Headstamp, a philosophical/historical question


#1

The headstamp, the engraved one, how did it come about? Let me expand a bit. If I were an early manufacturer, I’d not engrave information, I’d WRITE it in ink or paint. Later I’d stensil/paint stamp mechanically for mass production. Who came up with bunter engraving, it must be way more complicated/expensive than ink/paint. I probably asked this question before, but could not master the search. Plus, repetition is a mother of learning, or something like that.


General bunter question
#2

Vlad

Those are pretty big words for a Sunday morning. ;-)

Early manufacturers didn’t see a great need to mark their territory and you’ll find most of the old copper cases with no headstamp or head marking of any kind. With the proliferation of new cartridges during the middle of the 19th Century, it was probably good business to mark both the cases and the boxes they came in, and I’d venture to say that impressed headstamps were probably cheaper than applying them with paint or ink. Especially so when solid head brass cases became the standard.

And, there’s a secondary benefit to impressed headstamps on brass cases. It makes the case head harder and stronger.

Ray


#3

[quote=“RayMeketa”]Vlad

And, there’s a secondary benefit to impressed headstamps on brass cases. It makes the case head harder and stronger.

Ray[/quote]

How that?


#4

[quote=“EOD”][quote=“RayMeketa”]Vlad

And, there’s a secondary benefit to impressed headstamps on brass cases. It makes the case head harder and stronger.

Ray[/quote]

How that?[/quote]

Work hardening


#5

Brass hardens when it’s worked. The more characters there are in a headstamp, the harder the head will become after being struck with the heading bunter.

That’s also why a brass case will harden with use. Pounding it with 50,000 psi when it’s fired, and then resizing it back to it’s original dimensions, hardens the entire case, until it eventually becomes unusable.


#6

That I know, during production the hs is not “made” by forcing it into the case but formed around the raised bunter sections. So the process does not compare.


#7

Each step of the case forming process hardens the brass to some extent. The unfinished case is annealed several times during the process to soften it for the next steps. As it nears its final shape, the annealing is concentrated on the shoulder/neck area which results in the “colors” that you see on finished cases.

The headstamp bunter does harden the case head. One reason that most headstamps are evenly spaced around the case head is to help ensure an even hardness. Tests where maximum head hardness was important used cases with a bunter with a large number of characters, such as a Match headstamp. This is all documented.


#8

What were the first U.S. cartridges with headstamps?

My guess would be .56-56 Spencers made during the Civil War by several suppliers including Sage Ammunition Works and C.D. Leet?

How about on .22 rimfires?

Centerfire cases- no ides?


#9

The really odd thing about the use–and more particularly, the non-use–of headstamps in the United States is that it took so long for this practice to take hold here. From virtually the outset European manufacturers of pinfires, rimfires, and eventually centerfires made use of headstamps to call attention to the maker. Odd that American makers, coming from a culture that was never opposed to blowing one’s own horn–should generally overlook this commercial opportunity for so long. Jack


#10

John: I believe the earliest general and consistent use of headstamping on centerfire cartridges was by Frankford Arsenal on its rifle ammunition from 1877 (or '78) onward. Jack


#11

Not counting the 1873, 45-55-405 Cal .45 carbine ammunition with the raised U S CARBINE headstamp, the first Frankford Arsenal headstamp was R F 3 77. The first headstamp to include the cartridge designation was made by U.M.C. in 1878 - R B 45 70. All 3 are collectable.


#12

Ray, I’m sure that in your reference to UMC, you mean 1878, not 1978. Correct? No criticism by the way, since as we all know, I am famous for typo errors on the first go around of my answers on the forum!


#13

[quote=“RayMeketa”]
The headstamp bunter does harden the case head. One reason that most headstamps are evenly spaced around the case head is to help ensure an even hardness. Tests where maximum head hardness was important used cases with a bunter with a large number of characters, such as a Match headstamp. This is all documented.[/quote]

Ray, can you recommend a document to study?


#14

John - You caught me. Correction made.

EOD - I’ll try to find one. I believe one of the reports on the development of a proposed cartridge case for some special purpose was where I saw it most recently. I’ll do some searching.

Ray


#15

Hi Vlad
I think the reason for the why of headstamping vs writing the information might well be the material and ease [COST] of production.

Copper and brass are mechanically relatively easy to stamp / mark during the forming of the cases. Just one extra step, or perhaps as part of a step, as part of the production of thousands of cases from a days (or less) production. Were you to hire someone, or a number of someones, to write you would increase costs. Even back when labor was (relatively) cheap, every cost added to the bottom line just as it does today.

Virtually all ‘modern’ production of drawn metal was done on a press. Some of the earliest US boxes have a Sept. 7, 1852 patent date (#9256 by L. C. White of Meridan CT.) & this predates the important April 17, 1860 Smith & Wesson patent. This early patent was a basic patent covering the drawing of a sheet (brass) metal disc into a cup. Mr. White was in the business of making finials for lamps. UMC & others who used his cupping process noted it on their product.

The raised headstamp is another matter, as I understand it, two dies need to be used instead of just the one needed for an impressed headstamp.

On shot gun shells, those using a paper body which could easily be printed before it was wound and trimmed too fit into the head, that was the easiest & cheapest method of marking the product, even though the brass head was still stamped. If you look at early printed shells you often see the printing move in relation to the head or mouth sometimes even with in the same box. I’m talking about comparing the same shell & noting this print move as different in placement to an otherwise identical shell.

Factories only used handwritten labeling on small production quantity lots, where it was cheaper to have someone write a few hundred labels than have it typeset & printed.

As to dates, Eley made a 12 bore pin fire with a raised headstamp & dated it “1861”, as part of the headstamp.


#16

All right, let me ask differently. Why 20x102mm Vulcan ammo is almost exclusively without a headstamp and usually the cartridge body/projectile carries painted information? Why no headstamp? Economical savings or something else? This is in the middle of the Cold War with millions and billions being tossed around into every imaginable (or not) weapon.


#17

Vlad, there are also headstamped 20x102, just few. It seems it was a manufacturer decision not to follow US specs for making this caliber.


#18

Some new manufacturing of plastic-bodied shot gun shells often employs a rubber stamp which rolls the load data, brand & such across the body when the shell is being loaded.

The 20x102 is somewhat of the same nature. 1st, theoretically everyone who is going to use it knows it’s a 20x102. However where as a 16 bore shot gun shell is liable to be picked up by some fool & put into his 12 bore gun, so the shell is headstamped to avoid just such a problem & the lawsuit which may follow.

On the 20mm the loading is important, & the case is not quite so, so the bullet is marked with the load by an ID color & often with data (very probably rolled on in the same manner as the plastic shot shell or by a silk screen process) as more information and further clarification. The rotating band is also often stamped when manufactured, as might the projectile body, to provide data for the end user so he/she doesn’t load practice ball into an aircraft when HEIT rounds are needed.

So end use decides what is needed. However cost & perhaps a contract is always paramount in a manufacturers mind.


#19

Pete: Strictly speaking, it’s the 20 gage shell that’s a no-no in a twelve. Jack