3-shot limit?


November 21, 2010, 07:20 PM
So if some of you read my intro post on the social section. I came into a few interesting guns. Two of which were shotguns. A model 1897 12ga and a NIB model 1200. Reading through the 1200 literature it mentions a 3-shot limit for bird hunting or something similar. And detailed how to remove the wooden plug that limited the number of shells that could be loaded.

Now onto the interesting discovery. The 1897 has seen 111 years of use and abuse. I was attempting a complete tear down today to clean and inspect the parts in preparation for a total restoration. Some of the roll pins are being stubborn and a few parts such as the trigger spring are MIA or broken.

When I pulled out the cartridge spring I found a 10" long wooden dowel inside. This limited its capacity to 3 shots as well. Was this a common thing in the 50's - 70's? I am just trying to figure out why someone would do such a thing. And is this still an enforced law in places?

Here's a photo.

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November 21, 2010, 07:36 PM
Federal migratory birds - waterfowl, dove, etc., require a plug in the gun to limit the shots - this dates back to the days of market hunters and others who obliterated entire flocks with high-capacity magazines or large bore "punt" guns.

It's a Federal thing

November 21, 2010, 07:52 PM
It's a Federal thing
Yep. The magazine MUST be incapable of holding more than 2 rounds for a total of 3 rounds (one in the chamber)when hunting migratory birds.

November 21, 2010, 07:58 PM
Ok, makes sense. I guess that means someone was using the '97 for bird hunting. The only pigeons I will be chasing will be clay, so out it goes. Unless the clay variety migrate these days.... ;)


November 21, 2010, 08:16 PM
Not only for migratory but until a few years ago in AZ we were only allowed 3 rounds (2 mag one in chamber) for small game, now it is four plus one. I used a number two pencil for years in my 870 and have seen a bunch of tree branches and wood dowels in some of the old shotguns I have acquired.

November 21, 2010, 09:30 PM
I've taken whittled twigs out of a couple of my Model 97's. You can usually hear them sliding back and forth when you tilt the gun. They sure can collect some crud while in there, too.

Hope this helps.


November 21, 2010, 09:39 PM
Yup, Thanks! I was just ignorant of that law. So I was a little confused when I pulled the stick out. But now I am enlightened! Now I just have to figure out what parts are still usable like the barrel.

November 22, 2010, 01:36 AM
The 3 round limit was started because of waterfowl hunting. But many, if not most states will limit you to 3 rounds for all small game hunting. It makes enforcement much easier. A duck hunter getting checked could easily claim he was actually quail hunting. Nevermind the decoys and duck calls in his possesion. A game warden may well know he was trying to duck hunt with no plug in his gun, but it makes enforcement and prosecution more difficult.

November 22, 2010, 02:06 AM
There is a 3 shell limit for deer here in Ohio also. I made my own plug for my pump that looks almost exactly like the top one in the picture.

November 22, 2010, 07:21 AM
But many, if not most states will limit you to 3 rounds for all small game hunting. I have nothing to prove it but I would think the opposite would be true. That states which limit small game hunting to only 3 rounds are in the minority.

November 22, 2010, 07:25 AM
Replacment plugs, are made of plastic, are length adjustable and can be bought at WalMart stores (and similar) for less than 5 bucks. Many a magazine spring has been ruined by a make-shift tube plug (whittled green twig).

November 22, 2010, 09:46 AM
"Is this still an enforced law in places?"

Here in Illinois, get caught with an unplugged gun and Department of Conservation can arrest you, seize your gun, boat, trailer, truck, ammo, dog, and anything else you might have stashed on your person.

If you are convicted you MIGHT get your dog back,,,,

When I was living in Texas, I used to shoot jackrabbits for dog food for a rancher friend of mine on his property.
My weapon of choice?
An eight shot Winchester 1300 Defender riot gun, no plug.

November 22, 2010, 09:58 AM
I should add some more here.
Back at the turn of the last century most waterfowl hunters were using double guns.
The newfangled pump and even newer semi auto guns were looked upon with disdain as the guns of mass kill market hunters.

Hunters actually got into gun battles and were killed or wounded because they showed up on the rivers and waterways toting a Winchester 1897 or Auto 5 shotguns.

Blue Line
November 22, 2010, 10:44 AM
well I guess the double guns were at a disadvantage since the Auto 5 had three shells:confused:

I think there is a distict difference between a duck hunter and a quail hunter. The only limit I'm aware of is for migartory birds(duck/geese) not quail or squirrel hunting. Although I dont live in IL but I feel sorry for that guy.

November 22, 2010, 10:49 AM
Some states have the three shot limit for shotguns for hunting all upland game. California is one. Since I moved from there 16 years ago, they may have changed the law and require loading marshmellows for all hunting now............

Hope this helps.


Pete D.
November 22, 2010, 11:09 AM
Pennsylvania = three shot limit for migratory birds and small game - for hunting in general. No semi-auto pistols or rifles allowed at all.

