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Help identifying 22 rimfire cartridges

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Grey Morel, Jun 14, 2010.

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  1. Grey Morel

    Grey Morel Member

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    My apologies if this is an incorrect forum, but we have no section for general ammunition discussion it seems.

    As a student of both anthropology and firearms I was delighted to find several varieties of spent rim fire casings during a dig I'm currently working for an archeological field school.

    I have seen many varieties of rimfire ammunition and many different head stamps, but some of these casings I was not able to identify with any real degree of certainty. This is where I was hoping THR could assist.

    first some background information - The site we are excavating is in an urban area, with settlement dating to 1850; the good news is this site has been vacant since the late 30's so there is only about 80 years of habitation. When this site was occupied, it held a drug store and a split town-house dwelling (according to period sanbourn maps). This layout remained constant through the period of occupation, so the disturbance is minimal and the area is well documented.

    I wish I had pictures, but until the backlog of artifacts is fully cataloged I will likely not be able to photograph them. That could take several more weeks. I have drawn this crude mockup to help in describing the three types of casings that I am not certain of:
    [​IMG]

    Type #1: is pretty obviously an ordinary 22 short casing. The production history, stratigraphy, and period maps are all in harmony here. The problem is, I don't recognize the italicized "O" head stamp. I originally though it may have been Olin cartridge works, but I see that they used the "western" label before they acquired the "Winchester" label towards the end of our occupation period. I searched a few different online head stamp databases to no avail. Did Olin ever use the "O" headstamp, and If not, who may have?

    Type #2: I originally though this may have been a cartridge for a powder actuated nailer, but after doing some research I see that such devices were not available until the early 20's, which is many years after the structures on the site were built. So while not impossible for it to be a nailer cartridge, I think it more likely that it is star-crimp blank, opened up from its firing, leading to the odd bevel around the case mouth (I have no experience with firearm blanks). Its head stamp is either omitted, or no longer visible. Am I likely correct in my identification as a blank for a standard firearm?

    Type #3: This one boggled me for a moment, until I recalled two unusual rimfire cartridges from around this time period: the CB cap and the BB cap. The only other cartridges I am aware of which are shorter than a 22 short are starter pistol blanks, which have existed since the 20's, but if that’s what they were, I would assume they would also have some kind of bevel or mark like the other suspected blanks and they do not. The headstamp of this casing is also either omited or no longer visible. Am I correct in identifying this as a CB or BB cap?

    Any help is identification, or new ideas to investigate are greatly appreciated. :)
     
  2. Mal H

    Mal H Administrator

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    First of all, I'm pretty sure the 'O' headstamp on case #1 does indeed stand for Olin which is synonymous with Western Cartridge Company. Olin Corp. made brass casings for their WCC ammunition. I seem to recall seeing .22 cases in all sizes from WCC with the 'O' as the headstamp.

    Even so, double check to be sure the 'O' isn't actually a 'C'. The Cascade Cartridge Company (now CCI) made cases with a headstamp font (double line slanted font) that is very similar to that in your drawing.

    No ideas for #2. Do you see any evidence of crimping on the mouth portion?

    Even before reading your description and assumption, I thought, "that looks a lot like a BB Cap case." So, I think you're right on that one also.
     
  3. ReloaderFred

    ReloaderFred Member

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    I think you can pretty much discount CCI being on the headstamp, since Dick Speer started out making primers in 1951, and didn't branch out into ammunition until later.

    The second example could very well be a blank, and the third example looks very much like a BB Cap, which were pretty popular for shooting rats, birds, etc., where noise would have been a factor, as well as range.

    Hope this helps.

    Fred
     
  4. Grey Morel

    Grey Morel Member

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    Yes, when I first examined Type #1 I noticed that the font is very similar to that used on CCI ammunition today. I am familiar with this, as I shoot CCI mini Mags almost exclusively. But, the stamp in question has defined square edges, with 4 sides. The CCI "C" is curved.

    As for Type #2, there is no crimping present, nor is the beveled portion as well defined as say the shoulder of a bottleneck cartridge. Nor is it expanded to a perfectly round state as in the drawing; its close, but perceptibly eliptical. This is one of the reasons I suspect a blank.

    MAL: You wouldn't happen to have any pictures or references to Olin stamped cartridges would you? :)
     
  5. ReloaderFred

    ReloaderFred Member

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    If it was in fact a blank, it may have been formed in the shape it's in now for ease of chambering, and the mouth sealed with a carboard circle, then lacquered. They used to form blanks in that manner.

    Hope this helps.

