` ShotShell Box History

Facts For Shotshell Box Collectors &
History of Shotshell Boxes

Collecting 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 world.
  • 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", etc.

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

Gauge Bore diameter
Bore diameter
6 23.3 0.92
10 19.7 0.77
12 18.5 0.73
14 17.6 0.69
16 16.8 0.66
20 15.6 0.615
24 14.7 0.58
28 14.0 0.55
32 13.4 0.526
410 10.414 0.410

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 Alcan, Inc. of East Alton, Illinois. Produced shells from 1951 to 1971.
AUSTIN BANG 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.
SQUIRES 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 the shells.
STAR BRAND a "house brand" loaded by an association
STAR LOAD a "proprietary" load. Shells manufactured by others.
CATRON Catron of Carmel, Inc., Carmel, California. Catron was in business only briefly during 1960 - 61.
GAMBLE'S distributed by Gamble Store of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The shells were most likely made by Federal Cartridge Company.
HOLIDAY house brand for Holiday Stores, Inc. of Minneapolis. The shells were made by Alcan. Distribution was discontinued in 1976-77.
NORTHWESTERN 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.
OMARK Manufactured by Omark Industries of Lewiston, Idaho, these were never released for public distribution, but a few samples did get out of the factory.
POINTER These shells were manufactured for Sears ~ Roebuck & Company by a variety of American manufacturers. The shells were head stamped for Sears House Brand.
TEXLOAD 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.