The American Buckle & Cartridge Company was established in West Haven, Connecticut around 1885, manufacturing shotgun shells under a patent they received on March 3, 1885 that covered both the process and machines used in the production of their shells. In mid-1889, they were bought out by the Ammunition Manufacturers Association, a monopolistic corporation formed by Winchester Repeating Arms Company, Union Metallic Cartridge Company, the United States Cartridge Company, and Phoenix Metallic Cartridge Company for the purpose of controlling the prices of ammunition and cartridge loading components. Just prior to the sale, the Peters Cartridge Company, which was incorporated in 1887, had been in negotiations with the American Buckle & Cartridge Company to produce loaded shotshells for them. Following the sale, thenAmerican Buckle & Cartridge Company, who had retained their patents, sold them and two sets of machinery to Peters, giving them the ability to produce their own shotgun shells rather than having to buy them from the Association. Winchester brought suit against Peters in 1892, alleging that one of the machines purchased by Peters infringed on a Winchester patent. The suit, which Winchester won, was not settled until 1900.
The SPECIAL No 12 shell shown above was made by the American Buckle & Cartridge Company. Production of these shells was limited, and as a result they are not often encountered. I have never seen one of these that was factory loaded, nor have I seen one in a size other than 12 gauge. However, the company did produce 10 gauge shells, so I would be surprised if the Special shells were not also produced in both gauges.
Quite a few years ago, I purchased the wonderful Peters "Special’ 10 gauge shotshell box shown above in a large wood box of reloading tools and related supplies that had been found in the attic of a home in Hannibal, Missouri by an antique picker. The wood box was like a time capsule, everthing in it having been produced between the mid 1860s (three powder cans) and the mid to late 1890s. This Peters box is quite unusual, being the only one like it that has surfaced that I am aware of. The shell illustrated on the label used a method of crimping that involved making three cuts in the case wall at the upper edge of the wads and pushing the paper above the cut inward to hold the wads in place. This method of crimping was used by Peter’s on their shells beginning in about 1888, based on the advertisements that can be found in period sporting magazines, and was discontinued within a year or so due probably to the damage to the hulls that resulted from the indentations tearing out when the shells were fired, rendering them unusable for reloading. During the first few years after it started operations, Peters loaded shells that were purchased from the members of the Ammunition Manufacturers Association, and which bore the manufacturers’ headstamps. They obtained their powder from the King Powder Company. It didn’t take long for the heavy handed tactics of the Association to cause them to look at alternative sources for the other components needed to load their shells, and they were soon making their own shot, primers and shells.
The relationship Peters had with the American Buckle & Cartridge Company during its early years leads me to believe that there is a connection between the ‘Special’ shells and this Peters ‘Special’ box. It is interesting to note that this is a generic headstamp, without the makers name, which suggests that it was not made for sale under the American Buckle & Cartridge Company name. Another line of this company’s shells was headstamped ‘QUICK SHOT’; the name is likely a reference to King’s Quick Shot semi-smokeless powder. These shells have the same circle of alternating diamonds and triangles around the primer as the Special shells. Peters used this powder, and for a short time produced rimfire and centerfire cartridges and shotgun shells under the brand name Quick Shot. I can’t imagine who else other than Peters the Quick Shot shells would have been produced for. I don’t believe Kings Powder Company loaded shells, and Peters is the only other company I’m aware of that used the name. If anyone can shed some light on the Special shotshell box and its possible connection to the American Buckle & Cartridge Company Special shells, as well as on a possible connection between Peters and the Quick Shot shells made by the American Buckle & Cartridge Company, I’d appreciate hearing from them.