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Old April 23, 2011, 09:19 PM   #1
charles-smythe
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.36 calliber

I read in a Louis LaMour western that a guy bought a box of .36 caliber cartridges...not .36 caliber lead balls...but .36 caliber cartridges...when they started converting cap & ball pistols to cartridges did someone start making a .36 caliber cartridge?...
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Old April 23, 2011, 09:39 PM   #2
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Are you sure it was for a conversion? Cartridges were the normal way of loading a percussion revolver in the Civil War and for most civilian use. Use of loose powder and ball was in fact rather uncommon unless cartridges could not be obtained for some reason.

Cartridges were commonly made from either thin animal skin or thin foil, and normally were loaded with the pointed bullet, using glue to hold the skin or foil "tube", which contained the powder, to the bullet. Loading the cartridge usually burst the container open to allow the primer flash to reach the powder, or if it didn't, the flash itself blew through the skin or foil into the powder.

Cartridges usually came in a 5 (.31 caliber) or 6 round package, stored in a drilled out wooden block to protect them. Sometimes 5 or 6 percussion caps were included.

Cartridges are often used today by those shooitng percussion revolvers, but they are usually made from nitrate treated combustible paper.

Jim
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Old April 23, 2011, 09:43 PM   #3
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so he was buying what I call 'paper cartridges' rather than brass cartridges?
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Old April 26, 2011, 02:08 PM   #4
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38 S&W is "actually" 36 caliber
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Old April 26, 2011, 04:13 PM   #5
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Well, no one was actually buying anything, it was a fiction story.

But that author generally doesn't make too many mistakes, so it is possible he had his character buying what are now called "paper" cartridges, although they were not made with paper at the time. While cartridges for the .58 rifle-musket were loaded by breaking the bullet out of the paper, pouring the powder down the barrel and then ramming the bullet and discarding the paper, revolver cartridges were simply dropped into the chamber and rammed.

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Old April 26, 2011, 06:58 PM   #6
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He could also be talking about a teat fire cartridge. I believe they were in 36 caliber as well as other calibers. These are harder to discribe than they are to research. In a nutshell it was an attempt to skirt around the Rollin White bored through cylinder patten. It was a hollow copper tube loaded with powder and ball. The base of the cartridge had a small teat that would extend through the cylinder flash hole to be struck by the hammer. As I said it is far easier to check one out on the International Ammunition Associations website than it is to describe.
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Old April 26, 2011, 08:43 PM   #7
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I could be wrong, but I have never seen a teat-fire in other than .32, though Suydam shows one in .45. They did make lip-fire in .25, .32, .36 and .44, and cup-fire in .28, .30, and .42. There are two variations of the .32 teat-fire.

The "teat" of the teat-fire does not go through a flash hole, it goes through a small hole at the rear of the cylinder and then is struck by the downward moving hammer, which smashes it against a horizontal surface on the cylinder, firing the primer. Since the hole at the back of the cylinder was small, the cylinder was not drilled through and the Rollin While patent was evaded. While it sounds odd, in fact the guns and the ammunition were pretty popular and the guns (Moore) are quite common; one or two can be found at most large gun shows. The ammunition is very scarce, though.

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Old April 26, 2011, 09:41 PM   #8
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Thank Jim, This is not a field I study. While I study cartridges I am far from an expert. I had always assumed the teat fires were used in a modified cap and ball revolver, simply by removing the nipple and enlarging the flash hole. This is a case where the old saying about assuming comes true.
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Old April 27, 2011, 12:13 AM   #9
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The Williamson cartridges for the Moore teat fire revolvers were made in .32 and .45.

I've got 4 of the early "flat teat" .32s in my collection.

I've seen .45s at cartridge collector shows.

You don't want to know how much a single .45 teat fire is. Last one I saw was north of $75.

Here's a picture of a couple of .32s and a .45.

http://www.oldammo.com/Teatfire5.JPG
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Old April 27, 2011, 01:56 AM   #10
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Maybe he was thinking of 9mm pinfire cartridges?
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Old April 27, 2011, 10:27 AM   #11
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Mike, I have several .32 teat-fire rounds, also lip-fire and cup-fire, but I envy you that .45 teat-fire. When I bought a rather nice Moore at the Baltimore show last year, I asked (innocence all over) if the seller would throw in a box of cartridges. For some reason, he gave me an odd look.

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Old April 28, 2011, 02:00 AM   #12
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I forget which book I was reading...but the hero bought some supplies and his shopping list included a box of .44 and a box of .36 cal...In all my years of reading louie's stuff I never found a mistake with a firearm...so when he said 'box of .36 cal' I wondered if you really could get .36 cal for converted guns...(in the back of my mind I was thinking .38)...
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Old April 28, 2011, 11:40 AM   #13
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Just to complicate things further, Thuer conversions were done on Pocket and Navy revolvers as well as the more commonly seen Army, and cartridges were made for all three calibers. I think it very unlikely, though, that anyone could casually drop in to the local general store and buy those cartridges.

The best thing to do with that kind of issue is to just recognize that fiction stories involving guns are not firearms technical manuals, and that writers are concerned more with story and character development than with minute technical details. (I could go on about hundreds of those errors, but one will do. I once read a story by an American writer, but set in England, in which the hero travelling west from London got on the "Interstate".)

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Old April 28, 2011, 04:41 PM   #14
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"but I envy you that .45 teat-fire."

Yeah, I envy it myself, Jim. I don't have a .45 teat fire.

They're just too damned spendy.

These days I could probably afford one a lot more than I could years ago when I was really collecting cartridges....
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Old April 28, 2011, 08:17 PM   #15
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JIM, were any of the Thuer conversions sucsessful? And on what make and model guns were they tried?
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Old May 3, 2011, 08:14 PM   #16
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Why does it have to be a metallic cartridge?

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Old May 3, 2011, 10:36 PM   #17
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IIRC, I mentioned non-metallic cartridges as a very real possibility, except they didn't come in boxes, but in packets like those shown. I repeat, fiction stories are fiction, not tech manuals. The writer could as easily have written ".33 caliber", or ".48 caliber", or ".29 caliber" or, better, just said "a box of cartridges." Writers who are without technical knowledge should stick to generalites.

Everyone at Colt knew the Thuer conversion was a stop-gap until the Rollin White patent expired, but Colt really did work on it. They converted pocket models (1849, 1862 Police, and 1862 Pocket Navy), Navy models (1851 and 1861) and the 1860 Army. They also converted sidehammer revolvers and sidehammer rifles. Ammunition was made in .31, .36, and .44 calibers and sold in packets like the percussion cartridges.

But only some 3000 Thuer conversions were made in total, and they were uncommon. Always scarce, after 1873 the ammunition became almost unobtainable, which is why I said that no one would be buying a box of Thuer cartridges. It would be a bit like writing a story today in which the hero goes into the local store and buys a box of trounds for his Dardick pistol.

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