TC Contender .357 Hot Shots


Something else to be thankful for this past week!

I picked up, as a gift, these neat rounds which I did not know anything about. Here are pics of the contents and the box.

The cases with the box are Super Vel .357 but I have some extras that are in R-P cases. The overall lenth is 3 5/8" and the shotcup is 2" with about 1/2 oz of #9 shot. They came in #4, #6 and #7 1/2 as well with different color cups to identify the shot size.

As shot cartridges alone they are very interesting but surely they’re just part of the TC cartridge line? What can folks tell me about these? I’d guess these are 1960’s-1970’s vintage.


I remember them being reviewed in G&A (?) around that time, probably 70s. My income didn’t run to buying American shooting magazines much before that. I wonder if anyone has got any back issues from that era and can find the article. Is there a date inside the box? Most ( sadly not all) ammo makers like to put a date or batch reference somewhere so they have something to go back to if they get a complaint. Whether you can decypher it is another matter. It might just have been on a slip of paper though.


The Hot Shots first came out in the early 1970s in 44 Cal. They were loaded in Super Vel brass. They were intended to improve upon the original Contender 45 Colt/.410 barrels since they held more shot than the 2 1/2" .410 shell. In the 8" 44 barrel with the choke tube attached they were very effective, especially considering it was a pistol. I had one of the original Contenders in 44 and handloaded some of the Hot Shot capsules when they first came out.

The 357 Hot Shots came out later but I don’t recall now if the barrel was fitted with a choke.



Interesting Ray! That explains these.

There were quite a few of these in the treasure box but I was not sure what they were for. The giver said they were reloads and very hot, he made me promise not to shoot them but I don’t even own a .44. It all make sense though, the original owner must have owned a couple of different barrels for a Contender and experimented with various reloads.


Another unadvertised reason they came out was not only to be an improvement on the .410/.45 Colt barrels, but also because some states ruled that the .45/410 barrel when fitted with the choking device made the Contender Pistol a Shotgun Pistol as defined in Federal nad Lots of States’ Statutes.

Yes, before you guys have to say it, California was one of the ones who led the way in that decision. The .45 Hotshot cartridge was a way around those laws.

John Moss



Because both the barrel and the choke were rifled I think the Contender in both 45Colt/.410 and 44 magnum were legal as far as federal laws were concerned. State laws were another thing altogether, as you said.



Ray - you are correct. When I mentioned “Federal” as well as State Statutes, it was in relation to the general description of a sawed-off shotgun or shotgun pistol. The Contender with rifled barrel and choke were not in vilation of Federal Law.

John Moss


Am I right in presuming the choke also serves to break the capsule and release the shot?


Yes Vince, you are right. The “rifling” in the choke is straight, BTW. That was one reason why the 45Colt/.410 barrel was not as accurate. The shot column was started spinning by the barrel rifling and then abruptly straightened by the choke rifling. That damaged a lot of the shot causing them to fly off in all directions. The capsuled 44 Hot Shot helped to protect the shot from damage.

The 45Colt/.410 barrel only had only about 4 inches of rifling. That, and the straight rifling in the choke must have given the Federales fits but it was perfectly legal. Shooters and gun designers have to be geniuses to design a workable firearm while staying within the limits of stupid laws.



Ray, are the shot capsules shown in the last pic above (the .44s) the Hot Shots or some other-market capsule?



Speaking only from memory, they look like original TC capsules. Of course, I can’t say positively. I think the Red is #6 shot and the Yellow is #9, same as the 357 Hot Shots. Does that look about right? The base plug was welded in place compared to other brands that had a removeable plug so you could fill your own. As I remember, when loaded the COAL was about 2", maybe a little longer.

Is the hs SUPER VEL?



Ray, pardon me for thinking and typing at the same time… but no, these are not Super-Vel cases, brass WW and R-P. The primers are nickle and have little marks that indicated reloading to me so I’ve thought all along they were home-made. But then my question is, where would someone have gotten the components. If these were only useable in the Contender, would they not be somewhat proprietary(sp?)? How big a market could there have been for .44 or .357 shotcups that could only be used in one weapon?

I guess what I need to do is find some authentic .44 Contender rounds since this appears to be a worthy little sub-catagory to shot shell collecting.
Did Contender ever load a .45 shot shell or were the .410s the only option available there?



The 44 cartridges you have are handloads.

TC offered both loaded 44 Hot Shots and the seperate capsules for handloading. Most guys that I hung around with loaded their own since we couldn’t afford to buy loaded ammo of any kind. Even the Hot Shot capsules were expensive by our standards. AFAIK TC never offered the empty capsules for sale. That would have been our choice since you could buy a 25# bag of shot for a couple of bucks. Other makers, such as Speer and Remco, offered their own version of loadable capsules but none of them were as big as the TC.

We were shooting shot loads in our hanguns long before TC or anyone else got into the market. I remember buying big horse/cow medicine capsules and using the empty geletin capsules as shot protectors. They weren’t too good in a rifled barrel and when the TC 45Colt/.410 barrel came out in 1970 it was a big improvement.

The original TC 45Colt/.410 barrel was chambered only for the 410 shot shell (and the 45 Colt, of course). Some of us made 45 Colt shot shells but they held such a small amount of shot that they were hardly worth the trouble when compared with the .410.

After WWII there was at least one shooter who made a few bucks by converting revolvers to smooth-bore shot handguns, along with an added choke. But the Feds soon put him out of business. And the world was made safe.



