Looking for a small portable scanner

I have had great luck scanning both cartridges and guns on a series of three HP scanners I have owned over about 15 years.

For the past few months I have been looking for a small, compact scanner that I can take with me when I travel to visit other collectors. I have tried out two, a Xerox 7600 (made in Russia) and a Fujitsu fi-60F. Both are flat plate scanners. The Xerox is normal page size but quite thin and light. The Fujitsu is half page size and even has a lock button to make it safer to move. I have been very disappointed with both. Neither gave the quality of images I have been use to with my HP scanners. I wouldn’t use the headstamp scans from either in my books or to post on the forum. The scans of cartridges were terrible. It appears neither scanner has any depth of focus so the cartridge scans come out very out of focus and useless. The box images themselves are not great and these are flat and should scan well.

Help!!! Does anyone know of a small portable scanner that provides good cartridge pics???

I think I have discovered the key. HP descriptions mention 3-D images for scanning books, etc. There were no equilivant comments, though both the XEROX and the Fujitsu scanners mentioned scanning books.

Thoughts/recommendations appreciated.



Lew–the depth of field is directly connected to the thickness of the scanner. NO thin (1/2 to 3/4 inch thick) scanner is going to do well on 3-D objects. That being said, I have used a Canon Model N670U for several years to scan well over 10,000 pages. If you use 300dpi or higher it does quite well on headstamps, but is really poor on profiles of cartridges. Some of the advantages are it has size settings for everything from business card to A4 paper. It runs off the USB port on your laptop so no extension cords are needed for power. I bought it mostly for genealogy work at libraries, court houses, etc. I have saved well over the cost of the unit (Under $100) by being able to scan court records. etc. directly instead of paying 10-15 cents for a Xerox copy. The unit is about 13x 9 x 3/4 inches and quite light (maybe a pound or less) so it fits well in the side pocket of my lap top case and since the only cable is a USB cable with no bulky power transformer, that is not a problem.

Send me an email or PM if you want some advice on how to get nice white backgrounds for your headstamps or how to do circular cropping so the background does’t matter.


A few weeks ago I bought a Canon MP190 from WallyWorld for the amazing price of $40. It was my first venture into the world of scanning and it hasn’t gone too well. I even read the instructions. Maybe it’s a lousy scanner or maybe I’m a lousy scannerer, but either way I’d like to use it for something other than a printer and copier.

I read Mel’s article on scanning headstamps but it sounds as though he has both hardware and software that are far better than mine.

Maybe you or someone can post a short “how to”??? In simple farm-boy language without all the technical jargon. And oriented toward things like scanning headstamps on a $40 machine. ;)


If I were you, I’d stick to the camera for your cartridge shots, and use the scanner for boxes and text, although I have found the camera great for those, too. The only good use for cartridges that I can see for a scanner is if you need to scan a large quantity of headstamps quickly.

During my researchtrips I always take my Canon CanoScan LIDE 30 with me.

It is a led scanner, not really suitable for deep 3D shots, but it feeds off the USB port and it is compact enough to fit in a standard laptop case. I mainly use it for scanning documents, blueprints, photographs, etc… on research trips.

It was also responsible for inadvertedly nicking an original blueprint from one of the sources I visited. The blueprint was discovered in the scanner and, with many apologies and a red face, returned to the rightful owner :)

(moral of the story: always check your scanner before packing).

At home I use the HP Scanjet 3800. The depth is good enough to scan holsters and handguns without problems.

I agree with Vlim, I have a Canoscan with the LiDE technology, and it is very light, and very slim. Being powered through the USB port also makes it truly portable. You could scan something on the show floor with a laptop running on battery power, or anywhere for that matter.

All this information is making my head hurt.

Guy, I think you’re right. I will leave the headstamp and cartridge scanning to the guys who actually know what they’re doing. Now, if i can only figure out how to scan and e-mail a page of text.



Hang in there. I actually got my first flatbed scanner cheap from a guy who didn’t know how to work it :)

Most scanners come with their own software, which is usually not very user friendly or geared towards the occasional ‘family album’ scanning public.

Scanners don’t need that software per se. Most modern scanners support the TWAIN standard, which is a generic interface that is supported by most graphical programs, allowing you to scan directly into your favorite application.

I usually scan using Paint Shop Pro 6. That is a rather dated version of the popular series, but it is good enough for my purposes.

Scanning at resolutions that are too high or too low is the most common problem. Scan too low and the result is bad, scan too high and the result will make your PC crash because of it’s size. Usually, a document is perfectly readable when scanned at 150dpi, and a 3d object at 300.

Most scanning software also allows you to scan only a part of the plane: Do a preview on lo-res (150dpi), select the area you are interested in (very handy with headstamps) and scan it at a higher resolution (say: 600dpi). The resulting image will be smaller in size, but will have enough detail to be workable.


You are right about that and I appreciate the advice. I scanned a cartridge box this morning and everything was OK until I tried to crop it. My PC moaned and groaned and then said I didn’t have enough memory. I had scanned at 600 dpi, which is what I thought I was supposed to do. I’ll try again at different resolutions.

I finally figured out how to scan documents. Yipee!!! I made it into the 21st Century.



Hi Lew! (and others!)

Here are the results of my trials to find the optimal scanning machine…
I had several experiments to scan thick objects, and especially ctgs. My first venture (and first scanner, I confess), was a “Plustek” cheap model, which gave relatively good results but did not last very long…

Then I bought a Canoscan 3200, because it was quite flat on the desk, but I quickly discovered that if I could scan pictures and documents without any problem, it was totally unpossible to use it for thick objects, as the focus depth was uncorrect. At this moment, I wished to try an AGFA , same as I had seen used by a friend, but the Agfa company had stopped to manufacture them…
All this scanners were, of course, flatbed ones, as none of the small-sized portable apparatus available here and there ever gave any interesting result.
Then I turned to an “EPSON Perfection 3170” and still use it.

