Billinghurst-Requa Cartridge


I recently had occasion to put on a Civil War-related presentation to a historical group. In the process of research, I ran across several references to the Billinghurst-Requa volley gun. I have long been aware of this gun, but never seriously investigated it. I was somewhat surprised to find that 55 of these guns were ordered by the Union Army, and there was some deployment of them at both Cold Harbor and Petersburg during the Civil War. I saw the B-R caliber given variously as .56 and .52. Which is correct I do not know (maybe both are). Does anyone have more information about the cartridge(s) and who made them? In the same vein, does anyone know similar information about cartridges for the Vandenburgh volley gun of the same period?


Hello DennisK,
Take a look at
This is a on-line publication of Chin’s "The Machine Gun"
Both the Billinghurst Requa and Vandenburg guns are listed there (great set of books).
As to who manufactured the cartridges, maybe on of our more educated readers can help out.

These are the dimensions I have for the .56 Billinghurst Requa 1861:
Rim Diameter: 0.743" 18.9mm
Base Diameter: 0.580" 14.7mm
Neck Diameter: 0.580" 14.7mm
Bullet Diameter: 0.545" 13.8mm
Case Length: 2.035" 51.7mm

All the best,



I have an original hard copy Chinn set. I did not know it was now available on the internet, and is therefore much easier to use.

Perhaps the most comprehensive discussion of the B-R of the many I discovered was at It differs in many respects from Chinn’s treatment, as it indicates that the caliber was .52, and also suggests that the cartridges may have been manufactured by the gun’s inventor. Chinn states that the cartridges were made of steel, and were loaded prior to use with loose powder and a patched ball. However, I found several pictures showing a conventional cartridge alleged to be for the B-R volley gun, seeming to have a brass case, and a conical bullet, that appears to be factory-loaded. Therein lies my confusion - were there several variations and calibers of B-R cartridges, and if so, what were they and who made them? I’ve never seen such a cartridge(s), but they surely must exist as they have been pictured.


In Dean Thomas’ “Round Ball to Rimfire Part 3” he discuss the Billinghurst gun and cartridges. He states " our only clue to the actual manufacture of the cases comes from The Daily Union & Advertiser article of August 26, 1862, that the ‘the cartridges’ were being made at Troy (New York)". He also says the skin cartridge used in these cases were probably fro D.C. Sage.



I forgot I had Herschel Logan’s 1948 book, “Cartridges.” The B-R cartridge is shown on Page 38, described as the “.56 B-R Mitrailleuse.” Logan states the cartridge has a brass case (2" long) and a conical bullet. Aside from that, little other helpful information is provided. From the drawing, it appears likely to have been a factory-made item that could have been pre-loaded with bullet and powder (but it gives no clue as to who made it). No other calibers are mentioned.



Here is a Billinghurst Requa:

Thomas’ book shows the loaded case, the skin cartridge for in it and a cross sectioned case. It also contains the Patent, Patent drawing, a photo of the gun, a history of its deployment and much more. If your into Civil War cartridges I recommend the “Round Ball to Rimfire” book series.



I’ve seen variations of these but only in the rim diameter, case & bullet are the same, just a rim dimension difference.
Have one with a .723" rim and one with a .748" rim.


So is it safe to say that the .56 is the sole caliber used in the B-R gun? I don’t fully understand the need for powder in a skin pouch, unless the intent was to require the gun crew to load (or reload) fired cases in the field prior to each use of the gun. If so, having pre-measured powder charges would speed up the case reloading operation. The picture shown is essentially identical to the cartridge drawing in Logan’s book. Just how rare are these B-R cartridges? Has anyone seen original packaging (boxes or crates) for the B-R cartridges?


How about this for a maker of the cartridges:

David Smith from No. 36 Liberty Street, New York

(Also, he may have been associated with “Smith & Bradley” from another news article I read.

link to rest of document

Or it could have been made by Billinghhurst himself:


Fascinating information. I’d guess Daniel Smith and Smith & Bradley are one and the same, as both have a Liberty Street NYC address. Does anyone know more about Smith as an ammunition manufacturer/vendor? Any connection with Smith & Wesson? Note also the size is stated as '“calibre 54”, not .56.

I’d think if 20K rounds would have been ordered, the Union Army would have wanted it already loaded and ready to go into action, instead of having a bunch of soldiers sitting around loading cases. I wonder if the rounds came already fixed onto the 25 round sheet iron strips, and what the strips themselves looked like? Does anyone have such a strip?

There’s probably a great deal more to know about the B-R cartridge’s history.

Appears General Butler had something to do with the B-R gun also. He reportedly purchased 10 Gatlings out of his own pocket, also for use at Petersburg. He must have been a very progressive tactical thinker as well as being somewhat wealthy.


Just how rare are these B-R cartridges?[/quote]

They may be a little hard to find but I would not consider them rare. I not sure why. There could not have been that many guns made but the cartridges are not that uncommon. They must not have seen much action and ended up on the surplus market after the war.

It was my understanding David Smith was an agent representing B&R and also had associations with Sage. I was under the impression he was just a middle man not a manufacturer (but don’t quote me on that!).