3 inch shell in 2-3/4 in chamber?


Kurt S.
April 3, 2007, 10:20 PM
Got this old single-shot Stevens I bought at a gun show for $80. It's one of my truck guns along with an old Marlin .22 carbine I bought for about the same price. The gun is so old it doesn't have a serial number. I like to think of myself as "shotgun rescue".

So, I'm up at the deer lease filling up the feeder and poking around last Sunday afternoon. I usually pop an Aguila mini-slug into the old gun in case I run across a piglet; the little loads are accurate and light-recoiling.

Anyhow, for some reason I thought I'd just put birdshot in the chamber last Sunday. I grabbed a shell and popped it in the chamber and proceeded to do what I came to do.

When I popped the shell out when it was time to go home, I was surprised to see it was a 3" steel #2 load. The gun is clearly marked for 2-3/4 shells, but the 3 incher went in and out without a single problem.

Question is, should the 3 inch shell fit into a 2-3/4" chamber? What would have happened if I fired it? I am not that much worried about the steel shot- if the old gun has any choke left at all I'd be surprised, so no big deal.

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April 3, 2007, 10:24 PM
i wouldn't try it...prolly not safe. if you must...pull the trigger with a long string from cover

April 3, 2007, 10:48 PM
IIRC, aren't 2-3/4 inch shells actually 2-1/2 inches long when loaded? Due to the crimp? That would mean a 3" shell is 2-3/4" long loaded. When fired I believe the 3" produce greater pressures, which would be the real problem.

Someone feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, I've only ever dealt with 2-3/4" shells.

April 3, 2007, 10:52 PM
My 2 3/4" 20 ga shells actually measure 2 1/4" before firing. The chamber is cut to 2 3/4 to allow the forward crimped area to unfold when shell is fired. I would guess that 3" shells probably only measure about 2 1/2" before firing and thus would fit UNFIRED into a 2 3/4" chamber. However, when the 3" shell is fired, the crimped portion of 3" shell will open forward into the smaller diameter throat area where chamber transitions to barrel. This will reduce the normal opening thru which the shot load moves and could raise pressures substantially at that point. Better to stick with the proper length shells as marked on the shotgun.

Good shooting and be safe.

April 3, 2007, 10:54 PM
The chamber length refers to the fired shell case. A three inch shell will fit into the chamber ,but when fired the crimp part of the front will have no place to go causing a restriction in the barrel/forcing cone just forward of the 2&3/4" chamber.
This will significantly increase the pressure and can cause a serious failure.

Dave McCracken
April 3, 2007, 10:54 PM
3" is the length after firing. Firing off a shell longer than the chamber does neither the owner nor shotguns good. Neither safe nor fun.

Shotguns and grenades have similar pressures.

April 3, 2007, 11:04 PM
Old gun? 2-3/4" chamber? Choke unknown?

If keeping your hands and face in their current condition is important to you then firing a 3" shell of any type and certainly not steel isn't a prudent thing to do. Seriously.

Kurt S.
April 4, 2007, 10:09 AM
:eek: Kurt S. not pull trigger with 3" shell in chamber, make bad very bad!

Thanks, y'all. I hope to tell you I sure didn't intend to fire the gun with an oversized shell in the chamber. I was just curious if you'd get similar issues as sticking a .270 in a .25-06 chamber and pulling the trigger, and believe me I wouldn't try that experiment either; they used to have a rifle on the wall at Carter's where somebody tried that.

I figured the chamber on the Stevens was worn or something. There's nothing wrong with old gun other than this. I'll just be more careful about what I am putting in the tube. It patterns birdshot just fine to about 30 yards and is accurate with the mini-slugs up to about the same distance. BTW, the barrel is marked full choke.

I started shooting 42 years ago and have owned shotguns since 1970. I've never pulled anything like this before. First time for everything I guess.

Now I've got to figure out where the 3" steel load came from. I haven't hunted migratory waterfowl in many years- I think the last time was before steel was required. I don't recall ever having bought a single box of steel.

April 4, 2007, 10:17 AM
I have known several people who used 3" shells in their Stevens 311's with no problems. I don't recommend it. All it did was damage the forward portion of the plastic of the shell. They were not reloaders anyway. Those old guns are proofed to pretty high pressures. I wouldn't do it but some folks do.

April 4, 2007, 10:19 AM
BTW, don't use steel shot in that old gun. Buy bismuth or some other non-lead shot for waterfowl. They are made for short chambers.

April 4, 2007, 10:51 AM
Back when I was young and stupid (I'm no longer quite as young), I ran a number of 3" shells through a 2 3/4" marked Remington 870. Everything ran fine except the ejection was problematic (the fired shell was about the same length as the ejection port). That was what tipped me off to the fact that I was doing something wrong. :uhoh:

The gun is fine. I have no idea whether this would translate well to any other gun, and I don't plan on doing it again with mine. :scrutiny:


Kurt S.
April 4, 2007, 12:10 PM
Hello evbutler462, I wouldn't use that old gun for waterfowl anyways- I have a nice newer model 870 that is rated for steel shot if I ever get a chance to shoot ducks again. Which hopefully will be this fall.

