Cartridges lost to posterity

Are there some examples of firearms cartridges, which it is reasonably sure that they actually existed, but for which examples have never been found, and they are therefore “lost to posterity”?

Sort of like those old silent movies on nitrocellulose stock that disintegrated? I’d guess there may be some wildcats and experimental cartridges in that category, but I doubt that there are many, if any, metallic cartridges or shotshells that were manufactured commercially or for the military that are extinct, with no remaining specimens in any form or condition. Some of the early paper cartridges may well have vanished.

Back to movies - I’ve read that something over 90% of the silent movies ever made have completely vanished. And even some more modern ones, or parts of more modern ones. Some sound films released were later edited for television or for other reasons, and the edited-out parts have vanished - like scenes from the original King Kong. But it’s not unusual for films that were thought to have been extinct to show up in odd parts of the world. That’s probably true for cartridges also.

1941 Cal .30 National Match.


Any Idea of how many were made?


.476 Mark I

One lot manufactured and sent to India. No known surviving examples AFAIK.


You will find a lot of these such cartridges in the form of patents for which there appear to be no production examples of. It is a fair bet in most cases however, that the inventor would have made up some limited number of them to test the theory. One good example would be from a famous person like Georg Luger with his duplex pistol bullet:

And there’s this one from Henry Nowlan (similar to a Rice patent bullet) which I don’t know to exist on any production level:

Steve - HWS II has the numbers.


Patents are a rich source for things that went no further than the desk of a patent attorney and the ever fertile mind of the inventor. This one came from issue 160 of the French Gazette des Armes, from an article on the inventions of Louis Debuit.

Given the complexity of the design, (why the rebated rim?) and the mechanics involved in making the thing work correctly, was this cartridge ever made? Is so, are there still any in existence?

Happy collecting, Peter

I disagree with you Peter.
At least for old patents (older than 1914) the ctges were manufactured.

We perhaps have not found them but they exist.

From time to time we find strange unknown ctges, and after checking the litterature we find the patent describing them.
Or sometimes we don’t find the ctge but we find the gun.

A patent (at least a french one) in the old times was not two sheets but 10 to 15 !
And it costed money to deposit a patent.
Therfore in the old time people didn’t use to deposit patents for nothing.

The list of unreported cartridges that actually existed in huge, unmeasurable and relative.

For example, every US Patent presentation until 1880 demanded an actual sample of the invention, and then declared non mandatory due to lack of space (models were still received until 1907). Most of these patent cartridges are unknown.

Searching for documented but non-reported cartridges is one of the best things in cartridge collecting.

Peter, a sample of the rifle for the Debuit sound supressed cartridge actually exist and a cartridge replica made from the rifle’s chamber looks exactly like the patent drawing (except for projectile bushing).

.458x1 1/2" Barnes


A good example of where the cartridges exist but not the weapon is the 7.65 x 38 Swiss Experimental.

I am told that some railway wagons dating from during the WW2 era were forgotten in some sidings in Switzerland and then opened in around 1950. One wagon contained the bullets for this cartridge, the other had the primed cases. This cartridge is easily available to collectors, but as far as I know, the gun that it was intended for has never been discovered.

Falcon, many cartridges existed only as development models and have been fired from test barrels only without ever a weapon being made for it.

I was once told by a collector that there were eight (?) lots of NAZI 8x57 that were produced and shipped to the Eastern Front where they were consumed leaving no known live examples. I guess this would be to say that live ammo bearing a certain headstamps from these lots is unknown and I would assume there are Nazi records that say the stuff was produced. This is just gun show gossip to me, I have never read anything like it.

DK, The George Luger duplex in 9mm Luger does exist, at least a single round. It, and one of the two Luger pistol delivered to Springfield Arsenal for testing were in a collection in Ohio (Luger gun collection) about 30 years ago. I was lucky enough to get a copy of the firing reports at Springfield, but of course not the cartridge. The Luger collector had found the set, gun, single cartridge and original paperwork. There was also apparently a projectile since White & Munhall preportedly drew their illustration of the bullet from an actual specimen. i wound up with their bullet collection and it wasn’t there but much of their stuff, including specimens and books had walked off (actually they gave some away I’m told) long before the material was sold off. The bullet for the DWM 487C load (boattail 9mm bullet for experimental Mauser pistol) was in the material I got from W&M.

The cartridge looks like a truncated bullet 9mm Para round with a commercial DWM headstamp with serifs, but the bullet weight is about 12gr heavier than the standard bullet so the overall weight of the cartridge will be about 12gr high. There are likely examples of this load lying in collections or junk boxes or wherever! The problem is unless you know what it is, or weigh it, you would never notice it.

So go out and weigh all your old DWM 9mmP and see if you have a treasure!



I would not be surprised if there were quite a few German (and others) headstamps that were entirely consumed during war time. Is there a list of suspected German lot numbers that no specimens are known?


No doubt, it is far more likely that some headstamps are extinct (or at least unknown to exist), but that is a bit different question than how many cartridges are extinct (in any caliber, regardless of headstamp or manufacturer).

Not really, a Dinosaur is still a Dinosaur, just different species, and all extinct.