History of the Shotgun Shell

Blunderbuss. Scattergun. Fowling Piece. Trench gun. No matter what you call it, the shotgun is one of America’s favorite firearms and has been for many years. And it’s evident in the history of the shotgun shell.

A Brief History of the Shotgun Shell

A German Beginning

Although not yet called a shotgun, the Germans developed the first shotgun-like gun, called the blunderbuss, in the 1600s. A muzzle-loading musket, this gun fired from the shoulder.

Bird Hunting in Britain

By the 1700s, shotguns had spread out from the Alps and were becoming popular throughout Europe. The British used a fowling piece, a light weight gun that fired small shot, to hunt large birds.

Birth of the Shotgun

In 1776, in what would eventually become the American state of Kentucky, someone finally used the term shotgun to describe a firearm that propelled shot. Because of its versatility and extreme efficiency with both moving targets and in close range, the shotgun became popular during the Civil War and played a vital role in the Wild West.

Manufacturing Begins

Brass shotgun shells began appearing around 1865, when ammunition companies started manufacturing shotshell. By the end of this decade, paper hulls were on the market as well. In 1885, the history of the shotgun shell was changed forever. Frank Chamberlin created a machine that loaded 1,200-1,500 shotgun shells an hour, exponentially more than anyone could do by hand.

Throughout the Wars

Since shotguns had such an important role during the Civil War, it’s no surprise the US military used them in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. To prevent misloadings, Federal stated color coding its shotshells and in 1960, this became the industry standard. At the end of the 1960s, Remington introduced plastic shells.

Ballistics Is Born

By the 1980s, ballistics began impacting bullet design and manufacturing and the history of the shotgun shell was, again, changed. Suddenly, this firearm became more than a weapon. They were used by the military and police to open doors, clear paths, and make their presence known.

Today, shotgun ammunition comes in a variety of types, including those designed for hunting big game, hunting birds, sports shooting, and self defense.