Birthday Cartridge

In February 2020, when the Corona virus was just getting cranked up in the northwestern U.S., I traveled to Anaheim, California, to visit with Colonel Frank Hackley, U.S. Army, Ordnance, Retired, principal author of the HWS series of the history of U.S. modern small arms ammunition. During that visit, Frank entrusted me with his reference library and many items of ordnance memorabilia he accumulated over the years to be shared with collectors worldwide. This is the first installment, to be followed by many more to come.

The dummy .50 Sharps cartridge shown is a special birthday and Christmas gift to Frank from Fred Von Gortler. Look at the photo on the top of page 500 of HWS Vol. III. Major Von Gortler is seated second in from the left. In 1968 when the photo was made, Gortler was the Commanding Officer of the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant and he and Major Frank W. Hackley, Commanding Officer of the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant, seated fourth in from the right, were good friends as would be expected. Later, after both Gortler and Hackley had retired from the army and Hackley was working at Aerojet, he hired Gortler. Then later, Gortler worked for Jim Bell at MAST and moved with Bell to Boulder City, Nevada, where he worked for the new company, Eldorado, which had a custom shop. To celebrate his friend’s birthday, Gortler made a handful (six pieces) of special headstamped .50 Sharps cases and just one complete dummy round.

In his birthday note (date unknown) to Hackley, Gortler said " From the desk of Fred Von Gortler III. Frank, Here’s your B-day & X-mas present -! There are one good ctg & 2 good cases - all others are set-up parts. These are the only ones in the world. Fred"

The cases that are set-up parts are obvious because of their un-trimmed, thick rims, partial primer pocket flash hole (started, but not all the way through), and blind pocket with no flash hole even started. An interesting group, especially now that I have the full story. Making a special headstamp bunter, or bunting peg, is a big deal (and expensive), especially for just a few pieces, in this case fewer than 10. Gortler obviously thought very highly of Frank, which is not surprising. The headstamp, “F.W. Hackley 2-7-30,” is Frank’s birthday, 2 July 1930.


great story ( and cartridge)


Many happy returns!!! Right after Canada Day and right before Independence Day, easy to remember.

That is really neat.

Mel, very interesting story and cartridge, thanks.

What is the case length?



Eldorado Custom Shop .50 Sharps with Hackley headstamp
OAL: 3.9
CL: 3.28
Rim: 0.6715
Head: .5630
Mouth: 0.5305
Bullet: 0.5065

Mel, thanks you very much. Measurements indicate this is an untrimmed and unformed case, like those offered to the public with a regular “Eldorado” headstamp.

To give an idea of the timeframe when it must have been made, I can add that they moved to Boulder City during March 1989. The “.50 Sharps. 3 1-4-inch Base” was offered for the first time in the 1990 catalog and last listed in the 1993 edition.



Fede, would this one have been made after the move also?
Unfinished but 3.261 C/L. Thanks,

ELDORADO 1989 50 3.261

1 Like

Neat HS Dan
Here is another & perhaps the later 3 1/4" finished case.
eldorado 50 sharps

1 Like

OK, looks like we’re going to squeeze out every last bit of information about these cases. Here’s a pic of the three case variations, which I’m sure are just different stages of manufacture. The case lengths, starting at the top, are 3.277, 3.278, and 3.276 inches. The top case has a rim 0.0965 inch thick, the middle rim is 0.0645, and the bottom one is 0.0685 inch. The top case has a blind primer pocket, the middle one has a flash hole just started, and the bottom one has a completed pocket with full flash hole. I white-filled the top headstamp to make it easier to read; it didn’t come that way.

Below the cases are the labels on the bottom of the 2-piece, black-plastic, 20-round case and an extra bullet Gortler threw in. It has a diameter of 0.5075 and weighs 401 grains. The roundnose bullet in the complete dummy round weighs about 494 grains.

1 Like

Thanks Mel, Nice set!