One of the Rarest Pinfire Cartridges: C. Sharps & Co


#1

One of the rarest (if not THE rarest) pinfire cartridges I know of is the American Civil War procured cartridge made by Christian Sharps and his company.

The following is the background story of the images to follow. It is an excerpt from my longer article on my website which goes into more detail on the other American pinfire manufactures as well.

Toward the beginning of the American Civil War, Colonel Schuyler (the same Schuyler who would later co-found UMC,) the Army’s purchasing agent, bought 10,000 Lefaucheux model 1854 revolvers from Europe. These with almost another 3000 pinfire revolvers purchased by the Army through other channels created a need to produce pinfire cartridges domestically rather than only import them. So in January of 1862 Lieutenant Treadwell of the Frankford Arsenal met with Christian Sharps to talk about manufacturing pinfire cartridges to a more powerful specification that would also overcome some of the issues they had with the base of the cartridge bulging out when shot as they experienced when testing the revolvers. He then gave Sharps an order for cartridges on January 6.

On January 7th, C. Sharps & Company accepted the order and its terms. They were supposed to have delivered 50,000 cartridges by first of February, 200,000 by end of February, and 400,000 per month after until they reached 1,000,000 cartridges delivered.

By February 20th Treadwell had still not received anything from Christian Sharps so the arsenal then procured cartridges from other source: C. D. Leet & Co. March 20 then brings the first correspondence from Christian Sharps since the initial order for pinfire cartridges. In his letter to Major Laidley, the new commander of the Frankford Arsenal, he said that they were still working on the process of making the cartridges, and were having a hard time with it, and that they also needed to move to a new location because of Philadelphia laws not allowing them to have more than 25lbs of powder on their premises. This news causes Major Laidley to seek out yet another vendor to provide pinfire cartridges: Allen & Wheelock.

On April 4th Christian Sharps finally delivers some test samples, of which Laidley was disgusted with and denied in a pretty strong letter back to Sharps, calling them a “failure” and of “no value to the United States.” On May 10th Sharps tries again, but Laidley again rejects the second group of test samples from (the newly formed) Sharps & Hankins because their cartridges were unsatisfactory; they use poor quality powder; and had way too many failures.

Finally on June 7th Christian Sharps delivers 46,000 cartridges that were accepted. This is all that ended up being accepted by them; not even 5% of the original requested amount. In comparison, C. D. Leet delivered 526,000 and Allen & Wheelock delivered 1,000,000 pinfire cartridges.

There are only less than a small handful of these cartridges that I know of that exist; including 1 sectioned one. One is pictured on page 161 of Dean Thomas’ Round Ball to Rimfire Part Three. If one ever came up for sale I would imagine it would easily bring $500 - $1000 or more with the recent surge of interest on pinfire guns and cartridges both domestically and especially in Europe.

On my search to find excavated pinfire cartridges to get a better understanding of how widespread their use was geographically in the American Civil War as well as unraveling the mystery of which foreign cartridge manufacturers had their cartridges imported to either side of the war I came across 3 of Christian Sharps’ pinfire cartridges. They were dropped by Union soldiers in June of 1863, almost exactly 1 year after they were manufactured, at the Battle of Liberty Gap in Bell Buckle, TN during the Tullahoma Campaign.


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Some of the differences between the Sharps cartridge compared to the Allen or Leet ones is that Sharps used a much thinner pin diameter measuring .0673 inches as compared to around .088 inches for the Leet or Allen. They also have a noticeable raised bump on the base. Then the most identifiable difference is that Sharps used a copper head to hold the cap and strengthen the base, as mentioned in his patent, rather than the lead head Allen and Leet used. A non-destructive testing of this would be having the bottom of the cartridge undergo an x-ray fluorescence test. X-ray fluorescence uses electromagnetic to gamma rays to ionization the atoms of the components, which releases specific photons that emit radiation that have energy characteristic of the atoms present which can then be measured and analyzed to a list of the elements contained in the sample. This sounds rather complicated and obviously could not be tested at home, but many NDT (non-destructive testing) facilities can easily do this for a couple hundred dollars.


