I was digging on an archaeology project at the site of an 1820’s plantation, west of Houston, Texas. The attached image shows one of the things that we discovered. I’ve identified it as a 16-gauge pinfire shotgun shell base, made by Eley Brothers, London, England. Eley apparently started making these shells about 1828.
If I know what it is, then why am I here?
What I would like to know is how to tell if the cartridge has been fired or not.
In a pinfire case, the protruding pin extends down inside the sidewall of the base of the shell to a primer mounted on the inside. The hammer from the firearm hits the pin, driving it into the primer, causing the flash to ignite the powder.
So, what happens when the hammer hits that pin? Does the pin get crushed? Does it just move it downward a millimeter or so to activate the primer? What outward appearances are there that might indicate a pinfire shell has been discharged, when all you have is the brass base like this?
Any guidance would be appreciated.
We have also found many other cartridges on this site, like the Henry with the dual firing pin marks. And even some .22 rimfire cases, missing the bullets, but with no firing pin strikes, leading us to believe that the bullets were pulled to get to the powder to use it for some other purpose. Interesting stuff!