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Pinfire, Pauly, Perrin and more
This article will take a look at some of the smallest pinfire guns and cartridges. The 2mm pinfire cartridge showed up around 1880. This is when Société Française des Munitions began producing the variations shown in the following factory drawing.
These cartridges were made for tiny pinfire revolvers that looked like miniature versions of the normal pinfire revolvers. The following image is an example of one sold by Wayne Driskill Miniature Firearms.
When it comes to pinfire cartridges, everything is a variation. Though there are thousands and thousands of variations, in this article we will focus on the 80 that came from the White & Munhall reference collection.
Henry P. White & Burton D. Munhall ran a development engineering lab that was founded in 1936. They were acknowledged as the leading private laboratory engaged in small arms and ammunition research and development. The following sales brochure from the company gives a lot of detail on the work that they did.
C.M. begs to call the attention of Gentlemen to his PATENT FIELD CLOCK GUN. It is admirably adapted for Scaring Rooks, Wood Pigeons and other Vermin; also for the protection of Young Game in the Breeding Season. It can also be used as an ordinary Alarm Gun against Burglars, Poachers and other Trespassers. The construction of the Gun is simple, and can be managed by a boy. It holds nine 16 Pin-fire Cartridges at one time, these can be set to fire at intervals from 15 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, and can be set to fire a shot at any given hour during the night or early morn by winding and setting the night before. It is one of the most useful things ever invented for Farmers, Gamekeepers and Nurserymen. The works are strong, and with care, will last a lifetime,
This article will take a look at some leather cases for holding, storing and transporting pinfire cartridges. Since pinfire cartridges had to be handled with a little more care than other types of cartridges, some people purchased pouches such as these shown to make it safer and more convenient to carry the cartridges.
First up is a leather cartouchiere that holds twenty-four 7mm pinfire cartridges. It has a simple brass locking mechanism on the front that unlocks the case when you slide it and hold it down.
Here are a couple variations of the 7mm pinfire revolver made by the Mariette family of gun-makers who lived in Cheratte, Liège, Belgium. This particular design was patented in 1862 by Servais Joseph Celestin Mariette, the son of the well known gun maker, Guillaume Mariette.
Across the Mariette family there were dozens of firearm patents registered and the designs often crossed over into patents by others in the family. There is also a lot of crossover when making the actual guns as well; for example, guns patented by Guillaume Mariette could be made and have a mark of his brother, Gilles Mariette.
This is a really unique poster detailing the price of each part of a firearm issued to men in the American Civil War. It measures 20 inches by 24 inches and was printed by the Adjutant General’s Office led by Lorenzo Thomas. It was likely provided to the regimental quartermasters in charge of accounting for ordnance stores.
There are 16 tables printed on this Civil War poster representing uniforms, garrison equipment, weapons and more. I think it likely served a couple purposes. The most obvious use was a quick reference guide to the prices of equipment to deduct from officer’s payrolls due to unaccountable losses. Most of these tables are also printed in the document, Instructions for Making Quarterly Returns of Ordnance and Ordnance Stores: As Prescribed by the General Regulations of the Army; Including Directions Respecting The Evidence Required In Settling The Ordnance Property Accounts Of Officers Leaving The Service. Prepared At The Ordnance Bureau, For The Use Of Officers Accountable For Such Property.
This is a really early underhammer pinfire pistol made in 1849 by the French gunsmith, Joseph-Célestin Dumonthier who lived in Houdan, Seine-et-Oise, France. It follows his 2 July 1849 French patent.
The whole barrel unscrews from the frame and allows you to load a single 12mm pinfire cartridge.
The Lefaucheux model 1859 carbine was a small carbine Eugène Lefaucheux made with hopes to gain military acceptance. It is a very simple design with few moving parts. It only weighs 4.5 pounds and has an overall length of 3 feet 4 inches.
There are multiple variations of this gun; some with a full metal frame, some with an automatic cartridge extractor, a percussion cap version, a double barrel version, pistols, and various bores.
This example is chambered for 12mm pinfire cartridges, has a manual extractor and a solid wood stock.
There are two levers on the gun. The one on the right is the cocking lever and also serves as the breechblock. When you raise it it opens the breech, allowing you to insert a new pinfire cartridge or remove a spent cartridge. It also cocks the extra-long hammer. The following video and image shows how this works.
Here is a selection of factory drawings/blueprints for how Eley Bros made pinfire cartridges. These blueprints date to the early 1900s.
First up is the 5mm pinfire cartridge drawing. There is a lot going on here! It lists the dimensions for the bullet, the pin, the percussion cap and the case. They also give all of the dimensions in imperial units though these cartridges were always sold by their metric designation, “5mm.”
The bullet is described of being made of 98% lead and 2% antimony. The antimony was an additive used to harden the alloy. It was a hollow bullet with an overall diameter of .207 inches, or 5.258 millimeters. It had an overall height of .300 inches or 7.62 millimeters. The bullet weight is 18 grains and the powder charge is listed as “about 1.5 grains.”
