Is a 3-1/2-Inch 12-Gauge More Effective?

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Is a 3-1/2-Inch 12-Gauge More Effective?

Postby bilalarabaci » Mon Mar 03, 2014 12:52 pm

Hello everyone,

I've read this article a couple times. But I can't understand some of the test results:
"The Truth About Shotgun Ammo: 6 Questions Answered at Federal's High-Tech Range"
http://www.fieldandstream.com/articles/ ... hogun-ammo

"12-gauge, 3-inch, 1-1⁄4-ounce loads of Black Cloud steel BB shot at 1450 fps (Modified choke)
12-gauge, 3-1⁄2-inch, 1-1⁄2-ounce loads of Black Cloud steel BB shot at 1500 fps (Modified choke)"

I'm confused by this comparison.

First of all, I’d like to mention that I’m writing from Turkey. Our hunting and shooting habits are different from the United States. For example the popular hunts are partridges, woodcock, quail, dove, woodpigeon, hare and wildboar. Duck and goose hunts aren’t so popular because of the natural conditions. We go duck and goose hunts on some paddy fields. And we use only lead shots.
I’d like to translate this article (The Truth About Shotgun Ammo) into Turkish language and share with the Turkish hunters and shooters but the tests become meaningless in many ways.
For example, the 3-1/2 inch’s “brutal recoil”?!
My understanding about a 3-1/2 inch load is the cartridge that heavier than a 3 inch load.
The heaviest 3 inch (76 mm Magnum) shotgun (lead) load is 1-3/4 ounces (50 grams) in Turkish shooting market.
3-1/2 inch (89 mm) loads are generally called “Super Magnum” in Europe.
The most popular 3-1/2 inch (89 mm Super Magnum)lead load is 2-3/8 oz. (66 grams) in Turkey. And it is marketed as a cartridge that “prolonging range by 25 meters/yards” by Italian cartridge manufacturer Clever Mirage.
I’ve been looking at this comparison over and over again but I can’t figure it out.
"12-gauge, 3-inch, 1-1⁄4-ounce loads (36 grams) of Black Cloud steel BB shot at 1450 fps (Modified choke)
12-gauge, 3-1⁄2-inch, 1-1⁄2-ounce loads (42 grams) of Black Cloud steel BB shot at 1500 fps (Modified choke)"
Federal’s 3-1/2 inch loads are available on Cabelas.com:
1-5/8 oz. (46 grams)
1-1/2 oz. (42 grams)
1-3/8 oz. (38 grams)
Winchester’s 3-1/2 inch loads are:
1-5/8 oz (46 grams)
1-3/8 oz. (38 grams)
1-1/4 oz. (36 grams)
Remington’s 3-1/2 inch HyperSonic Steel Load is:
1-3/8 oz. (38 grams)

None of these 3-1/2 inch “89 mm Super Magnum” shells are heavier than the heaviest 3 inch (76 mm Magnum) 1-3/4 oz. (50 grams) lead load.
I understand that a 1-3/8 oz. (38 grams) lead load have higher recoil than a 1-1/8 oz. (32 grams) lead load (the most common field load for partridges, woodcocks and quails). Basically, heavier load needs more gun powder than a lighter load does. And it causes a more recoil. Interestingly these 1-3/8 oz. (38 grams) and 1-1/8 oz. (32 grams) loads both have the 2-3/4 inch (70 mm) cartridge case.
So why do we need extra longer cartridge case although the weight of shots are the same?!
Where is the secret of increased recoil on 3-1/2 inch load even though they are lighter than the heaviest 3 inch magnum load?
So, where does this “brutal recoil” come from?
Because of the Lead shot versus Steel shot differences?
The type of gun powder differences?
The amount of gun powder differences?
The increased pressure of the cartridge that needed to open the longer case (crimp) when gun is fired or something?
If we shot a 1-3/8 oz. (38 grams) shell why do we need extra longer cartridge case?
Why the same amount of load can cause more recoil in longer 3-1/2 inch cartridge case?
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Re: Is a 3-1/2-Inch 12-Gauge More Effective?

Postby Jim Atlas » Mon Mar 03, 2014 1:41 pm

Yes, steel is different than lead. And yes these loads use more powder.
!&1/2 oz of steel shot takes up more space than 1&1/2 oz of lead shot. Thus the longer hull is needed to fit it.
Because it takes up more space, it requires more pressure to move it through the barrel. Think of how hard it is too push a sock through a pipe compaired to a ball. The sock may not weigh as much, but has more surface area contacting the pipe, and therefore more resistance.
On top of that, that 1&1/2 oz of steel shot is being pushed at 1500 fps--way faster than the a 1&1/2 oz of lead would be in a 2&3/4" load, right?
Add it all up, it makes for quite a lot more recoil.
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Re: Is a 3-1/2-Inch 12-Gauge More Effective?

