Unusual Steel-Head Shotshells

I have to put this in the category of things I haven’t seen before. At the local gun show this morning, I ran across several unusual (to me) items, the most unusual being a full one-piece box of Western Super-X 12 Ga shells. Inside it was a paper note indicating that the case heads were made of steel to conserve brass for military use. The box was also marked as having steel head shells. Obviously this was WWII-era ammunition, as the box indicated manufacture by Western Cartridge Co., East Alton, Ill., U.S.A. No mention of Olin anywhere. I thought it was pretty neat for $4. Here are the pictures. Could this have been the first use of steel heads for shotshells? I wonder if the steel was galvanized, plated, lacquered, or treated in any way to resist corrosion? The picture shows the bases as they are now. Dingy-looking, but not rusted.

Dennis this is a very good find, especially for $4. I have seen Western shells from the war years with the steel heads but they were Xpert, not the SuperX. It’s interesting that the “MAXIMUM LOAD” shells would have such a short cup. There are a lot of 00 Buck loaded Xpert shells from the war years with steel cups. Federal also made steel cuped shells during the war, in MONARK and HI-POWER. I don’t know what coating was used, whether it was a wash or galvanized but some I have seen broke down and the cups show rust. Remington was using a steel liner within the cup by 1905, perhaps earlier. Western or Winchester, perhaps both, did so too but these were more for added strength and not a material conservation measure.
Don’t know why Olin is not identified on the box because they certainly owned Western Cartridge, and even Winchester by 1935.
It is interesting that these are #6 shot because I thought all shell production was going to the military after January of 1942 and most I have seen were either target loads or buckshot. Perhaps these were made in 1945.

The stamped lot number on the lid is N16UN82LZ. Maybe the manufacturing date can be figured from that.

Going back to dArtignan’s Western dating system, looks like the coded date (UN8) is 8 December 1943. Surprising that such “commercial” shotgun ammunition was still being made in the depths of WWII, but perhaps it was intended for other government-related uses, such as by forest rangers, game wardens, predator control hunters, etc. Remember that civilian automobiles were still being made in limited quantities during the war (by Plymouth, I think), but they were extremely difficult to obtain without some good justification, such as use by a state or local government agency (for police use, etc.). You couldn’t just go down to your local Plymouth dealer and buy one.

A related true story about that. My father (who was a steel mill worker) drove a 1935 Chevrolet all through WWII. It was nearly worn out by the end of the war, and he wanted to buy a new Chevrolet. He had to give (for free, that is) his old car to the dealer, and pay a deposit fee to get on a waiting list for a new car. When he finally got delivery (in late 1946), some of the pistons in the engine had no rings. He got rid of that car in 1948, it was junk.

That is interesting if it was made in 1943 but I have no doubt it is possible. I recall my father saying how hard it was to get shotgun shells during the war and he made a duck hunting trip in 1944 with everything from #9 shot to 00 Buck. As a farmer (vital war industry) he wanted a power saw and had to apply to the government for a permit which would allow him to buy it. I still have the saw!

Regardless, these are very interesting shells indeed and a truly nice find.