(Drawing from Herschel Logan, Cartridges, Stackpole, 1959.)
Pinfire cartridge, exterior view Pinfire cartridge, sectional view
Pinfire - An early form of complete, self-contained cartridge. It included bullet, powder and ignition primer, all in one case. The primer was located towards the base of the cartridge, but completely internally. The pin, shaped like a little finishing nail, pointed on the inside end and resting on the internal primer, projected radially about a quarter-inch to the outside of the base of the cartridge.
When loaded, a pinfire gun showed the tips of the pins exposed through small slots in the tops of the breech faces of the barrels. To fire, hammers fell on the pins, driving them (deeper through the wall of the cartridge) into the internal primer. The exposed pins made the cartridges vulnerable to surprise ignition when dropped or knocked about in one’s pocket. As a system, it was rather short-lived.
Pinfire cartridge loaded in to a shotgun. (Photo from Nigel Brown, London Gunmakers)
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