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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've got a few buddies that shoot 3 1/2" shells in their guns. I used to use them some. However the gun I used them in when I finally shot it at paper it seemed to do way better with the 3" 000 buckshot than it did with 3 1/2" 00 buckshot. I've started just using 3" shells and in my current shotgun since it will only shoot 3" shells I of course use them now.

When it comes to deer hunting is there actually any advantage to 3 1/2" shells? What about when it comes to other types of hunting/shooting? Are the 3 1/2" shells and guns just a marketing gimmick or is there actually a purpose for them?
 

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Keep in mind that the great bird shooting records of the 19th and early (1st half) of the 20th c. were mostly made with SxSs using 2 1/2-inch shells.

I'm talking about sporting, not market, records.
 

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I have used 3 1/2 shells for geese for a long time. In the past year I purchased a Beretta 3901 that only takes 3 inch shells. For the first week of the early Pa. goose season I decided to use the Beretta with 1 1/4 ounce BB Black Cloud Loads to see if I was handicapped by the 3 inch shells.

So far I have killed 11 geese and had no trouble at all downing them with the 3 inch shells. The recoil is much more comfortable though part of this is due to the gas operated Beretta vs the 870 Remington Super Magnum. Week 2 will start tomorrow and the 3 inch gun is already in my truck.

Incidentally the BB Black Clouds pattern well with the standard Beretta modified chock.

Another advantage of 3 inch guns is they will usually shoot lighter weight skeet loads better than 3 1/2 inch guns so one can practice on clay birds with the same gun he will use for hunting.
 

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Ed Atts said:
Another advantage of 3 inch guns is they will usually shoot lighter weight skeet loads better than 3 1/2 inch guns so one can practice on clay birds with the same gun he will use for hunting.
In general, that's true, but I haven't found a shell yet that an Xtrema II can't cycle...
 

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As far as deer hunting goes, I wouldn't know. I've bought some 3.5" buckshot shells, but just kind of on a lark. If you were using #1 shot or a smaller size it might be an advantage due to as drsfmd said having more shot in the air. It isn't as profound as an advantage using 00 or 000 size shot.

As far as waterfowl goes, I like 3.5" shells with steel. OK, I don't really like them, but that's what I use. I'm not willing to pay premium prices for high density shot. I use 3.5" #2 for ducks, and I use a 10g for geese and turkeys. A lot of guys don't subscribe to my point of veiw, and that's OK. I find that I get denser patterns and more humane kills with larger size shells.
 

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NMduckslayer said:
I'm not willing to pay premium prices for high density shot.
I used to think the same thing, but I've changed my mind. If I can spend $1.00 on a shell that kills on the first shot, or $.50 on a shell that cripples and requires two more "swats" to kill the bird, which makes more economic sense?
 

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Each load, choke, and gun combination will yeild different results. It would take far more than one example to rule out one factor that affects the outcome.

For waterfowling, the advantage of the 3 1/2" shell is more than just the added speed or load weight compared to the 3". You can go up a pellet size with the bigger shell and keep the same or more pellet count as the smaller load with a smaller shot size with the same or more muzzle velocity. The larger pellet will also retain it's speed better than the smaller one down range.

For waterfowling the longer shell is much more versatile as it gives you more combinations of speed, load weight, and shot size.

You can go the more dense load route as well. The end result is more pellets and more pellet energy like what a 3 1/2" steel load does. The trade off's are the more dense loads are usually around two dollars per shell for the less expensive ones. The advantage is they usually put out the same amount of pellets and energy with a little less recoil.
 

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I agree with Drsfmd about cost of non tox shells in the long run. I used to shoot 3.5" shells until one day the recoil knocked me back to my senses and I haven't shot a 3.5" shell since. They dang sure won't make you a better shooter. If you know how to shoot stick with 3".
 

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drsfmd said:
Ed Atts said:
Another advantage of 3 inch guns is they will usually shoot lighter weight skeet loads better than 3 1/2 inch guns so one can practice on clay birds with the same gun he will use for hunting.
In general, that's true, but I haven't found a shell yet that an Xtrema II can't cycle...
My supermag cycles 2.75 just as well as 3.5. :D

I only use 3.5's for turkeys to make up for my calling abilities. With 3in shells if that tom hangs up at 50yds all you can do is cuss, with a 3.5 he's dead. I'm not a waterfowler so I'll take everyones word for that. As far as buckshot goes your looking at 18 pellets vs 12 @ roughly the same velocity. If 12 does the job then great. I guess it's all about using what you are comfortable with. There's been many a tom fall to 2.75 loads and many a whitetail fall to a 30-30. You don't NEED a 3.5" gun or a .300 ultra mag. Use whatever gets the job done.
 

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drsfmd said:
I can't answer the deer hunting part, as we can't use buckshot for hunting in NY. The only advantage to 3.5 is more shot in the air...
For more shot in the air, you take a healthy wack on the shoulder from recoil,I have to ask is the pain worth the gain. I stay with 3" for my shooting & I dont feel I am at a disavantage.

A500R
 

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For buckshot, they are OK. But since 3 1/2 inch barrels are generally "overbore" (wider by 10 or 15 thousandths), they probably won't shoot slugs as accurately, unless you buy a slug barrel. Overbore may be "good" for shot loads, but it pays hell with slugs.

