The George Jeffries Patent Cartridge Loader

First published in "The Territory Arms Collector", September 2010.

Some years ago, I placed an absentee bid at auction for a cased pinfire gun that came with what was described as “Miscellaneous Accessories”.  I was primarily interested in the gun and although being unable to inspect the item in person decided to take a punt on condition (you do a lot of that living in Northern Australia) and was fortunate enough for my bid to be successful.  

On receiving the gun, I discovered the main accessory to be a multi-function cartridge loader made by George Jeffries of Norwich, England.  The tool comprised two parts, a cast iron frame containing a wad rammer which attaches to a bench in a vertical position, and a brass turnover tool which is mounted horizontally on the frame and secured in place by a thumbscrew.  Cast into the frame are the markings “JEFFRIES NORWICH” and “PATENT 1900” along with what appears to be a crest of some kind.  Similarly, into the centre of the turnover tool is cast “JEFFRIES PATENT 12 GUAGE”.   It was in perfect working condition and of a type I had never before encountered. Clearly some further research was required.

 As it turns out this design was patented by George Jeffries on August 6th, 1860 as Patent No. 1900 and is described in the patent as a “Tool for filling cartridges and closing the ends thereof”.  It is in fact an improvement of an earlier Jeffries design that was protected in 1859 as Registered Design No. 4164.

Illustration from Jeffries Patent No.1900 of 1860

Unique to both these designs is the turnover tool, the chuck of which is carried on a coarse threaded spindle which has an expelling rod running through it.  Indeed, the main improvement in the later design appears to be a reduction in the pitch of this same screw.  This would allow a crimp to be rolled with greater precision than with a rapidly advancing turnover chuck.

The example I acquired and that in the patent drawing is designed for use with pinfire cartridges where the exposed cartridge pin protrudes through a slot at the side of the tool and the base of the cartridge is secured by a locking lever.  This prevents unwanted rotation and lateral movement of the cartridge whilst the crimping process occurs.  It is totally unsuited for use with centrefire cartridges as the absence of the pin leads to possible rotation movement whilst the crimp is being formed.

From studying UK auction catalogues it seems that examples do come up fairly regularly so it must have been a reasonably successful design for its time.

Of George Jeffries himself, he began trading as a gunmaker in 1841 at Stepping Lane, Norwich in the county of Norfolk. A year later he moved to larger premises at Golden Hall Street and in 1864 moved to 8 Orford Hill. He died on 31st May 1897 at the age of 76 but the business continued to be run by his daughter and her husband until 1899. His son, George Lincoln Jeffries, born in 1847, became a significant and well established Birmingham gunmaker, making a huge contribution to air rifle development in partnership with BSA.

George Jeffries took out several other patents in addition to the two studied here. Patent No. 22 and Patent No. 3300 both of 1862 were for the famous Jeffries side-opening breech loading shotgun. Also significant, particularly for this study, was Patent No. 1381 of 1867 for what appears to be the first of the classic British turnover tools where a lever forces the cartridge case against a manually rotated chuck. Thousands of examples of this and its variants and copies were produced.

I find it fascinating that an accessory purchased along with the main item can sometimes have a significant history all of its own.  I was almost as pleased to secure this loading tool as an accessory as I was to have purchased the gun itself, which is of a famous and quite rare design. But that’s a story for another article.

Further Reference:

British Handloading Cartridge Tools; Baker.

The British Shotgun, Vol 1, 1850 - 1870, 2nd Ed,  Crudgington & Baker.

Patents for Inventions - Ammunition 1855 - 1866; Reprint; Museum Restoration Service

BSA and Lincoln Jeffries Air Rifles 1904 - 1918; Knibbs


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