I got on this kick of rescuing old shotguns at gunshows in the past year or so. I've bought a bolt action Marlin .410 bore, a 10 gauge NEF singleshot, a 20 gauge single shot (I'll have to look at the make), a 12 gauge H&R bolt action, a Winchester 1300 12 gauge pump that I have heavily and tactically bubba-ized....plus I rescued Dad's old Ithaca 37 Featherlight. It's amazing what a little 4-ought steel wool, plenty of light oil, and some elbow grease will do to restore metal.

April 4, 2007, 01:10 PM
"Either the gun has a worn chamber or it was poorly made. The 3" shell shouldn't fit in the chamber of the 2 3/4" gun. Get rid of the gun-period."


Unfired 3" shells do fit in 2 3/4" chambers like others above have posted.

April 4, 2007, 05:18 PM
I won't shoot a 3" in a 2-3/4" gun.


I know people who shoot 3" steel and Hevi-Shot in 1100's, 870's and in one case an old Auto-5 with little gold animals on the receiver. I won't hunt in the same blind or boat with them, but even the old full choked guns have held up to it so far. What the guns are choked now is open to speculation, but there are no signs of ringed barrels or anything else that I can see. Some brands of shells are a little long after they're fired and sometimes won't eject, but a lot will.



April 4, 2007, 06:55 PM
What you have to watch is early 16 gauge guns. Most made before 1939 or so have 2 9/16ths chambers that will accept the modern 2 3/4 shells. Same deal though- no place to unfold the crimp and chamber pressures run skyward. They make a huge boom and kick -if you are lucky you say "dang those 16 gauges shoot hard":uhoh:

April 4, 2007, 07:47 PM

You have a lot of comments. All of them informative. The only one I can't quite accept is the one suggesting that you destroy the gun. When I was in law enforcement, the one thing I hated was destroying confiscated guns by court order. For over 30 years behind the badge, I delegated this duty to someone else. Never would I destroy or delibertly deface any weapon.

Most of my shotguns are 2 3/4" and I would never dream of letting anyone put a finger on one of them. I use the shells chambered for them and they are safe from a hacksaw.

Put that gun in a gun cabinet and shoot the short shells in it. Have fun.

Kurt S.
April 4, 2007, 07:58 PM
It may fit but shooting it is a VERY DUMB MOVE!
If I didn't intend to use that shotgun I'd destroy it. If you sell it and somebody gets hurt YOU could be libel. If you want to keep it and shoot 2 3/4" shells in it great. Otherwise I'd cut it up with a hacksaw in pieces.
And contrary to your statement, a 3" shell SHOULD NOT fit in a 2 3/4" chamber. No old shotgun is worth the risk and shooting a 3" shell in a 2 3/4" chamber is real stupid.
I talked to Remington and to Orvis about this and they stated that it was a good way to get VERY BADLY hurt! You guys do what you want. It's your face/eyes/hands-not mine.

Hey there, Mister HarryCalahan1, what got your shorts in a knot? :D I already said I wasn't gonna try shooting the silly thing with a 3" shell in a 2-3/4" chamber. Boy howdy, I'd sure hate to get libel, that always ruins my day.
And next time you talk to Remington Orvis or Remington Steele or whoever you be sure to tell him Kurt S. says hello, y'hear? Thanks!

April 4, 2007, 08:05 PM
BTW, I chambered a 3" shell in a 2 3/4" chamber on two of my shotguns. It fitted and the action closed on it. I didn't attempt to fire it.

The old Stevens 311's and other old doubles that my friends and relatives used fired the 3" ammo and all it did was kick the devil out of them. Down here in the Green Swamp of NC, there are lots of old doubles that were made before 3" ammo became available. They, my uncles and other relatives, never noticed the length of the shells. They were illiterate and hunted from dawn til dark in season and out. They said " Give me some buckshot" to the gun store and went hunting. I didn't know what they were shooting until one of them brought me his old beat up 311 and had me repair the extractor. I noticed that he had 3" shells with me and he told me that was all he had shot since they came on the market. I then found out that the whole clan was using 3" in their old doubles, all of them short chambers. It's a wonder that they didn't have a problem but all I noticed was that the extractors wore out prematurely. I never knew one of their old guns to blow. The empty hulls were pinched on the ends and since none of my kin ever heard of reloading, it didn't matter. All or most of them are gone now, died of natural causes. Those old guns are safely tucked away in the family gun safe.

April 4, 2007, 08:39 PM
"a 3" shell SHOULD NOT fit in a 2 3/4" chamber"

Of course it will.

