The pinfire cartridge

The pinfire cartridge was invented in 1823 by Casimir Lefaucheux. Even though the "lipfire" and "teatfire" cartridges were invented in the same period it was the first mass produced full metal cartridge. After the invention of the rimfire- and centerfire cartridges the pinfire cartridge soon lost its domination on the market. Below you'll find a cross section of a pinfire cartridge:

This picture clearly shows the brass pin resting on the fulminate in the cap. Rough treatment could easily result in a premature ignition of these cartridges. Remarkable is the minute quantity of black powder in these cartridges. Firearms loaded with this type of ammunition weren't very effective. Pinfire cartridges for handguns were available in many calibres: 2, 5, 7, 9, 12 and 15mm. Sometimes a clever gunsmith produced a gun in a different calibre to make sure his clients would keep coming back for ammunition. Pinfire cartridges were available with ball, shot and blanks and were often used by cyclists who had to defend themselves on their velocipede against stray dogs and bumpkins. For this purpose sometimes cartridges were loaded with coarse salt. Below a picture depicting pinfire cartridges in 5, 7, 9 en 12 mm.

Below a cartridge case with 18(!) 7 mm pinfire cartridges.

The pinfire cartridge has many disadvantages: The pin of the cartridge has to be placed exactly in the slot of the chamber and cartridges may ignite when dropped. Around 1850 a horizontal pinfire cartridge was invented that solved these problems. They never were mass produced and are extremely rare.


As can be seen on the X-ray below a pin protrudes from the base of the cartridge and just touches a primer on the bottom edge of the bullet.