Maynard or Massachusetts Arms Company
Re. and De-Capping Tools
The Maynard Rifles sold to the U.S. during the Civil War used a metallic cartridge. A cartridge case, bullet and powder were combined in a single unit. There was no primer in the cartridge. Like Sharps, they used a regular old percussion nipple and percussion cap to ignite the charge. (Or the Maynard patent Tape primers)
After the War, this system was obsolete. American Sportsmen wanted a modern, self contained cartridge.
Their solution was slightly different from the other firearms manufacturing companies. They produced a thick rimmed cartridge which used a Berdan primer. The thick rim was not absolutely necessary, but you did have to buy your cartridge cases from the factory. That may have increased their cartridge sales.
All their cartridges were made to be reloaded. Selling reloading tools was an important part of their business.
Upper left, you can see a typical Maynard cartridge from the percussion era. The large, thin rim and tiny flash hole made them easy to identify. These were fired by a percussion cap through a nipple. Just like a muzzle-loading rifle. These cartridges were offered in different rifle calibers and shotgun shells as well.
Percussion sporting rifles could be purchased with multiple barrels, shotgun and rifle. Occasionally, you will see a cased set with it's tools. Usually there is a bullet mold, mushroom shaped bullet seater and a rifle type powder flask. Lots of other little tools were available. Wad seaters for the shotgun shells, nipple wrenches, screw drivers, etc.
Upper right is an example of the next version of the Maynard Cartridge, the model 1873. Note the thick rim and the larger Berdan primer. There are also two deep grooves leading down toward the primer. These two grooves were meant to help remove the primer. Either with an awl or in later years with the 1878 style Hadley patent de-capping tool.
The 1873 model rifles are easy to recognize. In the image above you can see a large gap between the barrel and breech face to make room for that thick rimmed cartridge.
Removing the Maynard primer in 1873
After firing a cartridge, your first job is to get the spent primer out and clean the cartridge case. The Berdan primer was larger and shorter than the primer we use today. They were easier to remove, but still a problem.
Sharps offered instructions for reloading early black powder cartridges which you can read below left. These instructions apply to any early Berdan primed cartridge, so they are always useful.
For a while, This wooden block and awl method was all that was available for the Rifleman. This worked OK but could be hazardous to your health if you were clumsy. You could still jab yourself with the awl if you were not careful.
L.L. Hepburn patented the Re and De-capping tool above right in 1875. Remington made a large line of Shotgun and Rifle cartridges for the Berdan primed ammunition. Remington needed an elegant and easy way to remove the primers. This was an excellent tool. It was produced for many years.
This was not a good solution for Maynard. The early Remington cartridge cases were folded head cartridges with a reinforcing cup pressed inside the base. They also had a small rim like we are using today. Sharps cartridge brass, purchased from The Union Metallic Cartridge Company, was the same. These Remington Re and De-capping tools would not work for the thick head on the 1873 Maynard Cartridges.
Maynard must have believed the wood block and awl was fine for De-capping their 1873 type cartridges. The cartridge rims were thick and strong. They also had those little grooves in the cartridge base to guide the tip of the awl. You could pop out the primer fairly easily.
After five years, Maynard finally offered this patented tool. It was very specifically for the thick, large rim of the 1873 cartridges.
I never tried to use one of these tools. The handles are often cracked and the tip which pierces the primer is usually messed up. The patent drawing above shows a cartridge with a central flash hole. That makes me wonder why a regular old de-capping pin was not used to tap the primer out, as we do today.
These tools are usually stamped with the patent date. That helps a lot when trying to identify a tool.
The side view above shows what an original handle should look like. This one seems to be in fine shape.
This tool was produced form 1878, until 1882 at least. Maybe a little longer since the rifles, extra barrels and cartridges were still being sold and used.
Pressing in the 1873 Cartridge Primer
It was possible to install a primer using the wood block described in the Sharps Rifle Company instructions above. All that was needed was a flat punch and a mallet to tap the new primer in.
This process could ignite the primer. Not a particularly bad thing since there was not any powder in the cartridge. A nice tool to gently press in the new primer was a better solution.
This was Maynard's solution to installing the primer. This is a simple tool. It can easily be mistaken for a shotgun priming tool, but it was made specifically for the big, thick, rim of the 1873 cartridge cases.
There are actually two versions of this simple 1873 cartridge priming tool. Some are polished all over. Some have black painted handles. If you are a serious collector you would probably want both. In mint condition, in the box, with original instructions!
