Yesterday and today in the world of cartridges | New

“I continue to be interested in new things that seem old and old things that seem new.”

I don’t know about you, but I consider much of today’s modern technology a necessary evil. Well, I take that back, most of it isn’t so necessary. How many new cell phones, cameras and computers do we really need?

I confess that I take care of all these gears much more than I would have ever thought. Just when I get the latest gadget in the form of a phone or a camera and think I’m ready for a while, guess what? Boom! Here is the new version brighter than the previous one.

In 1969, when many of us had a lot more hair and energy, a Chevy Camaro Z-28 went from 0 to 100 km/h in 7.4 seconds. It was considered pretty fast and if you had one of those cars you were considered pretty cool. If you were a man, you probably didn’t lack for female companionship. (I guess it was the same for female Camaro drivers, I’m not sure)

In 2014, a Toyota Camry would do 0-60 in 6.4 seconds, but that would put you nowhere near the coolness level of the Z-28. In 1908 (whatever you heard, I wasn’t there at the time) a Ford Model T had a 20 horsepower engine. Today, the lawnmower you drive every Saturday has an engine this size or larger.

Maybe you understand my point and maybe you don’t, but things have changed a lot. The world of firearms and ammunition is no different. In shotguns, we’ve come a long way from the days when we mainly shot double-barreled shotguns, paper shells, and the world was a lot simpler.

Now I’m going to tell you something from the past and I’m telling you right now that I’m a little suspicious about it. I wanted to mention it sometimes when we were talking about shells, but I wasn’t sure I should mention it.

What I’m talking about here is the topic in the shotgun world of “cut” shells. That’s right, cut shells. If you have an uncle, father or grandfather who has a lot of experience with shotguns, he probably knows about this. Simply put, it is a method of taking a shotgun shell and cutting it almost into two pieces. You don’t cut the cartridge completely, you encircle the outer part of the shotgun cartridge, the shell, where the cut almost connects.

Right now, some of you are saying, why the hell would you do that? Back when some citizens with a shotgun depended on this weapon if they wanted to eat, chopped shells were a way to expand your ammo inventory. When you fire a cut shell, the hull separates and the entire shot load stays together, inside the hull, to the target. So, in effect, what you’ve created is a shotgun slug, a solid piece of lead, what your grandfather probably called a “punk ball”.

No doubt a cut shell isn’t very accurate beyond about 30 yards, but that didn’t stop Depression-era rabbit and bird hunters from having a cut shell in their fur in case they run into a deer. Much like a factory shotgun slug, a cut cartridge is fully capable of taking down a whitetail deer. People did this when they had limited ammunition and even less money.

You might wonder why I was so hesitant to bring this to your attention. Because it’s probably not a safe thing to do. Many of these shells have been fired over the years and some shooters do so regularly, but that doesn’t mean accidents can’t happen. You can find information on the internet about cut shells and see videos of shooters firing them, but I tell you not to. I know some of you are going to do this anyway, but I advise against it. I just wanted to tell you a bit about the history of the shotgun.

I told you about something old, now I want to tell you about something new in shotgun shell innovation. I believe I mentioned Aguila Ammunition before, Aguila was founded in 1961 and the ammunition is manufactured in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico and is distributed in North America by Texas Armament and Technology. As one of the largest rimfire cartridge manufacturers in the world, Aguila uses state-of-the-art technology to manufacture quality rimfire, centerfire and cartridge ammunition.

Aguila has come up with what I think is a really nifty advancement in cartridges. They make a 1¾ inch cartridge, 1 inch shorter than the standard 2¾ inch cartridge and it is available in birdshot, slug and buckshot. The Mini Shell, as they call it, offers lower recoil and lower noise, two very important things for new shooters, especially kids. All that, but this little shell delivers a five ounce load of #7½ shot backed by 1¾ drams of powder, enough to smash clay targets on the skeet or sport clay range. Those of you who run youth shooting programs, are you listening?

I’m sure I’ll never own a Model T Ford, and while I’d love to have a Camaro, I’ll probably never drive one either. On the other hand, I know a lady who had a red one.

Actually married her.

Larry Case is a retired West Virginia Department of Natural Resources captain and lifelong outdoorsman. Larry writes for several newspapers and magazines. His website is and you can reach him at [email protected]

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