.476 Enfield Shotshell

Apparently the .476 Enfield was also loaded with smallshot at some point. Would someone know specifics about this loading, such as shotsize etc? Many thanks!



The assumption, although unproven, is that they were snake loads. No other theory would seem to fit since they were clearly not up to game getting.

The cartridge manufacturers listed shot loads in most of the pistol calibres of the time which has caused a degree of puzzlement.

The owners/ users of these pistols tended to live in areas where dangerous snakes would be common so that is the explaination we have attributed to the practice.

Other theories would be welcome

Speaking of British (Colonial )Use, what about “Public order” use, by Colonial Police etc…to control unruly natives…IN India especially, .577 Snider, .450MH and .410 Musket(SMLE) were all loaded with shot for Public order use. It would seem obvious that Officers with Pistols could also be supplied with relevant “shot Loads” also for such duties.
The .476 Case and load would fit most “.450/.455” chambered revolvers in British Service. The .476 case is long enough to accomodate a shot load without sabot, and still fit most chambers.

Plus a civilian market for “Discouraging prowlers and burglars” in Colonial estates…"You don’t want to Kill the beggars, just “encourage them to go elsewhere”…

The “shot load” uses in Pistols for “snake control”:- I always thought this was an American Novelty, first with paper or wood sabot shot capsules, and later with a Plastic capsule ( Speer). It may have also been used thus in India, where Cobras are like cockroaches in numbers and distribution.

But I would say that the primary use of Pistol Shot cartridges in British calibres would be as a Public Order cartridge.

Doc AV
AV Ballistics.

[quote=“HCV”]Apparently the .476 Enfield was also loaded with smallshot at some point. Would someone know specifics about this loading, such as shotsize etc? Many thanks!



I have looked at various Eley Bros. and Kynoch catalogues from 1898 until 1925 and all offer a shot load in revolver cartridges, although by 1925 this was restricted to .450 and .455. Around the turn of the century they were offered in virtually every calibre in the catalogue, including the Perrin thick rim rounds.

However, in none of them can I find any details of the size or weight of shot. All give the powder charge and bullet weight for the normal loads and then simply list “shot” as an option, usually at a slighly increased price.

Doc - whilst some officers might have carried privately purchased shot loads, I am sure that in a riot situation they would much prefer to carry ball rounds, preferably with “Manstopper” bullets. Given the short range and relative light load of a pistol shot cartridge I know which I would prefer in that situation. Although as you say there were officially introduced shot loads in .577, .577/.450, .476 and .410 Musket, there were none in revolver calibres and they were never issued for public order use by the military.


Tony is definitely right on this, the lack of a given shot size, much less a choice of shot size, precludes any real possibility of game shooting interest although other factors such as low velocity and the lack of pattern would rule it out for other reasons.

The only one I have ever seen that was damaged and leaking shot was a .455 and that held shot around the size of no5 shot (quite large) although whether that was representative of others is unknown. I wouldn’t have thought so for the smaller calibres.
Giving a cobra a face full of 5 shot from a few feet away would seem about right in terms of penetration and killing power required to send it to wherever snakes go in the hereafter. Pro rata to its size it would be like a buckshot load. no pattern beyond a few feet but very effective close up.

I doubt also that people in those days would have considered the concept of non lethal pistol loads against natives very highly, if at all. They were unconstrained by the moral issues surrounding such matters today and they certainly weren’t likely to get sued.They were however in a minority and uprisings were not unknown where settlers were murdered so they would have been foolish in the extreme to have been so benign.

The sheer extent of the offerings by the British manufacturers would indicate a solid civilian market for these cartridges. I believe the American manufacturers of the time offered them as well but I don’t have any American catalogues for that era. Perhaps one of our American friends could fill in that gap.

Here is a section of a 1899 Winchester catalog.

UMC also made may different shot cartridges (wood sabot) as did AMC and Phoenix (paper sabots) but I don’t have any of their old catalogs.


The occasional requirement to shoot a bird, rabbit or other small game for food would be one purpose. It might not have worked very well but there would have been a small demand from people wanting to give it a try. What about for ‘moving’ large animals whether they be wild or domestic? 22LR shot loads are still sometimes used to move stubborn cattle when mustering the half wild cattle of northern Australia. This would only happen where the use of handguns by farmers/primary producers is still allowed (Queensland and Northern Territory). In the past, light shotgun loads were also used for this purpose but that has been phased out as lead pellets aren’t appreciated in beef. Rubber ball loads are still made and used for this purpose - especially from helicopters when heli-mustering.

Fending off aggressive dogs without sending bullets through to other people or buildings?

Maybe the demand came from a combination of uses including all those previously mentioned?

Just brainstorming…

Yes I think all things are possible. As I said it has always puzzled me the extent of the range that was produced and the way it got full listings in the catalogues. As Tony says the listings had dwindled by 1925 but the Empire was still as big and populated as ever. So the decline in the listings doesn’t follow a decline in the Empire. I am assuming the principle market was the Empire.

Just one of those things I imagine will never be resolved but its good to kick a few ideas around. I can see the rifle shot loads as being used to provide food but a .32 pistol? Even then the cost of a cartridge in relation to income would have made it an expensive supper. The cost of a rifle shot load was 4c (trade) according to the catalogue which would probably mean nearer 8c retail. To a man who’s income was probably a lot less that $1 a day thats an expensive rabbit. Always assuming he didn’t miss a couple before he got one, which would be a financial disaster. Easier to shoot a deer, roo or a wild pig or whatever depending on where you are and you could feast like a king for days on it. Theres not much meat on a rabbit or a small bird.

The need to clean the gun afterwards because the primers would have been corrosive would make the process labourious at the end of the day when you were hungry and tired. And they would have cleaned it because rifles were expensive and had to be looked after. For most people in those days it represented months and months of saving up. Probably the most expensive thing they would buy in the whole of their life. I think I would rather have set a trap or a snare. A small roll of snare wire would cost next to nothing and would be a lot easier to carry than a box of shot cartridges.

Cartridge collecting can be a deep and unfathomable subject at times


Whilst checking my Eley drawings for the other post I came across this one for the .455 shot round. Dated 1920 (so one of the last true Eley drawings) it gives the shot load as 130 grains of No.8 shot.


Excellent, many thanks!



Whilst searching in my files for the flamethrower igniter drawing for the previous post, I came across this 1944 drawing for a British military shot cartridge for the .380 Enfield (No.2) revolver. These were to be issued as a survival load to aircrew operating in South East Asia but were not in the end adopted AFAIK.

Unfortunately although it gives the shot weight it does not mention shot size.


Tony, thanks for taking the trouble to post those. 8 shot is smaller but still within the remit of a snake load. I would guess we are never going to get to the bottom of this but the original question still remains, why did they put so much effort into producing shot based pistol cartridges in those days? and why did it die out so much that we don’t do it today?