3" vs 3 1/2" Pros and Cons

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3" vs 3 1/2" Pros and Cons

Postby dtk913 » January 2nd, 2010, 5:45 am

I am wondering what people think the advantages and/or disadvantages of each load are?


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RE: 3" vs 3 1/2" Pros and Cons

Postby mark hay » January 2nd, 2010, 6:05 am

Well presently I'm still using a 12 ga ,,,and shoot 2 3/4 inch turkey loads . With the advance of the loads made for 20 ga. and shot loads per shell being on the same as many 12 ,,2 3/4"  ,,,,combined with a lighter gun , and many claiming excellent patterns out to 40 yards ,,,,I just might change over to the 20 .
 I realize I have not addressed the ''advantages or disadvantages '' of the 3" or 3 1/2" , but will offer this point . I hunt the woods and strive to set up in closer quarters with the birds . Basically , the way I hunt , neither the 3 or 3.5 would improve at all over the 1 5/8 oz.  ,  12 ga. I use now . Plus my old neck bones tend to get out of wack from the heavy recoil of the longer , heavier loads .
 However , my step-son uses a long chambered Mossberg 835 . With the present choke tube ( which I fail to recall exactly what it is ) his gun shoots about even up on patterns with the 3" or 3.5 ". He generally shoots the 3 " .
Oh yeah ,,,,WELCOME ,,,from Ohio

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RE: 3" vs 3 1/2" Pros and Cons

Postby allaboutshooting » January 2nd, 2010, 6:28 am

Hey Dan,

Welcome to the T&TH forum. We look forward to hearing more from you.

As I'm sure you know, the development of the 3.5" chambered 12 gauge shotgun was as a result of the U.S. mandate to use non-toxic shot for waterfowl hunting. Federal & Mossberg worked together to produce the shells and the gun.

Steel loads, the only alternative to lead at the time, were very inefficient and it was thought that the only solution to the problem was more shot. It probably was, at that time.

We turkey hunters applied the same thought process to our shooting, again turkey loads/chokes/guns were not as efficient as they are today, and many adopted the 3.5" guns. Shotshell manufacturers and shotgun manufacturers saw that as a good way to sell more guns and shotshells and quickly jumped on that bandwagon.

Some 22 years later, the sport of turkey hunting has grown exponentially and many modern hunters accept the 3.5" gun as the standard. Some will feel that going to the turkey woods with anything less than a 3.5" gun, loaded with 3.5" shells, is not even appropriate.

Mark however has pointed out very well that a 2.75" shell is more than adequate to cleanly kill turkeys at all reasonable ranges. It's really all about knowing your gun, your shell, your choke and your own ability. You can only learn that from taking your combo to the patterning board. You don't have to become a "patterning junkie" and spend lots of money trying different chokes and shells, just see what works for you at the distance you're comfortable shooting.

Lastly, to try to answer your question directly, it's been my experience that a 3" shell patterns more efficiently (evenly and consistently) than a 3.5" shell. It also costs less and has much less punishing recoil than the 3.5" shell.

I see little if any need for a 3.5" shell, unless you intend to shoot waterfowl and use steel shot. Even then, with modern steel loads and improved chokes for those loads, you can do anything that you need with a 3" shell today.

These are my thoughts, based on my experiences with different shells. I hope that helps some.

"If he's out of range, it just means that he has another day and so do you."

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RE: 3" vs 3 1/2" Pros and Cons

Postby 1Morgan » January 3rd, 2010, 6:30 am

3.5"=ouch and $$
3"= just as dead of a bird and teeth all in place.
South Carolina Low Country

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RE: 3" vs 3 1/2" Pros and Cons

Postby Redbelly » January 3rd, 2010, 6:44 am

I can say the birds I shot with 3.5" were just as dead as the ones shot with 3" shells.
Oh, the recoil? I never felt it with either shell.

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RE: 3" vs 3 1/2" Pros and Cons

Postby Duke0002 » January 3rd, 2010, 7:41 am

I've used the 2 3/4 Winchester Xpress regular game load with #5s for nearly all my birds.  My longest shot was 38 yds and the bird was dead on arrival.  I back it up with 3" #4s, but haven't had to use it.

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RE: 3" vs 3 1/2" Pros and Cons

Postby grizzly » January 3rd, 2010, 8:33 am

welcome dan when i first started turkey i heard all the old stories on how you needed a lot of gun so i went out and bought a 10 guage i olny used it two years and fired it maybe 10 times then i got a mossbreg 500 turkey gun in 12 . i used 3 inch shells in every thing form 4 shot to 6 shot. right now i'm using a 20 shooting a 3 inch shell . i will say this if you have no problem with recoil i feel a 12 guage is the best gun for hunting turkeys because there is a lot bigger choice of shells  and as for 3 vs 31/2 i have never had a reason to shoot 3 1/2 to much recoil and to much money[:D] wayne

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RE: 3" vs 3 1/2" Pros and Cons

Postby heinzc » January 3rd, 2010, 10:00 am

The two problems I had with the 3.5" out of my 835 was the purple and black shoulder, and a lot of stray pellets.  It appeared that with the tru-glo choke I had in the gun squeezed the shot to much and caused knuckle balling of some of the pattern (sometimes out to three foot away from center).  3" got rid of the black and blue, and killed the birds dead at 35 yards.  Now i prefer 1 1/2" (cut) on the end of a Easton 2117.  No black and blue.[:D]

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RE: 3" vs 3 1/2" Pros and Cons

Postby eggshell » January 3rd, 2010, 1:40 pm

Here is my Opinions in gun and shell choice.

#1. Desired Killing range dictates the choice more than anything, but a 3.5" inch shell does not significantly enough increase that to persuade me to pack the extra weight and take the thumping. To me 50 yards is the outside limit, even if your using a cannon. If I could use a rifle I wouldn't, because calling the bird in range is more the hunt than killing it; they really aren't a difficult target standing still in range. The most basically skilled hunter can shoot one if he's in range.

#2. It's all about discipline.....if you can hold out for a nice close shot of 30 yards or less than you can shoot just about any  magnum shell and the results will be good if it patterns good from your gun. Take that discipline a little further and say 20yards or less and literally any gauge or shell will work, period.

#3. As for me I feel I've done what I want if he's inside 50 yards, so I choose a 3" heavy shot in 12 ga. in #5s. The knockdown power of the heavy shot is enough difference to kill those long birds when a standard load may not, but the 3" is still plenty of power. Don't get me wrong, if he's coming I let him come closer, but I seldom let one inside 25 yards if I can help  it. I feel 25 -30 yards is maximum pattern density with a sufficiently expanded pattern to allow a little aiming error and the load is still carrying premium velocity and impact at that distance. With a steady aim there are very few survivors at those ranges!

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RE: 3" vs 3 1/2" Pros and Cons

Postby mossyman835 » January 3rd, 2010, 7:19 pm


3.5"=ouch and $$
3"= just as dead of a bird and teeth all in place.

The cost of the longer loads is not a whole lot. It's around $0.15 to $0.20 per shell for similar waterfowl loads and around $0.30 for the turkey loads. Even the cost between the guns themselves is not a huge margin is a one-time deal if you buy a quality model.


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