View Full Version : 12 ga. shells, 2 3/4" 3", 3 1/2" ???

August 20, 2006, 01:43 PM
Suppose you wanted a general purpose shotgun; pheasant, ducks, geese, turkey and (with the rifled barrel) deer. Suppose you want to practice a lot, skeet, trap, whatever, for hunting season. (Let's leave home defense out of this).

I think I'm talking 12-ga. And a pump, please. The Mossberg 590 and Remington 870 have only friends here, and the heavier-use military and police editions seem to be the most popular. Now: is there any reason to look beyond a 2 3/4 sized shell to the bigger 3" or 3.5" shells? If I were considering a shotgun for pass shooting at Canadas, that'd be one thing, but I'd rather not go there. If ever I do, I'll come back and ask for auto advice, in order to enjoy recoil mitigation.
Since I don't want to get banged up silly, I'd just as soon stick to the smaller shells. Thus, the question: is there any real hunting utility to the bigger shells for anything OTHER then turkey and pass shooting at geese?

I assume, from the chatter here, that you can swap barrels for different chokes and barrel lengths and add a rifled barrel without difficulty on both named brands, but tell me if I'm wrong.

August 20, 2006, 02:25 PM
well if your going to spend the cash for extra barrels might as well get the 3-1/2" 870. this way you can get the changeable choke 26" barrel, and get the use of 3-1/2" shells on turkey and geese. they your second barrel could be a shorter deer barrel if you want. i like the 24" to 26" for all around use.

August 20, 2006, 03:52 PM
most all modern shotguns handle both 2.75" and 3" shells. make sure before you buy of course but the mossbergs/870's i know for a fact handle both.

12 gauge 3.5" shells IMO are not needed. if you can get what you are looking for chambered in either 3 or 3.5, of course go for the 3.5 but i wouldnt sweat it.

if you cannot take it out w/ a 3" 12 gauge shell you either need to practice more, or put on a different choke. IMO of course.

i was looking for a do it all shotgun recently and decided on the following.

whatever shotgun you get keep it a smoothbore type thing, if you want to shoot sabot slugs you are best off w/ a dedicated slug gun, much better accuracy, and for the same price as, if not a bit more than just a rifled barrel.

12 gauge pump was my decision. w/ the pump you get the ruggidness as well as the ability to shoot very light loads w/o the chance of a cycling problem like you would w/ a semi.

12 gauge just for the sheer popularity/variety/usefullness of all the ammo availble, including a whole array of specialty ammo.

i'd suggest a 26-28" barrel and maybe buy a used 18" barrel for when you are going to be hiking around in dense brush/snap shooting rabbit/and can press it into home defense w/ just a barrel swap.

make sure it has removable chokes, even better get a poly choke and you have all the chokes you could ever need at the flick of the wrist.

as for slugs, try a bunch of rifled slugs (used in smooth bore) and see which one shoots best/prob would be about 50 yards max.

cant go wrong, once you wnat to get into long range slugging either get a dedicated slug gun, or just use a rifle.

another thing do some research but i beleive i've read a few times that on the 3.5" chambered guns people have trouble getting good patterns w/ the 2.,75 and 3" shells.

i'm sure that depends on many factors though.

August 20, 2006, 08:17 PM
My thoughts run generally parallel to yours, as to the basic high value of a pump in 12 ga.

Why would a dedicated slug gun with a rifled barrel be better then adding a rifled barrel to a quality pump? I have no experience, but why is that?

August 20, 2006, 08:38 PM
IMHO, a Mossberg 835 3 1/2" pump is the way to go.
I have used one for everything I hunt, except at rifle ranges of course.
Even the grouping with slugs is adequate to 100 yds. (If you want to shoot farther use a rifle)
For most instances the 2 3/4" shells will be sufficient, but always having the capabilities and distances of the 3 1/2" shells is good as well.;)

Of course with new gun prices in the 4-500 dollar range it's not a bad deal.:)

August 20, 2006, 09:57 PM
But what IS the extra ability of the 3 1/2" shell? More shot? More powder?
I can't see a need for a case larger then 2 3/4" for pheasant, say, or any other upland hunting where a 12 ga. would be useful at all. If you're shooting either duck or geese over decoys, is the bigger shell more useful? Fill me in, please.

