View Full Version : Your Take on the 3-1/2" 12 GA Magnum?

August 25, 2001, 01:59 PM
I am in the market for a new shotgun. It will be dedicated to Waterfowl. Is the 3-1/2" justified? I have seen a lot of people in this Forum say that it isn't. If I get a 12 Ga chambered for the 3-1/2" Magnum I will buy a Gas Operated Autoloader. If I strictly get a 3" Magnum in 12 Ga than a Pump Action will suffice.

Thanks in advance,


August 25, 2001, 05:11 PM
Cody, welcome to the forums.

Waste of cash in my opinion. Perhaps a bit of a marketing strategy by manufacturers to sell more guns.

I only speak from experience shooting my turkey gun, an 870 Express Super Magnum. If the 3" shell won't make the shot, you probably don't need to try it anyway.

Have you felt the recoil on a 3 1/2" shell? If not, shoot one before you make your decision. I've put exactly one 3 1/2" shell through my gun while patterning, and I likely won't shoot another. Not pleasant and a good way to build a flinch, especially if you're making repeated shots at waterfowl.

Granted, I have never shot a 3 1/2" shell in an auto-loader, but still, I suspect the difference in recoil is considerable. Here, someone else would have to help me out.

The truth is that a 2 3/4" shell will generally pattern better than a 3", and a 3" will pattern better than a 3 1/2". Notice I say generally. Some turkey hunters have tweaked their chokes and loads and come up with some very nice Super Mag patterns at long range. It takes a bit of trial and error, and some of those wonder chokes can be quite expensive. Still, I wouldn't want to shoot these loads too often.

I do use the 3" shells for turkey for a little extra range; the trade off with recoil is acceptable for me. But you know, an awful lot of turkey birds and ducks were killed with 2 3/4" shells long before this magnum and super magnum craze. I think the more important element is to know how your gun shoots and practice.

Dave McC
August 25, 2001, 05:41 PM
Were lead still allowed on waterfowl, I'd still be bringing in plenty of ducks with 1 1/4 oz of hard 6s and plenty of geese with 1 3/8 oz of 3s.

As for 3 1/2" 12s.....

I doubt that putting that much lead and powder in a 12 ga bore will do much besides inflict pain, and go through your money faster. That heavy a payload is better handled in a 10 or 11 lb 10 ga.

In your shoes, I'd get a 3" mag pump of good make and work out an optimum load.

Will Beararms
August 25, 2001, 10:31 PM
It depends on the hunt, If you're doing flooded timber then the 3" is enough. If you're shooting on Open water that's another thing. The 3.5 really shines when you are after turkey.

August 26, 2001, 11:17 PM
I have shot dozens of 3.5 out of my friends Mossberg 835 ultra Mag. Even with the ported barrel and recoil pad I did not enjoy it much. The Magnum loads 4oz I think Sucked... The flinch factor was very apparent.. I'll stay with 2 3/4 and 3" stuff.

August 27, 2001, 01:08 AM
I played around with some 12ga slugs in 3" magnum before. After seeing what it did to some thick steel, I can't imagine carrying anything larger unless I was in Africa.

August 27, 2001, 10:34 PM
What kind of waterfowl? At what ranges?
If you really need to reach out there with steel shot for large birds, go 10 gauge Gauge, Go with the Gold (autoloader)
or pump

Many find that the 10 gauge patterns better than the 3 1/2" 12 gauge
but that depends a lot from gun to gun and load to load - as noted above - and there are those who find the versatility of being able to load 2 3/4or 3 or 3 1/2" a big advantage.
Don't take my word for it. Go here
and browse backward to find 10 gauge experience or post a question
(they must've purged or lost the archive since it only goes back a few weeks)

But be prepared for more expensive ammo - though you can order most anything through your local sporting goods shop - as I did to get Federal's P109 lead BB before the heavier lead loads disappear entirely - call me a rebel;-)

Is anyone reloading 10 gauge here? - there is some discussion at the above forum link under "10 gauge upland loads".

August 29, 2001, 12:50 PM
I will let you know how the 3 1/2" turns out after this year's goose season and next year's turkey season. I just bought my Benelli so I don't know what it kicks like with 3 1/2".

August 31, 2001, 07:29 AM
Don't know if you've used tungsten versus the steel shot. My very first shot at goose with steel "T" 3 inch was about 28-30 yards head on. It was just coming in for a landing and about 2 feet off the ground.

