Draper shot shells

I picked up 2 Draper patent shotshells at a gun show in Saratoga Springs gun show today in 16 ga. How many different gauges were made? Thanks.

The “Draper” type shells are known to exist in 8, 10, 12, 14, 16 and 20 gauges, mostly in brass but with some variation in design and materials. Most used a percussion primer.
I would say you have a very nice find if the condition is good.

Thanks for the reply. On further checking (I assumed they were 16 ga., they were smaller than 12) They appear upon measurement, that they are 14 ga. One has a percussion cap and the other has what appears to be a copper colored slightly rounded primer seated in the screw off base that is firm against the nipple in the base of the bottom of the case body when screwed in place. They are both quite corrosion free and the bases unscrew easily with the threads in good condition. Will post pictures.


Hope these help. The nipple on the case that has the percussion cap is noticeably longer than the other.
These were purchased from 2 different dealers for a total of $45. Are they two different cases or has someone simply shortened the nipple on one and seated a boxer type primer in it?

There is a version of the Draper that uses the Allen primer but they are quite rare and I have never seen one. Pictures would be helpful.

Hi Shotmeister,
Help out a nub.
What is an Allen Primer?


I tried to find the patent for this case and the only one I can come up with is a patent by Wm. H. Wills #45292 of the same date marked on the head-stamp of the case; November 29, 1864. Was F. Draper & Co. merely the marketing agent or did he buy the rights to Wills patent? The Wills patent in the drawings was for a metallic rifle cartridge and while similar in concept is not the same as this. Is there an actual Draper patent or should this be more correctly called a Wills patent?

There are several examples of early cartridges and guns with patent numbers that do not exactly match their construction, and the Draper is one of those cases. Considering how different a Wills patent cartridge is, in my opinion what is known as a “Draper shell” should be called just like that or even “Draper Patent shell”, not because this is correct (no patent was ever granted to F. Draper), but because that name is used in catalogs and advertisements dated c. 1874-1897.

A very small quantity of 10 ga Draper shells was also made by National Armory in 1883.

Thank you for the reply. I found patents by G.W. Morse that incorporate similar ideas that Wills mentions in his patent claim that have some similar ideas.

Hi Shotmeister,
Help out a nub.
What is an Allen Primer?


Brian, I’m not at all familiar with the Allen primer that Dick Iverson’s THE SHOTSHELL IN THE UNITED STATES referenced and was my primary source for the comments above. My limited research found a rimfire-like priming patent but I don’t understand it’s significance to the Draper shell. I’m certain that there is someone among our band of collectors who could educate us both.

Here are two Allen shells the left is an unheadstamped steel shell with the Allen primer & the right is a headstmped Draper patent shell for the Allen gun and it is fitted with a copper percussion cap. The Allen caps from the below tin do not fit this nipple (too small).
Next is a UMC tin & the top has a primer on it. It looks like a small rim fire shell.

As to the reason for the Draper, my GUESS would be to use a percussion cap, which could be easily removed without tools, when fired as opposed to a conventional brass shell needing a punch to remove the spent primer.




Pete, the UMC tin is great! Thanks for sharing.

The intention of the concavity of the Allen shell was to keep the base flush when using the special rimfire primer and also to allow the passing of firing pin of the Allen shotgun. The rare variation of the Draper shell shown on the right will not work in an Allen shotgun and it must have been made for another purpose.

This is probably the rarest of the Allen shells: an auxiliary cartridge with a rifled barrel!


Howdy Fede
Most everyone ‘knows’ / ‘considers’ the Draper on the right to be for an Allen gun, perhaps because of the dish. If that it is in incorrect, as you note, it begs the question what is the reason for the dish?
I now understand why a percussion cap might not function in an Allen gun, in this shell, as it does sit slightly lower that the Allen shells Allen primer. Perhaps an Allen gun firing pin has enough forward movement to make it work? I freely admit to not knowing the shape / design of an Allen guns firing pin.

There were perhaps two makers of Allen primers and they are known in two sizes (tube diameters). One with ‘tick marks’ on the base, or head (some think to be by Frankford Arsenal, but I’m not sure because of Why-Would-They factor) is slightly larger in exterior diameter & might well fit this Draper. The UMC’s from the tin do not show ‘tick marks’ on the base.

So perhaps this larger size with ‘tick marks’ might well be another UMC product made at another time or production line?

Great auxiliary cartridge & new to me!

Fede anyone from your way going to SLICS? Do I need to cart your box?

PS I have an extra, minty, nickel plated example of this “Allen type” Draper if anyone is interested? Please use e-mail, not PM

Pete, not sure yet, I’ll let you know. Thank you very much for asking.

Wow! thanks for the continuing information on the Allen primer and Draper case. Now have to sek out some of these variations. Great UMC tin!

I have been following above discussion and went through my metal shells and found four different shells adapted to use the Allen primer. I have a Draper that unlike Pete’s has a smaller nipple and opening such that the allen primer fits. The Hart.s patent appears to have been made or adapted to work with the Allen primer. I don’t know who made the plain brass shell but it also has a Allen primer
and is 12 ga.

A few more “Draper Allen conversion” & Allen cartridges.


What an education. (smile)
I never realized all the variations of the Draper patent shells and the why’s of the Allen primer.
Just when I think I have something understood you all send me off in a new and unexpected direction.
I look forward to checking out the new posts every night here and learning something new.
Thanks to you all.


Just to add fuel to the fire I have a 12ga Roper with an Allen Patent primer.

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