Shotgun chambers are not like rifle chambers; they are longer than the unfired shell to allow the crimp to have room to unfold. The problem is that the 3" shell fits in a 2.75" chamber, but doesn't have room to fully open to its full 3" length, thereby raising the pressure to an unacceptable level. Measure a 2.75" shell, it isn't 2.75" long until it's fired. Neither is an unfired 3" shell 3" until it is fired.

If the gun doesn't blow and the gun cycles, the fired 3" shell still might not have room to extract and eject because the action is built to handle the opened 2.75" case and not the open 3" case. They're measured open, not loaded.


April 4, 2007, 09:40 PM
Shotgun barrels are made stronger than one would think and proofed with higher pressure loads than anything on the market. They are almost idiot proof and will stand high chamber pressures. They will let go if the barrel is obstructed further down toward the muzzle. They usually just scare the daylights out of the shooter. When I was in gunsmithing school, my instructor deliberately blew a few discarded barrels with obstructions. I never observed a burst that would have hurt anyone. They usually let go just prior to where your hand is holding the forearm. The instructor had a rig where he experimented with them at a safe distance with a berm for safety. Mud in the muzzle sometimes would rip a tear in the barrel. Wadding stuck from a dud shell would usually pop out with the next load without a problem. A 20 gauge shell in the barrel of a 12 gauge would sometimes rip a gash but most times would pop out and maybe ring the barrel and make one heck of a noise. These barrels are a lot stronger than people believe. But they aren't to be played with except under controlled conditions.

Safety first-Always. As the TV ad say-Don't try this at home. There is always the possibility that things can go wrong-bad wrong. In my 70 years on this earth, I have never seen a barrel give in the field. I was reared in the swamps of eastern NC where children cut their teeth on their gun and did stupid things with them. That doesn't mean that it can't happen and has happened to less fortunate shooters.

April 4, 2007, 11:09 PM
Hey guys, the stevens 311 has 3" chambers. The one my dad had did and we shot 3" shells in it. The blue book also says it has 3" chamber. Maybe some of the other old guns you were talking about didn't but the stevens 311 has 3" chamber.

April 8, 2007, 05:40 PM

Stevens started making 311's in 1931, some 35-40 years before 3" ammo was available. There are several thousand old 311's in use today with short chambers. Doubles production started declining in favor of the semiautomatic in the 1960's. The last 15-20 years of production were made with 3" chambers but not many were made. Stevens finally gave up making their doubles in 1989.

I am sure that your reference is to the 311 H model produced the years just prior to their stopping production of doubles.

April 8, 2007, 07:20 PM
The Remington 870 Express Synthetic is chambered in 3" and Magazine capacity is seven 2 3/4" or 3" shells.


April 8, 2007, 09:07 PM
Glockman, we are aware that you are a Remington fan. Can't blame you. Fine gun. Some of those 870's of late were chambered for 3", especially your model. Thousands of 870's were produced before the 3" became available. The 3" ammo has been produced for over 30 years. Many, many hundreds of thousands of guns are being used today with short chambers. The younger folks have always had the 3" available in their lifetimes. Many of us old timers didn't have that luxury and really never used a 3" shell except in someone else's gun. I have a safe full of shotguns, over a dozen, and only one is chambered for 3" and that is a Nova 20 gauge that I bought recently. The remainder are older SKB's, Brownings, Franchis, and a sprinkling of other lesser brands. All are 2 3/4" and I have had most remarkable success in the field with them.

As a graduate gunsmith, I work on many older guns. They are mostly short chambered. Some are held together with tape and haywire. Quite a few have 3" shells shot through them. Never known one to blow unless it had a snoot full of mud. I don't recommend using the long glands in short chambers but it has been done on a regular basis with those old 311's without a blown barrel that I have seen.

April 8, 2007, 10:09 PM
Terry, check out item #69576028 on gunbroker.com for a visual on a 311 with short chambers. Also check out the other 2 3/4" 311's on their site.

April 9, 2007, 04:51 PM
Hi evbutler, yes I see now where the stevens 311 was made long ago after looking in the back of this blue book(if it can be trusted). Didn't really know they were that old of a model #. This book says they started prod. in 1926, but this book also has a lot of mistakes in it too, like showing 16 ga. models of some guns with 3" chambers. LOL. That's what I get for trusting the verbage of this book which only says "Stevens 311 SXS, 12,16,20ga., or .410 bore, 3 in. chambers, double triggers, extractors, VR. Disc. 1989". It also says the 311 was made from 1926-1945 in the serialization list in back of book, hah. Oh well,,,,,,,,,learned something from someone who knows. See ya'

April 9, 2007, 08:30 PM
Thanks, Terry. Us old geezers don't get much recognition. Appreciate your kind reply. Happy hunting!!


April 9, 2007, 09:32 PM
You're very welcome ev,,,,,,,from another freshly retired, "old geezer", see ya'

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