At the shot I expected to see it fold. Just started flying away...... shot again ...kept flying...finally third shot knocked it down (broke a wing) and we had to chase it all over the field. When we dressed it out the shot had hit the breast and just went thru the feathers and was laying against the skin. Didn't penetrate.

I gave away the steel and got tungsten. Now that's a different story. My point is that with 3 1/2" you can throw a bigger shot size and maybe do some good. Also about the recoil...if you're using steel recoil is no big deal. I'm 5'7" about 170# and shot my friends BPS 10 gauge with steel with no problems. Lead (turkey loads) are a whole different program (they kill on both ends).

I'm trying the new Hevi-shot that's 115% the weight of lead. I'm thinking with 3" BB's it should be the ticket for geese. Going to try it Sunday.

August 31, 2001, 11:08 AM
I dont think you need the 3.5" I just bought a new shotgun today and opted for a Beretta 390. I guide goose hunts and see people drop them all the time with 3" shells. As far as the kick of 3.5's go, I used to have a Super Black Eagle and when hunting with heavy coat, excitement and all the 3.5's did not hurt a bit, but I shot one at the range and it hurt like hell. Also keep in mind many 3.5 autos will have problems with 2 3/4 shells. I don't care what the manufacturers say I have not seen a 3.5" auto that is 100% reliable on light loads. That is why I sold my SBE and got the Beretta. Hopefully it will work well with my dove loads.

August 31, 2001, 01:37 PM
I was in the market for a new duck/goose gun last year and opted for a Browning Gold 3-1/2" since I already had a Remington 11/87 in 3". I find that the 3-1/2" shells with steel shot are effective and recoil is manageable. My usual duck/goose ammo is the Winchester Supreme loading which seems a shade quicker than other steel shot loadings. With 3-1/2" lead shotshells with two ounces of shot, recoil is noticeable but can be tolerated.

I routinely shoot the gold 3-1/2" gun at skeet and sporting clays with one ounce reloads. Had one malfunction on the first round of skeet, but has been 100 per cent reliable since then. (I do clean the gun occasionally.)

So, I'm pleased with the Browning Gold 3-1/2 and will dove hunt with it tomorrow with 1-1/8 ounce reloads, just to get in practice for our early duck/goose season which is less than two weeks away. :)

September 1, 2001, 06:45 AM

You should try a 3 1/2in 1.75oz Slug!!!! Ouch!!!!! :D

September 1, 2001, 08:34 AM
What is the proposed use of such a slug? Velociraptors? :)


September 1, 2001, 10:07 AM
You should try a 3 1/2in 1.75oz Slug!!!! Ouch!!!!!
What is the proposed use of such a slug? Velociraptors?
Deer and Elk Hunting!

Such a slug, if loaded to the usual 3 1/2" energy levels, might reach 1300 fps and have the same energy and recoil as average 30-06 deer ammo.
My 10 gauge has no more recoil than my 30-06!
The '06 weighs 3lbs less than the 10 gauge and hurts more.
What are you guys complaining about?

September 1, 2001, 11:27 AM
Dead -
My shoulder aches just thinking about that! Although, it would be worth having as the last round in your tube in an end of the world scenerio. Imagine punching through five or six bad guys with one round as your final word in a hopeless situation.

September 1, 2001, 11:55 AM

Last year I was ready for a new duck gun I've been shooting my A5 since 1972 (it was purchased in 1956 by my father-in-law). I don't believe there's a better gun around. Since the A5 was discontined I looked at many brands. I ended up buying a Super Black Eagle. I opted for SBE because it could shoot 3.5" shells. My thoughts were not why not have the option. In hunting waterfowl (hunting over decoys) I very seldom used the 3.5 shells most of my shooting was done with 3" Actually I couldn't tell the difference in knocking ducks out of the air. Concerning recoil. The SBE is recoil operated so it does kick more over a gas gun. I might add when patterning the 3.5" it really hurt. But when hunting never noticed it but was also wearing heavier clothing and the thrill of the hunt.

If I had to do it all over again. I'd would of looked and looked for a Browning A-5 3" NIB for my replacement gun.


September 2, 2001, 10:22 PM
I use a Browning BPS 3.5" and I love it. I killed two turkeys last season, one at about 20 yards and one at about 35. Both folded from one shot (I didn't feel a thing in all my excitement). Pain is an issue when patterning, but I only use one kind of shell (3.5 Winchester Supreme #5's) so I don't shoot it much unless I'm bringing one down. For me in the turkey woods an extra few yards may be enough to warrant the 3.5". It's just your preference. That being said, I also killed a turkey with a 3" #5 a couple of years ago.