12 ga proof load

I picked up this proof shotshell awhile back. I’m guessing that is was made back in the 50s or 60s. I know it was used by the gun manufacturer to test production shotguns. The shell is paper, and 2.3" in length. I was wondering what the amount of powder in one of these would be in relation to a similar size sporting load.

I would guess they still employ a similar testing method today, but wonder if there was there a “proof” blackpowder shotshell produced ?



Proofing is still very much part of firearms manufacture, and yes it does go way back. See gunproof.com/ for some interesting background.

Having said that, I don’t know much about how black powder proof loads were marked, if at all. Older US loads used a blackened case but this might have just been for really early smokeless loads. With black powder you really can’t do much more than increase the charge, which (I’m guessing) would have required some type of hand load.

My guesses, worth price charged.

Your proof load may be older than you suspect. My references state that Winchester began changing their headstamps from the ‘No. 12’ to ‘12 Ga’ in 1920. The light colored paper and SuperSpeed mark indicate pre-war manufacture too.

Nice example! I always thought some little technician would load up rounds for proofing on a case-by-case basis, not something from a production line.

W.W. Greener’s THE GUN AND ITS DEVELOPMENT has an entire chapter devoted to the proofing of guns.

Those blackened cartridges were smokeless. That was REM-UMC’s way to Id HPT cartridges prior to the current red color identification.


Shotmeister - if these rounds were made for Winchester in-house proofing of shotguns, and the most likely were (although they could have been sold to other gun maers as well, of course, and probably were), just think about the number of Model 1897, Model 12, Model 24 and Model 21 Winchester twelve gauge shotguns were made and you can see that they would run these rounds off of a production line, and not have one tech handload them. I probably missed a couple of models there, like the single-shot Model 37. Winchester’s Model 10 auto shotgun was a failure, and I forget what model replaced it, if any, during the years before WWII. At any rate, they produced a very large quantity of shotguns every year, all of which required proofing. And again, that doesn’t even include the shells probably made for other gun makers that didn’t make ammunition as well as guns.

Thanks John. What you say certainly seems logical but I really had never thought about a production of proofs rounds! Just never crossed my mind (remember, I am Navy… submariner too). I have read articles on custom proofing of older guns, mostly a British thing, and I have seen thousands of proof marks on production guns but… well, like holes with water in them, some minds are shallower than others!

My mind isn’t shallow but in fact, is a very deep, large container. The only problem is, like some water containers, its full of drainage holes. All the important facts drain out and only leave the drivel.

Your proof loads are a nice find. It isn’t always easy to get proof rounds, as the factories have really strict policies about who they will supply them to, for obvious liability reasons. When in the trade, I used to ask reps if they could get me a proof load (single round) for my collection in such and such a caliber, and it usually led to nothing, with the factories refusing the reps, or the reps never asking because it was a touchy subject. One company, though, was reall cool. I ask for a proof load just for my own collection, and they sent me a loaded one, the empty box, and a fired case with the serial number of the gun it proofed. You get lucky once in awhile.

Thanks for your information and responses. Will take time to go to the links indicated. Interesting about the changing from No 12 to 12 gauge. Will be something to look for. Will try to remember the other points made. I’m sure some will sift through the bucket. Must be a Navy thing. I was in Naval Air above the sea in a P-3.

Thanks again to all


Welcome aboard Ron. Sailor Boys are always welcome. We’ve got lots of Black-shoe sailors on the Forum, so a Brown-shoe or two will help to balance out our snippy comments.


Well shivver me timbers! 8 Bells.

Got some great Airedale jokes:-)