Excerpt from the Ideal Hand Book #1 of 1 891, showing the basic set of shotshell hand loading tools.
Much has been written about the Ideal line of cartridge reloading tools, but rarely does something surface on the shotshell tool line. The purpose of this article is to present the chronology and development of these reloading tools during the initial 20 or so years of the Ideal Manufacturing Company, from around 1891 to 1910, when John Barlow was the owner and proprietor. This period is covered in the Ideal Hand Books through issue #19. It also marks the beginning of the transition from primarily black powder shotshell loading to smokeless. While there were numerous shotshell reloading tools prior to this time, the reloading process was slow, tedious and required multiple handling steps. Barlow’s patents introduced new and innovative ideas to improve loading speed and efficiency. His shotshell tool line evolved considerably from the few hand tools listed in the first Ideal Hand Book to the complete and state of the art lineup shortly after the turn of the century.
John Barlow founded the Ideal Manufacturing Company in 1884, upon leaving the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, where he had worked the prior 14 years; 10 of those years in the reloading tool and cartridge department. One of his significant patents while working at Winchester was the “adjustable chamber” version of the 1880s reloading tool originally patented by V.A. King. Barlow’s initial challenge as he launched his new Ideal Manufacturing Company was not so much a technical but rather a business one, as he had no business background, no brand identity, and no sponsors or agents. By the end of 1886, the shooting fraternity began to recognize and accept the Ideal brand with overwhelming enthusiasm. Barlow accomplished this through resourcefulness, persistence and targeted advertising – when he could afford it. At this time Marlin, Colt, Winchester, Stevens and Maynard were all carrying the Ideal tool line.
Barlow published his first Ideal Hand Book in 1891, “To the shooters of pistols, rifles, and shotguns,” although the shotgun tools and discussions seem to almost be an afterthought. Even the testimonials presented in Ideal Hand Book #1 were all cartridge-related except one, which referred to the shotshell tools as “little shotgun implements.” Nothing in the tool and reloading instructions mentioned shotshells, likely because handloading of shotshells had been around for a considerable period of time and the methodology was simple – prime, insert powder, wads, shot, top card, then crimp (or not). It would seem there were not nearly as many variables to manage, as when casting bullets and loading metallic pistol and rifle cartridges. Things would clearly change over the next 18 years, with an emphasis on improving the speed, efficiency and consistency of reloading shotshells; all while gaining market share in an area of reloading that had plenty of room to develop, especially with the advent of smokeless powder.
Ideal Hand Closer, pre-1895.
IN THE BEGINNING (1891 - 1893, Ideal Hand Books #1-4)
The first four Ideal Hand Books contained the same lineup of simple hand reloading tools. These included the Pocket Shot Shell Loading Tool labeled “The New IDEAL,” which could be used for paper or brass shells, and functioned as a capper, decapper, rammer and extractor. It would later be renamed as the “Ideal Pocket Loader” in Ideal Hand Book #9. The tool came with a funnel and wooden base to hold the shell while decapping. The companion item was the Ideal Hand Closer for roll-crimping paper shells (later to be renamed the “Ideal Pocket Closer” in Ideal Hand Book #7). These two simple pocket tools were actually first produced around 1886, prior to the Ideal Hand Book #1.
They were extremely popular and always in high demand, and would continue to be part of the Ideal shotshell tool line through the Barlow tenure – almost 25 years – and into the Lyman years until being discontinued after Ideal Hand Book #34 in 1948. Other shotshell implements advertised in Ideal Hand Book #1 included the “Brass Shot Shell Loading Tool” specifically for loading brass shells and similar to the Pocket Loading Tool, which functioned as a capper, decapper and rammer.
Ideal Pocket Loader, post-1896.
This was available in 10 and 12 gauges only. A “Shell Resizing Tool” was available for rifle and pistol calibers, but by the time Ideal Hand Book #4 was published in 1893, it was now available for brass shotshells. Also by now, roundball moulds were being offered in 10 and 12 gauges with cast diameters being .015 inch smaller than gauge diameter. All powder and shot was measured with a standard hand dipper or the Ideal Loading Flask. It is interesting that under Barlow, Ideal only produced wadcutters for cartridge calibers, but never produced them for shotshells. It wasn’t until 1925, with Ideal Hand Book #26 that Marlin began selling wadcutters for shotshells.
Brass shotshell reloader.
THE NEXT FOUR YEARS (1894 - 1897, Ideal Hand Books #5-9)
This period is highlighted by the first major innovations in the shotshell tool line. While the primary content of the Ideal Hand Books was metallic cartridge focused, there was deliberate and growing attention to developing the shotshell tool line to provide tools superior to the cheap “dime store” tools that were ubiquitous in the market. It is interesting that for three consecutive years during this period, the back covers of Ideal Hand Books #5, #6 and #7 were advertisements for the shotshell tools.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
Who Was Albert F. Mitchell?
When somebody hears the words “Sharps rifle,” the first things that probably come to mind are the great buffalo hunts, the “Wild and Wooly West” and tales of long-range shots, Indian attacks, and hunters freezing in blizzards.
The Wyoming Schuetzen Union's “Center Shot”
The Leech Cup – Lost . . . and Found
Flat Top Follow Up
BULLET HARDNESS for BLACK POWDER CARTRIDGE RIFLES
HISTORICAL INFORMATION ABOUT BLACK POWDER CARTRIDGE RIFLES
BLACK POWDER SHOTSHELLS
Easier Than You Might Think
2020 SMITHMOOR CUP
The annual championship Smithmoor Cup BPCR Silhouette match was held July 16-17, 2020.
Special Target or Special Sporting Rifle
New Model Sight Drifter
The Wyoming Schuetzen Union's “Center Shot”
The Old Veteran
Reaming a REVOLVER
I am sure you probably know guys that can’t just leave something well enough alone; they have to “improve” whatever they are interested in, to the point that the project is basically ruined.
WHY TAKE A 101 COURSE FOR OFF-ROAD DRIVING?
WE wondered who these courses were for, and figured the easiest way to find out was to see who was taking them.
TRUCKING AMID A STALLING ECONOMY
It is relatively easy to enter South Africa’s road logistics industry. That’s not good news for the large, listed players. In this feature we look at the winners, losers and main issues pertaining to this sector.
Simon's Stock Tips
Founder and director of investment website JustOneLap.com, Simon Brown, is finweek’s resident expert on the stock markets. In this column he provides insight into recent market developments.
Expense, Red Tape And Vacancies?
How the Government’s new immigration policy will affect farmers heavily reliant on migrant labour from the EU.
The Search For True Value
Using Benjamin Graham’s original concept of value investing, Simon Brown searches for value stocks on the JSE. Turns out they are hard to come by on our local bourse.