Thoughts on the Three-Inch 28 Gauge

If I were an old-school gunwriter, I would take sides over the new 3-inch 28 gauge. I would either declare it to be a ballistic abomination, and feud with anyone who supported it, or I would declare it the greatest shotshell ever, and feud with anyone etc. …

Instead, the 3-inch 28 leaves me scratching my head and pondering its potential.

In case you missed it, Benelli debuted a 3-inch 28 gauge version of the ETHOS semi-auto at SHOT Show. Fiocchi will load ammunition for it. Although no loads have yet been announced, I understand the first ones will be lead, either 1 ounce or 1 1/16 ounces, at 1300 fps.

Where to begin? First of all, 28 gauges used to be 2 7/8 inches back about 100 years ago, before they were standardized at 2 ¾ inches. Second, for some reason there are 28 gauge guns –Krieghoffs and perhaps others – that already have 3-inch chambers, although I am not aware of any ammunition for them. Fiocchi did announce a 3-inch load of its excellent, but very expensive, Tundra Shot about six years ago but I’m unsure if any was ever made. So that’s where we are.

So, why a three-inch 28? My first thought was “steel shot.” Currently available 28 gauge steel loads contain just 5/8 ounce of small 6 and 7 shot. A three-inch hull would make room for more and/or larger pellets. Some people might like to shoot ducks with their 28s, and, as we move toward more non-toxic shot requirements, the capacity to load more pellets in a 28 gauge hull might help keep the 28 gauge alive and viable as an upland gun. That would be a good thing.

But, the first loads will be lead. So I am back to head-scratching. Given that Winchester already makes a one-ounce, 2 ¾-inch 28 gauge at 1205 fps, I don’t see a huge advantage in an extra 1/16 ounce (about 13 size 6 pellets) of shot or 95 more feet per second. But, high velocity is in, and people will pay for it. The 3-inch shells will offer a little extra punch to the upland hunter who would like to shoot one 28 gauge for all upland hunting, including pheasants. That’s all I can think of. There will be extra recoil, as the ETHOS weighs just five pounds in 28, but it does have a fairly effective built-in Progressive Comfort recoil reducer, so there’s that.

It might be possible to go a different direction with the three-inch 28 and use the extra quarter inch of space to add cushioning wads and plastic buffer and make, say, a 7/8 ounce load that would really pattern well. However, “better” is not as easy to sell as “more” (because most Americans already think “more” and “better” are the same thing) so I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for those.