View Full Version : History of the Gas Check

09-04-2005, 11:36 PM
Hi fellow cast bullet enthusiasts. Like many of you, I have used thousands of these copper alloy bullet base protectors over the years. In the past few years or so, I got to wondering about their history, when they were first introduced and by whom, testing that was done prior to they're introduction, and so on.

I dug around my library and found one of the answers I was looking for in Lyman's Centennial Journal 1878 - 1978. On page 31 it mentions that the gas check was first shown in Ideal Handbook No. 17 published in 1906. The illustration shows a "gas check cup" which appears to have some internal ribs running lengthwise in it. The official patent date is March 12, 1907.

The 308284 bullet designed for the .30 U.S. Govt. (.30-40) was the first bullet specifically engineered to use the then new gas check. The next was the 308291 for the .30-30 & .303 Savage, then the 319295 for the .32-40 followed by 375296 for the .38-55.

But what event lead up to the research and development of this new cast bullet device? A hint of that was noted in Ideal's 1904 manual. Dr. Walter G. Hudson, who was a World Champion Rifle shooter and held many records in his day was working on the problem of trying to achieve a mimimum velocity of 1,500 f.p.s. in the .30-40 with 200+ grain bullets for accurate shooting at 500 yards. The problem he encountered in trying to achieve that goal was fusion, or gas cutting as we know it today.

He tried experimenting with antimonial alloys for stronger bullets but fusion persisted. He worked with J.H. Barlow of Ideal on bullet design and diameters, even to the point of using a front "gas check" band (front driving band) diameter of .325"(!) but to no avail.

It appears that between the years of 1904 and 1905, Dr. Hudson and Mr. Barlow of Ideal Manufacturing Co. hit upon the idea that a copper alloy spacer to insulate the bullet from the hot powder gases might work. They tried copper discs under plain based bullets, and found that they successfully prevented fusion. Higher velocities were then able to be achieved with no leading. Further development lead to the cup profile and the Ideal bullet #308284 (today‘s 311284).

Since the gas checked 308284 worked very well, Mr. Barlow set to work to develop additional gas checked bullets very quickly. Samples of cartridges loaded to factory velocities with the new bullet designs were sent to the Marlin Firearms Co. and Savage Arms Company for their evaluation. Marlin reported “We have the pleasure of reporting to you that these appear to be in every way equal to factory loaded ammunition with metal jacketed bullets.“ Savage wrote back that they tested them in the .30-30 and .303 Savage and they compared favorably in accuracy with their jacketed bullets.

A few years later, in 1909, the Ideal Handbook No. 19 illustrated a total of 15 different gas checked bullets in calibers ranging from the .25-20 up to .38-55.

It is known that these first gas checks were designed to fall from the base of the bullet shortly after leaving the muzzle. Some 60 or so years later, Hornady Manufacturing came along with a new crimp on engineered gas check designed to stay with the bullet in flight. And the rest shall we say…...is history.


09-05-2005, 01:20 AM
w30wcf, I enjoyed that! Thanks for the post! ,,,Buck

09-05-2005, 01:53 AM

Your post summarized about umpteen articles' worth of info on the gas check's historical notes that I've read in pieces elsewhere. VERY VALUABLE INFO, which seems to be your specialty. Many thanks, sir.

09-05-2005, 05:44 AM
.............I have nothing to back this up and I can't site specifics, but I recall reading someplace that someone here in the US (Hudson?) had heard of some kind of experimental work being done in Great Britain with "Copper Wads" (not described as cups) being used at the base of lead bullets.

Possibly something similar to the Zinc base washers, or the Minie' base cavity barrel scrappers used during the Civil War?


45 2.1
09-05-2005, 09:05 AM
Barlowe was not the first to use gas checks. I have seen references in the past about their use in England somewhere in the late 1880s about a copper disc being used. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get any more information.

09-05-2005, 09:13 AM
Thanks, I really enjoyed that! -JDL

09-05-2005, 12:13 PM
w30wcf: I would just add that Barlow's gas check patent is No. 847,149; you can call it up on the Patent Office site at www.uspto.gov. And, yes, it shows internal ribs to grip the bullet shank, and a domed base leaving a space under the bullet, so that the "...action of the air compressed between the end of the base...and the bottom...strips the gas-check from the bullet..." upon exiting the muzzle. Tom Quigley, Secretary of the Antique Reloading Tool Collectors ***'n. has dug out the list of Ideal patents. I'll see if I can scan it and post it to CASTPICS. floodgate

09-05-2005, 01:35 PM
All, While almost all of the Ideal/Lyman gas checks I've seen are of the slip-on type, I do have an old box of the same brand which are of the crimp-on type (got these .323" dia. with a #323471 mold from a seller on Auction Arms calling himself "Iconoclast"). In fact, they are almost dead ringers for Hornady's save for the slightly brighter (brassier) color of the checks themselves.

09-05-2005, 03:51 PM
I have that 847,149 gas check patent on file. Four pages in .tif format, together slightly more than 300 kb. Send me a pm with your email address if you're interested.


09-05-2005, 07:38 PM
Great info and comments. Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Doc Hudson one of Pope's contemporaries, and a Schuetzen shooter (among other things)???

09-05-2005, 11:52 PM

".......and a domed base leaving a space under the bullet, so that the "...action of the air compressed between the end of the base...and the bottom...strips the gas-check from the bullet..."

I hadn't considered this action. The .375" Hornady checks I use on the .367" boolits in my 9.3 x 62 form a domed base as described above. I'll have Buckshot watch downrange next time I shoot some of these critters, to see whether some of the checks are hitting shorter than the boolit.

09-06-2005, 10:39 PM
Thank you for the kind comments. History was my absolute worst subject in school but I have learned to appreciate it much more as I head down the road of life...much closer to the end now than at the beginning.

I had not heard of the compressed air factor either. Interesting!

Thank you for the offer. I'm sending you a PM.

Dr. Hudson was one of the great Schuetzen shooters of his day. In fact, he set the current offhand record of 2301 / 2500 way back in the early 1900's. The Wyoming Schuetzen Union has an election day match where competitors try to break Dr. Hudson's long standing record. So far, the good Dr's. record is still intact.


09-07-2005, 12:02 AM
The other day I stated, "Tom Quigley, Secretary of the Antique Reloading Tool Collectors ***'n. has dug out the list of Ideal patents. I'll see if I can scan it and post it to CASTPICS."

I mentioned that to Tom, and he said he would send it to be posted on the ARTCA website, so look for it at www.antiquereloadingtools.com. Lots of other good stuff there, too, and visitors are welcome to view and to post on the "Messages" Board.