Berdan primers in early UMC cartridges (pre 1874?)


Posted at request of collector in Argentina:

Dear Sirs:
I’m member of the AACAM (Asociación Argentina Coleccionistas de Armas y Municiones - Guns and Ammunition Collectors Argentine Association). At this time, I’m working with an archeologist team in an historical site where there took place a battle in november 1874. They found a lot of head cases (the rest of the case dissapered in the ground…) with Berdan primers, with the classic UMC headstamp (concentric circle). But there are also a few ones with plain base and a Boxer primer.
My first question is: how many years UMC load his cartridges with Berdan primers. In that battle the soldiers were armed with Remington rolling block rifles in .43 Spanish caliber.

In a map of the battle dated in 1875, there is a mention about the use of Martini Henry rifles. In that case, we can think that the Boxer primed cases were for Martini Henry Rifles, but the rim diameter is small than .577/.450 MH cartridges. And the second question: may be that those Martini Henry rifles were chambered for the .45" Ball Boxer Henry Experimental cartridge (with straight case)?

Thanking you in anticipation

Alejandro Millar (AACAM Nr.243)


Mr Millar–U.M.C. loaded the .43 Spanish cartridge with no headstamp and Berdan priming right up to the merger of Remington Arms. Co. with U.M.C. in 1911. The first U.M.C. listing was 1869.


Mr. Millar: UMC made its .43 Spanish Remington Berdan-primed cartridge for decades with virtually no change, as Ron Merchant pointed out. There is, however, one feature that might help date your finds. The reinforcing cup in the base of the cartridge, intended to seal the hollow rim from combustion gasses, was changed in accordance with Jerome Orcutt’s U.S. patent 155,841 (granted 13 Oct. 1874). This patent provided for an “annular groove in [the] reinforce between cap and shell” that can be readily observed if the reinforce (reinforcing cup) can be clearly seen. This might require cutting the base off the cup, or perhaps the broken cases to which you have access will permit checking without cutting. In the Spanish Remington cartridge this cup-shaped reinforce is about a half-inch (13 m/m) in diameter and perhaps half that high. The annular groove in question runs radially around the middle of this cup. There remains the question of how early UMC actually began to use the annular groove in this caliber, but this should be of some help in your project. Good luck, Jack