Postby mudpack » Mon Mar 03, 2014 3:42 pm

Are the 3.5" loads more effective than the 3" loads? Maybe, in some cases.
Are 3" load more effective than 2 3/4" loads? Maybe, in some cases.

I have noticed that many of the guys who vehemently claim that the 3.5" loads are "unnecessary" would not shoot 2 3/4" loads if they were free. Sounds a bit inconsistent to me, but what do I know?
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Re: Is a 3-1/2-Inch 12-Gauge More Effective?

Postby z51 » Mon Mar 03, 2014 4:07 pm

In most guns and chokes the 3 1/2" will give you improved pattern density. Only way to know for sure is pattern your gun with your chosen load. If that not possible the big twelve usually wins.
The "brutal" recoil of the 3 1/2" is way overstated in my opinion. People also tend to lump together all 3 1/2" loads. I shoot 1 3/8 oz at 1550 fps most of the time and the recoil is very manageable. However, I only shoot them when I feel they are really needed ie. pass shooting geese or hunting ducks in open water in winds above 10 mph. I also shoot a fairly heavy gas auto with a good recoil pad, the Winchester SX 2. The rest of the time I shoot lighter loads.

To hunt the game you list I don't see the need for the 3 1/2" load.
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Re: Is a 3-1/2-Inch 12-Gauge More Effective?

Postby Theduckguru » Mon Mar 03, 2014 4:16 pm

If you goal is to shoot waterfowl at maximum ranges with shot sizes >#3, 3.5" rounds are better choice than 3".
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Re: Is a 3-1/2-Inch 12-Gauge More Effective?

Postby 3200 man » Mon Mar 03, 2014 6:58 pm

Not more effective than a 10 ga with the same payload and the recoil is less in the 10 ga :thumbsup:

A 12 ga is better suited with 3 " shells and smaller shot sizes than a 10 ga , Though !
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Re: Is a 3-1/2-Inch 12-Gauge More Effective?

Postby On the X » Mon Mar 03, 2014 7:28 pm

3200 man wrote:Not more effective than a 10 ga with the same payload and the recoil is less in the 10 ga :thumbsup:

A 12 ga is better suited with 3 " shells and smaller shot sizes than a 10 ga , Though !

Or you can just shoot 3in HM. Had to throw that in lol
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Re: Is a 3-1/2-Inch 12-Gauge More Effective?

Postby TexasGeese » Mon Mar 03, 2014 7:54 pm

It can be more effective, but its not always the case. I would put shooting skills and confidence in the load over shell length.
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Re: Is a 3-1/2-Inch 12-Gauge More Effective?

Postby Theduckguru » Mon Mar 03, 2014 8:00 pm

3200 man wrote:Not more effective than a 10 ga with the same payload and the recoil is less in the 10 ga :thumbsup:

A 12 ga is better suited with 3 " shells and smaller shot sizes than a 10 ga , Though !


If you take a 10 ga and 12 ga load with the same payload and velocity, and shoot them in guns with the same weight and action, you wont be able to tell the difference in recoil.
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Re: Is a 3-1/2-Inch 12-Gauge More Effective?

Postby On the X » Mon Mar 03, 2014 8:38 pm

TexasGeese wrote:It can be more effective, but its not always the case. I would put shooting skills and confidence in the load over shell length.

You can add restraint to this statement as well
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Re: Is a 3-1/2-Inch 12-Gauge More Effective?

Postby 10gaOkie » Mon Mar 03, 2014 9:03 pm

I am just like everyone else, I hunt with the load that stacks the cards in my favor. Which in turn, gives me the best success rate. I shoot a 12ga SBE that has 3 1/2" chamber. But my goto load is a 1 1/8oz payload of #2 regular steel in a 2 3/4" hull. I not only use this load for ducks over decoys but pass shooting geese as well. My success rate on geese is no less with this load than with my 10ga shooting 1 1/2oz payloads. My only limitation with the 12ga is range as slightly over 50 yards is my limit and the 10ga with its bigger load and pellets gives me another 10 yards or so. With my 3.5" 12ga handloads, I can get really nice patterns at 50 yards, but I am limited by low vels, just barely hitting 1300fps. With the 10ga I can get adequate vels with the big payloads of bigger pellets.