    Fred
     
  6. Mal H

    Mal H Administrator

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    No, Grey, sorry, but I have no substantial proof of the headstamp. I'm only going on very old memory, and that could be seriously flawed.
     
  7. Grey Morel

    Grey Morel Member

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    An old memory is far better evidence than none. At least it gives me a lead to investigate.

    I was also not aware of the old time construction of blanks.

    Thank you all so far for your help. :)
     
  8. tango2echo

    tango2echo Member

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    I may.

    Let me look around tomorrow. I may still have a box or two of Olin .22LR from the 1920's. I cannot at the moment remember if I traded them. I may be able to post pictures if I still have them.

    t2e
     
  9. rg1

    rg1 Member

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    Your depiction of the 22 rimfire case on the right looks like and probably is a Louis Flobert rimfire BB Cap. Others could be CB caps. Started producing them in the early 1800's and they are still available today.http://www.smokewagongear.com/p-986-rws-22cb-cap-6mm-pntd-led-low-100pk.aspx
    Still looks like the one in your drawing.
    Here's a link and discussion on 22 cartridges and scroll down to Rob62 for his info:
    http://www.thehighroad.org/archive/index.php/t-154435.html
    Also here's some articles:
    http://www.chuckhawks.com/history_rimfire_ammo.htm
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.22_BB
    http://ammoguide.com/cgi-bin/ai.cgi?sn=fqRGtbjRvq&catid=212
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2010
  10. LaserSpot

    LaserSpot Member

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    Can you tell if the cases are made from Brass or Copper?
     
  11. Grey Morel

    Grey Morel Member

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    Yes.

    The "O" stamped standard case is brass, while the other two have oxidised to a green, so are likely copper.
     
  12. Sport45

    Sport45 Member

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    It may not have been inhabited since the 30's, but I wouldn't bet against a few boys visiting the place from time to time since then with their 22's.

    We roamed far and wide back in the day.
     
  13. JohnBT

    JohnBT Member

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  14. Mal H

    Mal H Administrator

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  15. Grey Morel

    Grey Morel Member

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    MAL:

    Someone on rimfire central linked to Sellier and Bellot headstamps. After doing more research, I found out that S&B has been in the ammo game since before the metallic cartridge.

    S&B has been exporting to outside markets since the 1850's, so it is actually a relevant possibility... But that only opens things up, not narrow them down. :D

    What I need is a photo of both the Olin "O" and the S&B "O" so I can make a comparison to the artifact in question.

    We have finished the excavations today, and as such begin our cataloging in earnest tomorrow. Hopeful for pictures soon.

    I suppose its possible, but its been a built up area since the 1850's. I'm talking split dwelling townhouses for a mile in every direction since the 19'th century.

    The lot in question is about 25 meters by 50 meters, and before 1930 contained a split dwelling town house and a drug store.

    No reason it couldn't be a roving band of youngsters, but I think it more likely that the shop owner or one of the neighboring residents had a .22 they used for pest control: blanks to scare off pigeons, BB caps and shorts for rats and stray animals, and that sort of thing.
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2010
  16. Mal H

    Mal H Administrator

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    The reason I said I didn't think it would be from S&B was not based on their longevity as a company, they've been around a very long time, but because they sold ammo only in Europe (mostly Eastern Europe) for most of their early life. They didn't start importing to North America until after WWII, IIRC.
     
  17. LaserSpot

    LaserSpot Member

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    I have seen brass turn green, but it usually turns black. Can you polish a couple of them with emery paper? It would make any markings more visible. Chemical cleaning may help too.

    Are the head diameters and rim thicknesses all about the same?
     
  18. Quoheleth

    Quoheleth Member

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    1. The one on the left with the big O is CCI, not Olin. CCI's parent company is Omark, and on boxes of ammo you'll see it printed Omark-CCI.

    Olin does indeed produce Wincheter ammo, but you'll notice every .22 S,L, and LR is stamped with an H. The H is to honor Henry, the man who took the idea of the lever action rifle and made it work and upon whose work Winchester built their company. To honor Henry, each bullet is stamped with his initial.

    2. The middle one is probably either a blank or a .22 shell designed for using an impact hammer (drive hardened nails into concrete, etc.).

    3. I shot a lot of CBs when I was a kid, hunting starlings and rats in the barn. All of the CBs I shot were regular-sized shorts. CBs are regular short or long brass cases with either just primer-charged or with a very, very light powder charge. Velocity is down around 600fps, IIRC. The one on the right is so short, I don't even know if it would feed reliably in anything other than a revolver, so I'm going with starter pistol.

