UMC 45-70 question

Hi all, I have a couple boxes and about 40 loose .45-405-70 UMC ctgs. I know these are relatively common, but I’m curious about the loading.
I know they are from early 1900’s - are they loaded with smokeless of the Krag era, or did they stay with the BP of the 1800’s? The UMC-Rem HS started in what, 1913? So I’d guess they’d be from a bit earlier?
I’m kinda of tempted to pop off a few of the loose rounds, and would like to have an idea of what to expect.
Thanks much! lee.

Ooops, just realized, the normal carbine loading would be 45-55-405.
Brain freeze…

Easiest thing is (if you can) to pull the bullet to see what propellant is used, and also weigh the bullet. In my limited experience, military black powder .45-70 loads usually have a solid cake of compressed propellant in the case. Earlier carbine loadings were .45-55-405, but later everything (rifle and carbine) was .45-70-500. But I don’t know about commercial loadings. Do you have pictures of your boxes, as, if so, they could be dated fairly closely.

Take Dennis’ advice. Sacrifice one round by pulling the bullet to see what’s inside.

After the turn of the Century, most of the Military and Militia ammunition was manufactured by the big commercial manufacturers, either as loaded ammunition, or by F.A. using commercial components… It can be found in both rifle and carbine loadings. Usually, the smokeless loads had a bullet seating roll cannelure on the case because the powder filled such a small percentage of the case. And, both rifle and carbine loads were usually headstamped 45-70 even though the bullet weight and powder charge could be different.

So, the only way to tell for sure is to pull a bullet. Record the description and total weight of that round for future reference and comparison


Lee–The REM-UMC (not UMC-Rem) headstamp started in 1911. If the cases have a cannelure they are smokeless powder and usually you can hear the powder rattle when you shake the cartridge. If there is no cannelure and no powder sound, they are almost certainly black powder, but the advice to weigh a complete round and then pull the bullet is the only sure way of telling.

Note that as long as .45 carbine ammunition was produced by Frankford Arsenal it was the .45-55-405 version. Jack

Thanks for all the tips and advise. I’ve been trying to put up a photo of the box, cannot get photobucket to work since they changed the site. All I get is red x’s in the library. Frustrating!
Anyway, the UMC boxes are a very standard item, Dick Hosmer shows them on his Picture Trail site and has a couple for sale on their catalog page. I’ll be pulling a bullet today and weighing it all. They’re likely BP as I see no cannelure (thanks Ron!).

Dennis’ post has me a little confused though - I’ve always thought the 45-70 started out being 45-70-405 for both rifle and carbine, then the carbine went to 45-55-405 (later ones marked with the C). Later still came the 45-70-500 rifle and Gatling…but not for carbines. There re so many versions I wish there was a published time-line for the sequence of the variations.

These 20th Century contract ctgs are definitely 45-55-405, not 45-70-500.
Thanks again, I’ll keep trying Photobucket. lee


There were always two different F.A. Ball cartridges. The 45-70-405 for rifles and the 45-55-405 for carbines. In 1882 the rifle bullet weight was increased to 500 grains, becoming the 45-70-500. The carbine round remained the same except that, later, the bullet was seated deeper in the case. In 1898 the rifle cartridge was loaded with smokeless powder whereas the carbine cartridge continued to be loaded with black powder.

During the period when F.A. was manufacturing the Cal .45, there were also contract cartridges manufactured by UMC, WRA, and USCCo.

After Frankford Arsenal stopped production of the cal .45 cartridges, they continued to contract with the various commercial manufacturers for any new ammunition that was required. There were both rifle and carbine rounds produced. In addition, the manufacturers also produced ammunition for their commercial trade and for some law enforcement and state agencies and it is here that you’ll find the many variations in bullet weight, powder charge, etc. Once removed from the carton, it is all but impossible to tell a contract cartridge from a commercial cartridge. That’s where the carton label becomes important although some of the contract ammunition was packaged in the standard commercial cartons so even that is not a fool proof method to identify particular cartridges. Most often, the commercial headstamp was used on all cartridges so that’s generally a dead-end too.

So, you might say that there are three collecting specialties. 1) Cartridges loaded by Frankford Arsenal. 2) Contract cartridges. 3) Commercial cartridges. At one time there were collectors who specialized in all three but some of them have gone to the happy hunting ground and I’m not sure if those remaining still collect.

And that’s just the Ball cartridges.

Good Luck. Here’s a photo of the different Frankford Arsenal Ball cartridges.

L to R

1874 Rifle & Carbine
1876 Rifle & Carbine
1877 Rifle & Carbine
1882 Rifle
1882 Carbine
1886 Rifle
1886 Carbine
1888 Rifle
1888 Carbine


One not shown above in Ray’s excellent photo is this smokeless load, a “F 4 98” headstamped variation. Look for the knurled cannelure & I believe only three months are found; 3, 4 & 5 with 4 being the most common.

Thanks Pete. That’s a nice photo of the rare M1898 Rifle cartridge. The photo also clearly shows the re-designed bullet with a different ogive. The F.A. cartridge was short-lived due to the outbreak of the S.A.W. and the decision to let contracts for its manufacture.

BTW, there are Cal .45 Ball cartridges other than the ones shown. It would take a book to show and describe all of them. Back when I knew nothing about cartridges I was a Martial Arms collector. I thought it would be neat to have one each of all the Cal .45 cartridges to go with my Trapdoors. When I finally sold my collection, I had over 100 cartridges and I wasn’t even close to having one of each. Man, I wish I had them back now!


Wow Ray, that’s quite a photo display…wish I could see the HS, it looks eerily similar to what my group would look like. And you time-line explanation is really helpful - I’ve always known 45-70’s as a group is a bit of a Pandora’s Box but at the same time enjoy knowing how mine fit in.
I pulled the bullet on one of my UMC’s and as expected it’s a BP, and was pretty crusty at the base. The weights are a tiny bit off because the scale I have available only weighs in grams and I had to convert.
Total ctg = 632.7 grain
bullet = 408.9 grain
powder 55.5 grain
case 177.5 grain
What you said about the bullet depth is true - I really had to yank on it, the 2 cannelures have some kind of sealing (lubrication?) wax and probably added a little to the weight.
thanks for all the great info and pics, hope others find it interesting too…lee

Here’s the boxes - can anyone date them?
Thanks, lee

They probably date from the time of the Spanish American War or shortly thereafter; say 1898-1902 or so. Jack