Interesting 45-125 SHARPS with strange head

OK, not my area, but I have a handfull of Sharps bullets to go with my Sharps rifles. This is one of the oddballs I don’t know anything about. It is UMC 45-125 S H headstamp. I guess… the S H means Sharps? More importantly, what is the deal with the bullet? It appears to have been clamped once since there is a small “flat” spot on opposing sides of the bullet. As if somebody gripped it with a vise to pull the bullet. It doesn’t seam to be seated well at the mouth of the case. SO, I am wondering if this is an original bullet or not. There seems to still be black powder inside as there is some powder movement when I shake it, albeit not much. Does anyone know what kind of strange bullet this is? It appears as though it has a dirty copper core with lead jacket. Isn’t that backwards? ha ha Do you guys think I have a good specimen or a “made-up” junker? What about the primer? Anyway, please look at all 4 pictures and chime in. THANKS!

The S H in the headstamp I believe in this case means Solid Head.

The S H is Solid Head. It appears as if someone has loaded the case with a copper-tube express bullet. At any rate, it is a great headstamp!


This is a cut from Phil Sharpe’s book, note that there are 2 “solid head” styles #4 (early) and #5 (current)

Tony–The bullet is a 300 gr. Express bullet. This bullet was ONLY loaded in the .45-125 Winchester, not the .45-125 Sharps. The Sharps was loaded with a 500 gr. paper patched bullet. UMC used the same headstamp on both cases. The .45-125 Win. is bottlenecked while the Sharps is a straight case. Your picture, although hard to tell, looks like a .45-125 Win., in which case, this is the correct bullet. If it is a straight case, then someone has stuck the wrong bullet into the case. Either way, as already stated by someone else, it is a deserable headstamp.

Thanks for the input fellas. Ron, referring to your last email, my case is a straight case, not bottleneck. So, that means I have round built for a Sharps. Therefore, indicating that somewhere in the life of this shell, the bullet was shitched, Yes? If so, is the primer original, or switched also? See all 4 of my pics.

Hi, All…It’s been awhile since I was a UMC guy…but, I believe I remember that Winchester 45-125 was headstamped U.M.C. S H .45-125., and the .45 3-1/4 Sharps was headstamped U.M.C. S H .45 3-1/4 …

Randy–Yes, some of the 45-3 1/4 Sharps were headstamped as you indicated. But some were also headstamped the same as the .45-125 Win. with “UMC S H 45-125” as is evidenced by Tony’s case. I have the .45-125 Win. with this headstamp, so between Tony and myself, we have examples of both rounds with the same headstamp. I suspect the headstamp was changed on the Sharps round to “U.M.C. S H .45-3 1/4” shortly after the .45-125 Win. was introduced in 1886 to distinguish the two
case types.

Ron…I believe I am correct, and the case Tony has, has been fire-formed or staightened in some way from .45-125 Winchester to the straight 3-1/4 case…remember…Tony’s case is “straight” but seems to have been “reloaded” with the original 300 grain .45-125 UMC “Express” bullet…I just don’t think UMC used the .45-125. headstamp on 45 3-1/4" cases… BUT…I wasn’t there 120 years ago !!!

Randy–You may very well be correct that Tony’s case started life as a .45-125 Win. But I am not sure the Win. case will fit in a Sharps chamber. The rims are almost the same (Sharps 0.597, Win. 0.601) but the base just ahead of the rim is different. The Sharps is 0.506 and the Win. 0.533.

The Union Metallic Cartridge Col (U.M.C.) started making the .45 3-1/4" Sharps in November of 1882. In November 1886, they changed this shell to a solid head using the #2-1/2 U.M.C. primer “and to fit Winchester single-shot rifle.”

They started making the .45-125 Winchester in May of 1887. It was solid head from the start of their production.

Don’t know that this answers any of the questions at hand, but thought it might as well be added to the data acquired by this thread.

So, do we have an agreement? Is it a 45-125 Sharps, 45-125 Winchester, or really a Heinz 57 in between? (probably) Another round in the collection taking up space waiting for trade for a 44-40 box, or a 44 Henry single specimen that I don’t already have! Crazy, eh? Thanks all.

Every time I think I’m on the verge of understanding what UMC was up to in the 1880s I get thrown back to square one. If they began making the .45 3-1/4 Sharps in November 1882 and only began production of that cartridge as a solid head four years later what were they in fact making in that interval? I had thought this round existed only in the solidhead Boxer primed version, but perhaps not. Is it possible that in UMC internal shorthand “solid head” in this context means “began headstamping with the usual SH designation”? Does this cartridge exist in a folded head case version? A Berdan version? Does anyone know? Randy?

It is pretty clear in the notes I have that UMC changed the cartridge, not just the headstamp. They even seem to have changed the primer at the same time. this information is taken originally from factory records.

