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.
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.
- 5 2&3/4 shells in a shotgun chambered for 2&3/4
- 6 2&3/4 shells in a shotgun chambered for 3″
- 7 2&3/4 shells in a shotgun chambered for 3.5″
Now, if you use long 3.5″ shells or go off SAAMI spec, you may make the case that you should be able to do 8 2&3/4 shells in your 3.5″ shotgun. Personally, I wouldn’t want to be discussing the finer points of SAAMI spec on the side of the road with an officer because my shotgun slipped in the 6th 3.5″ round.
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.
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.
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.
For further reading, check out the ANSI-SAAMI Spec on Shotshells.