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[color=red]Google Patent Page[/color]


#2

[quote] One of the rarest (if not THE rarest) pinfire cartridges I know of is the American Civil War procured cartridge made by Christian Sharps and his company.

Finally on June 7th Christian Sharps delivers 46,000 cartridges that were accepted. This is all that ended up being accepted by them;

there are only less than a small handful of these cartridges that I know of that exist; including 1 sectioned one. If one ever came up for sale I would imagine it would easily bring $500 - $1000 or more with the recent surge of interest on pinfire guns and cartridges both domestically and especially in Europe.
[/quote]

[color=#0080FF]$500-$1000 or more for a ctge delivered to the troops at a 46,000 quantity, even if it was in 1862, I think you are not serious (or people have a lot of money and are stupid)

Following your way of thinking, ctges delivered with a 5000 quantity must be sold for $5000 each, and the ones made at only 500 units must be around
$50,000 each !!!

What must be the price of a Pauly for example ???
I am not even sure he manufactured 500 of them and it was 50 years before.
500,000 dollars ??[/color]


#3

JP,

Well, I know of at least a few Pauly cartridges that have come up for sale, recently even, and they have been sold for around $1000 or more. I know of none of these Christian Sharps pinfires that have ever been in auction.

The fact that more were made does not mean that more are left in existence today. These were made specifically for a war and sent out to troops. Pauly’s probably set in his shop and only sold a few guns to people until Casimir Lefaucheux bought his patents and assets and used his ideas to make the pinfire cartridge.

There have been many rare pinfire cartridges to sell for lots of $$$. Look in some of Manfred Beuter’s recent auctions even.

I do not think it unreasonable at all to see one of these cartridges go for $500 - $1000. That is the range I would probably bid if I ever got the chance to buy one, as it is the only American-made pinfire cartridge not in my collection (other than the excavated ones shown here.)

P.S. By your same logic, if a Pauly cartridge is $1000. Then these, which had 92 times more made should be sold for $11? That is less than I sell the most common of pinfires for on my website. And there are only 5 or so known of this cartridge. (Maybe hopefully more soon since now everyone knows how to identify them!)


#4

I think that something must be missing in translation.


#5

[quote=“Aaron”]JP,

There have been many rare pinfire cartridges to sell for lots of $$$. Look in some of Manfred Beuter’s recent auctions even.

[color=#0000FF]Manfred Beuter has good ctges but he is very very expansive !!!
He has the same prices as 20 years ago Buttweiller auction ctges[/color]

P.S. By your same logic, if a Pauly cartridge is 1000. [color=#0000FF]Normal price for a Pauly ctge is 500 Euros. (650 )
What I call normal price means you can find one without any problem at this price.
If you look specially for one and have time you can find one for less[/color]

Then these, which had 92 times more made should be sold for 11? [color=#0000FF]50 is the price I will pay for it.
But on the opposite hand I am not looking specially for it I agree.[/color]

That is less than I sell the most common of pinfires for on my website.
[color=#0000FF]11 is less than the price of a common ctge you sell ???? I checked on your website and didn't find any ctge for sale except full (or partial) boxes. When I sell common pf ctges the price is between one and two euros (1.3 to 2.5 ) for 7 or 9 or 12 mm and 3 Euros (4$) for 5 mm pf.
Therefore I can see the american market is about 5 times more expansive as the european market for pf ctges.
[/color] [/quote]
I saw on your website you have a lot of good ctges (horizontal pin fire ctges ) and I am sure you paid a lot for them
Which is right because I can assure you they are a lot scarcer (at least for me) than 46 000 ctges issued to the troops.

Best wishes for the New Year
JP
PS : I saw you wanted to buy leather packs to hold pf ctges (the first picture in your want list.
I have them to sale for different calibers. make me an offer


#6

OK! I picked up my Christian Sharps pinfire that had been waiting for SLICS to arrive for me to buy him.

Here it is along with a comparison of it with the other 2 American makers of civil war used pinfires.


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#7

Aaron, great pictures! Thank you very much.