View Full Version : History Lesson Please?

April 21, 2005, 09:34 AM
Can anyone tell me when solid brass shotgun shells were developed and used?

April 21, 2005, 11:48 AM
As nearly as I can tell, all-brass shotshells were available in the U.S. as early as the middle 1870s. Interestingly, the development of all-brass and paper/brass shotshells (a paper hull with a brass base) occured nearly simultaneously; however, the brass shells held the lead in the market (especially with wildfowlers) until manufacturers began to coat their paper/brass shells with wax or lacquer to prevent them from swelling. Around 1900 the paper/brass shell began to emerge as the market leader, a position they held until the later advent of the plastic/brass shell.

Mr. Jon Farrar wrote an informative and entertaining article on the history of the shotshell, and it was published in NEBRASKAland magazine. The following link will take you to it:

Hope this helps.

Good luck, and good shooting!

April 21, 2005, 03:53 PM
Go to Midway USA, they sell all brass shells in 12ga and I belive in 20 ga also. You can't use plastic shotshell wads in these, but they have all the felt and cardboard wads available also. Mainly used for black powder loads.

Dave McC
April 21, 2005, 07:28 PM
The first breechloading pinfire was French and introduced about 1858 or so. Centerfire brass cartridges and components were available around 1868 in the US.
By the 1880s, all brass cartridges were common among folks doing lots of shotgunning, mostly market hunters. They were reloading these at night and shooting them by day similar to the way buffalo hunters did with their large bore Sharps and Remington rifles.

The all brass hull with a greased overshot wad came very close to being waterproof, much more so than the paper cases we knew in our salad days.

April 21, 2005, 08:21 PM
I did some additional research and found that in his book titled Shotguns and Shooting author Michael McIntosh had this to say, in part, on the subjects:

Casimir Lefaucheux, a Parisian, was the father of the pinfire cartridge. As McIntosh states,:

"In 1836, however, he took out patents on a design for wholly self-contained ammuniton and thereby changed the course of modern gunmaking.

"The Lefaucheux cartridge comprised a brass-headed paper case with a pin protruding from the side, just ahead of the rim. Inside the case, the pin's tip rested on a priming cap that contained fulminate--in effect placing the firing pin inside the shell instead of inside the gun. Pinfires, as they were called, weren't the first cartridges to have shot, powder, and a primer all in the same package, but they certainly were handier and more efficient than any that had gone before. They could be carried in pouch or pocket and quickly put into a gun; the shooter had only to make certain that the pins were pointing upward and fit into tiny notches in the barrels. With special tools for recaping and crimping, the cases were relatively easy to reload."

Concerning brass cases, he had this to say:

"Actually any brass case was difficult to manufacture before the 1870s, because it wasn't until about 1875 that American technology reached a point where a brass case could readily be formed in one piece. Even then it was no simple matter. The process began with a brass disc. This was formed into a cup and then, through a series of dies and punches, drawn into a finished case 2.5 to 3 inches long. The complex shapes of the head and primer pocket were an especially taxing problem, but American ingenuity was such that by 1880 Remington, Winchester, and Union Metallic Cartridge Company were all turning out brass cases by the wagonload. The U.S. government made them, too, at the Frankford Arsenal, first of gilding metal and then, after the mid-1880s, of tinned brass."

He also states that, "Remington Arms brought out the first plastic shell in 1960 and thereby started a trend that has since spread around the world."

Good luck, and good shooting!

Death from Afar
April 21, 2005, 08:29 PM
I bemoan the introduction of the plastic shotshell. I KNOW they are more resilient, cheaper to make, water proof etc, but the paper ones have a charm all of their own. I love the smell of the brunt paper on them, and they dont leave bright plastic junk lying around to make a mess . I love finding old boxes of paper stuff and using it....

Spotted Owl
April 22, 2005, 11:04 AM
I love finding old boxes of paper stuff and using it....
You know that Federal still makes paper shotshells, right?

Jim Watson
April 22, 2005, 01:10 PM

The British "Perfect" thin brass cartridge is not the same as the US brass shotshell. Ours has the same outside dimensions as paper/plastic hulls and could be shot interchangeably. The War Department ordered up a supply of brass shotshells for WW I trench guns upon reports of paper shells swelling in the muddy trenches, but they did not get issued before the Armistice. Still had some on hand for WW II, though. There is some demand for brass shells by Cowboy shooters who want to look both authentic and flashy.

The Perfect was shot in a chamberless gun. There was no chamber other than a rim relief, the brass was drawn out so thin that there was no need for a chamber mouth and forcing cone as for paper shells. Bore was oversize vs nominal gauge. It was an early solution to the problem of blown patterns by giving no chance for gas to leak past the wads in a conventional forcing cone. Of course that is now dealt with by plastic wads that will expand to seal about anything.

April 22, 2005, 06:24 PM
Mr. Watson:

Thank-you for the clarification. Burrard, whom I quoted, was British, wasn't he? My apologies for overlooking this fact, and for any resultant confusion. I've edited my post (above) accordingly.

Good luck, and good shooting!

April 26, 2005, 06:49 AM
The reason I asked is a guy gave me a brass 12ga. 00 buck and I was trying to date it. And also see if it is worth anything. It is unfired.

Dave McC
April 26, 2005, 09:04 AM
More than likely it's GI issue. This stuff was standard when paper shells were all there was. Paper didn't work all that well in combat due to swelling, telescoping, etc. All brass shells were in use in the Nam Mess and maybe later.

It's worth something, but don't quit your day job yet....