View Full Version : Civil war bullets?

October 5, 2012, 07:25 PM
I bought these at a vendor in Gettysburg almost twenty years ago and just came across them the other day. Supposedly they were recovered from the battlefield years afterward. The smaller one is about .452 and weighs less than 200 grs. The larger one is about .500 and the weight is unknown. I've measured them in the past but don't recall what the specs were. My question: Do these bullets look like they could have been fired during the war? Cap and Ball pistols used balls and I don't know of any pistols at the time using metal cartridge and bullets with lube grooves. The larger projectile is also grooved (3) and has a hollow base. This one I assume is from a rifle, but I'm definitely not real knowledgeable on this subject. I hope that someone can tell me if these are of the correct vintage or just some trinkets to sell to the tourists.

October 5, 2012, 07:39 PM
You forgot the pics but cap and ball revolvers were issued with conical bullets in paper cartridges and the large one sounds like a U.S. three ring .58 minie ball.

Here's a few of mine.


James K
October 5, 2012, 10:08 PM
The 3 grooves and hollow base sounds like a standard .58 "minie" ball fired from a rifle musket. Revolvers could be loaded with round balls, but ammunition issued during the war was generally skin, paper or tinfoil cartridges with pointed bullets. Revolver bullets ran .455-.460", so .452 would be about right once some of the lead corroded away.

I belileve regulations prohibit digging or using metal detectors on Park Service land, but there are still plenty of bullets on private property. And of course, if there is a shortage, one can always dig out the old mould, make a few hundred "orignal Civil War" bullets and bury them in the compost heap for a year or so.


Mike Irwin
October 6, 2012, 08:17 AM
'I belileve regulations prohibit digging or using metal detectors on Park Service land'

Yeah, Park Service gets VERY testy if they see someone with a metal detector, or a shovel, or anything like that.

You can be charged not only with a crime, but you can be required to pay restoration fees to return the area you disturbed, and that can run into a LOT of money.

October 6, 2012, 09:46 AM
You got that right. On Federal land it is jail time. I really never had an interest in Civil war stuff, but my sister built a house in Culpepper, Virginia and they had a mason jar full of lead they found when raking out their yard. It looked as if anything was used in that battle field area.

October 6, 2012, 11:43 AM
Most battlefield relics come from private property adjacent to the park. A battlefield park doesn't cover a quarter of the acreage actually fought on in most cases and not nearly that in some.

October 6, 2012, 12:02 PM
Thanks all, for the response. Sorry for the lack of photo, forgot to add it before sending. I'll do it now just to show you what you have already described.

October 6, 2012, 12:18 PM
Sorry, the photo is too large and I can't remember how to downsize it to fit. Anyway, they look like the ones in that nice collection above.:) Thanks again for answering my questions about what I have here.

Ideal Tool
October 6, 2012, 11:25 PM
Hello, Hawkeye...Nice collection. That 200gr. 452 you mention could be from a .44 percussion revolver.
The pointed one in center of 2nd. row looks to have a "heel"..smaller dia. portion..that fit into metalic ctg. case..it is I believe from a .52 Spencer rimfire...as is the fired case beside it.
In bottom row..from left..#5 & 8... are Williams patent cleaner bullets.
These were originally issued by arsenals 1 to every 10 ctgs..solders were instructed to use after every 10th loading. Later they were issued 3 in 10..and later in the war..6 to 10.
These had a couple of concave shaped zink washers..which expanded into rifling grooves when fired sweeping out built up fouling from the black powder.

Willie Sutton
October 7, 2012, 10:35 AM
"Yeah, Park Service gets VERY testy if they see someone with a metal detector, or a shovel, or anything like that"

Which explains why the guy with the funny looking shoes walking up and down the fenceline at Gettysburg had a wire in his ear too... :cool:



October 7, 2012, 12:24 PM
That nice collection was posted by HAWG HAGGEN, I only have a couple and haven't been able to post a picture. Mine look like some of those in the photo.

October 7, 2012, 01:30 PM
Yeah the ones in the pic are mine. I had several hundred of them at one time. Probably still have a hundred or so.