3.5"... yay or nay?


December 29, 2012, 09:31 PM
So I've never really been hunting with any of my shotguns, but I've been really getting into them lately. I'm looking for a clay/turkey/duck gun, and I'm between an 870 or Nova. I'm not looking for opinions on the guns themselves, but I want some opinions on whether I should go 3.5" or 3" chamber? I currently don't have a 3.5" chambered gun, and I'm thinking that for my "do-all" gun, 3.5" would be good. But then, I know a lot of guys don't bother with it. Recoil and cost of 3.5" loads don't bother me, so I'd just like to know how much practical advantage they offer. Also, do you think an extra $50 or so dollars on the gun for the 3.5" chamber is worth it? Thanks!

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December 29, 2012, 09:40 PM

There is no need in the world for a 3 1/2" 12 ga shotgun, unless you like to sky-bust geese and miss them with steel shot, while getting both your shoulder and your bank account broke.

In the mean time, you are trying to learn to hit something with a longer & heavier then necessary pump-action shotgun that you will be shooting 2 3/4" shells in 99.9% of the time.

Recoil of 3.5" loads don't bother meYou might think it doesn't.

But it most certainly does!!!


December 29, 2012, 09:54 PM
What he said. They offer no practical advantage. No harm buying a 3.5" gun, but stick to 3" mags. A 10 ga. works better for throwing more lead (steel) out there. Just my opinion.

December 29, 2012, 09:55 PM
Kinda what I was hoping to hear... Thanks guys, it's appreciated!

December 29, 2012, 10:05 PM
What RC said. The 3.5" (and I have one ) is for a very specific purpose, shooting steel shot at geese, and hevishot at Turkeys. The 3" is cheaper, just about as effective, and recoils MUCH less. If you really need a 3.5" you will know it.
The 3.5 was conceived when steel shot was mandated. Goose hunters who were killing geese at 45 yards with lead were crippling them with steel at 35 yards. The ensuing cry changed the shot size from 4 or 2 lead, to BB or T steel, not enough room In a 3" for much shot. Bismuth, Hevishot, and tungsten changed back the paradigm to a nice handling 3" gun.
Unless you are an anal Turkey hunter with high tolerance to recoil (and I r one). Skip 3.5"

December 29, 2012, 10:17 PM
My experience is, if I can't kill a turkey DRT every year with a 2 /3/4" mag turkey load?

I didn't wait long enough to get him inside 50 yards in the first place.

The last 10-15 years, I could have killed every one of them with an 1 1/8 oz #7 1/2 Trap Load!

They will make Turkey head mush at 35-40 yards as well or better then a $2.00 bucks a pop Super-Duper Turkey loads sold in those little fancy boxes with a turkey pictures on them!


December 29, 2012, 10:36 PM
I'll join the chorus. I cannot think of a single reason to use them on turkey or ducks. On geese maybe. I've owned guns in the past that would chamber them and tried a few just to satisfy my curiosity. With lead turkey loads you are talking close to 458 win mag recoil levels. There isn't a turkey I want to kill bad enough to put up with that much recoil.

Steel shot loads have a pretty stout recoil from the 3.5" shells, but it is more reasonable. I don't goose hunt much, just take a shot if one comes into range while duck hunting. Even if I were to specifically hunt geese I'd rather spend the extra for some of the more expensive non-toxic shot in 2 3/4" or 3" lengths.

For the guy who does a lot of goose hunting and is buying shells by the case, the 3.5" steel shot starts to make some sense. They are a lot cheaper than buying the other non-toxic shells in shorter lengths.

Personally I wouldn't touch a 3.5" semi. I've yet to see or hear of one that was perfectly reliable with light 2 3/4" loads. I cannot see having a gun that will shoot the shells I'll rarely use, and sacrafice reliability with the ones I'll shoot most.

With some of the pumps such as the Benelli there is really no down side to it being chambered for 3.5" shells though. That is what I had. A good enough gun, but after firing a few I quickly learned that I had no use for the 3.5" shells. Does not mean I had to use them just because the gun was chambered for them.

December 30, 2012, 02:34 AM
Well, I will be the one then:evil:

I shoot a few boxes of 3 1/2" t's and 2's at geese every year and I will say they are worth it. If I was shooting lead as the "ol timers" did 2 3/4" would be aplenty but as it stands steel is the answer and you need more of a payload. Having said that, if your just getting a shotgun because do what ever you wish. If your going to duck and goose hunt then be prepared to step up to a 3 1/2" for the big skittish birds. I'm no expert but I would guess I have a few more days in the blind than most;)

December 30, 2012, 08:11 AM
I've been killing ducks and geese for years with 2 3/4" shells. Once in a while I'll shoot 3" and never really see a difference.....the birds are just as dead with 2 3/4".

December 30, 2012, 09:32 AM
A 3-1/2" gun will increase your kill range with the right loads. The question is, is it worth it to you, and/or do you need it?
I ran the gamut up to and including 10 gauges, and they were worth it to me, when steel was the only alternative. After tungsten came along, I have gone back to a 3" 12 gauge as the biggest thing in my battery. In Manitoba, I was killing the geese cleaner at range than my buddy with a 3-1/2" gun, but the Chesapeake we had along didn't lose any.
The whole turkey thing to me is about as overblown as "home defense". A 2-3/4" 12 will do it easily at 40 yards. I have never been able to get into shooting a bird on the ground since I used to have to strive to not run over the turkeys on the National Forest roads with my bike years ago, but I have a friend who slaps some bow tape on the barrels of his 20 gauge O/U every year, screws in Full choke tubes, and kills one or two turkeys.