I think one problem in “having seen” ammunition of this age is simply in the demographics of the times. We are used to factories churning out their current products by the millions of rounds. The country’s population today, and therefore the number of shooters, is enormous compared to that of the 1880s. Then we have to consider how many people then were actively shooting a .45 3-1/4" Sharps or winchester? Some of the buffalo hunters that shot these big rifles shot thousands and thousands of rounds, but most people then shot very little. I suspect that the average cowboy action shooter today shoots more rounds in a month of matches, than the average person, even someone making a living with a gun, shot in a year. The professional hunters almost all reloaded, so factory-original loaded cartridges go down even more in numbers produced with that consideration.

I suspect that by any standard of today, some of these cartridges were made in miniscule amounts, and for that reason, are very, very hard to find today. I would bet that for every three or four variations of old cartridges we have in our collections today, especially civilian ammunition, there is one that we have never seen or sits unidentified in collections. One only needs to look at production records of some of the firearms made then that we think of as popular in those times. Sme were made in very small numbers.

Frankly, the wonder to me is how much of this has survived and is in collections today, not how much of it we haven’t seen or is incredibly rare today. Just a thought.


We are back to that old “folded head, solid head, balloon head” discussion that we had several months ago. Dig out that thread and maybe it will clear up some of the confusion - or maybe not. It’s all in the semantics.


Here is what the catalogs show for primers. As far back as 1887, the .45-125 Sharps and the .45-125 Win. were all loaded with the U.M.C. No. 2 1/2 Brass primer. The next catalog back that I have is 1882, which of course does not have the .45-125 Sharps because it had not been introduced yet. But the 1882 catalog does have the .45-100-2 7/8 with the No. 1 Berdan primer. This was changed to the No. 2 1/2 Boxer in the 1887 catalog. I doubt if the .45-125-3 1/4 was ever loaded with a Berdan primer. If it was, it would have been for nor more than one year.

Ray - I don’t see any confusion here at all. The factory records say UMC changed to a solid head case. That is pretty clear. I don’t know enough to know what type of head they would have used before the change. I leave that to you guys who know something about this stuff. I am very ignorant on it.

Ron - you say that you doubt UMC made the .45 3-1/4" Sharps with a Berdan primer. Why? The records plainly say, as I recounted on this thread, that they changed to a 2-1/2 primer. There would be no change recorded if they never made any with any other kind of primer. You also say that if they did, it would have only been for about one year. My mention of the dates clearly shows that they started making the cartridge roughly four years before they changed to the 2-1/2 primer. The fact it hasn’t been seen or identified, anyway, doesn’t mean they didn’t make it. I know you can’t prove a negative, so in this case, I would follow the “positive” of the factory records. Just my opinion.


What I meant by confusion in semantics was that many collectors (and shooters) think that there are case types called “Balloon” and “Semi Balloon” when in fact they are all solid head (rim). The primary difference (of course) is that folded head (rim) cases were formed by folding and the solid head (rim) cases were formed by forging or swadging. I believe that UMC used solid head cases in some cartridges prior to the “S H” headstamp, but the “S H” really meant that the solid part of the head was made heavier. Modern cases have an even heavier head that is level with the primer pocket.

I don’t know what the Sharps/Winchester cases talked about here would have used prior to the “S H” but I would guess that it was either a reinforced folded head or the first iteration of the solid head.

And speaking of “heads”, I may be getting over mine here so I probably should “butt” out of this discussion. :) :)


Much earlier in this discussion, it was stated that UMC began producing the 45 3 1/4" Sharps cartridge with a UMC 45-125 headstamp. I don’t believe this is correct. Wasn’t the standard load for the 45 -3 1/4 Sharps 120 grains of powder? Does anyone have the Sharps cartridge with the UMC 45-125 headstamp that they know is an oiginal load? If these existed, I would expect Buttweiler to have sold one, but I can’t find one listed. He did sell a few unheadstamped examples that he believed were UMC production, one listed as lot 292 in Vol X No 1 is of folded head construction with a Berdan primer. He also sold several UMC 45-3 1/4" boxes, none of which mention the solid head on the label, and all having a list of patent dates on the label. The pictures are not clear enough to read the patents, but if Berdans two patents that are listed on many of the early UMC boxes are included, this should be an indication that the box held folded head Berdan primed cartridges.

All these responses to my question are thoughtful fodder. I’m going to put the mental machinery into motion (or try really hard). At this point I have only one observation to make: that the reference to introduction of the 2-1/2 primer may mean in lieu of either the no. 2 Boxer primer or (what seems less likely) the Berdan no. 1. I’m pretty certain UMC was making solid head cases before 1887 but wouldn’t bet the farm on the .45 3-1/4 being one of them. Does anyone have this cartridge with the Berdan? They’re easy to ID since they are a quarter inch in diameter, whereas the Boxer 2 and 2-1/2 are the regular old .210 diameter domed head brass items. JG