How Many Shells Can a Shotgun Hold Legally?

A shotgun is one of the most popular types of firearm. It is used by the police, military, hunters, and even for home defense. This firearm has been popular for a really long time. The shotgun is best used for short-distance shooting. It will fire many projectiles each time you pull its trigger. The shotgun shells are also very effective.

If you are thinking of getting a shotgun, you need to know about its various types and also the maximum shotgun shell capacity. Plus, you also need accurate information on how many shells can a shotgun hold legally because the regulation is not the same everywhere. You want to stay on the right side of the law, after all.

How Many Shells Can a Shotgun Hold?

Usually, the maximum shell capacity in a shotgun is three. This means, three shotgun shells should be loaded at a particular time, no matter whether your shotgun model is high capacity pump, box-magazine fed, or a semi. Hunting shotguns usually have between 2 and 5 shells.

Fiocchi 9mm Luger ammo

So, the legal limit is three, which is why it is so important that you have only the best quality shells you can find. You can even get them online now by joining the ammunition club.

However, it is good to remember that in the United States, the regulation regarding how many shells it can hold will be different for each state. It is also three shells for hunting migratory birds in the country because the federal laws are for protecting these birds. But, this may vary depending on the species you want to hunt.

These rules don’t apply to competitions. The shell capacity will then depend on the laws of the competition.

Why can these guns have only three shells legally? The federal powers came out with this regulation to save factory jobs. There was a dispute between two manufacturers. The three-figure was chosen as a compromise solution so that the pump-action shotgun would only have a slight advantage.

The FBI or Federal Bureau of Investigation adopted the Gold Dot G2 as a duty round. This was done after carrying out extensive testing. Since then, it has been recommended to many law enforcement agencies.

Shotgun Ammunition

Buckshot, birdshot, and slugs are the three basic types of bullets for the shotgun. All modern-day ammunition for the shotgun is centerfire. Look at the bottom part of the shotgun cartridge. In the center, you will find a metal round button. This is the primer. When the firing pin of your gun strikes, it will ignite the powder, which will force out the projectile from the end of your barrel because of the resulting pressure.

The gun barrels are also of two types – smoothbore and rifled. In rifle barrels, there are spiraling grooves in the barrels inside. When you use, the bullets go for a spin, which provides shot accuracy. Rifling is present in all modern-day firearms, except shotguns, which are smoothbores.

There are also rifled shotgun barrels, which are known as “slug guns”. They are made only for sabot slugs, which are smooth like the bullet of a handgun or rifle. A scope can be mounted on slug guns. These guns are usually used for hunting big game up to a distance of 75 yards.


Ammunition for the slugs is very powerful. In fact, you won’t find more powerful shotgun ammo. The slug ammunition, unlike the other types, can either be made of lead and covered in copper or filled with lead. Always select this kind of ammunition when you are hunting deer and want to bring down the animal with just a single shot.

You will find plastic tips in some slugs that can cause additional damage. They can cut into the target, which means, they are more lethal. Replace the lead from the shotgun shells inside if you don’t want it to be so lethal. You can use a rubber material instead.


This kind of shotgun ammo is heavier in nature. It can fire anything between 6 to 10 shotgun shells with a bigger diameter ball bearing. However, it will not go beyond 9.1 mm. The shotgun ammunition here is larger metal pellets that will scatter outside. The ammo here also has more energy compared to birdshot. Thus, it will inflict more damage. This type of ammunition is better used for large games, such as deer hunting.

Often, the police will use 12 gauge 870′s or M500’s. 00 buckshot is a common lead. In a classic 00 buckshot load, there will be 9, 00 buckshot projectiles.


This type of shotgun shell is filled with many small shots. This is popular for shooting or hunting birds. It is a bit smaller than 3 mm. However, on the inside, you will find hundreds of pellets. It allows many projectiles. You will be able to shoot even and also make widespread shots. You will find it easier to shoot down moving targets and smaller objects.

This ammunition is lightweight, so the projectiles are not going to cause a lot of damage to the smaller targets. But it can still be lethal.

Hopefully, you have found the answer to – how many shells can you put in a shotgun hold legally? Remember, shotgun shells can be lethal, whatever is power and ability. So aim correct and shoot right. Be clear in your mind about the purpose of getting the shotgun and your ammo.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

      Leave a reply