and Mills Patent - The "Multi-ring" Sharps
By Dean S.Thomas
(as originally published in Roundball
To Rimfire Volume 2)
in the Case History File of Patent No. 21,253 is a report dated
April 30, 1858, from Major William H. Bell to Colonel Henry K. Craig.
Bell had been directed by Secretary of War John B. Floyd to try
the Safety Fuse Train Cartridge of Edwin Gomez and William Mills
of New York City. One hundred rounds were fired from a .52 cal.
Sharps carbine. The components of the cartridge weighed:
- 35 grains
Paper - 15 grains
Ball - 460 grains
Total of Cartridge - 510 grains
powder in the cartridges was a white substance patented September
15, 1857, by Gomez and Mills, and produced one-half as much smoke
as traditional black gunpowder. It was, however, more like a fulminating
compound that could be ignited by percussion and friction between
two pieces of iron, rather than modern nitrocellulose or nitroglycerine
smokeless powders. Nevertheless, Gomez and Mills believed that they
had discovered a way to harness the energy of their powder for use
in small arms ammunition.
Bell reported the characteristics of the powder, a description of
the cartridge, and the results of firing. When compared with firing
another Sharps carbine with black powder, Bell observed that the
Gomez and Mills cartridges: produced little or no muzzle flash;
the intensity of the report of detonation and smoke were one-half;
the heating of the gun barrel was very considerably less; fouling
was very much smaller; penetration was about 15% better; and they
never missed fire even when laid in water for two to five minutes.
When Bell was completed with his task he reported the facts only
and made no recommendation.
Undaunted, Gomez and Mills applied for a patent on June 26, 1858,
and were rewarded on August 24, 1858, with Letters Patent No. 21,253
for an Improvement in Cartridges for Fire-Arms. The patent drawing
clearly illustrates a multi-grooved ball to the bottom of which
the cartridge was tied with string. To learn about the intricacies
of producing this cartridge, the reader is encouraged to read the
success, if any, Gomez and Mills enjoyed in marketing their novelty
is unknown, but specimens of these cartridges have not come to light.
The bullet design, however, was adopted by an unidentified manufacturer
to make typical, "old model" style, paper case cartridges
for 90, 60, and 32-bore Sharps sporting rifles.
Approximately .38 caliber
M&M# n/a T&T#103
Approximately .44 caliber
Approximately .44 caliber
M&M# 193 T&T#104
A shorter, lighter variant of MM#192/TT#105
with a raised band above the "multi-rings"
Approximately .52 caliber
Patent No. 21,253 for an Improvement in Cartridges for Fire-Arms
(Click on the image to enlarge)
Ball to Rimfire, Part Two, pages 223-225
All Photo Publication Rights Reserved
Dean S.. Thomas/Thomas Publications