As a waterfowl hunter, the question often arises as to what is better…3” or 3.5” inch waterfowl loads for 12-gauge. Although this can be a personal preference, it’s best to understand exactly what you’re getting with each before you make the decision.First, figure out if your gun can handle 3.5” inch shells. Once this has been determined, the next decision comes with cost and recoil. With a 3.5” inch load, you will spend slightly more and also have increased recoil. For me, I usually base it off the quantity of shooting I foresee on the hunt. If there will be lots of shooting, I almost always go with the 3”option. This is both for the cost and the amount of kick I can handle in one day.
The good news about using either 3” or 3.5” inch Winchester Blind Side is the fact that they’ve used a ton of new technology to give you the most bang for your buck. For example, they use a hex six-sided shot. Not only does this provide increased trauma and wound channels, it also allows pellets to stack better in the shell itself. The hex pellets in the same space gives 15% more just because of the shape. So even if you choose 3” shells, you’re getting 15% more pellets than conventional round shot.
Another piece of technology Winchester has utilized to give you better results is the diamond cut wad. This maximizes the pattern performance of the hex shots. In fact, it provides consistent patterns that increase kill zones up to 25%. So again, the amount of new technology that Winchester has put into Blind Side gives amazing results regardless of what you choose.
Lastly, I always recommend getting a box of each and heading to the range. This way you can determine what is best for you and your gun. It’s very important for you to match the choke, load and gun at the range to get the best results and also learn what your effective range is. There is no magic way to just know - I’m a firm believer of knowing what your limitations are before ever hitting the field.
For example, I’ve seen people who think just because they are shooting 3.5” inch shell they can take much longer shots. As a hunter, you need to know your own limitations and stick to them. You will get denser patterns with more pellets when using a 3.5” shell, but you really need to test it out of your own gun ahead of time.
Spending time at the range patterning your gun is a great way to learn what you’re capable of, and once that’s all set do a little practice with clay pigeons and trap loads as well. You’ll be amazed how just a little practice before heading out will help knock down those late season ducks!