Schleber’s Long-Range, Thread-Wound Shot Cartridge Cases
H. H. Schleber & Co of Rochester, New York was a manufacturer of thread-wound shot concentrators that would allow hunters to shoot ducks, geese, turkeys, foxes and other animals that were difficult to get close to, from further away.
There were many shot concentrator patents around the world and they all aimed to keep the loose shot, fired from a shotgun, together longer before it started spreading out. Modern guns and even some guns during this time period, use a method called choke-boring that tapers down the muzzle-end of the barrel to achieve similar results.
Schleber’s patented, thread-wound shot cartridges were designed to hold lead shot inside two tin half cylinders that were held together by thread that would unwind in flight after it was fired. After the thread completely unwound it would release the shot. They were wrapped with varying length of thread that corresponded to how many yards away the target was that you wanted to shoot. Some early reviews of the system noted that the hunter would need to be good at judging the distance needed in order to correctly choose the right cartridge; especially since at closer distances it would be a large solid projectile until it fully unwound.
Seth W. Paine and the Beginnings of the Thread-Wound Shot Cartridges
In 1873, Seth W. Paine of Rochester, New York patented the thread-wound shot cartridge. His drawing gives a general idea of the concept behind the two half cylinders that hold that shot. He details that the thread is wrapped around the middle first and then moved to the end so that both ends separate at the same time. He also received a Canadian patent on 3 March 1874.
Paine pre-filled his wound shot cartridges with shot as shown in this rare box pictured in the book, Early Shotgun Concentrators and Spreaders by Gary Muckel.
Paine is listed in the Rochester city directories in 1874 and 1875. In 1876 it lists him as moved to Ontario, Canada. He shows up again in 1877 as a cartridge manufacture with an address of 110 State Street and never shows up again. During these years Henry H. Schleber is listed as a jeweler.
Barnard & Miller Long Rang Shot Cartridge
In 1877 Henry H. Barnard and Henry S. Miller, also of Rochester, patented an improvement to these thread-wound shot cartridges. Muckel’s book shows that this patent would later be manufactured by Schleber.
Paine also shortly released an update to his patent that is functionally the same as Barnard & Miller’s. It is thought that there may have been a business relationship between all three Henrys and Seth, especially since Schleber made and sold the cartridges following both patents.
Schleber’s Long-Range, Thread-Wound Shot Cartridge Cases
In 1879, Henry H. Schleber switches his occupation from jeweler to cartridge manufacturer and will begin advertising his manufacture of Paine’s patent cartridges.
He advertises that the cartridges are made to shoot close patterns at 50, 70 or 90 yards and has them ready to buy for 10 gauge or 12 gauge sizes.
They were colored to represent the different lengths:
Red cartridges open just short of 50 yards and are effective from 50 – 80 yards.
Yellow cartridges open just short of 70 yards and are effective from 70 – 100 yards.
Blue cartridges open just short of 90 yards and are effective from 90 – 120 yards.
Schleber sold the cartridges empty and they were able to be loaded with any size shot down to #2 buck shot. The instructions directed to put about an ounce of shot in the hole on the bottom. Then you were to hammer the wooden pin in until it was flush with the base and the shot no longer rattled. This essentially moved the shot toward the sides and made everything tight.
There were multiple agents selling these cartridges to various sporting goods stores. The primary agents were Schoverling, Daly & Gales of New York and William Read & Sons of Boston. Charles Stark offered them in his wholesale catalog in Canada as well.
Schleber sold these for use in muzzle-loading and breech-loading guns. For use in a breech-loading gun, they would be placed inside a shotshell case and taped down with tape provided in the boxes. A visualization of this is shown on page 5 of the sales brochure below.
It is also interesting that he advertised their use as a giant solid slug for hitting large and dangerous game. You would need to remove the wrapper, tie the end of the thread so it does not unwind and place the wrapper back on. He claimed it was much more powerful and accurate than round balls up to 20 rods (110 yards.)
Henry H. Schleber advertised these through the 1880s in various newspapers such as Forest and Stream and Chicago Field. His sales brochure and many letters to the editor in Forest and Stream gave very positive reviews including from some well known people such as J. von Lengerke and Ethan Allen. People said they were better than Eley’s wire cartridges and often exclaimed how they could hit at 70 -100 yards what they would typically only be able to shoot from 30 – 40.
The price was one of the few complaints that people had and these were pretty expensive. He sold a box of 20 for $1 and a box of 100 for $5 postage paid. There was additional markups for custom lengths or sizes outside of what was normally sold.
Based on historical inflation and purchasing power this ended up costing about $1.50 each in today’s dollars. And you would still need to add wads, powder and shot on top of this cost. It was sold as a premium product and from all accounts it worked really well.
The most definitive source on shot concentrators is Gary Muckel’s book, Early Shotgun Concentrators and Spreaders.
Various issues of Forest and Stream, Harper’s Weekly, Breeder and Sportsman and etc had advertisements and commentary from 1879 to the late 1880s.