This matches up closely with examples in my collection which have a bullet weight of 18.0 grains and a powder charge of 2 grains. The overall weight is 35.2 grains.
The brass case is listed to have a mixture of 70% copper and 30% zinc to make up the alloy they used. The case had an overall length of .450 inches or 11.43 millimeters. They give the exact specifications of where to put the hole for the brass pin and even what angle the pin should be placed in the cartridge to ensure the hammers get the best hit.
There have been many articles written about Jean Samuel Pauly and his contribution to the history of firearms development. One excellent source recently looks in detail at the patents by Pauly, Roux, Picherau and Lefaucheux. You can read about it here:
Priestel dives deep into the modifications by Pauly and the successors to Pauly’s company, but there are a few other improvements to the Pauly system by other prominent gunmakers of the day that are not addressed in this publication. A couple of these were mentioned in a French gun magazine’s article in the 1970s, but other than the brief mention there, there is nothing I could find published that goes into detail on the following improvements to the Pauly gun and cartridges.
So I gathered the patents, transcribed them and will detail the improvements here!
Jacques-Joseph Plomdeur was a well known gunmaker who had a business at 25 rue des Fossés-Montmartre and later at 5 bis, rue du Faubourg-Poissonnière. He was best known for his improvements to primers and percussion caps which he held a few patents on. In the 1830s he took out many advertisements for his improvements to guns and primers such as the following:
On 31 Mar 1825, Plomdeur took out a French patent for 5 years for an improvement on Pauly guns.
There are two main areas that he addresses. First is how the hammer is connected to the plate, passing all the way through, which allowed for considerable fouling throughout the inside.
This book is an excellent source examining the company of Jean Samuel Pauly and his successors. It dives into the earliest documents and patents surrounding this revolutionary improvement in firearms design.
It is, by far, the most detailed contemporary look at these inventions and does a great job piecing together the information that was available to the author and updating many unfounded sources published in the past.
James Erskine, a gunmaker and inventor from Newton Stewart, Scotland had a prolific career inventing and patenting many improvements to guns and cartridge loading machines. His patented cartridge filler was universally accepted and used by all of the great British gunmakers of the day!
Erskine was born on September 12, 1812, in Penninghame, Wigtownshire, Scotland, the son of Mary Watson and Thomas Erskine. He married Elizabeth Sinclair on December 4, 1854, in his hometown. They had eight children over 21 years. He died on November 20, 1891, in Newton Stewart, Wigtownshire, Scotland, having lived a long life of 79 years.
During most of those 79 years Erskine was active learning and then working in the gun trade. The IGC Historical Database indicates that Erskine began his apprenticeship at 14 years old, working as a gun finisher for Williams & Powell, or their predecessor, Edward Patrick in Liverpool.
Sometime after 1841 and before the 1851 Scotland Census, Erskine moved to Newton Stewart and began working for himself as a gun maker.
He displayed two guns at the 1851 Great Exhibition and was awarded a bronze metal.
On July 20, 1859 he delivered the following provisional specification to the British patent office for an update to the Lefaucheux-style pinfire shotgun:
Description des Machines et Procédés spécifiés dans les Description des machines et procédés spécifiés dans les brevets d’invention, de perfectionnement et d’importation, dont la durée est expirée was the official printed record of the patents granted in France that were issued under the 1791 patent laws. These patents were not printed until after their expiration date of either 5, 10 or 15 years from when they were issued.
From 1791 until 1844 it was incredibly expensive to get a patent issued. The patent tax for 5 years was 300 francs, for 10 years it was 800 francs and for 15 years it was 1500 francs. At the time the average worker’s daily wage was 1.5 francs.
This feels like a very high quality book with thick linen rag pages, gilded pages and marbled inside covers. It even came with a bookmark!
But the content inside the document is what is really important. This is the official record of what the Conservatoire royal des arts et métiers (i.e. the patent office) believed the patent was about, looking back after it expired. This document is not always a full transcription of the patentee’s original document but rather detailed abstract that specifically describes the patent and heavily focuses on describing the drawings that accompanied it. It does quote specific sections sometimes though, Additionally, all of the drawing in the original patent may not always be reprinted here.
August G. Genez was a French Gunsmith that began working in the gun-making industry at 13 years old in France. He died on June 17, 1897 and over the course of his career he had many successful ventures as well as challenging tragedies.
This article will take a look at A. G. Genez, the gunsmith in New York, New York, and follow his 50-year career in the gun industry. We will also take a look at his successors of his gun shop, Vincent Bissig and John P. Dannefelser.
When August Genez was 21 years old he immigrated to the United States from a port in Le Havre, France on a ship named Charles Thompson and arrived in New York, New York on April 10, 1854. The ship log of his emigration record states he was from Germany but his naturalization record, son’s wedding record, various ads of his, son’s various census records all state his birthplace was France.
The Genez name first shows up in the 1856/1857 issue of Trow’s New York City Directory where Genez August is listed as a gunsmith at 221 William. The same year the Wilson’s business directory of New-York City list him under the Gunsmiths section with his business at 221 William.