Boxes of cartridges from shipwreck


#1

The two photos below show what remains of full boxes of cartridges that were submerged in the ocean for over 100 years. Oddly, portions of some of the boxes remain, as can be seen in the lower photo. These were boxes of 50 cartridges each, of an unknown caliber - possibly 44, and could be rimfire or centerfire. I have not seen a photo that shows clearly whether or not the cartridges have an external primer. As can be seen in the top photo, they have a round nosed lead bullet. I suspect the grooves that show on some of the bullets are the result of the bullets having been forced slightly out of the cases as the result of swelling of the powder charge.

This photo below shows the UMC ‘warranted’ statement on the sides of two of the boxes with the Union Metallic Cartridge Co signature. What firearm they were ‘made expressly for use in’ is illegible, but I can make out ‘Model New Army Revolver’. I believe Colt and Remington both produced what they called a New Model Army Revolver; I’m not sure if any other maker referred to their early revolver as a New Army. The specific wording on these boxes could possibly be used to determine what cartridge they are. Anyone have any ideas?


#2

Guy: The label seems to suggest the revolver for which these were intended was made by Smith & Wesson (see right hand end of first line of print). They look like they might be .44 S & W American for the firm’s first auto ejecting .44 revolver. That cartridge used heeled bullets, which would be consistent with the visible grooves in the bullets. Jack


#3

Jack,
I had considered that, but was there a S&W ‘New Model Army Revolver’. The wording on the right side, rather than being Smith & Wesson, could be ‘for use in & Warranted for ??? Model New Army Revolver’.


#4

Guy: I take it then there’s no easy way to get any more information on these cartridges than the pics before us. I have one more thought: if these are .44 caliber they seem, to me, proportioned more like the .44 American than the .44 Colt. But, of course, they might be rimfire, like the .46 short for the Remington converted percussion revolvers. Thanks for the chance to look at them, whatever they are. Jack


#5

If you look at the top row of words on the top box there is a capital S visible after the word ‘for’, I think this does indicate Smith.
If you look at the start of the line that contains ‘Model New’ on the lower box the letters appear to be ‘ors’ not ‘or’. Might this indicate the word ‘Horse’?


#6

If these cartridges are centerfire they will have brass cases, while UMC’s rimfires employed copper cases. To me they look brassy, but judging the actual color of metal recovered from prolonged saltwater immersion via a photographic image is no sure thing. Jack


#7

Yesterday I received two additional pictures which solve the mystery - the cartridges are .44 S&W Russian. While I don’t believe S&W referred to any of their revolvers as a New Model Army, it appears that UMC did use that reference to the Russian Model revolver on its early boxes of .44 Russian ammunition.


#8

I should have mentioned that the headstamp on the corroded cartridge is U.M.C. .44 S & W.R

Here’s one in a little better condition to compare it to:


#9

Guy: Well, that’s a mystery solved. Being headstamped these cartridges then are post-1884ish, which makes the reference to “new model army revolver” even more of a red herring. Thanks again for the pics and information. Jack


#10

Given that we now know what the cartridges are, I believe the side label says:
‘These cartridges are made expressly for use in Smith & Wesson’s .44 calibre Russian Model New Army Revolver according to their specific directions. We unhesitatingly and strongly recommend them for use in this arm.’