Rimfire Report: 1950s 22LR Barrelette Shotgun Adapter

Sam.S
by Sam.S

Hello and welcome to another edition of The Rimfire Report! This ongoing series is about the rimfire firearm world and its many types of firearms, shooting sports, ammunition, and history! I am back at the helm filling in for Luke C for this week. Last week Luke kicked off the takedown vs SBR 22LR debate. Today I’m gonna talk about a recent purchase of a barrel adapter of a different time. Let’s dive into the Barrelette Shotgun Adapter from the 1950s.

More Rimfire Report @ TFB:

Not a New Idea: Barrelette Shotgun Adapter

So, most of us are aware that sub-caliber devices exist. In case you are new to the idea, basically there are shotgun shell-shaped chunks of steel with a chamber more or less reamed into it to fit a rimmed cartridge such as 22LR, 38 Special, 357 Mag, etc. This way one of these devices can be loaded into a break action shotgun (or even a flare gun in some instances), a centerfire pistol round loaded, and fired. That way in a survival, training, or novelty situation a person can pinball a bullet down a shotgun barrel and cross their fingers that it hits what they are aiming at.

Chiappa makes/made subcaliber devices for their X-Caliber M6-style survival rifle.

It may surprise you to know (it surprised me) that this is not a new idea. Yes, I was aware of this sort of thing dating back to the 80s but the Barrelette Shotgun Adapter from my research dates as far back as at least 1955.

So what is the Barrelette Shotgun Adapter and how does it differ from the stuff found today? Allow me to take you back to the late 1940s and early 1950s. This was a time when folks were getting bored with shooting the same old clay pigeons and craved a challenge or even a cheaper way of shooting traps. In the late 40s, Mossberg released their Targo guns and clay targets. These were miniature clay pigeons paired with smoothbore bolt action longuns that shot 22 shotshells. Some of these Targo guns even had a barrel/under-barrel attachment in the form of a literal trap thrower. That way you could shoot some Targo on your lonesome.

The top gun is a Mossberg Model 42TR equipped with an under-barrel trap thrower. Lot 5443: Four Mossberg Rifles. (n.d.-bg). Rock Island Auction Company. photograph. Retrieved November 13, 2023, from .

With the introduction of miniature trap, companies tried to hop on the money train and chase what would become a bit of a fad and be forgotten. Miniature trap does exist today but not like it did back then. How were they to know though?

The Barrelette Company of Cranford New Jersey must have wanted a piece of a pie because at least by 1955 they released their patented Barrelette Shotgun Adapter. This shotgun adapter was to be used with the break action shotgun (double or single barrel) that you or your pappy had at home. That way you didn’t need to go out and buy one of those fancy new-fangled Targo guns. It was designed to only use 22 birdshot shells, it would rely on the choke built into your shotgun, and it would interface with your ejector or extractor so the empties could still eject like normal.

Now, truth be told I found next to no information on the Barrelette Shotgun Adapter or the Barrelette Company. The design is allegedly patented but I found no evidence of this in patent records. Besides the written materials that came with my adapter, the only other resource for information regarding this adapter is from a 1955 Stoeger catalog called The Shooter’s Bible. This adapter was featured on one-quarter of a page and was listed as retailing at $10 (roughly $120 in today’s spending power).

From all of the materials I gathered, I can tell you that this was marketed as an affordable way to shoot miniature trap. 22 birdshot was cheap, smaller pigeons were theoretically cheaper, and the throwers for them were apparently cheaper. On top of all of that, you did not necessarily need to go out and buy a new 22 birdshot gun for this sport. It’s easy to guess that despite the valid sales pitch, these never caught on because by the 1960s miniature trap had lost its excitement.

Side Note: When I saw this for sale it was intriguing as is but I noticed in the manual it mentioned the “muffler tube” at the end of it…I was sort of hoping that this was a suppressor the world forgot about. No dice folks! it is an open-ended tube intended to limit carbon fouling.

How it Works: Barrelette Shotgun Adapter

Barrelette Shotgun Adapter is simple but different from modern-day subcaliber devices. For one thing, it is long and made up of three pieces. The adapter, a tube to guide the shot, and another tube to limit carbon buildup close to the chamber.

The “muffler tube” is made up of brass with an o-ring on it. The original o-ring was on this when I got it but as soon as I started playing with it, the age caught up and disintegrated it. This tube is meant to stop fouling from going rearward and gumming anything up. Rimfire is messy. Imagine how much more messy it was in 1955.

The tube as I mentioned is just that, a tube to guide the shot. It is basically a pseudo-barrel intended to limit the amount of time shot can contact the inside of the shotgun barrel and deform and go off course.

The adapter piece is where all the cool magic happens. It’s a rimmed chunk of brass that is inserted into the barrel of a shotgun just like a shell would be (mine is 20 gauge). It has a built-in spring-loaded ejector that interfaces with an existing one on your shotgun.

There is a very small hex screw at the rear. When this is tightened, a small brass arm expands out to prevent the adapter from ejecting itself with the power of two ejectors (no it will not fly out, just gently pull back). With a shell loaded in the chamber and the action shut, the firing pin will strike the 22 birdshot shell off-center since its rimfire this is completely intentional.

Does it Work?

Yeah, man! It’s kind of stupid proof and simple so it works pretty well and honestly, it’s a bunch of fun. I did not go out and pattern anything like you could with a shotgun because at the end of the day, it’s still utilizing the choke present in your gun but also its 22 birdshot. It does not have a wad or anything so unless something is fairly close (15ish feet) it’s opening pretty wide. I did toss a couple modern full-size clay pigeons and managed to hit and break a few.

The only real big thing of note would be that if a clay pigeon was say 15-20 yards away, the birdshot was still making contact but only just barely chipping the orange paint. The other thing of note is that sometimes it felt like the crimped federal 22 birdshot shells I was using had a hard time ejecting. I used these over the plastic-tipped CCI shot shells because I felt the crimped ones were closer to what would have been available back in 1955.

Final Thoughts: Barrelette Shotgun Adapter

That wraps up another edition of The Rimfire Report. The Barrelette Shotgun Adapter provides a unique glimpse into the innovative thinking and problem-solving of the mid-20th century firearms world. While it may not have had lasting popularity, it serves as an intriguing historical artifact, an enjoyable talking point, and a fun novelty.

Hopefully, this was not too much of a departure, or at the very least it was a welcome temporary one from your usual program. See you folks again eventually! As always, thank you for stopping by to read The Rimfire Report and we’ll see you all next week!

Sam.S
Sam.S

Writer | TheFirearmBlogWriter | AllOutdoor.comInstagram | sfsgunsmithOld soul, certified gunsmith, published author, avid firearm history learner, and appreciator of old and unique guns.

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  • Nimmo Nimmo on Dec 19, 2023

    Clearly, a .22LR conversion cylinder is needed for the Taurus Judge. Then it can double as both a fun trap gun and the ultimate home defence weapon.

  • Marathag Marathag on Dec 19, 2023

    Way back in the day, Sears&Roebuck sold full length barrel inserts for shotguns, I think up to 43 Mauser in size, with then favorites like 38-55.
    I believe it was the 1908 catalog.

    • See 1 previous
    • Daniel H Daniel H on Dec 20, 2023

      @marathag I don't know about earlier S&Rs but the 1918 catalog has "Supplemental Chambers" "Used in 30-30 and 32-40 rifles enabling you to shoot a short range cartridge in a high power rifle" "you can with a 30-30 rifle shoot a 32 Smith and Wesson cartridge and with a 32-40 rifle a 32 Colt"

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