Inventing A New Cartridge: .58 Berdan Long

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Hat tip to Bryan S. for sending this to me. Doc Nickel does some machine work on paintball guns and various other projects. Once in a while he works on firearms. He helped a client resurrect a circa 1860 Remington rolling block. It is black powder but uses brass cartridges. However the previous owner bored it out for something ridiculous. Doc suspects for 24ga shells.

Client was working on an old blackpowder rifle, an 1860’s-ish Remington Rolling block. As I understand it, they were originally available in a variety of calibers over the years, but this one was originally a big bore, something like .58 Berdan, if Wikipedia is to be believed. happy.gif

That’s an actual brass cartridge, by the way- it’s blackpowder, but not the old flintlock type stuff.

However, at some point in its’ long history, some nutball had drilled out the chamber- it looked like they just ran a big drill bit in there. Given the measurements of the new chamber, the owner suspected it had been drilled out to take 24 ga brass shotshells.

The new chamber was way oversize for any self-respecting cartridge, too long/deep to accept an actual cartridge of the same length (due to the shell having to angle past the breech block) and was eccentric to the bore. The owner wanted to save it, mainly for the challenge of it- the rifle was in no way any kind of collectors’ item, and had no sentimental value. He just wanted to see if he could make it go boom again. happy.gif

He brought me the barrel and we plotted a bit on a few course of action. I finally decided to sleeve the chamber with a steel insert (which, as it turns out, I got no pictures of- as I’ve said, things have been hectic around here.) And then, recut the chamber to something entirely new- the .58 Berdan would have been anywhere from 3/4″ to over an inch too short, depending on which version we might have used.

So I invented a .58 Berdan Long. Sort of. happy.gif As I could control both the breech and the brass, I worked up my own dimensions. Here’s what I came up with, flanked by a blown-out .405 Winchester case, and the 7/8″ x 2-3/8″ brass blanks:

cartridge1

 

He made twelve cartridges.

cartridge2 cartridge3 cartridge4 cartridge5

 

I completed these a couple weeks ago, but last week had a chance to go actually shoot the now-assembled rifle with the owner. The long-barreled monster had at some point been (crudely) cut down to something resembling carbine length, with the matching heavily cut down forend stock. I had to trim off another 1/2″ or so to get rid of a dent and to square up the crown, and the owner had added a bit of embellishment to the furniture.

The rear sight is an old 98 Mauser part, if I recall correctly, and has a cool sliding mechanism that raises the rear blade up almost two full inches. The owner wanted it modified and attached to the barrel, which I managed to do reasonably cleanly. Probably somewhat optimistic, though I have no doubt if one lofted it enough, that big 400+ grain bullet would actually fly some 2,000 yards. happy.gif

I got to fire three shots of this monster- we were getting around 1,400 fps, which is pretty respectable.

cartridge6

 

It did surprisingly well.

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Nicholas C

Co-Founder of KRISSTALK forums, an owner’s support group and all things KRISS Vector related. Nick found his passion through competitive shooting while living in NY. He participates in USPSA and 3Gun. He loves all things that shoots and flashlights. Really really bright flashlights.

Any questions please email him at nicholas.c@staff.thefirearmblog.com


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  • Blake

    Now *THIS* is a good reason to design a new cartridge!

    See also the story behind the birth of the 480 Achilles.

    BTW, got any more pix of the rifle?

    • Giolli Joker

      [OT] How do you embed urls in Disqus? Thanks [/OT]

      • Blake

        just use normal html

        e.g. &ltA HREF=”http://your link here/”&gt link text &lt/A&gt

  • Nicholas Chen

    Sorry no. If you click on the link “Doc Nickel” you can see the original article. I used all the pictures from that article.

  • M.M.D.C.

    Great story, thanks! I’m a soft touch for lost causes like this.

  • Tassiebush

    great to see such a quirky project. Always interesting to read about how old guns have been brought back to life.

    • UnrepentantLib

      That’s what’s really fun about this hobby. Seeing what people can do just because “Why not?”

  • Mag2

    Pretty cool.

  • lol

    I would be interested in the load data he ended up using.

    I would certainly be a little wary of the added case capacity if using the old “Fill with blackpowder and tamp down method” since the original .58 berdan loading would have been lower pressure. I would hate to ehar about anyone getting in an accident cuz this thing blew up.

    • The Believer

      And it should be noted that drawing out the cases- as is done in commercial cartridge manufacture- does stiffen the case material appreciably.

      That said, I think if you have the money to spend to have something like this done, you probably have the common sense to work things up slowly.

  • john loevy

    I think I’ll stick with my B0 1972 Marlin 1895 in 45-70. Nice effort though.

  • jamezb

    …that’s my kinda project.

  • marathag

    Maybe easier to ream oversize, sleeve, drill on center and use existing 24 gauge brass from Magtech or 577 brass and get a custom mold(or find old) for a 58 heeled bullet?

    I would hate turning that much brass,

  • borekfk

    Man I’d like to see that rifle’s story.