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A while back someone was asking about what the different colors and markings on old cartridges meant. I just came across the answer in my own library.

This is taken directly from "U.S. Cartridges and Their Handguns by Charles Suydam copyright 1977 Bienfield Publishing, Inc. p. 114.

"With the coming of the smokeless powder era, it was necessary to distinguish between cartridges loaded with black powder and those loaded with a variety of lesmok and smokeless loads. This was done in the following manner: unmarked copper primers in smooth cases indicate black powder: initialed primers (U, US, $*, P, W, etc.) of copper or brass, with cannelured cases indicate lesmok or early smokeless powder, ca. 1900-1920. Nickled primers with smooth or cannelured cases indicate later smokeless loads. For calibers introduced after the advent of smokeless powders, case cannelures are sometimes indicative of load variations".

For anyone not aware, "Lesmok" was an early powder loaded mostly in rimfire, but in some CF cartridges. It was a mixture of the constituents of black powder with a little nitrocellulose added. The intent was to reduce fouling in much the same way as we may duplex load black powder ammunition with a small amount of smokeless powder to acheive the same effect. Lesmok was highly erosive and corrosive and is the reall reason that many guns made and used before 1920 or so have barrels which resemble dirty sewer pipes.

Any moderator feeling this should be in a diferent area, please feel free to move it.
 

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Hi, Alk:
Interesting. I find some in my cartridge collection that are likely pre-smokeless that have brass primers. Anything with a U.M.C. headstamp, not REM-UMC, is from before 1902. I've got a .40-60 Winchester, .40-65 Winchester and .45-70 Gov't with U.M.C. headstamps, plus an unstamped, paper patched .50-90 Sharps with unmarked brass primers.

Another interesting one is a .45 SHORT Colt or .45 Colt Government with a copper primer stamped with a U in a cannelured case.

Bye
Jack
 
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