By my reckoning the shells are about 20 years old – will they still be safe to use?

Technical

MIKE GEORGE says:

Plated shot seems to have gone out of fashion nowadays, but in the era you mention (the mid 1980s) it was all the rage.

Nickel was the most common plating material, although some manufacturers (notably Dan Arms and Winchester as I remember) did use copper.

Popular rumour was that plating made the shot harder. That was rubbish – the fact was manufacturers didn’t waste time and cash by plating inferior, soft shot, and reserved the process for their premium, hard-shot loads. The idea was that, under the huge pressure of firing, the plating material formed a lubricant between the individual pellets. You thus got fewer distorted pellets, and therefore better patterns.

Why don’t cartridge loaders use plated shot much nowadays? Well, I never believed it was that effective, and plating shot is expensive. I maintain that good, hard, well-polished and truly round shot does the business just as well.

As to the safety of these cartridges, if they have been kept in a mild, dry atmosphere and there is no corrosion on the heads, they should be OK.

I suggest you try a few. If you get misfires and ‘bloopers’, then they’re no good!