Paper shotgun shells are making a comeback due to nostalgia, environmental concerns, and increased demand by target shooters.
“Flashback to the 1950s and duck hunting or just shotgunning in general. Paper shells were the norm. When fired, they had a particular smell or aroma that was special and really brings back early memories. I was just a kid, but I can still remember the smell—kind of sweet toasted walnuts and burnt wax or candles mixed together. Nothing like plastic shells.”
These water-resistant, wax-impregnated paper shotgun shells were introduced in the 1870s as a lower-cost and lighter alternative to brass shells. Paper shotgun shells remained popular until the 1960s when plastic hulls took over the market.
Despite paying higher costs for paper over plastic, people are creating a greater demand for paper shotgun shells that is creating a revival for this type of ammunition.
“The shells have maintained a following in the skeet and trap world because the softer hulls can feel more recoil friendly than plastic in high-volume tournament shoots,” a shotgun instructor noted recently. “And as environmental concerns about plastic continue to grow, paper shells may well be poised for an even bigger future.”
“Despite everybody’s best efforts to pick up plastic hulls, in the heat of the moment they get left behind,” commented a habitat conservation and quail research group leader. “I’m pretty confident that with more biodegradable products, more hunters who are conservationists would lean toward using paper shells, especially around water.”
Ready to meet the increased demand for paper shells are major ammunition manufacturers.
For example, Rio Ammunition has created a Rio Vintage 1896 line of shotshell ammunition featuring paper-hull construction and offering shooters a throw-back experience to sporting fields past. All Vintage 1896 12-ga. ammunition is loaded to modern specifications for 23/4" shells with 1-oz. or 11⁄8-oz. loads of Nos. 7.5, 8 or 9 shot. A light 2" load is also available.
Another source for paper shotgun shells is Federal Premium Ammunition.