The .58 Schubarth, Gallager & Gladding and 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 article 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.

Schubarth's Breech-Loading Rifle

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!

You can see and read this whole Scientific American article here:

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.

.58 Schubarth Cartridge

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

Inside of a .58 Schubarth Cartridge

There are not many examples of the cartridge currently known to exist so it is exceedingly rare and has become one of the more desirable early American cartridges commanding high prices at auctions.

There is an example of the gun in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

Schubarth's Breech-loading rifle from the National Museum of American History
National Museum of American History. AF*4698.
Schubarth's Breech-loading rifle from the National Museum of American History
National Museum of American History. AF*4698.

Schubarth wanted to sell this design to the military but at the time they were not interested in breech-loading rifles. They instead gave him an order for Springfield Armory’s .58-caliber Model 1861 rifled muskets which he delivered thousands of until he was caught up in a scandal involving senator James F. Simmons who requested kickbacks in return for these government contracts.

C. D. Schubarth's signature for one of the contracts for Model 1861 rifled muskets

He was awarded an American patent for the design on July 23, 1861 but it never ended up having much commercial success and fewer of the guns are known to exist than the cartridges.

Casper D. Schubarth Patent
Casper D. Schubarth Patent

The .58 Gallager & Gladding

I like to view the .58 Schubarth as the spiritual successor to the .58 Gallager & Gladding. And for decades collectors thought the Schubarth cartridge was the Gallager & Gladding cartridge with only the patent drawing to go by. 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.

Gallager & Gladding Patent
Gallager & Gladding Patent
Gallager & Gladding Patent

Its hard to miss the similarities in the two cartridges but the gun do have very different designs. There is no known documentation on if Schubarth specifically drew inspiration from the Gallager & Gladding Patent or if the similarities were a coincidence.

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.

.58 Gallager & Gladding Cartridge
.58 Gallager & Gladding Cartridge

Other American Pinfire Patents

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

This article is part 5 of a series on The Relationship Between the United States and Pinfire Cartridges. View the rest here:

Part 1 – Christian Sharps Pinfire Cartridges
Part 2 – C. D. Leet & Company Pinfire Cartridges
Part 3 – Allen & Wheelock Pinfire Cartridges
Part 4 – Excavated Pinfire Guns and Cartridges from the American Civil War
Part 5 – Other Uncommon American Pinfire Cartridges
Part 6 – Union Metallic Cartridge Company Pinfire Cartridges
Part 7 – American Companies who Loaded Pinfire Cartridges
Part 8 – W. Tibbals Revolving Firearms Patent Model