The Pinfire Cartridge – Why It Was A Big Deal?

Key Point: Pinfire cartridges are early self-contained firearm cartridges with a unique pin-like firing mechanism, introduced in the mid-19th century.

This article will cover everything about the pinfire cartridge. What it was and why it presented a huge milestone in firearm technology. So, by the time you finish this article, you will have a unique understanding of this technology that represented a giant leap forward.

Now, just to make sure you and I are on the same page, let’s first define what a pinfire cartridge is. So: What is a pinfire cartridge?

A pinfire cartridge is a metallic cartridge utilized in firearms that was developed in the early 1800s. It is comprised of a cylindrical metal casing featuring a small pin that protrudes near the base of the casing and functions as the firing pin. Within the casing lies a primer that, upon being struck by the pin, initiates the gunpowder and propels the bullet out of the barrel. During the mid-1800s, the pinfire cartridge was prevalent in Europe and was used in a variety of firearms, such as rifles, shotguns, and revolvers.

That was the short introduction to pinfire cartridges. Now, let’s look at the history of the pinfire cartridge. And why it represented a huge milestone in firearm technology.

Origins Of The Pinfire Cartridge

Let’s start with a history lesson.

The pinfire cartridge was invented in the early 19th century by French gunsmith Casimir Lefaucheux. He was looking for a way to improve upon the existing firearms technology, which relied on black powder and loose lead balls. He came up with the idea of using a self-contained cartridge. That meant that a single unit contained the primer, powder, and bullet. Pretty ingenious, if you ask me.

He designed the pinfire cartridge to be fired by a pin that protruded from the side of the cartridge and was struck by a hammer. This meant that the cartridge was easier to load and handle, as there was no need to manually pour powder and shot it down the barrel. The pinfire cartridge quickly became popular in Europe, especially in France and Belgium. During its heyday, it was used in a variety of firearms, including revolvers, shotguns, and rifles.

Famous Weapons That Used The Pinfire Cartridge

Here are a couple of famous firearms from the 19th century that utilized the pinfire cartridge.

  1. The LeMat Revolver
  2. Galand Revolver
  3. Darne Shotgun
  4. Lefaucheux Revolver

Those are just a few examples of famous firearms in the 19th century that relied on the pinfire cartridge. Now, as you can imagine it was not all sunshine and rainbows. The pinfire cartridge had two major flaws that ultimately lead to it being replaced. You can see what those two flaws were in the section below.

Drawback Of The Pinfire Cartridge

One of the main drawbacks was that the pin that struck the primer on the base of the cartridge was exposed. This made it vulnerable to damage or accidental discharge if it was struck or dropped. This made the pinfire cartridge less safe than other types of cartridges that had enclosed primers.

Also, the pinfire cartridge was more complicated and expensive to manufacture than other types of cartridges. Which in turn made it less popular in the United States and other countries where other cartridge types were more widely used.

So, the vulnerability of the exposed firing pin and the higher manufacturing costs were what ultimately lead to the downfall of the pinfire cartridge.

What Replaced It?

The pinfire cartridge was replaced towards the end of the 19th century by Centerfire cartridges. They managed to reduce the risk of the exposed firing pin and reduced high manufacturing costs. So that was a big advantage that spelled doom for the pinfire cartridge.

Even though its use was relatively short it was still a huge milestone in firearm history. It improved reloading time and made firearms much more reliable.

In Conclusion

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope you learned a thing or two. Now, if you wish to continue learning you can browse my other articles on firearm history. For example an article on the Boxlock pistol, which you can see right here.

Take care!