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Thread: 2-1/2" Shotshells

  1. #1
    Boolit Mold
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    2-1/2" Shotshells

    So, anyone else out there have an old shotgun with 2-1/2" chamber(s)?

    I bought an old Belgian SxS lately and need 2-1/2" shells. Up to now I've only reloaded metallic cased ammo, and in that only the more expensive rifle calibers and BPCR I use.

    Old guns with diets for obsolete ammo often force us to expand our toolset - literally and figuratively. Which is a lot of the fun for me.
    So now I've bought a single stage shotshell press, an old roll crimper, and started accumulating the components and load data. I'll load 2-3/4" too now that I have the gear, but the 2-1/2" was the catalyst.

    And I know there are 2-1/2" shells in production, but in the US the options are slim and imported. There are Fiocci and Gamebore, and I'm sure others, but they are tough to get and expensive to ship.

    So my first simple solution has been to take factory 2-3/4" loads and cut out the folded crimp with a 3-D printed tool I bought, punch out an over-shot card with a homemade punch, and roll crimp with my new-old roll crimper. They aren't all beautiful, and I have no idea how they will pattern, but I have a box of shells I can use now. It's a little bit of a process, but I can turn factory 2-3/4" shells into 2-1/2" after 30 min of work.
    I'll attach some pictures of my final product after I take some.

    Here's my card punch. I had some dollar store storage boxes that were cracked, so I punched out clear over-shot cards rather than throw them out. Place plastic on 2x4, set punch on plastic, apply hammer vigorously.
    It's slowish and loud, but pretty easy.

    Attachment 322901

    ...So of course I need to complicate it. I'm working up a simple modification to use my 12ga wad/card punch in a press. I had already used 7/8" pipe to make the punch, so I can just thread it to 7/8x14. So strictly speaking it's actually a die, and I would add a punch on the ram side. The ID of the tube is only 0.627", but the cards seem to work. I'm guessing that's just because the roll crimp is tighter than that. It's probably not ideal now that I see it in print. I don't really want to confirm that as fact the first time recoil from barrel 1 loosens up the shell in barrel 2 and shot spills down the barrel.

    It seems like I should open it up, because logically I should be nearer 0.729", right? But I don't need to go over since the crimp is doing the work, not friction from the card. I don't want to make my life harder trying to squeeze overly tight cards into place.

    And then, totally separate, I'll be reloading 2-1/2" shells from scratch. I've trimmed a bunch of once fired shells down and figure I have two options:

    1. load the same as a 2-3/4" shell and then roll crimp.
    2. use a shorter wad and fold crimp
    - is this as simple as using a 1/4" spacer under the shell when crimping?

    Who out there has done this? It seems pretty simple.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master
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    I use the Federal paper hulls and cut to length then roll crimp against a paper overshot protector (this is on a 12 ga with 2-1/2" chambers). I have an adjustable hull trimmer and can set up any length for cutting to size.

  3. #3
    Boolit Grand Master


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    I have an old Ithaca Lewis 12 gauge that uses 2 1/2" shells. I use Federal paper shotshells and use a Ballistic Products "Trim Doctor II" to cut them down to size. Reloading is done on an old MEC 600 JR press which I have placed a 1/4" piece of Plexi-glass under the folding and crimping dies. Since I use BP loads I do NOT use plastic wads and build up the wad column with Circle Fly wads and overpowder cards. The final result looks and shoots just like it's factory counterparts.
    Old enough to know better, young enough to do it anyway!

    Men who don't understand women fall into two categories: bachelors and husbands!

  4. #4
    Boolit Grand Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by stubshaft View Post
    I have an old Ithaca Lewis 12 gauge that uses 2 1/2" shells. I use Federal paper shotshells and use a Ballistic Products "Trim Doctor II" to cut them down to size. Reloading is done on an old MEC 600 JR press which I have placed a 1/4" piece of Plexi-glass under the folding and crimping dies. Since I use BP loads I do NOT use plastic wads and build up the wad column with Circle Fly wads and overpowder cards. The final result looks and shoots just like it's factory counterparts.
    Adding the spacer is an elegant idea!

    Also Hodgdon has data for 2 1/2” shot shells with wads in plastic shells.
    Don Verna


  5. #5
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    Great thread, Fadi. Thanks for starting it.

    When I was a youngster living in the mountains on my dad's cattle ranch I was a poor boy, didn't have much money, and probably don't have that much today. But I had one cow of my own which I eventually sold and I used part of the proceeds to buy a Ranger 16 Ga. shotgun. It was doubtless a Stevens product sold by Sears in the 1920s or '30s. I loved the old gun, still have it, but couldn't hit anything with it! I purchased a box of 16 Ga. shells and shot them all off over maybe a 2 year period at California Banded Tail Pigeons. Never got one! I gave up on it, and just set it aside. I was probably age 16 at the time.

    In later years I went to a gunsmithing school and among other things learned a bit about shotguns. I thought that they were all had 2 3/4 inch chambers, but learned that back before I was born 2 1/2 inch was quite common. Eventually I obtained some shotgun tooling including a chamber measuring gauge, and learned that the Ranger was chambered for 2 1/2 inch shells. At some expense I obtained a chambering reamer and a forcing cone reamer and lengthened the chamber to 3 inches. I figured someday 3 inch 16 Ga. shells might come along, and didn't want to do it over again, but as far as I know that hasn't happened, or at least they aren't very common. Anyway, I stamped "2 3/4 in." on the side of the left barrel (it is a double) and it shoots and patterns just great now.