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Re: Is a 3-1/2-Inch 12-Gauge More Effective?

Postby Yuchi1 » Mon Mar 03, 2014 11:28 pm

The article you referenced deals specifically with steel cartridges and as steel pellets are ~2/3 the density of lead pellets, making rough comparisons between the two can be confusing, especially if you've limited experience with steel (pellets) cartridges in the first place.

I have fired some of our 12 gauge, 3 1/2" lead (2 1/4 oz.) turkey loads and those do produce felt recoil that is "brutal".

If you can still use lead pellets on waterfowl, and are shooting at extended ranges, a 10 gauge SXS handloaded with Italian nickel plated lead pellets is a weapon that will simply amaze you.

The 3 1/2" 12 gauge cartridge was developed (~1988-89) in this country as a way to deal with the inherent deficiencies of the (then available) commercial manufactured steel cartridges with the idea that more was better.

My advice is to pattern your shotguns with a variety of cartridges to ascertain those gun/choke/cartridge combinations that render evenly dispersed pellet patterns with the density (pellet-wise) to assure the target will be hit with at least 3-4 pellets at the range(s) intended. That effort may yield results that lead you to the conclusion that bigger/heavier loads may not be the real answer after all. Good shooting.
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Re: Is a 3-1/2-Inch 12-Gauge More Effective?

Postby UmatillaJeff » Mon Mar 03, 2014 11:49 pm

Theduckguru wrote:
3200 man wrote:Not more effective than a 10 ga with the same payload and the recoil is less in the 10 ga :thumbsup:

A 12 ga is better suited with 3 " shells and smaller shot sizes than a 10 ga , Though !


If you take a 10 ga and 12 ga load with the same payload and velocity, and shoot them in guns with the same weight and action, you wont be able to tell the difference in recoil.



Yea..... And if my Aunt had balls she would be my Uncle.

Most people do not try and shoot 12ga loads in a 10ga. instead they try and shoot 10ga loads in a 3 1/2 inch 12ga gun and the 3 1/2 inch 12ga guns with the heavy ammo kicks so hard its like being in a small car wreck!

I know you are just quoting the laws of physics but lets be realistic!
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Re: Is a 3-1/2-Inch 12-Gauge More Effective?

Postby TEN GAUGE BBB » Tue Mar 04, 2014 3:10 am

UmatillaJeff wrote:
Theduckguru wrote:
3200 man wrote:Not more effective than a 10 ga with the same payload and the recoil is less in the 10 ga :thumbsup:

A 12 ga is better suited with 3 " shells and smaller shot sizes than a 10 ga , Though !


If you take a 10 ga and 12 ga load with the same payload and velocity, and shoot them in guns with the same weight and action, you wont be able to tell the difference in recoil.



Yea..... And if my Aunt had balls she would be my Uncle.

Most people do not try and shoot 12ga loads in a 10ga. instead they try and shoot 10ga loads in a 3 1/2 inch 12ga gun and the 3 1/2 inch 12ga guns with the heavy ammo kicks so hard its like being in a small car wreck!

I know you are just quoting the laws of physics but lets be realistic!
:thumbsup:
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Re: Is a 3-1/2-Inch 12-Gauge More Effective?

Postby BT Justice » Tue Mar 04, 2014 4:29 am

UmatillaJeff wrote:
Theduckguru wrote:
3200 man wrote:Not more effective than a 10 ga with the same payload and the recoil is less in the 10 ga :thumbsup:

A 12 ga is better suited with 3 " shells and smaller shot sizes than a 10 ga , Though !


If you take a 10 ga and 12 ga load with the same payload and velocity, and shoot them in guns with the same weight and action, you wont be able to tell the difference in recoil.



Yea..... And if my Aunt had balls she would be my Uncle.

Most people do not try and shoot 12ga loads in a 10ga. instead they try and shoot 10ga loads in a 3 1/2 inch 12ga gun and the 3 1/2 inch 12ga guns with the heavy ammo kicks so hard its like being in a small car wreck!

I know you are just quoting the laws of physics but lets be realistic!

