The shooting world was introduced to the first cartridge-firing weapon with the .22 Smith & Wesson Model #1 in 1857. This little pocket pistol used the same style .22 rimfire ammunition still in use today with a heeled bullet. The diameter of the bottom part of the bullet was smaller than the rest of the bullet so it would fit inside the case. Twelve years later S&W went big bore with the Model #3 .44 S&W American using the same style bullet. These didn’t have a crimping groove as we know it.
Apparently, the Russians didn’t like the way the .44 American cartridge was put together so they ordered a large number of Smith & Wessons chambered in a new cartridge. To come up with the .44 Russian the diameter of the case was increased while giving the bullet uniform diameter, and seating and crimping into the ogive of the bullet. This became the standard method and was used, and in some cases still used today in cartridges such as the .45 Colt, .44-40 and .38-40.
Today many of the mold makers of bullets for use in the old-style cartridges have improved them by adding a crimping groove. In the 1920s, Elmer Keith designed the standard semi-wadcutter bullet still in widespread use today. This bullet featured a large grease groove and a wide deep crimping groove. The crimping groove serves several purposes, not the least of which is keeping the bullet from being pushed down into the case or going the opposite direction and jumping forward under recoil. I’m also convinced a good crimp is necessary to get many pistol powders burning properly.
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