What type of shotgun shells to use for goose hunting?

Shotgun Shell Selection for Goose Hunting

Shopping for shotgun shells can be intimidating and confusing for beginners and even for experienced hunters.  Just step foot into any sporting goods store and you will quickly discover the multitude of options you will have.


One thing that you will notice when you ask around about shotgun shell selection for geese is the varied advice you get from every hunter and sporting goods store salesperson.  This does not mean that any of them are wrong; it is just that they all have their own preferences based on past hunting experience.


For effective goose-dropping power, it is important to select the right type of shotgun shells.  I would like to give you some general guidance on the considerations for selecting shotgun shells so that you are equipped to make an educated decision on your own.


What to consider:

  • Shot size
  • Weight in Ounces
  • Shell length
  • Price


Shot Size

With shotgun shells one of the choices you will have is the shot size.


Goose Shot sizes (smallest to largest pellet/BB size):

  • 4 shot (smallest)
  • 2 shot
  • BB
  • BBB
  • T (largest)

GOose landing

Keep in mind, the larger shot size you choose that fewer pellets than can fit in a shell.  For example, a 4 shot shell will have more pellets than the T shot.


The advantage of more pellets is you get a larger kill radius, essentially higher chances of hitting the bird because there are more BBs in the air. The downside is that they can have less killing power than larger pellets. Since geese are large birds you will want larger sized pellets to bring them down.


You can also adjust your shell size based on the distance you are hunting geese from.  If you get geese to come in very close you can use 2 shot or BB.  However, if you are pass shooting at high flying geese then BBB or even T shot can be effective.


In general, my recommendation is BB for most situations.


Weight in Ounces

With shotgun shells, another choice you will have is the weight in ounces.


The weight in ounces is how much weight all of the BBs in the shell weigh together.  So the larger the number in ounces the more weight the BBs contain.


Common Weight In Ounces:

  • 1 1/8
  • 1 1/4
  • 1 ½
  • T

Heavier shot is great for the additional stopping power that they have but it will add cost to the shells in most cases.


Shell Length

Typical shotgun shells range in length from 2 ½ inches to 3 ½ inches.  The larger the shell length typically the more range and kill power.


Typical Shell Length Options:

  • 2 ¾ inch
  • 3 inch
  • 3 ½ inch


3 inch and 3 ½ inch are typically the most common for hunting geese.



I have not seen a ton of difference in bird killing power between the 3 inch and 3 ½ inch.  Again, this is from my personal experience.  Many hunters swear by 3 ½ inch shells for shooting geese but either can be effective.


Another reason I typically select 3 inch shells is the price.  3 ½ inch shells are usually about $5 per box more than 3 inch so if you are price conscious or if your gun only fits 3 inch shells they will work just fine.


Additionally, 3 ½ inch shells have noticeably more recoil/kick when you shoot them.  My hope is that you have a great day of hunting with plenty of shooting.  If that is the case you can save yourself a little soreness in your shoulder if you go with 3 inch.


You may also be limited by your shotgun.  Not all shotguns hold 3 ½ inch shells.  In fact, shotguns that hold 3 ½ inch shells are less common and in many cases cost a little more than 3 inch chambered shotguns.  If your gun can only hold 3 inch shells than your choices just got easier!



In my opinion, no hunting equipment decision should go without the consideration of price.  You could easily spend $30 or more per box of shotgun shells for geese if money is no object to you.


However, if your are like me and most hunters, you need to keep costs in mind so you can enjoy your passion within a reasonable budget.


Please do not let manufactures and advertising sway your decision or keep you from hunting because you cannot buy the top dollar brands.  Any shotgun shell, cheap or expensive, can be effective if you get the geese close enough and many times the fancy new shells do not increase goose dropping effectiveness all that much.


Final Advice

My parting piece of guidance is that you should decide what type of shell you want to use prior to going to the store based on the other factors we discussed above with shot size, ounces and shell length.


This will allow you to quickly narrow down the selections you have to choose from.  It will also help you avoid letting poor advice from a salesperson or the latest marketing items cause you to spend more than necessary.


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Scott – Owner – DecoyPro