E. Remington & Sons Cartridges
It is hard to find detailed information on the Cartridges made by E. Remington & Sons. The Catalogs help a little. For the most part you have to find boxed cartridges and take a look at them. If you look at the Big Picture, you can deduce some basic facts.
Remington made a Lot of Military Style, Centerfire, Cartridge Rifles. These Military Rifles were Cheap and really popular in the American West. ( The Gun Digest Cartridge Book is Wrong!) If you look at old pictures of Gun Shops, you will see full Racks of these inexpensive Military Rifles. Many were chambered for 43 Spanish, but other calibers were available. These Rifles were Cheap because Remington was Making Millions of them.
The Military Rifle was Great for guys that did not have a lot of money. The Military Rifle was poorly finished and did not have great Rifling and Chambers like the Sporting Rifle. I call this a Military Finish! Cheap but Serviceable!
Most of the Early Sporting Rifle production was made up of Rimfire Cartridge Rifles. Most Collectors will agree that these early Rimfire Rifles were made from Left over Military Rifle Actions. Possibly Reject actions that had flaws. The sides of the actions were milled down some and the Reworked Actions were Perfect for low pressure Rimfire cartridges. Remington did not waste Anything!
The Remington Sporting Rifles had an Excellent Polishing and Finishing job, Inside and Out. They were Much more Accurate! They were also Much More Expensive!
Remington was So Busy with Military Rifle Production, They ignored the Commercial Market here in America. They made a few Sporting Rifles in between Military Contracts. They did not offer a 50-70 Sporting Rifle, to the general public, until late 1872. Way after they were making 50-70 Military Rifles
Early boxed Centerfire Cartridges from Remington, look a lot like U.M.C. ( Union Metallic Cartridge Co.) Cartridges with Berdan Primers. Remington may have Bought these or Contracted them out.
They did start making their own Cartridges. It is hard to tell which cartridges may be U.M.C., or which ones may have been made by Remington. With no Factory Records available, it is a guessing game!
Above, you can see a sectioned cartridge that we generally call the 40-50 Sharps Bottleneck Cartridge. This could just as easily have come from a box of Early E. Remington & Sons Cartridges. They certainly all look alike in most of the original boxes I have seen.
You can see every detail of this early cartridge construction, if you compare the two images above.
We can be certain of one fact. The 1868 Berdan Cartridge and Primer Patent was "The Only Game in Town" in 1868. Military buyers all over the world bought 42 Berdan and 43 Spanish/Egyptian type cartridges in the millions.
Schuyler, Hartley & Graham bought some small cartridge manufacturers in 1866, then combined them into the Union Metallic Cartridge Co. ( U.M.C.) in 1867.
So far, I have not seen any reference about Who made those Berdan Patent Cartridges for those Millions of Remington Rolling Block Rifles. It may have been U.M.C.
The Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Co. bought Berdan Primed Brass from U.M.C. They then loaded them with powder and bullets. This process made Sharps Ammunition very expensive and customers complained. Later Sharps ammunition was made entirely by U.M.C. The boxes had a green U.M.C. label on top that said, "For Sharps Rifles."
Remington may have done that too, for their early centerfire cartridges. They may Not have had the ability to make those massive numbers of cartridges for their Military Contracts. The very first Remington Decapping tool had a chisel to remove Berdan Primers. (See Reloading Tools of the Black Powder Era, Vol. 2, page 10). Even as late as 1875, L.L. Hepburn patented a Decapping Tool with a Berdan chisel, for Remington. So, Remington was selling Berdan Primed Cartridges all along. (See Remington Capping Tools on this web site.)
Remington was scrambling to come up with their own cartridges from the very beginning. They made sewing machines, typewriters, farm equipment and had a big foundry business. They were not just a Firearms manufacturer.
Their efforts to make cartridges and primers of their own would have been natural for them. These very pretty Raised Headstamp Cartridges may have been the result.
So far, I have only found these Cartridges in 50-70, the 44 Remington Special with the 2 7/16 in case, 44-77, and the 45-50 bottleneck. I have heard rumors of others, but I never came across any. I have not seen any of these Cartridges in Military Calibers. These represent three different rim and base sizes. The Rim and Base of the 40-50 Cartridge is the same as the 45-70 Springfield Cartridge of 1873. You would think that Remington would have made some of these in 45-70. So far I have not found any.
Notice the little 40-50 bottleneck Cartridge, Upper Right. This cartridge, and all the others I have are the same. They have a Central Flash Hole for the American style Primer! The primer pocket is also the Same Depth as our Modern American Primers.