December 30, 2012, 10:06 AM
In the mean time, you are trying to learn to hit something with a longer & heavier then necessary pump-action shotgun that you will be shooting 2 3/4" shells in 99.9% of the time.This.

I find pumps guns and steel receiver guns particularly cumbersome in 3.5" configuration, and poorly suited for clays and upland work.

December 30, 2012, 06:41 PM
What tactikel said. When hunting the refuges in central Cali. and shooting at goose on a clear day the edge goes to the 3 1/2" chamber; otherwise stay 3". Fast steel works better than slow steel; tungsten works better than both. Heaviest payload isn't the right solution; it is a speed / size / weight balance that counts.

I just wish I wasn't working most every day this waterfowl season....with the current two week weather pattern I would have been a happy camper.

December 30, 2012, 08:33 PM
I think they are worth it for geese with large steel shot, such as T. and as previously stated it depends on the conditions you hunt under.

Down here in South Texas where you may commonly have shots out to 60 yards at Geese landing in or just outside a 1000 rag/shell spread. The extra payload of T-Shot is worth it to me!

If your are up north where they aren't as educated, and you are taking them feet down at 20 yards with # 2's, then no!

I see no use for them on Ducks, in fact, I usually use 2 3/4 in. ammo on duck with excellent results!

I like owning a gun that will handle whatever you decide to feed it! My 870 supermag is that gun!

December 31, 2012, 01:06 AM
I vote 3-1/2"

I hunt ducks and geese all season here in Oregon. If you want a all around gun to ground sluce quail,grouse,or turkeys get a 2-3/4 or 3" you will save money all the way around. If duck birds is what your after then you would be foolish or dating yourself to say 2-3/4" shells are all you need. With steel shells and educated birds a 3-1/2" #2 smacks geese hard a 30 yds, if you pair it with a good choke it's deadly out to 40-45 yds.

If you don't hunt a lot or have a bill fold larger than mine "very likely" then bismuth or hevishot shells will be the ticket. I however am a horrible shot and I hunt 20-40 hrs per week during the height of the season and that dictates I shoot steel.:o

Just my opinion but I'm a waterfowler so take my scatter gun advice with a big grain of salt.

December 31, 2012, 01:29 AM
I shoot my share of ducks but I seldom hunt near water. There are places everywhere where waterfowl fly from their feeding areas to their nesting areas. This is known as pass shooting. Until you put a lot of pressure on the birds they will fly through the tops of the trees. Once they feel pressure the birds will fly so high you will need a helicopter. I never put that much pressure on the birds. Wood ducks are my favorite quarry and I only need 4 birds a year for holiday meals.

December 31, 2012, 01:33 AM
It's only 50 bucks more...Get it and forget it.

With that said, 20+ years ago when the Mossberg 835 turkey gun was all the rage I had to have one. I haven't put a box of 3.5's thru it it....3" has been all I really need.

December 31, 2012, 10:14 AM
It's only 50 bucks more...Get it and forget it.

With that said, 20+ years ago when the Mossberg 835 turkey gun was all the rage I had to have one. I haven't put a box of 3.5's thru it it....3" has been all I really need.
It wouldn't hurt to have one but I have always thought that if I couldn't kill it with a 3", I didn't need to be shooting at it.

December 31, 2012, 10:52 AM
Yes. Its nice to have the option of letting your buddy shoot a 3.5 OO Buck load out and put the video on youtube-

December 31, 2012, 11:12 AM
^^^^so, I'm not the only one to do that to a buddy....lol

December 31, 2012, 01:22 PM
I have a 3.5 Mossberg pump and the only real reason was that it was like new and dirt cheap. Son and I shot about 10 full power 3.5 loads through it and I was surprised how much more recoil there was. First box of 3.5 shells is going to last me a long time.

Sauer Grapes
December 31, 2012, 01:45 PM
Yeah, the recoil of 3.5" shells never bothered me either. As long as someone else was shooting them........lol.

December 31, 2012, 02:39 PM
Well, I'll likely get a 3.5" model for the reasons listed... costs marginally more, and I'll have the capability if I ever wanted it. Thanks guys!

December 31, 2012, 06:20 PM
I have a Mossberg 835 3.5 inch shotgun for turkey hunting. Why? It has an over bored barrel that throws amazing patterns. Despite all the talk about 3 inch shells shooting just as well I have never had a 3 inch shell out pattern a 3 1/2 inch shell through the same gun. Never, not once.

Recoil? Yeah it's bad shooting at paper targets when initially patterning the gun but I have never even noticed it when shooting a turkey. And once patterned there is little reason to fire more than one range shot a year to check your sights.

Here is why I love 3.5 inch shells out of this gun. Both of the patterns below will hold enough density to kill a gobbler to 50 yards easily.

Hevi 13 Number 6's 200 pellets in a 10 inch circle at 40 yards.


Hevi 13 Number 7's 285 pellets inside a 10 inch circle at 40 yards.


Gobblers hate this gun.


December 31, 2012, 07:02 PM
Grandson's and friends say you can beat 3.5" steel for geese,
And you know I'm into slug loading and it is 5 times easier to
make hairy slug loads with our slow powder loads, Extra capacity
allows for more powder and more wads to cushion which keeps
slug load pressures at magnum 12ga levels and less stress to
saboted slugs for better acurracy at high speeds.Ed

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