Facts For Shotshell Box Collectors &
History of Shotshell Boxes
shotshell boxes is fascinating, educational and can also be profitable. The information
on this page aims to be valuable to shotshell box collectors before investing actual
money in collectible shotshell boxes.
Shotshell Box Basics
- What we call "shotshells" in the USA
are also known as "shotgun shells" or "shotgun cartridges" in other parts of the
- The number of rounds in the box should be familiar
to you. Remember that shotshells have been packaged in boxes of 3, 5, 10, 20, 25,
50, and 100 rounds.
- Shotshell sizes are described by their diameters.
Size units are "gauge", "inches" and also metric units. Common sizes are 8-guage
(8ga), 10ga, 12ga, 16ga, 20ga, 28ga, etc.
- Shotshell Headstamp Identification is available
online at Turtlefoot Headstamp Project "US Headstamps" page. Unlike other headstamp pages, theirs is not bloated with
a lot of annoying advertising and popups that all but obliterate the information you are looking for. Their extensive
page lists US companies that made shotshells, often with history, dates, comments and photos of the headstamps.
Valuation of Shotshell and Ammo-Related Collectibles
Many antique shotshell and ammo-related collectibles are worth substantial amounts of money.
To monitor ammo collectibles sales you can visit the auction sites on a regular basis and
take notes or you can use our Online Price Guide. With our
online price lookup service you can quickly search
completed auction sales of vintage items by make, size, style and keywords. Our listings include
shotshell boxes, shotshells, pistol cartridges and boxes, rifle cartridges and boxes,
antique guns, salesman kits, calendars, envelopes, prints, artwork, novelty itmes,
toys and more from the tens of thousands of completed ammo-related auction sales in our database.
Varied Uses For Shotgun Shells
Many shotshell variations have existed to serve many different and surprising purposes
including hunting, target shooting, military training, message-sending projectile,
animal correction (rice load for elephants and rhinos), anti-Zeppelin loads, movie
blanks, parrot nest igniter (South America), pine tree seeder (to seed inaccessible,
rocky areas), bomb practice, cattle cracker/mustering, riot/guard (buck shot, tear
gas, pepper spray, plastic/rubber pellets/balls/darts, bean bag etc.), sales person
samples (cut away, window, pierced primer, powder samples, etc.), signal cannon,
whale marker, water charge launcher (crowd control) and more.
Other Shotshell-Related Collectibles
Other items related to Shotshell Boxes are also of interest to many shotshell
box collectors, including items with shotshell images and marketing imprinted on
them. These shotshell items include advertising signs, mugs, ash trays, crates,
coasters, shot glasses, keyrings, pins and lapels, pocket knives, cigarette lighters
and the like.
Specialty Shotshell Box Collectors
Specialty Shotshell Collectors are collectors who specialize in their collecting
of shotshell collectibles based on specific criteria. For instance, some collectors
only collect shotshell boxes from certain countries or geographic areas of origin.
Some collect only preferred gauge (for example, only 8 gauge), some only police
and military, some only game loads, only brass, only plastic, only "top wads",
Frequently Asked Shotshell Box Questions
What is the difference between a "1-piece" and "2-piece" box?
2-piece boxes were made from two pieces of card board. The box had a separate bottom
part that held the shotgun shells and a separate top cover part that slipped all
the way over the bottom part. When new, there was usually a wraparound label securing
the two parts.
1-piece boxes, on the other hand, are die cut and folded from a single piece of
cardboard. You open and close the top flap whose tongue locks into the other flaps
at the top of the box. Prior to WW II, there were only a few target shotshells packed
in one-piece boxes. After WW II, one-piece boxes have been used almost exclusively
because it reduces manufacturer cost.
What does shotgun "gauge" mean?
A shotgun's gauge is determined by how many round lead balls of that diameter it
would take to make a pound. That's why the smaller the bore, the higher the gauge
number is - because smaller bores mean more round lead balls will be required to
make up a pound. For example, a 10 gauge round ball weighs 1/10 lb, while a 28 gauge
round ball weighs 1/28 lb.
The most common shotgun gauge is 12, but 10, 16, 20, and 28 are also used in modern
shotguns. The 410 gauge is the exception to the rule and should not be called "gauge."
The 410 refers to caliber that means .410 inch.
Shotgun Bore Diameters
What kinds of companies or manufacturers produced shotshell products?
Approximately 42 companies manufactured shotshells prior to World War II. After
World War II, some companies ceased operations, including Robin Hood, Union Metallic
Cartridge Company (UMC), and U.S. Cartridge Company (USC).
Companies who produced shotshells include:
US CARTRIDGE COMPANY
US was acquired by Winchester in 1926, and US shells were made until 1936.
Alcan, Inc. of East Alton, Illinois. Produced shells from 1951 to 1971.
Austin Powder of Cleveland, Ohio. This company was bounded in 1895 and was dissolved
in 1909. Austin boxes are rare and very desirable.
BLACHFORD CARTRIDGE WORKS
Chicago, Illinois. Loaded shells presumably from Winchester.
SELBY THE BLACK SHELLS
manufactured by US Cartridge Company.
loaded by Henry C. Squires of New York, NY. "proprietary" box. The shells were manufactured
by both British and American companies. The Squires top wad on the box label identified
a "house brand" loaded by an association
a "proprietary" load. Shells manufactured by others.
Catron of Carmel, Inc., Carmel, California. Catron was in business only briefly
during 1960 - 61.
distributed by Gamble Store of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The shells were most likely
made by Federal Cartridge Company.
house brand for Holiday Stores, Inc. of Minneapolis. The shells were made by Alcan.
Distribution was discontinued in 1976-77.
from Northwestern Ammunition Company of Moses Lake, Washington. Active in the mid
1950' s, this company was only in business for two years. Only known in 12 gauge.
Manufactured by Omark Industries of Lewiston, Idaho, these were never released for
public distribution, but a few samples did get out of the factory.
These shells were manufactured for Sears ~ Roebuck & Company by a variety of American
manufacturers. The shells were head stamped for Sears House Brand.
manufactured by Vawter Ammunition Company in EI Campo, Texas, known in 12 gauge
only. This company was in business briefly during the early 1960's.