These Fancy Cartridges may have been Remington's Top Of The Line Cartridges for the Target Shooter and Gentleman Hunter. There were certainly other plain ones available. So far, I have never seen these mentioned in a Remington Catalog or Ad. You could buy these as Primed Brass and Loaded Cartridges.
This is a label for a box of these Raised Headstamp Cartridges illustrated below. The Patent dates are a Puzzle. I can't find them yet. You will also see this label on boxes of Remington Cartridges that seem to have a U.M.C. type base.
It is not unusual to see these boxes re-marked. Sometimes you will see the caliber marked out and a new caliber marked in. All with an India Ink pen. I have seen this re-marking on boxes of bullets too. My best guess is that the U.S. was in a Financial Panic in the mid 1870's. Rather than spend a lot of money on different labels and boxes, Remington would "Make Do" with what they had.
This box is unusual because it will only hold six Cartridges. No, it will not hold eight, though many do. Some heavy cardboard acts as spacers to keeps the Cartridges from moving around. Normally the Paper Patch Bullets are wrapped with tissue paper on the end of the bullets and there is paper folded between the Cartridges to protect them. In this case the paper is gone, or was never there.
This box Did have the Original Instruction Sheet. This makes interesting Reading. Note that these are the 2 7/16 inch long "Remington Special" Match Cartridges for 1000 yard Target Shooting.
Ed Curtis tells me the First Remington Rolling Block Long Range Rifles used the 44 caliber Bottleneck Case Called the 44-77 today. This earlier case was 2 1/4 inches long. Ed said the shooters wanted a "Little More" powder for accuracy. So, Remington brought out this case that was 3/16th's of an inch longer. Even then, the bullet barely stuck in the cartridge case mouth. The Paper Patch Bullet will come out easily if you mess around with them. They only fit into the Case Mouth about 1/8 of an inch.
When I was a kid, we would see a Lot of Remington 43 Spanish Cartridges around at the Gun Shows. I never thought much about it because we were looking for Cartridges for Sharps Rifles. These were not that interesting, because they were Berdan Primed. Even if you had a desire to shoot a 43 Spanish Rifle, it would be a pain, back in the 1970's, to find primers and a mold to reload them. I still see some of these around today.
Ed Curtis told me Why there were so many at the Shows. Years ago, a train car caught fire in Odessa,Texas. It happened to be a Train Car Load of these 43 Spanish Cartridges. The fire was put out. Many of the Wood Cartridge Cases were scorched and the boxes were discolored from smoke. Some of the cardboard cartridge boxes were still perfect.
This Train Car of Cartridges was probably headed to Mexico or South America. After the fire they were sold off here at auction. All this must have happened sometime after 1912. That is why there are still so many around.
The Little Red Dot on the Box Label is interesting. It says Remington, U.M.C. These two companies did not Merge until 1912. The red dot dates the cartridges.
So, the Berdan Primed Cartridges were still in production many years later. Some of those Remington Rolling Block Rifles were still being used, way to the South of the U.S. These may have been a thicker head case. I plan to find some and check them in the future.
The Berdan Patent of September 1868 is easy to spot. The folded Rim is Round on the outside. The Berdan Primer is much bigger than the American Primers. (.250 diameter vs. .210 )
In my box of old Relic Cartridge Cases, I had several of these Early Berdan Cases in 50-70 GOV. I decided to split one at the base to get a good look at the construction of the Rim and Head. This one looks exactly like the 1868 Berdan Patent Drawing. It had been fired and left out in the Desert. You can see the relationship between the Primer and Anvil in the Berdan Case.
I had to think Long and Hard before I split this Remington Raised Headstamp Cartridge. I collect these and really like them.
I could look into these with a flash light, but that did not tell me a lot. I wanted to see how these "Fit In" with all the other Cartridge Cases Remington made.
I picked out the worst one I had.
I am not sure what to call these Cartridge Cases. You could call it a Balloon head Cartridge Case, with a reinforcing cup pressed in place, to strengthen the Rim and Base. ( Like The 1868 Berdan case above it) However, the base and Rim are pretty thick. Much like the later cartridge Cases U.M.C. called Solid Head.
These Cartridges use the standard American Primer. (.210 in diameter) You can go out and buy new, Large Rifle Primers and put them right in the primer pocket. The single, central flash hole is just like brand new 50-70 Cartridge Cases you can buy today. Decapping is easy.
I think these are the most attractive Centerfire Rifle Cartridges ever made. They have thick walls and a solid head. They use a Modern style American Primer. Most of all, the have this Beautiful Raised Headstamp.
That is all we can say at this time. They are a Mystery!