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The thing that seems to be overlooked here is the original reason for the 3-1/2.... steel shot. Steel is lighter (less dense, actually) than lead, so a larger hull would allow you to get the same WEIGHT of shot that you had with lead in a 3 incher.

Once you start putting lead or Tungsten or bismuth shot in a 3-1/2, the shot charge gets so heavy that the muzzle velocity starts to drop - remember, you're limited by max pressure, and the heavier the shot charge, the slower it's going to be. Some of this limitation has been overcome with powders designed for a LONG burn, holding max pressure longer, so the velocity doesn't drop as much. There is a nasty side effect, however; like Scotty used to say on Star Trek, "I canno' disobey the laws of physics, Cap'n" - Recoil.

I used to shoot 3 inch steel for ducks; now I shoot 2-3/4 with 1-1/2 oz of #4, and I only use the 3 inchers (with #2 HS) for geese. The bottom line? I don't really see the advantage to the 3-1/2 inchers - the recievers on the 3-1/2 inch guns are so long that the guns don't seem to balance correctly, the guns are more expensive than the same gun in 3 inch, and, despite what some people seem to think, I don't believe the effective range is any greater than what you get with a 3 inch load.

Now all you 3-1/2 inch lovers can jump to the defense of your beloved cannons - but I notice that most of you have one funny shoulder.
 
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