In 1970, Smith & Wesson in conjunction with Fiocchi acquired the Alcan Factory 2 after the company had apparently over extended itself. It is not clear if the Alcan brand was included in the transaction at the time but by 1972 Smith & Wesson Fiocchi was manufacturing and selling Alcan branded ammunition and components.
Smith & Wesson continued to manufacture ammunition and components under the Alcan Name until about 1980.
SUPER M BALISTITE
A Shotgun Powder manufactured by Baschieri & Pellagri of Bolona, Italy, Super M Balistite was imported by the Alcan Company during the 1950's and 60's. Packaged in 250 gram (8.8 oz) rectangular steel cans, an Alcan Advertisement that appeared in the January 1952 issue of the National Rifleman listed the price of "B-P Shotshell Powder" at $1.25 per tin4.
Loading Data as printed on the Back of a Super Balistite can
ALCAN., INC. ALTON, ILLINOIS-SOLE AGENTS U.S.A. This charge table for use with Alcan G57F and Alcan G209F primers. Gauge of shotshell 10 12 12 16 20 24 28 32 Powder charge in grains 21 16.5 17 14 12 9 8 6 Shot weight in ounces 1 1/4 1 1/8 1 15/16 3/4 11/16 9/16 3/8 TRAP - SKEET SHELLs - 12 GAUGE This recommendation for use with Alcan No. 240 primers only. Do not use any other primer with charge show below 1 1/8 OUNCES SHOT - 19 GRAINS Use 20 to 30 pounds of wad pressure
Back in the early 1990's, I obtained two sealed cans of Super Balistite from some one who was cleaning off their reloading bench. To me they were a bit of quirky memorabilia and for many years they sat in my powder cabinet until 2009 when I decided to open one of the cans and try the powder out by loading some 12 gauge shells.
Loading with Vintage Balistite Powder
At the time that this powder was being imported, there were no one piece plastic wad columns or plastic hulls. Available shells were made of brass and or paper. Back then, shotshell reloaders had to construct a wad column from a combination of card and fiber wads tailored to the type of hull that they were using. The loading data on the back of the can of course was developed using those components, none of which I had.
I used 16 grains as a starting load, which I felt would be on the lower end of the scale for a 12 gauge load. Super Balistite M is a purplish semi translucent sheet powder which is considerably denser than most shotgun powders found on the market today. 16.0 grains of this powder takes up very little space in a 12 gauge hull so in order to use a one piece plastic wad column without using card wads, I reduced the case volume by cutting crimp off of several fired Federal plastic game hulls. The ones with the paper base wad. This effectively turned them into a 2 1/2 inch shells. Using the Lee loader Kit, I loaded the cut down cases with the following load.
Primer - Win 209
Powder charge - 16.0 grains of Super Balistite M
Shot - 1 1/8 ounce
Wad Column - Rem 12L
Admittedly the crimps on these loads were not the best looking in the world but the shells worked fine at the skeet range.
Encouraged by this success, I loaded a box of shells using the same components in unaltered Winchester AA HS hulls. The results were disappointing. The super balistite takes up so little space that I believe that the base wad of the shell was preventing the wad column from being seated on the powder properly. This prevented achieving sufficient wad pressure to ensure the uniform ignition of the powder. As a result, the powder in several of the shells failed to ignite resulting in the wad sticking in the barrel. I concluded that further load development with this powder and the new Winchester hulls was not worth my time or effort.
Other Alcan Powders
Another shotgun powder imported from Italy was Nike. Manufactured by Baschieri & Pellagri, Nike was a fast burning shotshell powder described as being crimson in color in the Alcan manual number 10. There is only a small amount of loading data for Nike powder in this manual at the bottom of page ten for 12 and 20 gauge game loads with old style wad columns and a few 16 or 12 gauge slug loads. For the few game loads listed, the Nike powder charge is 1 to 2 grains less than that of equivalent load using Hercules Red Dot.
Alcan imported the following powders, which it sold throughout the U.S. in the 1960's and 70's. Manufactured by Bofors of Sweden, the AL series of smokeless propellants were sheet or lamel powders cut into the shape of tiny diamonds
- Fast burning shotshell powder. Used primarily for loads for clay target shooting. Also recommended for loading Alcan Zinc metal shells
- Very fast burning shotshell powder. Used primarily for loads for clay target shooting. Also used for loading all brass or Alcan Metal shotshells
- Medium Fast Shotgun powder shotgun gameloads and handgun cartridges such as 38 special, 9 mm luger . Red flake identified
- Medium to heavy shotgun game loads, handgun cartridges and 30 carbine loads
- Magnum shotshell powder, magnum handgun loads .
Shotshell primer, it has the same diameter a standard 209* but it is said to be hotter than the Fed 209 A primer
Shotgun Primer for the older Remington hulls which used the now obsolete #57 primer. The battery cup is smaller than that of the standard 209 primer. For cases with 0.224 inch primer pocket
Shotgun Primer for light 12 gauge clay target loads using fast burning powders. Now obsolete, they will fit in a standard shot shell but are not quite as hot as a 209 primer.
Shotgun Primer manufactured by Giulio Fiocchi Lecco - same size as Winchester 209 unknown brisance. Early Alcan offering from the 1950's.
Alcan Maxfire Primers
For metallic cartridge reloading, these were good quality primers comparable with the other major brands.
Alcan 45 Colt Plastic Cased Ammunition
First brought out in 1964, these 45 Colt plastic shotloads and blank cartridges were unmarked with any form of identifying marking or headstamp. They were sold by Alcan for use in 45 colt revolvers and special shotgun adapters sold by them in 12, 16 and 20 gauge.
The shotshell cartridges were made with orange red plastic cases primed with a battery cup shotgun primer. The shotshells were loaded with 1/3 ounce of No. 9 lead shot, the cases were roll crimped with an over shot card.
In an Article appearing in the September 1964 issue of the American Rifleman, the NRA staff testing these cartridges found that the cases split frequently upon being fired and were generally unsuitable for reloading. Blank loads were also available. Those blank loads with black powder used red plastic cases and those with smokeless powder used yellow plastic cases.
This appears to be one of those products that never really took off. With a MSRP of 5 dollars per box of 50 rounds, the plastic Alcan 45 Colt ammunition seems to have been rather pricy for 1964.
1. "Homer Clark Jr." http://www.traphof.org/Inductees/Clark-Jr.-Homer.html Accessed 11 Dec. 2010
2. "Smith & Wesson Buys Alcan Seminary Road Ammo Plant" Alton Evening Telegraph Feb 21, 1970 p. 3 3. "Alcan Shotshell Reloaders Manual No. X" Handloader's Digest 1st Ed. 1962 4. Alcan Ad National Rifleman Jan. 1952 p. 53
American Rifleman May 1966 p. 35
"Alcan Plastic Shotloads" American Rifleman Sept 1964 p. 78, 80