August 20, 2006, 10:47 PM
more shot. the more lead (or steel) you throw out there the better your odds are. but if you use the wrong choke barrel combo you might as well try catching them with your hands.

August 21, 2006, 05:31 PM
I have hunted birds (ducks, geese, pheasants, etc) for about 35 years. I started out with a 2 3/4" 16 ga, graduated to a 12 ga 3" mag, then dropped back to 2 3/4" (both my 12 ga and my 20 ga). Although the idea behind a 3" mag is more shot increases your odds of a hit, this only works where the pattern is so open that the distance between pellets is large enough for a bird to fly through. That means at long range (70+ yds).

Most modern loads I have patterned pattern about 70% of all pellets inside a 36" circle at 40 yds, about 40% at 70 yds. Thirty years ago I patterned my guns on butcher paper, and patterns of 30-40% at 40 yds were common, and at 70 yds you could probably expect about 15% I suppose (although I don't think we ever patterned them at 70 yds because the shells were too expensive). 3" mags patterned about the same %, just had more pellets to begin with.

One of the things that changed was the development of better shot cups. Another was the advent of screw-in chokes. Both of these really tightened patterns. When I switched back to 2 3/4" shells I was getting pattern densities of 50% at 40 yds, and quit shooting 3" because of recoil and cost. Since then I have killed geese, pheasants, quail, chukar and dove, all with 2 3/4" shells (I quit hunting ducks). Now, if I miss it is because I missed, and more shot thrown at the bird would still be a miss.

I took my 3" gun out once last year, and the cost of a box of shells kept me from taking any iffy shots, so I can't speak of a 3" killing power on marginal hits.

August 21, 2006, 05:38 PM
1. First, cycling. You said pump, so that means properly designed, there is NO drawback - no reason NOT to get a 3.5" gun, like an 870 express mag, if that's what you find a good deal on. They are still perfectly reliable with 2.75" and 3.0" shells. Unlike a 3.5" autoloader, which is going to be less reliable with 2.75 shells than a 3.0" autoloader.

2. Second, although there is no drawback, there is no real advantage or need to getting a 3.5" gun either. Longrange shooting at geese and turkeys, for example, a magnum 3.0" shell is still plenty of gun and then some, IMO. 3.5" shells were designed for steel shot, for long range waterfowl, since steel is not nearly as dense as lead, and therefore (a) takes up more room in the shell for the same weight, and (b) slows down faster due to wind and so therefore needs more powder behind it to retain the same energy as lead at distance. Well, now that we have tungsten and bismuth shot for waterfowl, which are actually MORE dense than lead, there is no need for 3.5" guns, IMO (unless you still use steel shot loads).

3. Having said that, I WOULD want 3.0" capability for turkeys and waterfowl and the many loads available in the 3.0" size. But I'm probably wrong on this count, actually, as explained by Scorch - advances in technology such as choke tubes has made 2.75" shells be plenty to accomplish the goal of downing the game (due to denseness of the shot pattern).

August 21, 2006, 07:49 PM
Scortch, FirstFreedom, thank you; those are good answers. Any goose hunting I do will be over decoys and the birds won't need a huge lead. (That's actually the single likeliest entry for me into hunting.)

I like loud noises and enjoy practising whatever craft I'm pursuing. Would you have a recommendation by way of pumps? 870P or Express, and 590A1, are all functionally equal? I'll be shooting on or near salt water, which discovers mechanical stress points quickly, so I don't mind going straight to whatever firearm is most reliable under adverse conditions.

August 22, 2006, 11:55 AM
If you want a pump, you can't go wrong with a Rem 870. If you like autos, the Benelli is the ticket. Five years ago I would have said a Browning A5, but the Benelli is the new king.

August 22, 2006, 02:21 PM
Well, for many, many years I did all my hunting (including deer, but not turkey or geese) with a 20 gauge Mossberg 500, w/ a modified choke. Anything I hit (which was pretty much everything) with it was just as dead as if I had something bigger. I just never took excessively long shots.

August 23, 2006, 08:09 PM
Gentlemen, thank you all.