Why do the politicians in the US dislike pistols that fire shotshells so much? A revolver (or break action TC Contender) firing birdshot would not be my first choice as a weapon for criminal purposes. Is it just so that sawn off shotguns are banned which means everything else is covered by the same law?


Just try putting a shoulder stock on a smooth bore pistol and they’ll put you away for life…twice!



During the “Gangster Era” of the 1920s, the Feds passed the National and Federal Firearms Acts of 1933 and 1934, and it is clear their aim was to attack the ownership of any concealable weapon that related to guns like the tommy gun, with its removable stock, or the various factory-made shotgun pistols, like the all-steel double barrel made in San Francisco, or the H&R Gamegetter, as well as folding stock shotguns like the Marble’s with barrels less than 18" (The marble variant with 18" barrel is legal). They didn’t want to get into the uproar and court cases that would have occured had they just tried to ban convential rifles, shotguns and pistols, for sure. So, they set minimum barrel lengths for a shotgun or rifle (18 inches, since reduced for rifles to 16 Inches) and overall length (26 or 26-1/2", I forget which). They also used manufacturing licensing laws to get at some guns. For example, it was considered that if you put a shoulder stock on a pistol, your were “manufacturing” an illegal short-barrel rifle from a pistol, with no manufacturer’s license. The same was true if you cut a rifle down into a pistol. Shotgun pistols were flat-out illegal, but if say winchester had made a pistol version of their bolt action .22 rifle, and sold it initially as a pistol, it would have been legal, whereas the same action on a rifle, cut down by an individual to pistol size, would be illegal.

There was nothing in the laws to make illegal the use of shot cartridge forms of ammunition in conventional metallic calibers fired through arms with rifled barrels. The minute you smooth-bored a gun (also a pain for criminalists once the science of idnetifying specific guns by rifling marks on the bullets came in), it becamse a shotgun, and in the cases of handguns, an illegal shotgun pistol.

Very complicated and very unnecessary. Despite some very dramatic crimes like the St. Valenitne’s day massacre, committed with tommy guns and sawed-off shotguns (maybe even legal shotguns, come to think of it; I don’t really know and shouldn’t have made that statement), nationwide, murder rates were not extraordinary and in the case of the gangsters, it was usually one criminal killing another. The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre caught up a couple of semi-innocent guys in it, and caused enough public outcry to start the Feds looking for laws dealing with weapons they didn’t like in private hands.

There were transfer provisions built into the law, as well as amnesty ownership for those that possessed the illegal-type guns before the law was passed. At the time, it was very hard in the USA to get a law passed totally outlawing anything to include items owned before the law was passed. That is called an ex-post facto law and is illegal. Despite that, today, officials don’t seem to care if the violate the Constitution with laws, and many judges don’t, and the result is, for example, California has had some success in outlawing items and seizing those owned before the law was passed, or making one remove them from the state. In some instances, they were amnesty-grandfathered in, but in a couple, like threaded muzzles on handgun barrels, or assault rifles that missed the first writing of the laws by accident and were added later, perhaps after someone had gone out an bought one since it was not on the list, they were NOT grandfathered in! That is clearly an illegal ex-post facto law, but the courts would do nothing about it.

Very complicated. One must almost be an expert in firearms law these days just to safely own a gun or ammunition in some states.

John Moss

Today, legally registered machineguns and the like, owned by private citizens in the states that allow them, have been involved in almost zero criminal activity of any kind.


A great summary John. Trying to make sense out of non-sensical laws is not easy, but you did it.

Even within the laws there are twists and turns that defy logic. For example - you cannot convert a rifle into a pistol but you can convert a pistol into a rifle. BUT, once the pistol becomes a rifle you cannot legally convert it back to it’s original pistol configuration. It’s one provision that is generally disregarded by many shooters - I have one XP-100 action that has been a pistol twice and a rifle twice - and I cannot imagine how anyone could be convicted, except in those States where firearms are licensed.

Most gun laws were never aimed at criminals, they were enacted with the ultimate goal of wearing out gun owners until they give up. Something that’s not likely to happen for a few more years, anyway. California’s ban on the 50 BMG is a good example. My advice to my California shooting friends was to switch to a cartridge like the 50 DTC. Then when the anti-gunners wised up and banned ALL 50 Caliber, you simply switch to a 49 BMG, then a 48 BMG, etc, until the pols gave up or you died trying.



John, you say you and your friends were using shot cartridges in pisols some years ago.

What were you using them for?

Ray, all gun laws are aimed at the legal gun owners because the illegal gun owners and criminals simply ignore them. A fact that seems to escape politians on both sides of the Atlantic.



Back in the decade of the 1970s me and a couple of my shooting buddies were really into handguns. We shot every revolver or pistol we could get our hands around. Targets, rocks, bottles, varmints, deer, seagulls, we shot at everything. Shot handguns were used for both clay pigeons or to take along on a big game hunt to use to bag the occasional grouse or ptarmigan for supper. The TC pistol was one of the most versatile because you could get a barrel for just about any cartridge your heart desired. And, in those days, TC would sell barrel blanks and you could chamber up your favorite wildcat too.

My grandson in Alaska still has my very first TC, one with a 3 digit serial number.



Ray, Sorry I thought it was John who had posted about using them in the past. Thanks for that. The world you describe then seems so free and easy compared to what we had. Pistols over here could only be used on registered ranges with some eagle eyed Range Officer watching your every move. Mind you we still had plenty of fun. Espescially when I was the range officer.