Q: Back in the early "60s, my dad acquired a nice Sharps Borchardt in .45-70. With it came an old box of Winchester Repeating Arms black powder cartridges. (A few years later, Dad sold the rifle for $90, but I don't want to talk about it!) Anyhow, 1 kept one of the cartridges because it was different from the others, which were all marked "W.R.A. Co. 45-70."
Although clearly a .45-70, it bears no head-stamp whatever. The primer, which is noticeably convex, measures a gigantic .30" in diameter. Too, the rim is not sharp and square, but is rounded at the edge. While I am not sure, I think I can see a seam at the transition of the rim to the cartridge body, as if the rim had been pressed onto a flange at the base of the body.
The lead bullet's ogive is more blunt than that of the Winchester load. (I also kept one of those.) Can you tell me what I have?
Alan K. Whitney,
A: It's a stab in the dark, because I only know of them by written word, but I believe your cartridge is an early UMC .45-70 commercial round with the large, sensitive Berdan primer. If I'm all wrong, I'm sure our dear readers will not hesitate to correct me.
As a historical side note, that UMC round is responsible for the untimely demise of the first practical .45-70 repeating rifle--the Whitney/Burgess. A .45-70 repeating rifle was the Holy Grail of arms designers in the 1870s, no doubt spurred by thoughts of large Army contracts. Andrew Burgess was the first to make a rifle to chamber the .45-70 and sold his design to the Whitney Arms Co. When the carrier of the Burgess tripped the magazine catch for a cartridge, the round was launched with some force...