:lol3: :lol3:
But oh so correct.
Main problem being, the factories and the idiot outdoor writers keep trying to tell everyone the 3.5" 12 ga is the same thing as a 10 ga........it's not.
The part that has always amazed me is the factories went from good thinking to stupid with the 3.5" 12.
Traditionally the 3" 12 ga has always been looked at as a larger version of the 2 3/4" 12, a magnum version if you will call it. You could shoot a bit larger payloads in the longer shell and get a bit more velocity in some instances.
Enter the 3.5" 12 ga and all of a sudden it's the second coming because they raised the working pressure up in it 2000 psi, it's the gun that can do anything and everything even propel the same shot charges as the 10 ga at the same velocities, again according the manufactures and writers.
In reality they didn't change the laws of physics, all they did was increase the working pressure of the round so it could handle heavier shot charges. It still can't do what a 10 ga can.
If the 3.5" 12 ga was used for what it is, a larger version of the 12 ga, then I believe things would be a bit more realistic.
Trying to say it can do everything a 10 ga can do is the main problem and why there are so many knock you on your butt loads with the 3.5" 12 ga, making lightweight shotguns like the SBE and then trying to shoot heavy high pressure loads in it makes about as much sense as walking behind a mule all day long, eventually the mule is going to kick you real bad.
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Re: Is a 3-1/2-Inch 12-Gauge More Effective?

Postby C M Wings » Tue Mar 04, 2014 5:38 am

Yuchi1 wrote:The article you referenced deals specifically with steel cartridges and as steel pellets are ~2/3 the density of lead pellets, making rough comparisons between the two can be confusing, especially if you've limited experience with steel (pellets) cartridges in the first place.

I have fired some of our 12 gauge, 3 1/2" lead (2 1/4 oz.) turkey loads and those do produce felt recoil that is "brutal".

If you can still use lead pellets on waterfowl, and are shooting at extended ranges, a 10 gauge SXS handloaded with Italian nickel plated lead pellets is a weapon that will simply amaze you.

The 3 1/2" 12 gauge cartridge was developed (~1988-89) in this country as a way to deal with the inherent deficiencies of the (then available) commercial manufactured steel cartridges with the idea that more was better.

My advice is to pattern your shotguns with a variety of cartridges to ascertain those gun/choke/cartridge combinations that render evenly dispersed pellet patterns with the density (pellet-wise) to assure the target will be hit with at least 3-4 pellets at the range(s) intended. That effort may yield results that lead you to the conclusion that bigger/heavier loads may not be the real answer after all. Good shooting.


After shooting a 3.5 inch, 12 gauge goose load out of an SBE-2, I freely admit one could not pay me to shoot a 3.5 inch turkey load from that, or any other, 12 gauge shotgun.

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Re: Is a 3-1/2-Inch 12-Gauge More Effective?

Postby z51 » Tue Mar 04, 2014 6:05 am

Theduckguru wrote:
3200 man wrote:Not more effective than a 10 ga with the same payload and the recoil is less in the 10 ga :thumbsup:

A 12 ga is better suited with 3 " shells and smaller shot sizes than a 10 ga , Though !


If you take a 10 ga and 12 ga load with the same payload and velocity, and shoot them in guns with the same weight and action, you wont be able to tell the difference in recoil.


True, you can't tell the difference because there is no difference. Well, there is one difference, with the 10 gauge and factory loads your wallet is much lighter. The Remington 3 1/2" steel load I shoot cost me $119.00 per case last season.
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Re: Is a 3-1/2-Inch 12-Gauge More Effective?

Postby 3200 man » Tue Mar 04, 2014 7:07 am

With reloading my 10 ga ammo , It cost me under $11. a box for shells that have a velocity of over 1500 fps and a payload
of 1 1/2 oz's along with a recoil that's a pleasure to shoot , knowing birds at 60 + yards are well within my range with the
pattern density I have proven to be effective at that range . Shooting a want to be 3 1/2" load in a 12 ga , Not Good !
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Re: Is a 3-1/2-Inch 12-Gauge More Effective?

Postby z51 » Tue Mar 04, 2014 7:37 am

3200 man wrote:With reloading my 10 ga ammo , It cost me under $11. a box for shells that have a velocity of over 1500 fps and a payload
of 1 1/2 oz's along with a recoil that's a pleasure to shoot , knowing birds at 60 + yards are well within my range with the
pattern density I have proven to be effective at that range . Shooting a want to be 3 1/2" load in a 12 ga , Not Good !



Your load assuming a 9 pound gun has @ 48 ft/lbs of free recoil.

A 375 H&H Magnum shooting a 270 grain bullet at 2700 fps out of a 9 pound rifle has @ 30 ft/lbs of free recoil.