    Q
     
  19. Grey Morel

    Grey Morel Member

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    Both of those are huge no-no's in archeology. Artifacts are cleaned with a dampened soft-bristle brush only: Even something like finish or oxidation can be potentially useful for various types of research. The goal is to preserve as much information as possible from the original artifact, keeping it as close to the condition we found it as possible.

    2. As stated earlier, impact hammers were not invented until after period so the likelihood that a shell from a powder actuated nailer found its way 20cm below surface is slim. From the responses I have gotten on this forum, as well as others, as well as my own research, this casing is in all probability a blank.

    3. I shot CBs often as a kid, and i still do today. You are correct that MODERN CBs use a "short" length casing... however if you do some research into the history of Rim fire ammunition, you will see that CBs are derived from the earlier Flobert round, and not from existing 22 short ammunition (RRG1 linked to such information above). Additionally, starter pistol blanks are crimped in the same fashion as any other blank; this would likely leave a bevel near the case mouth, as seen on other blanks, that is not present on this sample.

    Thank you all for your help in researching this matter.
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2010
  20. Mal H

    Mal H Administrator

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    CCI only came into existence in 1951. Omark bought CCI from Speer in 1967.
     
  21. Carl N. Brown

    Carl N. Brown Member

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    for whatever it is worth, here is part of a timeline:
    Code:
    .22 Rimfire Timeline
    YEAR, Name,  Case length, Bullet weight, Overall length, Origin
    1845 BB          .284"  20 GR   .343"  Flobert Bullet Breech cap
    1857 Short       .423"  29 gr   .686"  Smith & Wesson cartridge #1
    1871 Long        .595"  29 gr   .798"  ?Frank Wesson?
    1880 Extra Long  .750"  40 gr  1.160"
    1887 Long Rifle  .595"  40 gr   .985"  J. Stevens Arms & Tool Co
    1888 CB          .284"  20 gr   ----   Conical Bullet version of BB*
    1975 CCI Stinger .710"  32 gr   .985"  almost extra long case, semi-S bullet
    ---- Aguila SSS  .423"  60 gr   .985"  Short case, Long Rifle overall
    I had always thorught the BB and CB were developed at the same time, but the CB apparently was introduced after the Long Rifle, in 1888.

    As for Number 2 illustration, did anyone ever make a .22 blank with a card overpowder wad held by a tapered crimp? I have only seen the modern star crimped blanks for either .22s or for power tools.
     
  22. Grey Morel

    Grey Morel Member

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    Im not sure about the blanks Carl... Its hard to find photographs that coroborate anything. I was hoping that some ammunition collectors had some samples they could photograph for me.

    Thanks for the partial timeline. It will come in handy when I write my report.


    Additinally:Now that all artifacts have been cleaned and catalogued, I was able to get a better look at the cleaned artifacts. The "type #2" cartridge, with the bottleneck, shows a Western Cartridge 'diamond' headstamp when viewed under magnification. To me this seems the final nail in the coffin for the powder actuated nailer. (yea, thats a joke :) )
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2010
  23. LaserSpot

    LaserSpot Member

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    I'm sure it is, but we're not talking about defacing a rare cartridge from a Civil War battle field. Don't you need to balance preserving information with collecting information? You can't preserve every bit of litter for all time; the data you collect can be preserved. I suspect that most of the 'artifacts' will filed away and eventually lost or discarded, possibly before all has been learned. If you have dozens of corroded and bent .22 shells, I'm sure a few could be preserved and a few could be destroyed in the interest of science.
     
  24. Grey Morel

    Grey Morel Member

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    funny you should mention that: one of the cartridges I work with today appears to be an early production 32 rimfire, with a copper casing after gentle brushing and some work with a dental pick, I was able to get accurate measurments with my caliper and make a positive identification.

    The 'bits of litter' often tell us the most about the sites history, as well as the lives of the people who lived there. The BEST thing to find, information wise, is an outhouse or a garbage pit. Why? Because thats where you find the common, everyday items that impacted peoples lives.

    Most of these cartridges showed no markings whatsoever upon inital inspection. After carefull cleaning and inspection they are now faintly legible. Some needed magnification to make proper identification. If more agressive "cleaning" methods had been used, the headstamps likely would have been lost, and the bulk of the information they held would have been lost with them.

    There is a method to the madness. :)
     
  25. LaserSpot

    LaserSpot Member

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    Cool! If you ever publish the research, I hope you can put a link on this thread.

    You have a good point. I'm just saying that destructive methods shouldn't be ruled out if you have extra samples and might learn something. Heck, they even burned part of the Shroud of Turin to do a radiocarbon 14 test.
     
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