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A buddy of mine just gave me a few dozen 45-70 cases for my reloading efforts. Most of the cases seem to be of the 1950's to 1960's based on headstamps (there may be some older stuff, but most of it was all in decent shape and showed no signs of age or cracking.) However, in all the cases, there is ONE case that has NO headstamp whatsoever. The primer (center) shows usage in a Trapdoor (the FP dent is slightly off to one side.) I know there is no collector value in a single, expended cartridge, but Im wondering how old this thing is. From what I read, headstamps were omitted only on VERY old rounds (like 1870's).
 

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...good question...

Not the most knowledgeable cartridge collector...but I've got a few. Only 'sterile' cases I've ever seen were the 7.62X39 made for the CIA in 'Nam and the 45/70 cases made for the US Navy line throwing guns. Except for some foreign cases,most others are given some sort of head stamp...2-element,3-element or 4-element. Go to one of the cartridge collector sites...they will be able to give a more definitive answer.
 

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Malim Praedari
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As I recall, a fair number of the old pre-1900 military cartridges ( .43 Spanish, .43 Mauser, .45-70 for examples) were not headstamped; the idea being that the soldier would be using government supplied cartridges in his longarm.
I have examples of cartridges in my collection including field pickups which have no headstamps for several of the early rifles such as rolling blocks, trapdoors, Gras, 1871 Mauser, etc. As was mentioned above, check the case head and see what that can tell you, and check the cartridge collector sites. Just my 2 cents - YMMV
 

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I have some "sterile" .45-70 brass kicking around from when my Dad was experimenting with reloading for a trapdoor rifle in the late 60's. He said it came from the local railroad shop that served the Kennecott copper mine just outside town until the mid 70's. Now it is a living museum. http://www.nnry.com/

He thought they were from blanks used in some kind of stud gun, but I don't know if any of that is true. Maybe some of you railroad guys can chime in.
 

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According to "History of Modern US Military Small Arms Ammunition 1880 to 1939" US made 45-70 was not headstamped from Sept 1873 to March 1877
 
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