Paper Cases & New Acquisitions

I acquired yesterday, for reasons entirely unrelated to this website and blog, a new shotgun in the form of a 12 gauge side-by-side Baikal IJ-58 choked half and extra full. It’s the same model as the 16 gauge I’ve mentioned on this blog previously and happily fits just the same – I should get on with it quite well if and when I take it for a walk.

The gun has very few interesting features, except perhaps for the proof marks which must have been struck late on a difficult Friday afternoon in Birmingham as they’re somewhat “approximate” given the gun’s actual measurements(!). I bought it with half a mind to pulling it apart, playing with it and possibly using it as a test gun for a re-bluing project I’ve had in mind for some time.

It wouldn’t have been appropriate to do any of that without test firing it, however, so I stopped off at one of the farms on the way home for a quick mooch around the tree line to see what I could see.

(This is all apparently made relevant to our website by the fact that the Yildiz .410 which should be the subject of this post, was apparently somewhere in the author’s car, slipped and secured whilst he was messing around with his new toy and therefore, somewhere vaguely in the vicinity of some shooting going on,if not directly employed for said shooting… Apparently. – Ed.)

Historical Insensitivity

A new 12 gauge gave me a convenient excuse to try out another piece of kit I’ve been curious about for a while but never got round to using: paper-cased cartridges. The “let’s be very traditional, possibly impersonate Edward VII and shoot a load inspired by 100+ years of shotgunning, just because we can” market doesn’t really cater for a large number of people and when one draws a Venn diagram showing that population overlapped with the population of regular 16 gauge users, such as myself, I suspect the final result might actually be, err, myself. So paper-cased cartridges aren’t really something I’ve ever had an excuse to try before.

Of course, I realise that putting Eley Grand Prix down a £40 Baikal is probably the metaphorical equivalent of drinking Kristal from a pint mug with a handle (or possibly a toilet) – disrespectful, vulgar and entirely wasted on anyone cheap enough to consider that the appropriate receptacle for the job.

On the other hand, I’m a practical person and here was a 12 gauge with a 70mm chamber and a piece of land on which it would be safe to fire it – and if I cared what anyone else thought about it, I wouldn’t be stupid enough to post it on the internet in the first place.

To cut a long story short, the only birds I saw at the farm were the ones that flew off as I opened the car door to get out. I walked around for a bit and saw nothing, but I was too curious about the new gun and the box of cartridges I’d bought for it, that I picked a safe direction to shoot in, dropped a Grand Prix (30g/#6) into one barrel and a comparison cartridge (a Gamebore Black Gold 36g/#4) into the other and fired them both.

I was surprised. The recoil of the Eley cartridge, which I was expecting to be smooth as silk, was actually quite sharp. Obviously I’ve mostly been shooting a .410 for the last few months, so it might be that I felt it more by contrast, but although the Black Gold shell kicked harder still, there wasn’t much in it. Of course, one always feels more recoil when firing in isolation (as opposed to at bird or clay) but I’ve fired commercial and home-loaded 16 gauge loads of heavier shot weight and equivalent velocity and they have not seemed to recoil nearly as much.

As I unloaded, I took the stern advice of my friend, to sniff the empty case, but unfortunately, I couldn’t detect any particular smell from the paper cartridge at all. Perhaps the design is old, but the components are modern!? I did however start to consider the effects which would be in play with a paper-cased load and how they related to my understanding of cartridges.

In Homage to the Editor

The paper forming the walls of the Grand Prix cartridge was really rather thick. Certainly thicker than the plastic used in shot shells of more modern design. As such, there’s likely to be that much less internal capacity into which to stuff powder, wad, card, shot. I also suspect that paper is less flexible under firing than a plastic case would be. All of these things will increase breech pressure and therefore possibly the shot column’s acceleration and the perceived recoil of firing. OK – those things can’t be causally related, but my gut feeling is that it’s possible – likely, even.

That in turn, set me thinking about the effect of paper cases on the small bores. (Eh? What? – Ed.) A 12 gauge case has a relatively large diameter, even accounting for a thick paper case, whereas a .410 cartridge would lose a significant percentage of its internal volume with the extra thickness of paper. This starts to explain why, in the original 2″ cartridges a shot charge of 5/16oz. was all that could be accommodated. When one considers the use of black powder, paper case, felt wad and probably an over-shot card as part of the rolled turnover, it’s amazing that they managed to get any lead in the cartridge at all.

(Finally! Relevance! – Ed.)

What this means then, is that whilst the development of plastic cases was significant for all shotgun gauges, it was particularly important for the smaller gauges, where – presumably – the only other way to increase load weights, pellet counts and performance would have been to employ expensive, brass-cased loads which eliminated the reduction in capacity associated with the thickness of paper.


Of course, the one remaining place where we still see the employment of brass cases in shotgunning on a regular basis is in the 8mm and 9mm Flobert cartridges. Here, I suspect, even the thickness of a modern plastic case would cause a substantial percentage reduction in case volume, which makes it particularly convenient that these bore sizes are for ammunition of rim-fire ignition and brass case rather than centre-fire and plastic parallel tube. Generally, the smaller the gauge, the higher the pressure, so it may be that a brass case contributes to containing the pressure of firing also.

Rather pleasingly, I have been offered, at a very affordable price, the opportunity to purchase a 9mm garden gun as soon as I’m able to pay for it, which is likely to be the end of the month.

Although I don’t think it’s a practical proposition as far as bird hunting goes, it will be an asset to this website and I will certainly look to do some pattern testing with it and write about my findings. I believe two brands of 9mm cartridges are currently commercially available (Fiocchi and RWS). I’ll also look to make some observations about what it could achieve and any useful purpose we might find for it.

Although we aren’t often in the business of shooting bullfinches or protecting olive groves in this country, the gauge must have some useful purpose, since it lingers on in this country after other more capable gauges (e.g. 14, 24, 32) have long since disappeared.

Either way, the quantity of good-quality information regarding the rimfire shotgun gauges is, in my own experience, rather small both on- and off-line, so the team at SBS will do our best to compile what we can on the subject and present it for public consumption.