UMC use of Berdan Primers

I am reading a book on the history of Remington and UMC. In this book it says that when UMC started in 1866, Berdan came to them with his patent of the Berdan primer. The book says that the Berdan primer was superior to the Boxer being developed in Europe at that time and that the first UMC cartridges were Berdan primed. ?Can anyone comment on this?

Hi, George…

UMC did acquire the rights to use the Berdan primer, and did so extensively. Many of the cartridges made by UMC used the Berdan primer, and some, like many of the Sharps cartridges, used the Berdan primer right up through the merger with Remington in 1911 and beyond. Most UMC cartridges using the Berdan primer exhibit a ringed head and the primer will generally be of brass, domed, and diameter of .251"


Randy: Could you make any general remarks on the use by UMC of the big Berdan primer in handgun calibers? My impression is that it was used for the .44 S&W Russian (maybe the American too?) but that the Orcutt primer replaced the Berdan pretty early in most pistol calibers. Jack


44 Russian used the large primer, I had one once…The American, I’m not sure…and, yes, I believe you are correct…The handgun calibers either changed to or were always loaded with the Orcutt, and soon afterwards, the Hobbs and Wesson primers…


Randy: Thanks for the information. It seems like in the American black powder cartridges the big ones are always better covered than the little ones! Jack

Randy, thank you for the information. I had the impression that very early US made cartridges were all boxer primed. I wonder when boxer primers took hold in the US. Would it be correct to say that at one time UMC must have been making concurrently rim fire, berden, boxer, and ever benet internal primed cartridges?


Yes, it would be correct to say that UMC was concurrently making rimfire, Berdan primed, and, lets call it center fire other than Berdan primed. In the early to mid 1870’s, there were several center fire primers used by UMC…the Orcutt, Hobbs and Wesson…I believe it was 1878 when a Boxer-type primer was settled upon that was used in cartridges other than those where it was decided to keep the Berdan primer. This one was also invented by A.C. Hobbs. UMC also made a few Martin-primed cartridges, back in the late 1860’s, but to my knowledge, never used the Benet system…


What type of primers were used in the ‘Sturtevant Patent’ shotshells? I have two of them with different shaped anvils. Did they also provide a means of removing the spent primer?

Randy, thank you, now I have a better understanding. In the book I am reading that got me interested in UMC, “Remington Arms, In American History”, by Alden Hatch published in 1956; Hatch notes that, there were three pieces of good fortune which established UMC on a firm base. First, securing the services of A.C. Hobbs; second, was a Turkish Government order for ten million rounds of ammunition, and third was Colonel Hiram Berdan coming to UMC in 1867 with his Berdan primer patent. The book says that A.C. Hobbs was the engineer that solved the problems with manufacture of the Berdan primer with the progess of annealing and drawing to shape the cartridges from sheet brass. Hatch does not go into detail about the Turikish order; does anyone know what this was?

I think it was for .44 Henry, to be used against the Russians. I’d have to look up the details. Order to UMC was 1870-71. Turks whupped up on the Russians for awhile at the Siege of Plevna (Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78) as they had, I think, Winchester Model 1866s for short-range rapid-fire work, and the Russians didn’t. Sort of an early example of assault rifle employment. But the Russians eventually won due to having a considerable superiority in numbers of troops.

The first significant fruit of Hobbs’ Berdan-based military rifle cartridge design was the .42 Russian Berdan, introduced together with the Colt-made Berdan I rifle for the Russian government in the late 1860s. The .42 Berdan was quickly followed by the very similar .43 Spanish Remington cartridge. At the end of the 1860s only two facilities in the U.S. were producing centerfire ammunition on a production basis, UMC and Frankford Arsenal. The FA product at this time was still a copper-cased inside primed cartridge not suitable for reloading; the UMC cartridges were fully reloadable and “state of the art” in rifle cartridge design for another decade or so. Jack

Jack, very good information, thank you. ?This still leaves me wondering, what was the Turkish Contract for ten million rounds of ammunition? I would have guessed that DennisK was right and it Could it have been the .44 Henry. I was told by a .44 Henry collector that the .44 Henry for Turkey that was used at Plevna were center rife and not rimfire.

George: Another possibility in addition to the .44 Henry mentioned by Dennis is the Turkish Peabody Martini rifle (11.3 m/m, I think). Winchester had a big contract for ammunition for these rifles, and I wouldn’t be surprised if UMC didn’t also. Jack

Found this info on Berdan primers & Turkish contract.

Berdan Primer Sept.pdf (314.6 KB)

Happy New Year, Terry

Terry: Thanks for the reference. Jack

The Sturtevant Patent has a movable anvil which allows it’s use as the ejector of the spent primer or cap. Two types of anvils were used.

Happy New Year to you too. May I ask where this Berdan Primer pdf comes from?

Hi Pete,

A Howard Hoovestol article.


Howard know’s his stuff.
It’s always nice to see credit given for work done.

I just heard from a very knowledgable UMC student that UMC started using Berdan primers in 1867, 7 years before the article you quoted.

In Roy Marcot’s, Hiram Berdan’s book he notes on page 290 the licensing of 1867 and to use the Berdan patent primer and that “soon after this all centerfire ammunition made by U.M.C.Co. was made with the so-called Bredan primer”.

Thank you for the information.

You are correct. My info was relating to the Turkish contract.