Can you date this Minie ball


[img] I’m not to sure how old this cartridge is and could use a little help. The bullet measures .58 x 1.07 with three gas rings (for lack of what to call them). The powder charge is complete with no holes and sealed on the end. Thanks


I get a little jassed that I even learned how to post a picture. I forgot a question or two. What is the purpose of the premade charge and how would it be kept safe from moisture in the field? What type of rifle would this be used in and what era? Thanks


Tom -

Paper cartridges date to 1870 +/- and back. This one being a .58, it is probably from the latter end of that range and of Civil War vintage. It resembles the Chadwick loading (circa 1861) discussed in Dean Thomas’ Volume I of From Roundball to Rimfire or could also be the product of an individual in the early post war years rather than an arsenal / contractor. The typical .58 paper cartridges continue the paper over the bullet, securing the closure with thread. The color and design of the thread, along with more subtle clues, usually enable serious students of this material to identify the arsenal or contractor. This open bullet design is also seen in paper rounds intended for use in the Sharps slant breech rifles, but those have smaller bores. This was probably intended for use in one of the many .58 muzzle loaders which were the main shoulder arms of both sides in the Civil War.

The grooves are for lubricant (“grease grooves”), to ease the passage of the lead bullet and reduce bore fouling from powder residue / lead. This design criteria was carried into fixed ammunition as the technology evolved and remains today in hand cast bullets. Current commercial lead bullets often have solid shanks and very thin coats of much more advanced lubricants, in large part because this is a less expensive manufacturing design and faster to produce.

The “pre-made” charge decreases the loading time for muzzle-loading firearms. This military practice began, I believe, in the 18th Century, but quite possibly earlier (this is beyond my expertise). I do know of / have seen paper cartridges using newsprint for the bodies which date to our Revolutionary War. There are multiple advantages: the powder is pre-measured, the paper serves as the wadding over the black powder (essential in a BP arm) and it greatly reduces the steps required to load the rifle.

The paper was usually treated with one substance or another which helped the water resistance, the charges were held in cartridge boxes, typically leather ones on the soldier’s belt and troops took pains to protect these from the elements as best they could.



Thank you very much for the input Iconoclast. This will give me something to stew on while a few books come in.
There’s going to be a few more what is it’s to come, gotta learn somewere.



Check your PMs.



Don’t let the collector mentality get too firmly planted and assume that everything is old. The color of the bullet and the paper look rather recent to me. THe North-South Skirmish Association and other folks routinely shoot tens of thousands of rounds of .58 musket ammo during their annual events in national competition and around the members’ local area for practice. This has been going on for at least 50 years, so a left over round from anytime in the last few decades could look like this one. Of course, it MAY be old!


A very valid admonishment describing a mindset I have all too often.

Allow me to amend my earlier reply to add the caveat “if it is an original to the era and not a modern reproduction made for any number of possible uses . . . .”

Thanks, John!