U.M.C. S H Headstamp

Does anyone know when UMC first started using the headstamp “UMC SH”.

My 1887 catalog does not list any “Solid Head” loads. The next catalog I have is 1890. It lists only the
.45-70 Government with “Solid Head”. I only have salesmen price lists for 1894-1904. These do not show any cartridges or headstamps and do not indicate which loads are “Solid Head”. The first catalog I have which shows the headstamps is the 1905 catalog. This shows most, if not all, of the loads on the checklist in issue 117 of the Cartridge Trader for “UMC SH” headstamps. The raised headstamps would most likely pre-date the impressed ones.

[quote=“Ron Merchant”]Does anyone know when UMC first started using the headstamp “UMC SH”.

My 1887 catalog does not list any “Solid Head” loads. [/quote]

Hello Ron !
What is the meaning excatly of what they call “solid head” ??

JP–Here in the US most of the early centerfire cartridges were made with what we call “Balloon Head” construction.

Around 1890 UMC came out with what was called “Solid Head”, which is what is used today. This is a much stronger case construction.

As near as I can determine, UMC began using the “S H” in headstamps in 1887 or so. My 1888 cartridge board (these were made from 1888 to about 1891 and mine was an early one), had several cartridges with the SH headstamp. Ron, most of the SH headstamps were balloon head cartridges. The first true solid head cartridge made by UMC in any quantity was the 50-115 Bullard beginning in 1887 and it was not headstamped. Some early .30-40 Krag cartridges made by UMC were of the balloon head type, following the pattern of Frankford Arsenal. In the mid 1890’s, UMC began using the “ringed head” on popular cartridges such as the 45-70, with headstamp U.M.C. 45 GOVT. (as an example), and these were true solid head. Earlieat catalog I have (that I am pretty sure I have dated right, as it shows no date), that shows illustrations of cartridges with SH headstamps is 1891.

Randy–If most of the “UMC SH” headstamped cartridges were balloon head, then just what did the “Solid Head” mean? I have always assumed (and we all know what that means) it was as I illustrated in my answer to JP. Thanks for the other dating information.

Let me chime in here with my 2 cents worth.

The original “solid head” cases were simply a stronger version of the folded rim type and were also known as “balloon” head. Later, more brass was added to the head and they were referred to as “semi balloon”. In both cases the primer pocket still projected into the powder cavity, but to a lesser extent than in the folded case. The later and modern solid head types should probably more correctly be called “solid web” because that better describes the construction. The primer pocket does not project into the powder cavity.

So, I’d say that both Ron and Randy are correct. The first SH cases were also Balloon head.

Remember, the rim was originally called the head. So the folded head vs solid head more correctly refers to the rim, not the web. All very confusing, especially to an ignorant farm boy like me.

JMHO, as always.


In the solid-head case the rim is a solid extrusion and not merely folded out of the sidewall of the case. In the earlier folded-head centerfires the rim was hollow like the rimfire and was in the higher pressure loadings protected by the Hobbs reinforcing collar (found in the UMC Berdan cases) or the Benet cup of Frankford Arsenal’s inside-primed loadings. In the larger rifle calibers an unprotected folded-head rim was likely to produce a nasty head burst, but in the smaller handgun calibers worked fairly well. As Ray points out the early solid-head cases were of the type retrospectively called “balloon head” as they were replaced by the stronger cases with fully-supported primer pockets. JG

FWIW I meant to add this comment.

I can’t answer Ron’s original question, but Frankford Arsenal first produced the solid head 45 cal cartridges in January 1882. U.M.C. provided contract cartridges as early as 1878 but I believe they were of folded head design and had the R B (Rifle Bridgeport) headstamp. Perhaps someone has one that has been sectioned? Mine are too valuable to cut open.

Winchester contract cartridges used the solid head design as early as 1878 and USCCo in 1879, although both were using solid head cases for other cartridges in their line even earlier.


Ray: I have a primed empty of the UMC contract .45-70 of the late 1870s and think it’s essentially the same as their regular commercial Berdan-primed round but with a headstamp added. I’ll try to take a careful look in it and see what’s there. JG

[quote=“jean-pierre”][quote=“Ron Merchant”]Does anyone know when UMC first started using the headstamp “UMC SH”.

My 1887 catalog does not list any “Solid Head” loads. [/quote]

Hello Ron !
What is the meaning exactly of what they call “solid head” ??

The photo is taken from Phil Sharpe’s book, and shows several variations of case head construction. Hope it helps.

Note that he refers to #4 as a “original solid head”, today known as a “semi-balloon head”

Here’s a picture that shows on the left a folded head UMC case with the reinforcing collar that was mentioned in one of the earlier responses, followed by an assortment of balloon head cases (UMC SH, UMC, USC Co, WRA Co, and Frankford Arsenal), which all look pretty much identical inside:

And a closeup of the folded head with its reinforcing collar:

[quote=“Ron Merchant”][/quote]
Ok Thanks very much