, only of copper rather than brass (I think), but the Gill version may be externally identical. Jack


I agree with Jack. Looking at the 1877 patent, it appears all Gill was doing was substituting his removable anvil for the anvil that was formed in place in the primer pocket of the Bercan cartridge case, so there is no reason to suspect that he was using a different primer than the standard Berdan primer. I don’t believe he mentions the primer at all in the 1877 patent papers. In fact, he hardly mentions the anvil, as his focus seems to be primarily on the corrugations in the case wall.


Having spent several hours looking through my books and rooting out everything I could find on Gill’s anvil and the reloadable cartridges produced in March and April 1877, I’m inclined to believe that all of the R F 3 77 and R F 4 77 reloadable cartridges used Gills removeable anvil. One source that lends some credence to this is a copy of a handwritten ‘Record of Alterations and Improvements in Rifle, Carbine, and Revolver Ammunition Cal .45’ that was prepared in early 1878. It has only one entry pertaining to reloadable cartridges, as follows:

77 March 14 Manufacture of 100,000 reloading cartridges - Gills plan - begun

Another entry, pertaining to headstamped cartridges:

77 (March) 22 Commenced marking cartridge cases after heading, thus: R 3 F 77

This last entry may indicate that the first 8 days of reloadable cartridge production were not headstamped.

I also believe that all of the cartridges used a Berdan primer, probably Hobb’s improved version that was patented in 1869.