BobK
 

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Skeeter1804 said, "They dang sure won't make you a better shooter."

A local guide brings clients to our ranch to hunt geese over decoys. The birds can be shot within 10-25 yards and many of the hunters use 3 1/2" 12 gauge shotguns. According to the guide the big guns are unnecessary and he says that more than half can't hit the birds hanging over the decoys regardless of what they shoot.
 

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I have had a Beretta 391 Extrema 2 for several years. I like the gun very much, but I have used 3.5" shells very sparingly. I still have almost 2 of the 3 boxes I bought at the same time that I picked up the gun.

Since I hunt almost exclusively over decoys on private lands, I rarely feel that I need to shoot past 40 yards. I think that 3.5" shells promote skybusting and very few shooters can consistently make 50 yard shots on waterfowl regardless of their equipment. If you are going to buy this sort of shotgun to shoot long shots, you need to practice on long shots on clays and learn to judge distances before you hunt with a 3.5" shells.

I agree with wyobirds. The average is about 6 shells per duck. Far too few hunters practice and work to improve their shooting and distance judging skills.

I cannot speak to the buck shot issue. We do not permit buck shot for deer in Kansas.
 

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Being a hunter for 24 years and actually being concerned with the humane dispatch of the game that I pursue, I choose to use 3.5" shells because they offer the fullest pattern posible. 3" shells don't come close.

Knowing how to shoot and take game in a humane manner, I can't imagine a scenario where a non-slob hunter would want to use a thinner patterning shell than one that is available to them.

I have tried 3" shells, but where I hunt in New Mexico I have found that birds don't really decoy at all and one is forced to take passing shots or go jump shooting. I wish that I lived in a place where birds came and landed in your lap, but that's just not the case here.

Being the friendliest board on the net, I find it odd to see people posting things like you don't need 3.5" shells if you know how to shoot. That would be like me saying you could use 3.5" shells if you weren't such a total wimp.
 

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Hey, NMducks, take a deep breath - perhaps you're reading too much into posts.

I think we all agree that we all want humane kills and not just wounded critters who die a miserable death.

And there are very few places (I cannot name one) that have birds landing in your lap.

I shoot upland with 2 1/2 or 2 5/8-inch shells and do pretty well. But I practice.

Waterfowl 2 3/4 inch. But I practice and I just do not take the "long shot" - I am not hunting for family food but for sport and I try to keep that in mind.

If you want to take the long shots at 50 or so yards then the bigger shells are needed but practice is also needed.

By your account I am a slob.
 

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astomb said:
I think that 3.5" shells promote skybusting and very few shooters can consistently make 50 yard shots on waterfowl regardless of their equipment.
Maybe for some but, the same should also then be said for the more dense loads and the 10 gauge.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
NMduckslayer said:
Being a hunter for 24 years and actually being concerned with the humane dispatch of the game that I pursue, I choose to use 3.5" shells because they offer the fullest pattern posible. 3" shells don't come close.

Knowing how to shoot and take game in a humane manner, I can't imagine a scenario where a non-slob hunter would want to use a thinner patterning shell than one that is available to them.

I have tried 3" shells, but where I hunt in New Mexico I have found that birds don't really decoy at all and one is forced to take passing shots or go jump shooting. I wish that I lived in a place where birds came and landed in your lap, but that's just not the case here.

Being the friendliest board on the net, I find it odd to see people posting things like you don't need 3.5" shells if you know how to shoot. That would be like me saying you could use 3.5" shells if you weren't such a total wimp.
I simply chose not to use them due to the fact the 000 buckshot which I can only find in 3" patterned a lot better in the shotgun I had. I didn't have anything against 3.5" shells and for waterfoul I may have found loads that patterned better if I had tried who knows. I wasn't trying to down them just asking if there was a purpose for them. Sorry if anyone thought I was trying to down 3.5" shells.
 

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NMduckslayer:
I am sorry that those of us who choose not to shoot 3.5" shells upset you.

I feel that I am using the right shells and equipment for our hunting conditions. We have well trained and experienced retrievers and we rarely have a duck or goose that is downed and not retrieved. The key things are that we work on our shooting all year long and we restrict our shots to a known killing range.

I used to keep a record of our shells shot and birds harvested. I quit doing it several years ago because it was misunderstood. One thing that stuck in my mind though was that we all had several prefect hunts each year. By a perfect hunt, I mean one shot per duck harvested. I do not think that we could do that so often if we were under gunned with 3" shells.

One more thing......... If you can pattern the ducks well enough to pass shoot, why can't you decoy them where they roost, loaf or feed?

I do not want to start a long squabble over this issue, but I see no reason to switch to heavier loads when we are this effective.
 

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I spend alot of time patterning a buckshot gun and if I can use a shell that starts out with 3 more pellets(15 vs. 18)thats what I choose, if it patterns well. I just started using a 3 1/2, Both 3.5" guns I have patterned shot really well with Remington 00 out of an extra-full choke. A jelly head in my SBE2 and an undertaker in my dads 870. Both will throw 13-14" patterns at 40 yards. However, that 3" 000 load is a goodun', if thats what mine shot best then thats what I'd use. Those 000 pellets are alot bigger than a 00, and pack alot more per-pellet energy.
 
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