Identifying old .38 with paper-wrapped cartridges

Discussion in 'General Handgun Discussion' started by Morgan, Feb 24, 2008.

  1. Morgan

    Morgan New Member

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    My great-grandfather was the police chief in New Westminster, near Vancouver, Canada, in 1892 when he investigated a murder. I'm assembling a family letter about the case. The murder weapon was never found, but the bullet was a .38, possibly from a Colt and the gun was said to be "old" at the time. The man he arrested and who was later convicted of the crime had paper-wrapped cartridges for the weapon and caps to fire them. Does anybody know what model of gun this was, and where I might find a photo?
     
  2. scoutman

    scoutman New Member

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    Not enough information to really tell. If I was to make an educated guess, I would say an 1851 Navy Colt. Approximately 248,000 of these were produced by Colt from 1850 to 1873. They were widely used during the Civil War.


    Some info from Wiki


    Manufacturer: Colt Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company, Hartford, Conn,New York,NY and London England

    Length Overall: 14 inches

    Length Barrel: 7.5 inches

    Caliber: .36

    Velocity: Dependent upon ammunition selection. An 86 grain round ball (0.375 diameter) over 22-25 grains of fine black powder might range between 850-1,000+ feet per second, producing 137 ft·lbf (186 J) to 190 ft·lbf (260 J) of muzzle energy, roughly comparable to between a modern .32 ACP and a .38 Special

    Capacity: Six

    Dates of Manufacture: 1850-1873

    Action type: single action

    Ammunition: 1. Black Powder decanted into the front of the cylinder followed by round or conical lead bullets, percussion caps on cones at rear of cylinder.

    2. Metallic foil or (more common) combustable nitrated paper cartridges containing powder and conical bullet loaded into the front of the cylinder chambers and initiated by a percussion cap. Bullet weights and powder charges were subject to wide variation.
     

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  3. Morgan

    Morgan New Member

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    Thank you so much for the help and the photo! The size seems consistent with the testimony of one of the witnesses.

    Bearing in mind that guns were a normal part of life in 1892 New Westminster, the bullet was recovered from the victim's brain by an experienced doctor and the inquest run by an experienced coroner... The inquest and court information seemed quite specific about the calibre being a .38; would the difference from .36 be too close to measure in 1892?
     
  4. SimonTuffGuy

    SimonTuffGuy New Member

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    My girlfriends pap has a handgun similar to that in his collection! It's a beauty!

    Good luck with your paper.
     
  5. BillM

    BillM Active Member Supporter

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    Well---kind of depends on what you want to call a 38!!

    38 short/long colt, 38 special bullet diameter .357-.358
    38 S&W, 38 colt super police, 38/200 british service, .360 bullet
    38WCF aka 38-40 Winchester .400-.401 bullet
    36 cap and ball colt mdl 1851, 1862 and others, .375 roundball,
    not sure what the conical bullet diameter was.

    Also, some are measured on bore diameter, some on groove diameter.

    Could they accurately measure the bullet diameter in 1892? Yes
     
  6. scoutman

    scoutman New Member

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    As noted, the Navy took a .375 caliber projectile, which very probably could have been called a .38. BillM hit it right on the head, as many so called .38 caliber guns took projectiles in the .357 to .360 range. Good Luck
     
  7. Morgan

    Morgan New Member

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    Excellent! Thanks to all who took part in this discussion! Very helpful!
     
  8. lakeside

    lakeside New Member

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    follow on question

    On the topic of old paper cartridges, on the shore of a lake, I recently found what I think is an old .36 or .38 caliber bullet.

    .357 inches base diameter (slightly out of round)
    .75 inches long
    101.7 grains

    The depression in the base is a spherical bowl. Looks like this bullet was formed by swaging. There is a small rectangular tab at the base and what looks like a second, deformed rectangular tab 180 degrees from the first tab.

    The absence of ridges or evidence of crimping marks makes me think it could be the bullet from a paper cartridge. So far I've no luck identifying this bullet. Perhaps it will look familiar to someone on this list?
     

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