Shotshell color code?

I’m not much of a shotshell shooter or collector, so help out if you can. I’ve always been told that 20 ga. shells will almost always be yellow and that 12 ga. shells will never be yellow, so that the two cannot be mistaken and accidentally put into the wrong shotgun. The problem being when a 20ga. is mistakenly put into a 12ga. followed by a 12ga. shell, causing a burst barrel or worse. Is there some industry standard that guides this color coding? I see all colors of shotgun shells at the range, but never a yellow 12ga., so is there some truth to this?


I think you are talking about modern plastic shells

I have never think about this.Interesting.I will look into my fired plastic 12 gauge shells box for a yellow one…

However I have some RED plastic 20 gauge cases

I have several yellow 12 gauge plastic cases made by Fiocchi

Interesting. Thanks for that information. I wonder if the color coding is a US thing only…

Yes, I was referring to plastic shells. I should have been more clear on that.


Hello AKMS, Many (mostly) US manufacturers use only yellow for 20 Ga shells. Both 12 and 16 ga often are red. look at winchester. Also Eley from the UK use yellow cases for 20 ga. BUT there are also several yellow 12 Ga shells in plastic, Rotweill, used them and now many italian 12 ga cases are yellow. So do not trust the colour.

Regards rene

It goes back a very long time. It always was a convention with British cartridges that 20ga were yellow (or in the case of Eley paper cartridges a creamy colour) and 16ga were blue. 12 ga were virtually always a red or reddiish colour. I don’t think it was a rule it was just an understanding.

Modern plastic cases have totally wiped that convention out for 12ga but 20ga plastic cases are still pretty much always yellow. 16ga has just about disappeared off my radar but they are still found more on mainland Europe and I believe blue still predominates.