Bpbwweb.JPG (16349 bytes)Reloading Technical Guide
Loads for a Vintage 10 Gauge, The 2-7/8 Inch Shotshell
10 Gauge 2-7/8" Loads
10 gauge short hulls
Vintage 10 Gauge
10-Gauge Cowboy Action

So, you found yourself a sharp 10-gauge built early in the 1900s.  Maybe it's a Winchester Model 1901 10 gauge.  Whatever it is, it may predate John Olin’s 3-1/2" magnums, so it’s chambered for 2-7/8" shells. 

These shotguns were designed more as a utility shotgun than today's extra-big 10 gauge shotguns.  Geese, ducks, even upland, these were yesteryear's utility shotgun in the United States.   If it's still in good shape, it's a nifty, versatile shotgun that deserves to be brought out to the field.    Around here, we have some favorite old doubles that fall into  the "functional antique" catagory, probably similar to yours,  and we still enjoy using them regularly.  You have probably  deduced that due to age and the effects thereof, you don’t want to use the latest high-energy loads which are designed for modern shotguns.

Your 2-7/8" chambered 10 gauge works best when used with loads typical of the era when it was manufactured. 

The 2-7/8" loads are usually roll crimped because the modern presses have difficulty accommodating a fold crimp on the shorter shells.  Roll Crimping tools as well as the proper card wads are available and easy to use with modern cases.   Furthermore, roll crimps allow for a greater shot payload by leaving more space after closure.

Shotguns manufactured early in the 20th century were designed for shells using cardboard wads, with all the effectiveness a cardboard seal will offer.   Cardboard wads are not the most effective seal, plastic replaced cardboard in the 1960s and 1970. 

However, it's around these cardboard wads that I would design   my loads. With the inherent leakage around the cardboard seal overall pressure (and to a degree, performance) is reduced putting less stress on the older joints and hinges of a well-used gun.   Furthermore, the barrel is choked to accommodate the pellets without a shotcup - and shooting without a shotcup delivers you the "correct" constriction and ultimately, pattern for which the shotgun was designed.

Of course, this mandates using lead or Bismuth® NoTox® pellets, which will not harm your barrels with direct contact.

We are hoping Tungsten-Matrix® will be made available by Kent Cartridge Co.® for handloaders eventually also.

The recipes we have designed for vintage 10s follow a few basic parameters.  I would look for the following for an excellent all-around 10 gauge load:

  • 1-1/4 oz lead shot payload
  • Card wads
  • Medium burn-rated powder

These ingredients, with a nitro-proofed 2-7/8" 10 gauge, will offer an authentic load and decent performance.

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This excerpt from The Mighty 10 Gauge, 2006.
© 2006 Ballistic Products Inc. / All rights reserved.