Reloading 2-1/2″


I’m looking to probably purchase an older 12 gauge English made boxlock with 2 1/2 inch chambers. The specific gun I am looking at has been Nitro Proofed in England. I do not know if there is enough metal in the barrels for it to be opened up to 2 3/4 inch (70mm) chambers. Nor do I know if I would want to change the original specs. of the gun.

I currently do a lot of clay shooting, skeet, sporting clays and a little trap. As such I do a lot of reloading. In fact I have 2 MEC presses set up for reloading 12 gauge, the MEC 600 jr. and a 9000 grabber.

My question is, can I reload 2 and 1/2 inch hulls, and if yes, where do I find published recipes as well as the correct components. I have a pretty good source for B & P 2 1/2 hulls, as well as some Estate hulls and Gamebore hulls. I was thinking I that I could adjust the 600 jr. press with a 1/4 inch spacer available through Precision Reloading in CT?

My second question is whether I can just put light 2 3/4 shells in. The guy selling the gun says yes, but I’m skeptical as to the safety of this? They will fit obviously, but they impinge 5mm or so into the forcing cones, wonder if this would also probably adversely affect pattern?


Dear Greg,

I’ve heard of lots of people using light 2-3/4″ shells in 2-1/2″ chambers. I don’t do it and I don’t like it. What happens is that the shell unfolds into the forcing cone. This creates a bottleneck. I’m not so concerned about poor patterns as I am about excessive pressures. Some people say that modern thin plastic cases don’t cause as much a problem in this respect as the older thick paper hulls for which the gun was made. I still don’t like doing it.

I measured some of my 2-1/2″ shells. All measurements are of a loaded and fully crimped (6 or 8 point) shell, not an empty case. Still, it’s a good comparison on length as it’s apples to apples since they use the same crimps.

Standard American 2-3/4″ target load length is 2.33″ Purdey 2-1/2″ paper shell made by Eley is 2.17″ Victory Europa 2-1/2″ plastic shell “65 mm for English guns” is 2.19″ “Red Grouse” 2-1/2″ paper shell with a “67 mm case” made for Malloch in Perthshire is 2.20″

I’ve also heard of people simply lengthening the forcing cones on 2-1/2″ chambers and then using 2-3/4″ shells. I don’t do it and I don’t like it. You will be easing up the pressure bottleneck, but you will also be thinning the chamber walls just where there is maximum pressure.

As to lengthening the chambers from 2-1/2″ to 2-3/4″, again I don’t do it and I don’t like it. BUT I do shoot a gun (1926 Webley and Scott 500 12 ga. 2-1/2″ boxlock) to which it was done by a previous owner. I use modest pressure one ounce 2-3/4″ shells in it and nothing has blown in 20 odd years. The gun was originally proofed for 2-1/2″ 1-1/8 oz loads, but I don’t even go that far. So far so good, as the guy who jumped off the building said as he passed each window on the way down. Still, I don’t recommend that you lengthen the chambers. Your gun may have a thinner barrel or some interior flaw.

I’m reluctant to recommend or even countenance any barrel modifications at all because I don’t want people calling me from the emergency room. Still, I certainly have to recognize that lots of people run cones and lengthen chambers on these old guns. If you have a trusted gunsmith, have him take a look at your gun. Get his advice. Call him from the emergency room.

Yes, you positively can reload 2-1/2″ shells. The hardcover “Hodgdon Powder Shotshell Data Manual” (Hodgdon Powder Company, 1996) has a few recipes for reloading 2″ and 2-1/2″ 12 gauge shells. It also has a couple of pages on setting up a Dremel tool in a hobby press to cut back 2-3/4″ cases to the proper length.

As to a reloading machine, for 2-1/2″ shells, you can get a conversion plate for a MEC single stage reloader (Mayville Engineering Co. that will elevate the hull so that it runs through the single stage machine normally. This is probably the same set that Precision Reloading is selling.

For readers with 2″ guns who are reading this, you 2″ shooters can use any reloader to resize, deprime, reprime, drop shot and drop powder. Then you use a roll crimp on a drill press to do your crimping. You can get a roll crimp tool from Ballistic Products at Ballistics Products, Inc.

As to proper wads for the short shells, Ballistic Products will have what you need.

You can also buy plenty of 2-1/2″ shells on the market. In addition to the hulls you have, you can also get 2-1/2″ shells from RST, Classic Shotshell Co, Inc.

I highly recommend the 2-1/2″ English game guns. My W&S 500 series with 28″ bbls weighs an exact 6# 4oz even after I cut the checkered butt off and added a pad to get extra length for my long arms. It’s interesting to note that this W&S weighs exactly the same as my 28″ bbl 3″ chambered 20 gauge Fabrique Nationale Superposed. It just shows the difference in philosophy between the light 12 and the heavy 20 camps. One ounce 1150 fps loads from my light 12 seem to hit the birds harder than the one ounce 1150 fps loads from my 20. Perhaps one gun just fits me better than the other, but the large bore/short shotstring thing could have something to do with it, especially with the larger #5 shot I prefer on pheasants. I’ve just never had the faith in the 20 that I have in the 12. Uh oh. Shouldn’t have said that.

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)

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1 Response to Reloading 2-1/2″

  1. Winstron Greenwell says:

    Check the 2 1/2 length under 12 GA


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