Does a Long Shotgun Barrel Tighten the Pattern?

I am very fortunate to have a great Pastor at my church. Not only is he a great preacher, but he is also my very good friend. And, he is a gun nut.

He recently told me that he had gotten an old shotgun from his Dad. It is a Marlin Goose Gun, also sometimes called a “Long Tom”. It has a 36 inch barrel. Marlin marketed these to goose hunters with the understanding that they would “reach way up” and knock down the geese, as it would hold a tight pattern WAY out there.

But I wonder if that is a real fact or not?

Our question today will be: Will an extra-long barrel shoot “tighter” patterns at 40 yards than a shorter barrel with the same choke?

I told my Pastor, Jason and his son Hayden, who went with us, that it was customary to make a guess on the way to the range as to what the results would be. His guess was that since Marlin made these long barreled shotguns for shooting high-flying geese, maybe the long barrel would tighten up the pattern. My guess was that all that matters is the choke.

Only one way to find out, right?

So, we headed to the range.

Here’s his shotgun.

The barrel measures 36 inches.

We tried to insert a dime in the choke and it would not fit through. That means it is Full Choke.

We started off with some #4 Buckshot, with 27 pellets. Jason shot his gun at 40 yards.

As you can see, 40 yards is a long shotgun shot.

We measured the pattern and it was 34 inches across.

I then shot my friend Shane’s Browning Gold Hunter which has a 26 inch barrel and interchangeable chokes. It is a beautiful shotgun. I put a Full Choke in it so we would be comparing “apples to apples” regarding chokes. The only difference will be barrel length.

I shot a round of #4 Buckshot from the Browning.

The pattern width measured 33 inches.

Then we tried some Wolf unbuffered 00 buckshot.

From the Goose Gun, 30 inch spread.

From the Browning, 26 inch spread.
Then we will try some Federal Flight Control 00 buckshot.

From the Goose Gun, 16 inch spread.

From the Browning, 16 inch spread.

His gun and mine are both marked “2 ¾ or 3 inch” shells. Let’s try some 3 inch shells from both.

These are 3 inch #6 Birdshot. By the way, they kicked like a Missouri mule.

From the Goose Gun, 36 inch spread, but the entire target is well covered.

From the Browning, 36 inch spread likewise, well-covered.


While we were there, Hayden wanted to try a Combat Shotgun, so I let him run my Mossberg 20 inch pump.


It thumped him, but he ran it just fine. He shot at about 15 yards and then I let him try a Federal Flight Control #1 Buckshot load. I told him to aim for the target’s head. Here’s the result. Not bad shooting.

It was such a nice day that we also ran my AR-15 with the red dot on it. I had them do some Type B response drills. At the command “Gun!”, two to the chest and one to the head. They both ran the rifle great.

Conclusions:

1. The extra barrel length did not “tighten-up” the groups at all.

2. All that mattered was the choke. The same choke in different length barrels will give approximately the same sized patterns.

One thing for sure…..It’s fun to shoot stuff.

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