Your load has @ 60 percent more free recoil than a 375 H&H Magnum!!!!! :help
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Re: Is a 3-1/2-Inch 12-Gauge More Effective?

Postby 3200 man » Tue Mar 04, 2014 8:01 am

OK , what's your 3 1/2" 12ga have shooting the same load and velocity ? :yes: a lot more right ?

I said the 10 ga recoils less than the 12 ga with 3 1/2" ammo and it patterns better !
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Re: Is a 3-1/2-Inch 12-Gauge More Effective?

Postby z51 » Tue Mar 04, 2014 8:35 am

3200 man wrote:OK , what's your 3 1/2" 12ga have shooting the same load and velocity ? :yes: a lot more right ?

I said the 10 ga recoils less than the 12 ga with 3 1/2" ammo and it patterns better !


The 3 1/2" inch load I shoot is 1 3/8 oz at 1550 fps as posted earlier. Out of my 8 pound SX2 that load develops @ 45 ft/lbs of free recoil. Of course my gun is 8 not 9 pounds. Also it is a quality gas auto with a custom fit Limbsaver recoil pad so my felt recoil is quite manageable. In addition, I only shoot 3 1/2" part of the time, but my gun is quite flexible. I can shoot 3 inch 1400 fps 1 1/4" loads most of the time a use the big bullet as my third shot on outgoing birds if needed. The 3" load only generates 32 foot pounds of free recoil. Your load generates 50 percent more than that load. I can also pop in a #4 load to dispatch a crippled swimmer if need be.

That's why I sold my 10 gauge BPS last year. To heavy, to inflexible, to expensive to shoot for a gun I only needed every once in a while.
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Re: Is a 3-1/2-Inch 12-Gauge More Effective?

Postby 3200 man » Tue Mar 04, 2014 9:12 am

Shooting 1 3/8 oz loads is about max for a 12 ga and the same load in a 10 ga is on the light side but , the 10 will pattern
it better than the 12 ga . Some fellas load the 10 with 1 1/4 oz of shot , which is not for me as the 10 ga is for shooting birds
farther than a 12 can be really effective . As you go up in shot sizes the 12 pretty much is limited to BB's and the 10 shoots
t's and F's with a effective pattern way beyond most hunters ability with steel shot .

I also shoot a BGH in 3 1/2" chamber but , I prefer to maintain my shooting ability with less recoil while I still use 3 1/2"
ammo in my 10 ga for better patterns with more shot and higher velocity !

I'm not into designer loads that cost more with Gold Hulls !
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Re: Is a 3-1/2-Inch 12-Gauge More Effective?

Postby z51 » Tue Mar 04, 2014 10:20 am

My loads are good to 60 yards with #1's for ducks and BB' s for pass shooting geese. I don't like shooting farther than that and try to keep my shots under 50, although once I get zeroed in pass shooting geese 60 is not a problem.
I never shot a T or F in 20 years with the BPS. My SX has a set of long Briley's steel shot chokes that do well with my chosen load.
To each his own but if a guy can shoot the big twelve is plenty good. That's why the 10 is dying an antagonizing death and even 12 gauge target guns are coming out with 3 1/2" chambers these days!
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Re: Is a 3-1/2-Inch 12-Gauge More Effective?

Postby lostknife4 » Tue Mar 04, 2014 11:09 am

Theduckguru wrote:
3200 man wrote:Not more effective than a 10 ga with the same payload and the recoil is less in the 10 ga :thumbsup:

A 12 ga is better suited with 3 " shells and smaller shot sizes than a 10 ga , Though !


If you take a 10 ga and 12 ga load with the same payload and velocity, and shoot them in guns with the same weight and action, you wont be able to tell the difference in recoil.


If you were using the early 12 ga 3-1/2" BPS that is built on a 10 ga and a 10 ga BPS and shoot the same payload at the same velocity I would put money on the fact that you wouldn't be able to tell the difference in recoil. The guns weigh the same or very near the same. Recoil is a direct function of the shot and powder mass and with velocity being equal vs the weight of the gun and it's rearward directed recoil velocity.
Since both sides of the equation are equal then it follows that the recoil is equal.
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Re: Is a 3-1/2-Inch 12-Gauge More Effective?

Postby 3200 man » Tue Mar 04, 2014 11:28 am

Thanks Bill

As you indicated both being the same in weight and shooting the same load....recoils the same or real close !

But , the performance of the 10 ga overcomes the 12 ga when the payload reaches 1 3/8 oz or more , Right ?
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