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A Kansas Reloading Tool?

    This page is a work in progress. Most of what I know about these tools is provided by Ed Curtis. Right now he has to "Find" the two or three tools he has like this. His are Brass and are for American Pistol Cartridges. He knows of one other made of cast iron, for the 44-77 cartridge.

    Ed remembers buying one in Odessa, Texas years ago. He bought it from a fellow from Kansas who had driven down for the show. The Cast Iron, 44-77 tool was found in Amarillo Texas years ago. In every case, these tools seem to have come out of Kansas.

    I bought this tool on Ebay a few days ago. Scroll down and you will see a casting of the bullet seating chamber.

    The description on Ebay read as follows:

    "Unknown Reloading Tool Pistol Caliber. Look at Volume 2 Reloading Tools of the Black Powder Era page 297. Some think it's early Ideal others have other ideas. Purchased from Larned, Kansas many, many years ago."

    Someone suggested these were made in India, but I think that is silly. The tools are made to re-load American calibers, from the early Kansas Buffalo Hunting Era.  (1871 thru 1873)

    The Winchester reloading tools were first patented in 1874. They had no mold cavity. All the other tools by Winchester, Browning and Ideal were patented much later. These "Kansas" tools look very much like the Ideal tool patented in the mid 1880"s. 

    Is it possible that an early Kansas gunsmith came up with this idea but never patented it? A lot of German trained gunsmiths emigrated, served in the Civil War, then moved West. There was a lot going on in Kansas. Gunsmiths were always in demand. 

    The cut off plate, with that little curl on top, is a European characteristic of bullet molds. Not something from India. In India they just copied items brought in by Europeans. 

    Each gunsmith learned his trade in a particular place. Check out our Pennsylvania/Kentucky rifles and early American furniture. All of these were made in a LOCAL style, passed down from Master to Apprentice. If they are not marked with a makers name, they are usually identified by Style, Shape, Finish and Materials used. Maybe this gunsmith made the tools the way he learned in "The Old Country." This is much more likely than attributing them to India.

    Ed Curtis says the tool pictured in "Reloading Tools", Volume 1, page 297, is made to reload the 44 caliber Smith & Wesson American centerfire cartridge. This was an outside lubricated, heel bullet, assembled like a 22 rim-fire. This cartridge was introduced in 1869 for the Smith & Wesson No.3 revolver. The Model 3 was a U.S. issued, military handgun, from 1871 to 1873. Some soldiers would have had these pistols when going through Kansas in this time period. Why not cast some bullets and reload some cartridges?

    So, what do we have here? A Reloading tool that looks like it was Frontier made, by a European trained gunsmith. Simple brass casting processes were utilized. They seem to all be in Early American Calibers.

    I do have a possible "Suspect" for the maker of these tools. I have sent in a request to "The Kansas Historical Society". Let's see what I can learn!

Kansas Reloading Tool

    There were no gunsmiths in the Texas Panhandle in the 1870 to 1900 era. It was a wild place and not well populated. Kansas was Different. Kansas had larger cities and lots of people traveling through.

    I tried the internet. "Early Kansas Gunsmiths" The first thing to come up was a page from the "Kansas Historical Society."

    My "primary Suspect"? John Biringer. Born 1830. Died 1920. He served a gunsmithing apprenticeship in Germany, then emigrated to the United States in 1847. He worked for a while for George Tryon. Married and moved to Kansas in 1858. He settled in Leavenworth Kansas.

    His family saved a lot of his tools, which is unusual. The Kansas Historical Society web site shows some of his tools. They have 60 odd items donated by the family and mention his "Ledgers". On the web page, they illustrate a casting crucible and a trigger guard cast by Biringer. 

    A German apprenticeship would have made John Biringer an advanced gunsmith who would have been quite capable of making reloading tools. He retired in 1916, turning the business over to his son Frank.

    Check out the Kansas Historical society Website to see a nice rifle he made and some of the really nice tools his family saved.

    Hopefully there will be much more information soon. I am hoping more will come from the Historical Society.


    I made a casting of the bullet seating cavity in this tool. On the lower left is a casting from a Winchester, 50 GOV. marked spoon handle tool, for comparison. Then the casting from the "Kansas " tool. 

    As you can see, these castings can give you a good idea of what the bullet seating cavities look like. I was always curious. I could look in there with a light, but that does not tell me much. Now I can see the darn things!

    The image lower right, compares the tool casting to an early 45 colt cartridge. You can tell this is not an 1873, 45 Colt reloading tool. The finished cartridge is much too long for the colt.

    So far, I have no idea what cartridge this is. The reloading tool is designed to de-cap the Berdan primers. Just like the later Winchester tools.


    I plan to photograph and make chamber castings of the other tools like this as soon as possible. If you can add photos or more information, please send it along! 

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