Maximum Shotgun Shell Capacity in Canada

I couldn’t find a really comprehensive guide to maximum shotgun capacities for Canada, so I thought I’d write one.

First off, many hunters might think that shotguns are limited to 2 shells in the tube and while that’s the case in most hunting regulations, it’s not a hard limit if you’re using your shotguns for other activities like shooting clays or just blasting stuff in a gravel pit or at the range. So to clarify, 2 shotshells in the tube is a waterfowl hunting regulation, and you can use a simple plastic or wood plug to keep your tube to compliance when hunting. **Edit: Provinces may have additional hunting regulations pertaining to shotgun capacity. Check your provincial hunting regs.** As pointed out in the comments, slugs while hunting big game fall under other regulations, so capacity when slug hunting will be different.

Magpul SGA Stock Rem 870

Pump Action and other manually operated shotguns have no limit on magazine capacity. However, if their magazine is the same as a mag used in a semi automatic shotgun, it may have to be limited. I have an 870 that, with the tube extension and 1 in the chamber, will fit (11) 2 3/4″ shotgun shells, all completely legally. Some of the bullpup, dual tube shotguns like the UTAS UTS-15 or Kel-Tek KSG will hold 15 rounds. Similarly, the magazine-fed, pump action SAP6 can make use of 6 and 11 round magazines. Lever action shotguns like the Adler Arms A-110 are also not limited.

Semi Automatic Shotguns are a bit trickier in Canada. For magazine-fed semi-auto shotguns, they can only take 5 rounds of the type they’re designed for in the mag. In a box magazine, that means 5 shells. In a tube, it’s a bit different since shotguns made for long shells will fit a few extra shorter shells in. The extra capacity is super important in 3 gun and some other action sports using shotguns.

Here are some general guidelines and calculations for tube fed, semi-auto shotguns. Ultimately you’re responsible for ensuring your shotgun meets legal regulations. I will not bail you out of jail if you read this article and get arrested. Once you’ve figured out your appropriate tube length, it needs to be permanently altered to capacity. You cannot use a plug or temporary device.

Shotgun Shell OAL

Some Shotshell OAL numbers

Hey, look at that. 2 3/4″ shells are NOT 2.75″ unfired, instead they’re around 2.2-2.3″. That’s because the 2 shotgun shell measurements are for the FIRED shells.

Alright, let’s get straight to it, here are some general numbers for tube capacities for semi auto shotguns

3″ chambered shotguns can be set to 5.8 3″ shells, which gives you about 14.8″ of in tube capacity for shells (not counting the spring, follower, etc.) That gets you 6.5 2 3/4″ shells, so there’s no sense pushing the capacity that far. An extension tube to get your total magazine capacity to 6 is needed. You could run 1 more in the chamber and ghost load one if your shotgun can be ghost loaded for a total of 8 rounds fully loaded.

3.5″ chambered shotguns can be set to 5.8 3.5″ shells, which gives you about 17.2″ for in-tube shell capacity. That gives you 7.6 2 3/4″ shells so again, there’s no reason to push it to the ragged edge here. You’re not going to magically jam in an 8th, because you can only barely squeeze in the 8th IF you’re using shorter than usual 2.2″ shells AND if you’ve got your tube set for 5.99 3.5″ shells. Too risky for one extra shell if you ask me. If you have a shotgun with a 3.5″ chamber, you can run a magazine tube that takes (7) 2 3/4″ shells. With 1 more in the chamber and 1 ghost loaded, that maxes things out at 9.

What ifs

Because this law is stone cold stupid, there are a whole pile of what if’s that are frustrating if they apply to you:

  • What if your shotgun can take 3.5″ shells, but it isn’t marked as so on the receiver, but on the barrel, and what happens if there are different barrels for different length shells? The Remington 1100, for example, uses a different barrel for 3″ magnum loads.
  • What if your shotgun shell max length isn’t labelled on your shotgun at all?
  • What if the police test your shotgun capacity using factory shotgun shells that are known to be on the short side?

Anyhoo, there’s the numbers. Lemme know if you have a different opinion or if I’m missing something here.

If you want even more, run 2.5″ shells!

For further reading, check out the ANSI-SAAMI Spec on Shotshells.

  • HC84

    Thanks for the info, much appreciated!

  • Tegan M Letang

    hah great article, the hunting 2+1 rule is also may be a bit complicated with a pump as well in some circumstances. I have an older 870, the serial number ends in a v, that means it’s designed for 2 3/4″ shells if you contact Remington support. No where on the receiver is it specifically marked for 2 3/4″. I recently picked up a newer rem-choke barrel for the shotgun and it’s marked.2 3/4″, 3″ or 3 1/2″. In this instance do you think I could/should use the 2/ 3/4″ shell to determine my mag capacity for hunting with 2+1 or based on how the law is written do you think I could use the max 3 1/2″ marking on the barrel to determine my 2+1 mag capacity for hunting?

  • If your plug allows for just 2 3.5″ shells, it still won’t take anymore than 2 2 3/4 shells, so you’re safe. Set your plug depth so that you’re at about 2.1 3.5″ shells to give yourself a bit of wiggle room and you still won’t be able to get (3) 2 3/4″ shells in.

  • Brent

    So a semi-auto Mossberg 930 with 18.5″ barrel that takes 2 3/4″ and 3″ shells and gets a +2 mag tube it can take x5 3″ shells and x6 2 3/4″ shells is legal. Right?

  • Rob Stewart

    I actuall enjoy hunting with a double barrel. My follow up shot is faster because I don’t need to pump (Like a semi). I don’t really see how that 1 additional shot would help in 99% of cases. I also like the ability to crack the gun open to make/demonstrate it safe when around other people or returning to my car etc.

  • Chris Fangeat

    Pretty Comprehensive article. Thanks for clarification

  • Sheldon Clare

    In British Columbia there is no limit for single projectile shotshells while hunting big game. Any use of multiprojectile shotshells is limited to two in the magazine.

  • Oh interesting. I didn’t even think of slug hunting for big game.

  • Guy

    Alberta/Strathcona county has slug seasons for big game as well. There is a general tag for white tail and also a cow moose draw. not too sure what the mag limits would be for slugs though.

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