    Well, there's always a "take away" from such experiences, and eventually I figured out that you can successfully make shotgun shells for almost any length you desire by cutting them back and re-crimping them at the appropriate length. I guess the manufacturers making "shorty" shells have that figured out also. Functioning can be a problem in semi-autos and some pumps, but the old Ranger side-by-side will eat them all.

    Sometime back, maybe 8 or 9 years ago, I posted a thread on how to lengthen shotgun chambers with hand tools. I don't know if it's still back there in the archives somewhere.

    Hey...thanks for the memories. Viva la 16 Ga., 2 1/2" shells, and old Ranger shotguns!

    DG

  6. #6
    Boolit Master Baltimoreed's Avatar
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    Been making 2 inch shells for years. I had to shorten a spare crimping die and add a spacer under the shell holder but it works in my old Bair. My gamer way to pick up an extra shell in my cas/WB pump shotguns.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    Look up RST for 2-1/2” shells, they're in Pennsylvania .

    I have a 1918 Fox with shorter chambers. I slide a shell onto a dowel, use an exacto knife to cut into the lip then rotate the shell to cut an even length
    For loading, add a spacer underneath and drop a piece ofaper target to cover the opening. A little slower but it’s ok

  8. #8
    Boolit Grand Master pietro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Luber View Post
    Look up RST for 2-1/2 shells, they're in Pennsylvania .
    +1

    I've used RST shells for decades in my pre-1926 shotguns.

    https://www.rstshells.com/
    Now I lay me down to sleep
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  9. #9
    Boolit Buddy

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    Most of the fun is finding your own pet load, and it sounds like you are off to a great start! Here's a low pressure, short shell load that I concocted. I haven't taken it hunting, so can't vouch for the efficacy - but it does give stable pressure / velocity:

    Hull: Federal plastic (with plastic internal base) cut to 2” length
    Primer: Federal 209
    Powder: Alliant Bullseye, 13.3 grains (this is what my Little Dandy rotor #21 dumps, the way I use it)
    Wad: Gualandi 072SSW.
    Shot: lead #2, Lee 4.3 cc scoop – 384 grains (7/8 oz)
    Circle Fly 1/8” 20-gauge vegetable wad over shot charge, as filler
    BPI overshot card, roll crimp.

    Precision Reloading (Mitchell, SD) measured:
    1086 fps in 30” barrel, 6,775 psi

  10. #10
    Boolit Mold
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    Been using Federal new production “Shorty” 12 gauge, 1&3/4 inch, 1145 fps, 15/16 ounce shot. Work great in my short chamber guns. Walmart, come in boxes of 10.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master
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    Winchester loads 2.5" shotshells. I'm familiar with the AA hulls, which are reloadable with plenty of data available, but I don't know if the Super-X field loads use the same hull. You would think they use the same hull for both loads but I just don't know from experience since I don't load 2.5" .410s.
    https://winchester.com/Products/Ammu...2%5D%7D#page-3

  12. #12
    Boolit Buddy
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    I too have a 2 1/2” (65mm)-chambered Belgian SxS shotgun. Belonged to my great grandfather, though I’m not entirely sure when he brought it. Branded as a “Wilmot.” I’ve found that a PEX pipe cutter can be had rather inexpensively to chop used plastic hulls down to length, and then roll crimping. I would not recommend modifying a current factory shell this way as modern pressures are likely too high for what a SxS of that age and origin can handle. Even Win-AA featherlight shells are above 8,000 psi. There are plenty of low pressure recipes though, some even dropping below what black powder would be. Have you checked the proof marks on the barrel flats and water table to determine if it was proofed for smokeless powder? Mine was not...so I stick to black powder pressures. Mine also is very picky with hills as to rim thickness, and so far can only hold Remington hulls reliably. Go figure.

  13. #13
    Boolit Mold EOChief66's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pietro View Post
    +1

    I've used RST shells for decades in my pre-1926 shotguns.

    https://www.rstshells.com/
    I used them for years in my doubles hunting grouse. I never felt I gave up an advantage using 2 3/4"

  14. #14
    Boolit Buddy
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    I have an L.C. Smith someone cared 1912 into the buttstock, maybe I should check the chambers?

  15. #15
    Boolit Buddy
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    If you have a MEC 600jr, buy the “short kit” from ballistic products. They also have a tool to shorten the hulls. I fold crimped, but roll crimping with an overshot card works too.

  16. #16
    Boolit Buddy rkrcpa's Avatar
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    B&P just announced a line of 2 1/2 inch shells for vintage guns.

  17. #17
    Boolit Mold Sailbad's Avatar
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    What is the crimped length of 2 1/2" 12 gauge shell..?

  18. #18
    Boolit Master
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    how about MAG TEC 2&1half inch long brass hulls. that was the fodder for them back in the day.

  19. #19
    Boolit Buddy
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    Click image for larger version. 

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    Here’s another spacer option if you want to fold crimp.

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check