November 22, 2010, 11:26 AM
I've just kind of always accepted the 3 shell limit as universal for all huntable game. Never bothered to check otherwise.

Carl N. Brown
November 22, 2010, 12:06 PM
Around here it is two+one for most bird game, not limited for big game, but my slug/brush gun is plugged anyway for versatility.

A friend of a relative got in trouble using a 3.5" pump plugged for two rounds of 3.5": an over zealous game warden was able to stuff three 2 3/4" shells in it and fined him.

November 22, 2010, 06:27 PM
BlueLine the three shot limit on shotguns is in effect for all hunting here.
The 3 shot limit came into effect sometime around the 1930s when market hunting became illegal.

Prior to the law, hunters would load the guns to full capacity.

Here in Illinois, there is no capacity limit on hunting RIFLES, nor is there a caliber restriction on private land though you cannot hunt with a centerfire or rimfire rifle for deer, only shotguns, rifled barrel or smoothbore-3 shot limit, blackpowder muzzleloading rifles, single shot or double rifles OK, and handguns-minimum caliber restriction-no semi autos.

I use an AR15 and a .243 Winchester Model 70 for Coyote and fox and have shot raccoons with an M1 Garand here.
In years past I have used .30 Carbine, .22/250, .250 Savage, and .22 K-Hornet so all is not bad.

Blue Line
November 23, 2010, 06:28 AM
My in-laws live in central IL. That FOID stuff you have out there is stupid:banghead:.

November 23, 2010, 07:02 AM
Here in Alabama the 3 shell limit for shotguns is the federal regulation for migratory birds only. No magazine restriction for small/upland game,deer or turkey. There is an 11 round rifle limit on some WMAs.

November 23, 2010, 08:01 AM
In CA there is a three round limit when hunting big game with slugs even though you can have more rounds than that when hunting with a rifle. :confused:

November 23, 2010, 11:03 AM
Blue Line, it most absolutely is.
I used to think of the FOID as a drivers license for guns but now consider the darn thing an imposition that serves no purpose other than generating income for a poorly managed and wasteful state government.

November 24, 2010, 02:12 AM
I just love the fact that I am limited to 3 round when I am only allowed to take 4 birds.

It's a stupid law that makes no sense. If you are only allowed to shoot 1 goose a plug won't matter because if you shoot more you are poaching. A plug does nothing to deter poaching, or whatever the stupid law was made for.

BTW. How about some pics of the guns? We like pictures.

November 24, 2010, 07:42 PM
Here are a few quick shots that I had on the computer. I currently dissembled the '97 for a full cleaning/repair. I think I am going to re-blue everything and replace things like the trigger spring that are either broken or missing.

Should be a fun project.

November 24, 2010, 08:03 PM
In CA there is a three round limit when hunting big game with slugs even though you can have more rounds than that when hunting with a rifle.


The capacity depends on the species being hunted.
The trick is "game" mammal or bird.
The limit for shotguns is a 5 round magazine as the statute says no more than 6 (5+1) for some non-game species.
So some non-game species can be taken with a 5 round magazine.


California outdoors Q and A
Ask DFG about hunting, fishing and wildlife conservation

Are target shooters limited to the 3-round max shell capacity?

Question: My friends and I were arguing over whether or not recreational shotgun shooters (skeet/trap) are bound in the same way as game hunters by the 3-round maximum shell capacity restriction. I also cannot find any Fish and Game regulations as to whether this holds true for nongame species (such as coyotes). Only game mammals and birds are listed specifically. (Ken)

Answer: Regulations regarding magazine capacity only apply when “taking” game birds and/or mammals (California Code of Regulations Title 14, sections 311, 353 and 507). The 3-round shell restriction does not apply when using a shotgun to take furbearing or nongame species, or when shooting targets, skeet/trap, sporting clays, etc. (CCR Title 14, sections 465 and 475).

Fish and Game Code section 2010 does limit shotguns to no more than six shells when taking “any bird or mammal” and there are Penal Code sections restricting large capacity firearms. Additional information regarding large capacity firearms is available from the Bureau of Firearms Web site at http://ag.ca.gov/firearms/.

So 2 round shotgun magazine limit for some things, 5 round shotgun magazine limit for others, and 10 round shotgun magazine limit (unless pre-ban magazines) for self defense at your "temporary residence" camp.
Yet you can have the legal 10 round limit for a rifle for most hunting (no limit with pre-ban magazines).

Yes I have always thought it was strange.
Shotguns are more restricted than rifles.

November 24, 2010, 09:08 PM
"...Was this a common thing in the 50's - 70's?..." Long before then. The Migratory Bird Acts date from 1913.
You'll note that some U.S. States and Canadian Provinces have decided that the 3 round rule applies for hunting anything. You have to know what your State hunting regs say. It is a hunting thing only though.
"...total restoration...going to re-blue everything..." Don't. It'll drop the value by half. You notice the cracked stock?

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