Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How Reliable were Pinfire Cartridges

I have a change of pace for this post. Most of the time I 'hold forth' with my humble opinions. This time I need help. Just how reliable were pinfire cartridges?

I have had first hand experience with flintlock and cap lock weapons. When a writer or history buff asked me about these I can speak as someone who has fired them for years - or attempted to - in all kinds of weather. Over the last year or so Hangman and I have been making friends with a matchlock.

I have no experience with pinfire cartridges.

To the best of my knowledge I know no one who has.

I know the theory, I'm just not sure how well they actually worked in the field. Were misfires common? Did they store or travel well?

I'm hoping someone out there has experience with them. I would be grateful if anyone could relate experiences with this fascinating weapon system.


  1. I wouldn't trust them. They are likely to go off, but will be very corrosive ... and the cartridges themselves are worth money to collectors.

    Get a modern pinfire cartridge kit from these folks if you wish to fire one of these old pistols:


  2. As for reliability ... they were as reliable as any other cartridge of that era ... except for the obvious ... that pin sticking out was a weak point, both for moisture getting into the cartridge, and simple breakage caused by it sticking out.

    Rimfire rounds caused them to go away ... cheaper to make, and nothing sticking out to accidentally break off or get bent.

  3. Greetings from Texas,
    Thanks Kristopher. I had wondered about moisture. From what I can tell folk were picker than unusual with transporting the cartridges in wood blocks. The pin always seemed a bit 'dicey' to me.
    Thank you also for the address above. Should I ever come across a pinfire revolver I would use new cartridges.
    I don't think I would ever become a regular pinfire shooter, but they are like the Liberator Pistol or an 8 gauge shotgun. If you have it you have to try it at least once.

  4. I have shot quite a few of my pinfire pistols with cartridges that still work that are 150 years old. These were about the most reliable system available when they came out. During our civil war thousands and thousands or guns were purchased from European countries and millions of pinfire cartridges were imported or manufactured locally by companies such as C.D. Leet, Ethan Allen, Sharps, A&W as well as a few others.

    For battle use the only real problem was lining up the pin to fit correctly in the barrel or cylinder quickly while being shot at. Rimfire and centerfire could be put in any direction which was a big selling point. Still, it was a whole lot easier than shoving powder and a wad and a bullet down a barrel.

    As for them being dangerous from accidental dropping, that is mostly a old-wives tale. I have purposely taken pinfire blanks and dropped them over and over trying to get them to go off and I can not. The hammer has a whole lot more force than gravity.

    Also, if you want to buy the kits to reload these buy directly from the manufacturer, http://www.hc-collection.com/ , rather than from hlebooks.com which is just a reseller.

    If you check out my website listed by my name you can see a period leather cartridge holder that held 18 7mm cartridges. Also there are many pictures of boxes and individual cartridges. The site is still heavily under construction though and only the pinfire boxes, 2mm, 12mm and 15mm pages are done. Feel free to email me from there for any more info on any of these.

    Finally, I found this blog linked from hellinahandbasket which i read occasionally.

  5. Greetings from Texas,
    Thanks Pinfire Collector, this is exactly what I was looking for. I look forward to visiting your page and would very much like to pick your brain.
    I get a lot of visitors from James at hellinahandbasket. He has an excellent blog and is a wonderful friend.

  6. i have a pinfire double barell 16 guage one side and the other side is some kind of rifle i think im gonna sell it