I did ask Ed Curtis about these. He says he has more cappers that are polished all over. Fewer that have black painted handles. Still, that may just be the luck of the draw. There is no indication of which one might be earlier or later. There is no patent date on the examples we have available.
Other companies made little capping tools just like this. Wesson Rifles often had a similar capping tool that was nickel plated. Some other similar capping tools show up that are not marked.
Don't think for a minute they were not Patented!
When the new centerfire cartridges were introduced, there was a rush to patent everything related to them. Guns, reloading tools, cartridges and primers.
It is always fun to look at the patents. I always assumed the simple little capping tools were not a patentable idea. Basically they are just pliers modified to do a simple task. I was surprised when Leo Remiger sent this patent image. Tom Rowe had mentioned this patent but I never could find it.
I can't find any indication that anyone ever paid royalties to J.L. Raub. The records may have been lost through the years.
A close look at these patent drawings is fun! There are actually two different priming tools illustrated here. The Figure 1 tool shows up a lot. The tool in figure 2 many never have been made. It might have worked on the thin Berdan primers. I would have to try it.
Special Note; In 1899 the head of the patent office, Charles Holland Duell, was supposed to have sent his resignation to president McKinley. He was supposed to have said; "Everything that can be invented, has been invented." He probably never really said that. It does make a funny story. I have also heard that English Gunsmiths would patent a left handed screw if they thought it would help them compete with other gunmakers. This is probably very true. Once upon a time the British were nuts about their guns.
A Selection of Maynard Capping Tools
This is a remarkably nice group of Maynard Capping Tools from Jim Zupan. There are several interesting things to notice here.
1. These cappers are for the later small rimmed cartridges. When these were made, Maynard had started to offer a more modern cartridge design.
2. There are no black painted handles here. That "Might" mean that the black painted handles were an earlier type.
3. These are all considered to be Maynard/ Massachusetts Arms Co. capping tools because the hinge area and screws are all like the earlier 1873 type tools.
Some versions of these can easily be mistaken for the B.G.I. brand tools. The Bridgeport Gun Implement tools were usually Marked B.G.I. and sometimes had a model number stamped on them too. Although similar, they are not the same. They are larger, longer tools.
I have not had a chance to look at the Capping tool at the top, so I have no idea yet what that extra lever is for. It could be like the B.G.I tool with a hook to remove Berdan primers.
The bottom two cappers are just a basic tool they made until the later patent came out.
The second tool is the most interesting to me. It seems to be a capper for the 1873 type cartridges that has a plate added with two screws. An 1873 tool converted to cap the later small rimmed shells. Or, you could remove the plate and re-cap the 1873 cases. B.G.I. did this too. Check out the B.G.I. shotgun tool with a plate added on the B.G.I page here on my site.
These varied tools were probably made until the more advanced 1885 tool was introduced.
If you come across one of these, don't pull the plate and throw the insert away! The screws all match and the work is of high quality. I believe this is a genuine Maynard capping tool. A nice one!
Maynard. Massachusetts Arms Company.
Hadley Patent of January 13, 1885
This patent of 1885 brought Maynard rifles into the modern age. The fad of the moment was the American Style primer with a central flash hole. The Berdan primer was slowly fading away.
I tried one of these out and they work great. They are not a heavy duty tool that would work with rough usage out on the Buffalo Range. But, the Buffalo were all gone by 1885.
Target shooting and medium size game hunting was popular. Offhand style shooting and reloading at the range was coming into style. These tools were an excellent solution for the Re-loader at home or on the "Schuetzen" range.
This Re- and De-capping tool Will Not work for the Berdan primer. It is for American style primers.
I am sure the earlier Hadley patent tool was still available for the guys still loved their 1873 rifles.
This ad comes from the inside cover of the 1885 Maynard catalog. The company must have been proud of this tool to give it such a prominent position just inside.
I find it interesting that the title says Rifle and Shot Shells. That makes sense if you look at the bottom of this ad. You could buy bushings or thimbles for .25 cents. They screw on and off the decapping rod, changing the diameter of the rod to accomodate different size shells.
Checking Volume 1 of "Reloading Tools" by Rowe and Curtis on pages 281 and 282 they mention two different sizes of this tool. Small and large. They say the large tool is for large centerfire cartridges and Shot Shells.
Prices here indicate there are two models, a nickeled deluxe model and a "Bronzed" economy model. Rowe and Curtis refer to this as "Painted" which is correct. In the old days, either all or part of a tool were "Dipped" in paint. Back then the paint was a type of imitation Lacquer. Whatever the color, this was also referred to as "Japanning" or sometimes "Toleware". Bronzed just means gold paint!
