Other Uncommon American Pinfire Cartridges

The last few posts of our exploration of the relationship between pinfire cartridges and the United States has focused on their use in the American Civil War. In this issue we will take a look at some lesser known pinfire cartridges that played their part in the constantly evolving history of ammunition in the United States. First up is the .58 Schubarth.

The .58 Schubarth was patented and made in 1861 by Casper D. Schubarth who resided at 6 North Main Street, Providence, RI. 

The whole idea of the cartridge and rifle is based on a modification and improvement of Gallager & Gladding’s cartridge and rifle that was created a couple years prior. It is an inside-primed pinfire that was made to be easily reloadable with the common Minié bullets and percussion caps. Schubarth’s improvement also made it gas-tight and waterproof by dipping the cartridge in melted tallow after inserting the bullet. The design also called for a small cork wad to be placed between the bullet and the powder to clean the barrel on each shot.

In Schubarth’s interview with The Scientific American he described a rimfire variation of this cartridge by stating that “for army use a ridge may be formed entirely around the cartridge and filled with fulminating powder, in place of the wire, and cap, so that the cartridge may be inserted in any position. But for sporting it is more economical to adopt the arrangement represented, as the same case may be refilled and used many times.

While I do not have ballistic information on the cartridge, in 1861 Schubarth said that “the powder is fired in the middle of the charge thus causing a rapid combustion […] that causes so great force be generated that 60 grains of powder has driven a bullet through 15 one-inch boards at a distance of one hundred yards” so it sounds like a fairly powerful cartridge!

The example in my collection was once owned by the well-known author and ammunition researcher, Colonel Berkeley R. Lewis of the United States Army Ordnance Corps. He acquired it from the Smithsonian Institution.

In the example below, from the Gene Spicer collection, one can see how the pin and cap are situated inside the case.

There are only about a dozen examples of the cartridge currently known to exist so it is exceedingly rare and has become one of the more desirable early American cartridges. 

The .58 Gallager & Gladding was the precursor to the .58 Schubarth. On July 12, 1859, Mahlon J. Gallager and William H. Gladding, both of Savannah, Georgia, were issued patent number 24,730 on their improvement in breech-loading firearms. They stated that the cartridge case could be made of wood, paper or metal and that if made of wood or paper a light metal band would be placed around it as shown in the example pictured. This example is formed with a paper or wood pulp. The cartridge was also intended to be reloadable and accepted the Minié bullets which were commonly available.

The only known example of this cartridge exists with the rifle in the patent model collection at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. I contacted them and was able to acquire some much higher quality images of it than have been published before.

There are quite a few American patents of various pinfire cartridge designs but examples of most of them have never been discovered. The following two however exist in the David Frederickson collection. They are both examples of easily reloadable pinfire shotshells. 

The first is a 12g example of a reloadable pinfire shotshell by Charles Edward Snider of Baltimore, Maryland. He received patent number 45,210 for this design on Nov. 22, 1864. The back of the case allows a percussion cap to be placed on the back of the pin and then the internal shell is locked into the base cup.

The second example is a 12g reloadable shotshell patented on Feb 8, 1870 by William H. Smith of Charlestown, Massachusetts. The back of the case has a screw that will unscrew from the case allowing one to replace the percussion cap that rests at the bottom of the pin.

References and Further Research: 
National Museum of American History Patent Model Collection, Smithsonian Institution. Washington, D.C. 

Improved Breech-Loading Rifle. (1861). Scientific American, V(9), 136.

Collections of Gene Spicer and David Frederickson