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Vintage Shotgun Shells: A Collector’s Perspective

Collecting vintage shotgun shells from yesteryear is a great hobby, and an investment too.

In the world of modern hunting, times and equipment change quickly.

Hunting ammunition has gone through many shifts, and shotgun shells have gone through massive changes themselves since the invention of the self-contained ammunition cartridge. Solid brass shell casings have come and gone, and so have the cardboard shells that were loaded with such bird shot charges such as “chilled” lead shot.

Cartridge For Hunting Rifle

Propellants have gone from black powder to smokeless, which helped hunters keep an eye on targeted game after the shot rather than through a smoke screen.

Massive shotgun shells from punt guns of gauges down to two and four gauge shot huge loads of lead meant to cripple or kill as many birds with one shot as possible. Those were the years of the market hunters that caused the enactment of game protection laws. Those large shotgun shells in four gauge and even all the way down to eight gauge became illegal to use on game almost overnight.

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The 10 gauge shotgun survived, and in modern society the 12 gauge, with the new technologies in propellants, waddings, casings and projectiles, make the old massive shells even more obsolete.

Now, these long, obsolete shells make great collectors items that can increase in price and become a small investment. These old shotshells call to us of another era when our forefathers hunted. Only so many of these remain, and some of the rarer loadings may be worth more than some of the more common 12 and 20 gauge cardboard shells.

To start off your collection, try yard and barn sales (and also gun shows), and buy interesting shells one at a time. Usually they can be bought for a couple dollars or less. Whole boxes can be bought, and depending on the maker, load and age, may be worth quite a bit. All brass shells are always worth it to buy, loaded or unloaded.


If you see the larger gauge shells such as eight gauge and above, buy them while you can. Do an online search of prices of the vintage shotgun shells and you will see they are highly collectible and highly looked for.

Start your collection today, but I warn you, it is highly addictive!

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Vintage Shotgun Shells: A Collector’s Perspective