What is this .50 Cal? Please help


I’m new at this so please be patient with a “_NG”.

Can anyone tell me what this is? I’ve checked several on line pages, checked several references but cannot seem to find it. Must be I’m not wearing the right color socks!!! This is my first attempt at Photobucket! This in itself is an accomplishment.

Dimensions are:
Overall length: 2.280
Case Length: 1.460
Bullet Duia above case: .535
Case mouyh at crimp: .532
Bullet evtends .702
Rim Dia: .645


To be upfront I don’t know what it is, but it isn’t any part of the .50-70 family of cartridges. Do you have a pic of the base? That might help eliminate some possibilities and suggest others. Whatever it is, I do like it. Jack


Jack … The bas is plain … no headstamp. The url data above the pic is of the base. Glad to know I wasn’t wrong about not finding in the 50-70’s! I don’t feel so dumb now! I don’t know why when I try to post 2 pics only one of the shows up, the other has to be clicked on.//Thanks



1SFG–The first picture did not show up because the URL was missing the [img] at the beginning. I fixed it up for you.



Maybe a .52-70 Sharps?



Based on the cartridge dimensions I second the .52-70 Sharps.

Also, UMC and C. D. Leet both made this and are both known to have the one off centered tool mark; but the C. D. Leet version had more rounded belts on the sides of the cannelures where as the UMC were more flat like yours.

So my guess is that this is a UMC .52-70 Sharps.


Thank you all for the help! That seems to answer the questions … Only I don’t collect civ ammo except that used by the military! was hoping it was a round used by the military in the 1800’s.//


If it is a 52-70, than it is probably the cartridge for a sharps carbine conversion I owned once. That carbine was a military one, complete with cartouches. It has been 50 years since I owned it. I never fired it, because while I bought it at a good price - about $75.00 along with an 1895 Winchester .30-06 Carbine in beautiful shape ($150.00 for the two) from a neighbor, I couldn’t afford the loading tools that it took to make proper cartridges. I fired the Winchester and 100 light loads measureably cratered the firing pin hole, so I stopped firing it before I ruined it, and sold both to pay for some of my college expenses.

One problem and pardon my ignorance of this type of ammunition - is this cartridge an inside-primed center-fire, or a rim-fire? My carbine was converted in 1869, from a percussion breech loader, but was a center-fire conversion. If the cartridge pictured is center-fire, it could be military and for those conversions, could it not?

Not a rhetorical question - I don’t know if there was a different military version.

John Moss


John: This is a rimfire, for the Sharps .52 caliber percussion models of 1859 through 1863, using the original unrelined barrel. When the government had the conversions for the standard .50-70 done, they were relined in most cases; a few with tighter than normal bores were simply chambered out for the .50-70 centerfire. These .50-70 carbines remained in issue with frontier cavalry units into 1874 or a bit later. Jack



When the 52 caliber CW percussion rifles and carbines were converted to shoot metallic cartridges, those with good barrels under .5225" were left as is and simply chambered for the 50-70 cartridge. They are the so-called “52-70” which are actually 50-70 with oversize bores. Those with shot out or over-size barrels were lined to 50 caliber. You can tell which you have by the rifleing. The lined barrels had only 3 grooves while the original 52 caliber barrels had 6 grooves.

I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a rimfire conversion. Are you sure there is such a thing?



Ray: In the .50-70 conversions the relined barrels outnumber the unrelined by a good margin; the story as to why the conversions were so handled seems to vary with source. Certainly as you say some of the used percussion carbines would have had bores so rusted only relining would have been possible. I’m not sure whether the arms adapted to the .52-70 rimfire were conversions or built from scratch, but in either case they’re scarce compared to the army-used centerfire conversions. Their rimfire ammunition is likewise uncommon. Jack



The conversions were done by Sharps, on contract. The specs were provided by the Army. They (the conversions) are well documented.

The un-lined six groove conversions are a lot less common, as you said, and they command a premium. This summer I sold a six groove carbine barrel for $300 which is more than I used to pay for a complete converted rifle or carbine.

Do you have a link to somewhere that I can read about rim-fire conversions? I collected only the martial arms and confess that it’s a new one for me.



Ray: I did find a round in Suydam’s The American Cartridge that seems to be the one pictured in this thread, and I’m pretty sure Barber’s book on American rimfire ammunition would show the Leet and UMC versions Aaron mentioned earlier in this thread. I’m not sure what kind of coverage there is in print on the specific arm to which the cartridge was adapted. Since Leet did produce this round it’s certainly very early–1865 probably–so I imagine when it became obvious the army was going in the direction of centerfire priming the rimfire quickly went away. Jack


My converted Sharps Carbine was with the original barrel, and frankly, although the rifling was stong (the barrel appeared mint - it was a lovely condition carbine by ANY standard and wish I had kept it) - a 50-70 bullet would drop right through it. Even one not sized at all, straight out of a friend’s mold was undersized. I don’t remember the dimensions - my friend took care of all that. At the time, I was not working in the profession and didn’t really care a hoot about dimensions other than that they be absolutely proper for the ammunition used. In short - accurate shooting. My friend did regular 50-70s, but I could not afford to have an oversize mold made and we didn’t have any where to buy one off the shelf then. I figured it wasn’t worth the expense and trouble to shoot it. Whoever owns it today would probably kiss me on hearing that, as it really was one of the nicest Sharps cartridge carbines I have ever seen, even to this day.

John Moss


This is really great information about a cartridge I have and for years had in my “what’s it” box waiting to be identified. Thanks all!


Thanks all you guy’s for the info that kept me from “trashing” a really important military round. I have done some research and have found enough data on the Sharps Carbine and what the Ordnance Department of 1868 did that brought about the 52-70. This is a story of how one action can have far reaching consequences. On 27 Nov 1868 th 7th Cavalry under BG G. Custer attacked a large Cheynne winter camp, which resulted in the death of 150 Indians many of which were women and children. Custer was armed with Spencer 56-50 Carbines. This was the “Battle of the Washita” and in the mind of many including General Dyer, Chief of Ordnance, the fault for the “killing women and children” was Custers Spencers and their unlimited fire power. (Are we beginning to see how things can start one way and end up "with a 52-70 Cartridge). Shortly after the “Whichita” campaign, Gen Dyer removed all repeating Spencers from Army arsenals, and replaced them with thirty thousand single-shot Sharps Cavalry carbines; converted from Civil War percussion type to fire the new .50 caliber metal cartridge. After adoption by the Rifle Board of the 45-70 in 1872, the Army had 30,000 converted Sharps carbines; most were relined, and some were chambered for the 52-70. The Army had a choice; convert by relining to 45-70 or junk them. They were junked, sold or issued to state militias. This information is from “Misfire” by W. Hallahan, The Illustrated Directory of guns by David Miller and my copy of the Rifle Selection Board Report of 1872. The round I have, I believe is a very interesting and integral part of cartridge history. Hope you think so to. I think it is very hard to separate weapon from the ammunition. In many cases the reason for one is in fact the need for the other. Thank all. I have a keeper!