If you check out the patent you can see the different sleeves. Search online and you can find a written description of the Tool and how it works.
I usually search; ( Hadley Patent, Jan 13, 1885.) This works on most patents though some seem hard to find.
A Selection of Hadley Re and De-capping Tools
This is a nice group photo of 1885 Hadley re and de-capping tools courtesy of James Zupan. These tools are for the later thin rimmed (.070 thick) cartridges.
Early 1873 Maynard cartridges had a large, .125 or .135 thick rim. They also had two small grooves in the base leading to the primer.
Like Sharps, you could drill a hole in a wood block the size of the cartridge case body. Drop the empty case into the hole. Poke an awl into the primer and pop it out. The wood block gave you something to hold on to and helped prevent injury.
G. W. Hadley patented a de-capping tool March 26, 1878 for these thick head cartridges. That seems like a long time after their introduction in 1873. Since the popular Remington, L.L. Hepburn patented tool would not work on these large, thick headed cartridges. I'll bet customers were asking for a better de-capping tool!
I'm not sure why Maynard liked these thick headed Berdan primed cartridges. They stuck with them a long time. Perhaps customers liked them. Even in the later catalogs you could order extra barrels for either the 1873 or 1882 cartridge.
Finally, they started producing a more normal cartridge with a small thin rim in 1882. The cartridge was also designed to use a primer with a central flash hole. This re and de-capping tool was patented and introduced for these new cartridges. It did take a few years to bring this tool out.
Notice that there are 2 small size tools at the top and two larger size tools below. If you zoom in on the top tool you can see the "sleeve" is marked 40. That means it would de-cap any 40 caliber cartridge that would fit into the tool. The sleeve served to center the cartridge on the rod. That should help a lot to avoid pin breakage. It is probably the basic $1.50 tool. The second tool seems to be the $2.50 tool with nickel plating. There is no mention of an extra charge for the larger tools.
I may be a little off just showing two sizes of these tools. The catalog clearly states they would made these tools for any caliber you asked for. Ed Curtis notes that Maynard offered a 25-20 cartridge. The de-capping rod on the tool I have measures .300 in diameter. Much too large for a 25 caliber. Maynard also offered a 22 centerfire cartridge in the 1882 type cartridges. There are potentially some tools with smaller de-capping rods out there.
Maynard said they could make these for any caliber in the catalog. Ed thinks he may have a larger size tool for longer cases.
There could be three or four different lengths or versions of these tools.
A Maynard 1885 Re-and De-Capping Tool in It's Original Box
If you Beginners become Collectors ( Hoarders) of antique Reloading Tools, please check out these pictures. This is what we are looking for. A Reloading Tool, Never used, in it's Original Box.
Yes, I know the instructions are gone.
( My box is in better shape than the other one! They may have used the paper instructions to start a fire. The Sears and Roebuck catalog may have been used up. They wadded up the paper to soften it. It may have ended up in an outhouse hole after it was read.)
Whatever happened back then, it is hard to find these in any condition.
This box is just as interesting as the reloading tool. The black paper has pressed in wood grain swirls. The box label gives you all the information about the tool.
You can see the patent date stamped into the de-capping rod. The handles are probably bass wood stained to look like darker wood.
This is a nice closeup of the label for your viewing pleasure. There is a lot of gold paint still left on this tool. It was probably not used much.
There is threading on the de-capping rod under the split sleeve. Normally the little sleeves would screw on and off. In this case the tool was intended to re and de-cap a 32 caliber cartridge case. There simply was not room for threads, so a split sleeve was installed.
Notice that I did not try to clean this tool At All. I want it to look just like this. Original. Many tools have been messed up by excessive cleaning. After 130 odd years sitting in a box, you would have a little corrosion too! Wipe on a little oil and leave it alone!
There is no mention of the caliber this tool was intended to Re and De-cap. Not on the tool or the box. There is a number stamped here. 648. This may very well be a serial number. It is a very high number.
Smaller calibers became popular in later years. I suspect this is a very late production tool.
I added multiple views of this tool so you could see it from every side. This is the advantage of a website. A book has little space and the pictures are horrible in the older books.
This is what we look for as serious collectors. This is what Great Grandad bought to reload his Rifle and Shotgun Cartridges. He taught your Grandad how to use these. Then everyone who used them died. The survival rate of these tools is very small.