Welcome back to another edition of Curious Relics! In our last adventure, we dove deep into the Marlin Model A1, chronicling its history, variations, dating details, parts, and taking it to the range after completing a full restoration. You can revisit that multi-part series by using the links below. Today we are peering into the past again to explore a fascinating 1950s shotgun accessory. The obscure Barrelette Shotgun Adapter for miniature trap shooting. Let’s dive into yesteryear’s shooting innovations!
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Welcome to our recurring series of “Curious Relics.” Here, we want to share all of our experiences, knowledge, misadventures, and passion for older firearms that one might categorize as a Curio & Relic – any firearm that is at least 50 years old according to the ATF. Hopefully along the way you can garner a greater appreciation for older firearms like we do, and simultaneously you can teach us things as well through sharing your own expertise and thoughts in the Comments. Understanding the firearms of old, their importance, and their development which lead to many of the arms we now cherish today is incredibly fascinating and we hope you enjoy what we have to share, too!
History Abridged: Barrelette Shotgun Adapter
The Barrelette Shotgun Adapter was introduced in the 1950s as an affordable way to participate in the popular sport of miniature trap shooting. While Mossberg heavily marketed their Targo-branded miniature clay pigeons and .22 caliber rifles, other companies also produced miniature trap targets and guns. The Barrelette allowed existing shotgun owners to enjoy the mini trapshooting trend without buying a specialty gun.
Despite being patented, I have been unable to find any patent records or substantive information on the Barrelette Shotgun Adapter or the Barrelette Company that produced it. Besides a brief 1955 catalog listing, the only information I’ve found on the adapter comes from the original instruction manual. This suggests the Barrelette was not widely adopted or documented even when it was sold. At the very least I found that it was $10 (about $120 today).
The adapter consisted of three brass pieces – an adapter that fits into the shotgun chamber like a shell, a barrel insert to guide the shot, and a rear tube to limit fouling. It was designed for .22 birdshot shells only and relied on the choke already present in the shotgun barrel. The adapter had a built-in spring-loaded extractor that interfaced with the shotgun’s ejector system for reliable empty case ejection.
How it Works: Barrelette Shotgun Adapter
The Barrelette Shotgun Adapter inserts into any break-action shotgun’s chamber like a normal shotshell. The brass construction ensures a proper fit. The arm hidden in the main adapter piece expands slightly when tightened via a hex screw to prevent the adapter from being prematurely ejected.
Once loaded with a .22 birdshot shell, the firing pin strikes the rimfire primer off-center as intended. The barrel insert helps guide the shot charge down the barrel smoothly. The frontmost tube has a rubber o-ring that limits fouling from depositing in the action. The adapter’s built-in extractor hooks onto the rim of the empty case, allowing the shotgun’s ejector to kick it out normally.
Range Time: Barrelette Shotgun Adapter
At the range, the Barrelette performed well. The assembly was easy to install in seconds. I fired it in a 20 gauge single shot with the factory-modified choke. The adapter cycled and ejected without issues. Patterns were what you would expect from a smoothbore firing .22 birdshot – wide and diffuse at longer ranges. Hits on full-size clays were possible out to around 15 feet. Closer in, solid breaks were achievable. Recoil was non-existent. The experience was a fun change of pace from regular shotgun shooting.
While enjoyable, the Barrelette is mainly a novelty today. Practical applications are limited. However, as a collectible piece of shooting sports history or just for laughs at the range, it delivers good inexpensive fun.
Final Thoughts…For Now: Barrelette Shotgun Adapter
The Barrelette Shotgun Adapter is a prime example of the shooting industry’s ingenuity in capitalizing on public interest trends. While its popularity is unknown but easy to guess, the novel adapter still provides a glimpse into the flexible thinking surrounding shooting sports in past eras. For collectors and shotgun enthusiasts like myself, the Barrelette remains an intriguing and enjoyable historical artifact.
In closing, I hope our Curious Relics segment informed as well as entertained. This all was written in hopes of continued firearm appreciation and preservation. We did not just realize how guns were supposed to look and function. It was a long and tedious process that has shaped the world we live in. So, I put it to you! Is there a firearm out there that you feel does not get much notoriety? What should our next Curious Relics topic cover? As always, let us know all of your thoughts in the Comments below! We always appreciate your feedback.