Headstamp Help - 45-70

My sister, who pokes around in Idaho ghost towns, has found a somewhat unusual cartridge case. I do not have the actual case, so cannot supply any measurements (as yet). The case is head-stamped (starting from 12 O’clock and going clockwise): C, 80, F, 3. In addition it exhibits a centerfire firing pin
impression, but absolutely no trace of a primer. It looks like a straight wall rimmed case, like an upsized .22 Long Rifle.

Any ideas??

Thank you,

Bill Torgerson
Kent, Washington, USA

The cartridge was made for U.S. military use in March, 1880 at Frankford Arsenal in Philadelphia. PA. It was a .45-55-405 cartridge loaded for use in carbines, although most people (other than cartridge collectors) would simply call it a .45-70 carbine round.

It may have been fired where it was found a few months after being made, or may have bounced around the Army supply system for many years before being sold off as surplus and eventually sold through a local hardware store and fired by a local hunter or plinker in themid 20th century- or something in between those extremes.

An interesting keepsake, but no real cash value.

Further to the information given by JohnS above, the case has an inside primer which is not visible from outside. An unfired round looks like a rimfire at first glance.


While, as John says, cartridges may have been fired years after their manufacture, the odds are that most are fired within a few years of their manufacture. Years ago I found, here and there, a fair number of cartridge cases in various locales in the west. In most cases it was likely that they were in fact fired not very long after their production. Example: a .45 Colt case, produced by UMC and fitted with an Orcutt primer. UMC made this caliber with the Orcutt primer from about 1874 until 1879 or so; the case was found in a setting that had significant human presence in just about those years. Jack

Bottom line is, there is no way to know who fired that cartridge, when, or in what type of rifle or carbine. When I was going through my metal-detecting phase i would often find sites that had a mix of old and new relics. Cartridge cases could include 45-70, 30-40, and 30-06.

Surplus outfits like Bannerman, Stokes Kirk, and even Sears-Roebuck were selling 45-70 firearms and ammunition well into the 1900s. The fact that the ammunition may have been 50 years old at the time was not a turn off to guys wanting to shoot.

That empty case would have looked like the cartridge, second from left, in the photo.


Ray: If archeologists were as doubting as you I don’t think they’d ever leave the house. Jack


I’m not sure how to take that post?? But, for the record I have little use for the professional archaelogists when it comes to things like firearms, cartridges, and the military in general. Back in another life, I did a lot of metal detecting as part of my research and writing on US Indian Wars history. I, and other amateur historians, were volunteers at the 1984 full-blown dig at the Custer Battlefield following the grass fire, and most of us left in disgust after only a few days.

I hope I haven’t offended anyone here who is a pro, but that’s the way it was, and probably still is.



Do I recall that you once posted about an “expert” who claimed that .30-06 cases found at or near the battlefield were used by Custer’s men…could you reiterate the story once again or will that get us both into hot water ?


Yes Randy, I’ve told it a couple of times. In summary, this fellow had a display board on his wall at home that had 3 or 4 fired cases from the Custer Battlefield that were relics of the battle. He showed them with pride to anyone who would look until someone pointed out they were 30-06 cases, probably fired by a deer hunter and left on the ground. He wasn’t a professional but was a well known as a Custer expert. He was also a friend of mine.

The archaeologists at the Custer Battlefield dig made many similar mistakes and refused to be corrected by us civilians. I understand that they cleaned up their act considerably during the second dig in 1985.

That part of my life ended a long time ago.


Ray: I likely have no more enthusiasm for archeologists (or archaeologists) than you as far as firearms and related topics are concerned, tho my interactions have surely been less numerous. I was thinking merely of the general idea of discovering man-made objects and trying to relate them to history. It seems to me that by definition this is a matter of likelihood and plausibility rather than outright certainty. I think I’ve told the anecdote on this forum of finding a rusty and flattened Colt M1911 magazine at Fort Richardson, Texas. The idea the Ninth Cavalry had been issued Colt autos was mighty appealing, but it just didn’t seem to work for me. Jack

Well, I am a vocational underwater archaeologist but I hope you won’t hold that against me! Just kidding of course.
When investigating a shipwreck in the Dominican Republic we found what we believe is a copper casing that could be .45-70. Do you know when they stopped manufacturing this round with copper casing?
We believe we have dated this ship as no earlier than 1908. But as you have noted old ammo sits around for a long, long time.

High John,

Ray passed away a few years back so here is a bit of info, production of copper cased .45-70 ammunition by Frankford Arsenal had ceased (for the most part) by the mid 1880s. to mid-late 1880s. For a good basic understanding of these cartridges see the write-up by Forum member Guy Hildebrand: http://www.oldammo.com/november04.htm