Paper Or Plastic Shells

Dear Technoid,

I was talking to a buddy at the shooting club about paper shells. He said he liked them better because he feels less recoil from them. He also stated his gun is much cleaner with less powder residue in his barrel and reach.

I know companies used to make paper hulls in the 1950’s and earlier.I can figure that Plastic is cheaper for the companies to use than paper, thus the move to plastic hulls.

Is there any advantage to paper hulls over plastic? Does the paper hulls crimp open more evenly than the Plastic counterpart at firing thus giving a better pattern and burning more evenly the powder?


Dear Mark,

The largest manufacturer of paper shells in the US is Federal. Their paper shells are quite popular among target shooters because many do believe that the paper tube and paper base compress slightly on ignition and thus lower recoil just a little bit. I know one guy who shoots them because he says that they smell better. The shells that Federal supplied to our Atlanta Olympic shooting team were their paper hulled versions. I have one of Kim Rhode’s 24 grammers.

No one has been able to prove to me that the paper hull produces any better patterns than the plastic hull and I have never heard Federal claim it. I think that it is all a perceived recoil thing. When Andy Duffy, was sponsored by Federal, Andy chose their paper shells and felt that they give him just a little less kick.

The paper shells cost an extra few dollars per flat. I don’t know if they are more expensive to make or whether there is something in economy of scale when compared to the vastly greater number of plastic hulls Federal uses. It may be a simple marketing ploy.

Do they burn cleaner? Not hardly, but maybe. Sort of. Federal uses various burning rates of powder in their 12 gauge loads, depending on shot load and velocity. I don’t believe that they use a different mix of powder just because it is used in a paper or plastic hull, so the paper hulls would have no advantage there. BUT, there may be a slight cleanliness advantage to the paper hull IF they seal to the chamber walls under expansion better than the plastic Reifenhauser hulls that Federal still uses. I don’t know this to be a fact, but if it were, I wouldn’t be surprised. The tighter the shell seals to the chamber wall, the less blow by you get in the receiver. That would make it cleaner- especially in a gas gun.

One problem with paper shells is that, in spite of their wax coating, they are subject to swelling in wet or humid conditions. They are also more easily affected by storage under damp conditions. I have seen paper hulls so badly swollen that they would not function properly in a semi-auto.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid

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