Cal.38 Ball U.S. Army (.38 Long Colt)

In an effort to identify the specifics of two Cal. .38 Ball U.S. Army items, I referenced HWS I and found 1900 to be very busy for changes. The examples at hand are a tinned, cannelured case headstamped “F 1 00” (at left) and an untinned, cannelured case headstamped “F 5 00” (at right). Weights are 206.4 gr. and 218.5 gr. respectively. A presumably black powder, folded head round headstamped “F 12 96” weights 223.8 gr. (not shown).

Per HWS I, folded head case design was changed to solid head in early 1900 and the change to smokeless was in “Fiscal year 1900” which I think would start July the first at the time. As well, the seating cannelure was added in late 1899 and tinning ended in early 1900. While I have heard it said that the cannelure indicates smokeless powder, the above information would seem to indicate that there may have been cannelured black power loadings in both tinned and untinned cases.

As reloading of cases had been authorized for this cartridge, the whole effort may be moot, but assuming original loadings, I am trying to determine what I can for the two 1900 dated rounds, specifically case construction and black vs. smokeless powder.

Does anyone have weights or other identifiers of known construction/powder types that might help here or is this effort a lost cause?


I can’t provide the date or circumstances, but from an army test report, I have the following .38 LC data for black powder loads:

17.85 grains Black Powder with a 150 grain bullet
10 shot average velocity: 723 ft/sec (at 25’) from a 6" barrel


If it was me, you already know what I’d do. I’d pull the bullets and see what’s inside. To me, there is nothing more useless than a cartridge when you have no idea what it is.




Thank you for that information.


Yes, I know…But if one can determine the likely contents of a cartridge using information already gathered by others (who may have sacrificed some items to do so) I figure it was worth a try to ask. Usually, I can’t justify the opening of the little time capsules we collect when I haven’t all the information others have gathered. I guess my curiosity has yet to outweigh my natural urge to preserve as best as possible the things I collect. Granted, the items here are not rare, but I don’t have multiples at hand. That being said, if I had a couple of each of those…