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Thread: Assistance with identifying old bullets

  1. #11
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    Dec 2010
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    Thanks again for all the info, this is great stuff to know.

  2. #12
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    Aug 2009
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    The cartridge case shown in the last photo is a US army inside primed .45/70, a caliber adopted for army service weapons in 1873. By 1879 the first outside primed cases were coming into army service - by 1881 the outside primed model became the general service cartridge. They are also dated after the year 1878 if you look close enough. The prior inside primed type were then generally relegated to target practice & training. The various Apache conflicts occurred over a wide range of years so many cartridge models would be 'correct' -- but without some historical and archaeological context to them they don't mean much.... except as a neat relic. The single shot 45/70 rifle & carbine incidentally was replaced between 1892 and 1895 with the Krag 30/40 as the standard service weapon. By 1896 the last regular army units had turned in the 45/70's. Over the years the 45/70's and the surplus ammo became a cheap knockabout gun for ranchers and homesteaders and such, so they are commonly found in western sites - its hard to tell if the use was in 1880 or 1920 after all these years. Also, some 45/70 cartridges will bear the name of a civilian concern on the head - like UMC or Winchester etc. as the 45/70 became a popular caliber. One other tidbit - although single shot, the 45/70 is vastly more powerful with a farther range and better trajectory than most repeater rifle calibers. The US 45/70 trap door action was also soldier, dirt, and bullet proof - literally indestructible. Repeaters of course have more small moving parts that can break and are fussy when even a little grit or dirt gets into them, hence the army in the wide open dusty west valued rugged reliability and hard hitting long range power over individual rapid reload capability. Cool finds.
    Those 45/70 bullets - see the three grooves at the base - look like US 405 grain bullets, used 1873 thru about 1881 for all 45/70s. In 1881 the infantry rifle cartridges (only) were bumped up to 500 grain bullets, the cavalry kept the 405 grain since the carbine barrel is shorter.
    Last edited by RedDogSaloon; 01-29-2011 at 02:26 AM.

  3. #13
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    Dec 2010
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    Tucson, AZ
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    I should try to clean up that cartridge I found with some brass cleaner and see if there's a headstamp on there.
    Sure didn't look like it tho.

  4. #14
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    Aug 2009
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    Personally I would not clean it. Not that its valuable and cleaning would hurt it (cleaning a 'dug' metal historical item usually does affect the value negatively) but as a collector for decades I have later regretted cleaning a 'neat' item found in the field. The US date codes on these, by the way, are lightly stamped. In many cases the oxidation has been enough that cleaning does not reveal a legible date anyway. Unless you can detect non government lettering (which are pressed deeper) around the primer area its probably a US arsenal made cartridge, and likely 1881 or later. That places it in a significantly historical era.

  5. #15
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    Tucson, AZ
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    Quote Originally Posted by RedDogSaloon View Post
    Personally I would not clean it. Not that its valuable and cleaning would hurt it (cleaning a 'dug' metal historical item usually does affect the value negatively) but as a collector for decades I have later regretted cleaning a 'neat' item found in the field. The US date codes on these, by the way, are lightly stamped. In many cases the oxidation has been enough that cleaning does not reveal a legible date anyway. Unless you can detect non government lettering (which are pressed deeper) around the primer area its probably a US arsenal made cartridge, and likely 1881 or later. That places it in a significantly historical era.
    That's a good point and I know the feeling. The first horseshoe I dug up with my metal detector was in a drywash bed and I soaked it in Evapo-rust for several days. It removed most of the big chunks of rust but changed the appearance of the shoe a lot. I think it was cooler just the way it was when I dug it up. Since then certain things I'll clean a little and other things I'll just leave completely untouched.

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