More questions re "off-beat" .45-70s


Following up on my recent .45-80 question, I’ll ask a few more:

(1) As regards the abortive Berdan-priming experiment of 1877, I have an (empty) April box - and am aware of others - plus one R F 4 77 specimen.
Apparently, a few loose R F 3 77 rounds are known, but is anyone aware of a March box, filled or otherwise?

(2) As regards the Morse design of 1886/1887, I know that at least some of the preliminary loadings were HS “Model 86”. What is the currently-known span of “production” headstamps?
I presently have a full sealed box, and about a dozen loose rounds from F 10 86 through F 2 87. Were regular cartridges loaded with any of the same dates? All of my specimens have copper primers, so
are supposedly reloads - anyone have any Morse rounds with “silver-colored” (tinned?) primers?

Thanks in advance.


Mr. H: my unguaranteed thought is that since the standard cartridge case in production at the time the Morse type was introduced was still copper that the primers continued to be produced with unplated copper cups for a time after 1886. I sure don’t recall ever seeing a copper case with a tinned primer cup. Jack


I wonder if the Morse were the first ones tinned then?

Like you, I’ve never seen a copper case with tinned primer, plenty the other way around, though.

And, I’ve never seen a Morse case in other than tin. I’m not really a SERIOUS cartridge collector, per se. I do have quite a few, and quite a few boxes, including a Metcalfe block to go with my rifle, but have never tried to “get them all”, as it were.


The Morse Pattern 1886 was tinned brass. It wasn’t until 1888 that the manufacture of all reloading shells was converted to tinned brass (Pattern 1888).



Hi Ray,

Assuming there still are any that weren’t reloaded - do you know if they had tinned primers when they first left Frankford?

Also, was ammunition loaded during that period exclusively of Morse construction?




I no longer have my collection, and I can’t locate my old catalog, so I’m making SWAGS here.

The Pattern 1882 rifle and carbine cartridges were loaded continuously throughout the period. There are many known examples with 1886 and 1887 headstamps.

If the Pattern 1888 tinned cartridges are any indication, you would think that the Morse Pattern shells left FA with tinned primers and those with the copper primers are reloads. I’ve seen only one reference (Pete Bigler) who said that the originals had tinned case and copper primer but he may have been looking at a reload. The biggest problem I see is differentiating between an original and a reload. A sealed carton is about the only way I know of to tell. It would take someone with a sealed carton to open it and see exactly what primers were used.



I don’t think that the Morse cartridges generally left FA with tinned primer cups. In the period of their manufacture, as Ray said, the M1882 copper case was in production and fitted with a copper primer. Only after the 1888 pattern case of tinned brass appeared were, I think, tinned primers produced. It doesn’t seem likely FA would have made tinned primers during the period the Morse cartridges were in production simply to have had color coordinated ammunition. My one specimen Morse has a copper primer. Jack



I know you were only joking about the “color cordination” but the tinned primers served the same purpose as the tinned case.

So, whoever has a sealed box of Morse cartridges, open it and tell us. I’d do it for you. ;) ;)



For whatever it’s worth, I have three Morse dates + two disassembled examples + one sectioned example (6 pieces) all have copper primers, and tinned brass cases.

As I recall the Model 1886 headstamped round was also a tinned brass case.