With this device, I am able to scan ctgs up to 35 mm calibre without any problem. Also boxes, of course, and weapons, like a 12 mm GALAND revolver, or a .380 Colt Mustang. Results were such that I was able to use the pics for articles in several weapon magazines!
For ctgs hstps, no problem either, and I think that I already sent you samples in the last two years. You just put the ctg on the glass. If the hstp is barely readable, you may use tricks like chalk or correcting white fluid (be only cautious to avoid putting it all around the head if thre is some delicate colored marks or annulus). To remove the white substance is quite easy, some are now dissolved with plain water instead of toxic chemical solvents, other will get off with a soft rubbing using cloth or extra-fine steel wool.

For the thick objects or hstps, you will have to take the scanner cover off. Mine is easily put aside on the right, with no need to unplug it (it has a lightening device for films or negatives, also slides).
The results will be a black or dark background, easily treated with Photoshop or most of the photo-correcting programs available. Another possibility is to put a white paper leaf “arched” over the scanned object. It is easily set, as its sides will fit betwen the scanner glass and the body. This system allows a regular reflexion of the light and the ctg is shown over a greyish backgound, once again easyly corrected with Photoshop or Paint Shop program.

As I noted before, this scanner allows you to scan slides or 35 mm negative films either (special plastic “caches” are furnished), but you must use the highest resolution possible, due to the small size of the object. The scanner works either automatic or manual. I choosed the second solution, as it makes the things easier to correct, by changing the settings.
More, with the automatic configuration, the device will not always accept to scan a page featuring several illustrations, and will make separate pictures of each…a detail which can be quite boring…
The only problem is to put the device on a very flat and horizontal surface, otherwise you will have many troubles to avoid ctgs rollng on the glass!

Anyway, the best results will always be obtained by classical photography. Numeric cameras in use to day (I have a Nikon D50, with the 18-55 zoom, and sometimes a longer len for objects to be pictured from far away) are almost perfect and you will barely need their incorporated flashlight. I use (but not always) an annular flash, which gives no shadows, especially when combined to placing the object in a cardboard box entirely painted white inside, which will eliminate them.
For boxes, I also use a Quadrapod, as Geoge Kass showed me in the 90ies. The price of this device was then quite correct, now it is more costly, but still affordable, due to the many advantages it confers. I am very happy of this investment (!)
A possibility was to put ammo on a transparent plastic home-made stand, intalled over a glazed box (as used by the butterflies or insects collectors!), painted all white inside, but the system, described years ago in one of the ICCA special issues, was somehow clumsy, and I did not go on with it.
I hope that you may find some interest in this details, which may be helpful.
Any other question will be answered, if I can do it…

All the best to everybody.


My method of scanning cartridge headstamps to get a white background only works for cartridges, not large items like guns.

I use the Business Card, 300dpi (for really sharp scans us 600dpi or higher), color photo setting on my scanner. I do one headstamp at a time and the business card setting scans the quickest. I start by putting a small removable ink mark on the side of the case to indicate the top of the headstamp to make it easier to align it for scanning. You will most likely still need to rotate it some afterward in a photoshop type program, but this will get it in the ballpark. Stand the cartridge up aprox. in the middle of the business card scanning area. AND HERE IS THE KEY SECRET–Place a white plastic pill bottle over the cartridge. I use two sizes. one is about 4 inches high and 2 1/2 inches in diameter. I use this for 95 % of my cartridges. I have a larger one I use for 50 BMG length rounds. Shine a lamp ( I use a 2-tube desk florescent lamp, but any light source will do) on the bottle from above or slightly from one side and about 6-12 inches away. The white plastic bottle will diffuse the light and give a nice white background to the headstamp scan. Crop the headstamp image after scanning to include just a small square around the headstamp.

I will explain how to do circular instead of square cropping of headstamps for those times when there is a background you do not want tomorrow.


This pill bottle idea is genial and I will try it soon.

Thanks for the tip!


Not with 6 Gigabytes of DDR3 RAM … ;)


Another possibility is to put a white paper leaf “arched” over the scanned object. It is easily set, as its sides will fit betwen the scanner glass and the body. This system allows a regular reflexion of the light and the ctg is shown over a greyish backgound…


Doesn’t work well for me and my Epson Perfection 4490 Photo. Strange shadows use to show.
However this is a good piece of hardware. I usually scan headstamps at 800 dpi. What I have not mastered yet is how to crop circles.

I do scan the headstamps in any position and later straighten them via software.

This is a 800-dpi scan of a .22 rimfire from the spanish firm Glamise:

I get good results on both headstamps and cartridges (up to about 30mm calibre) using my EPSON Perfection 1260 scanner.


I recently encountered a product at a training course; my first thought was “MAN that’d be great for cartridges and case stamps!”

It’s called a DinoLite. It’s basically a small tubular USB-connected flashlight with a zooming scanner/camera/microscope that allows for great detail. I only briefly saw it in use but it allowed for very precise looks at tiny fragments of a projectile we were examining. The instructor said they ran about 200 bucks. I’m on dial-up and the website hasn’t even begun to come up–maybe someone with their knuckles not quite so firmly contacting the ground can take a look.


I have one of these and it is not bad, It is pretty good on headstamps, but not good on cartridges. the images come out too harshfor me. Fine for reference work, but not good enough for publication.