UMC and Boxer primers


I am conducting research on some historic sites in NW Wyoming. I was wondering when “UMC” began being stamped on cartridge cases. I know Remington began commercially loading Berdan primed cartridges as early as 1868, but these were probably not headstamped. Also, I have a Berdan primed 44-77 Remington, when would this and the other cartridges of that day have switched over to Boxer priming? There was a Boxer primed case at Adobe Walls (1874).


UMC began producing Berdan-primed cartridges c. 1868 and added the Orcutt primer (a sort of Boxer, but not the classic Winchester design) about 1874 for handgun calibers. UMC switched over to the Winchester-type Boxer primer in the early 1880s for most calibers (tho some of the larger cartridges continued with the Berdan primer for many years), and added headstamping within the next few years.
Headstamping was general, I believe, for WRA and UMC centerfires from the mid-1880s, but USC began the practice (again for centerfires) perhaps a decade later. From my reading it appears large majority of primers found in and around Adobe Walls were the Berdan type. The typical buffalo cartridge of c. 1874 was a UMC-produced folded-head brass case with Berdan primer and no headstamp. Problem is, almost everything that can be said of U.S. cartridge design in this period has exceptions, and most of the exceptions have exceptions also. Rimfires and shotshells are another story too. JG


Deakin–To answer your question, I need to know more information. What case type are you asking about? If it is .44-77 Remington, then U.M.C. Loaded it until 1910 and Remington-UMC continued to load it until at least 1914. It ALWAYS used the Berdan primer. It was not loaded by UMC with Boxer primers.

As for the general question of when UMC started to headstamp cartridges, it was about 1886. However, the Berdan primed rounds, for the most part continued to not have headstamps to at least 1890’s or later, especially the military types. As for the .44-77, it was not headstamped until about 1890 or later. As for UMC’s use of Boxer primers, it was around 1880, in the form of the “Wesson” primer. for selected loads. But most still used the Berdan primer.


Ron: wasn’t the UMC “SH” for “solid head” headstamped family of cartridges exclusively Boxer primed by 1890 or thereabouts? JG


If I remember correctly, and after 20 years of collecting UMC, all U.M.C. S H cartridges were always Boxer primed. Even things like the 43-77 Spanish Remington, made by UMC up until the merger with Remington in 1911 with folded head and Berdan primer, was made for awhile as a solid head, Boxer primed cartridge with headstamp U.M.C. S H .43-77. The earliest headstamps by UMC on center fire cartridges were the contract .45-70’s, R B 45-70, R B 9 78, R B 10 78. After this, we jump to November, 1884, when they began using the U.M.C.CO. headstamp, with and without caliber, but only on a few cartridges, like 45-60 and 50-95 WCF. The “SH” headstamps began in 1887. The .44-77 was headstamped by W.R.A.Co., but to my knowledge, never by UMC.