How Much is Enough? Competition Shotgun Extension Tube Selection

By: Chris Andersen
3-Gun Nation Pro Shooter

Competition Shotgun Extension Tube
How Much is Enough? Competition Shotgun Extension Tube Selection

Farmington, NY –-( Over the past few years 3-Gun match rules have changed a lot with regard to shotgun extension tube sizes.

Originally a lot of matches required that the tube not extend beyond the barrel, or even specified the maximum capacity for divisions like Tactical Optics.

Now in most cases, that rule centers around how many rounds are in the gun at the start of a course of fire.

That opens the door for a discussion, and sometimes an argument or two, about what size shotgun tube makes the most sense for 3-Gun applications. Companies like Nordic Components make extension tubes that allow you to load a shotgun with as many as 12 or 13 rounds after the buzzer, which invites the question: How much is enough? Should you run a 10-, 11- or even 12- round tube?

The answer, in my opinion, depends on the application.

First the Downsides of Really Long Tubes
There are also quite a few courses of fire and matches where that extra capacity makes absolutely no difference. There is a different loading stage plan available for the guy with the eight round shotgun tube that in the end yields exactly the same stage time as a comparably-skilled shooter with a shotgun capable of holding 12 or 13 rounds.

Long shotgun tubes can also be a bit clunky. This will force you to approach entering shooting positions or ports differently. They may be challenging to ground in dump barrels. They are difficult to get in your bag, your car, on a plane, and in my opinion they look ridiculous.

But with all that being said, I generally run a long tube on my shotgun. Why?

Now the Positives
With the surge in popularity of load-two and quad-load systems, shooters are getting shells into their guns faster than ever before. That means options during a course of fire are changing.

There may be a period between shooting positions during which you originally would not have considered loading shells that has now become a viable option. Having a tube that allows for a greater number shells in the gun can completely change the complexion of certain shotgun stages. There are courses of fire that can offer a significant advantage to the shooter who has the capability to have more shells on tap and load more in a particular segment of the course or even right after the buzzer.

To me this argument seems very similar to the one in auto racing circles about formula-one cars. Engineers and designers constantly push the limits of the rules when building vehicles that are the fastest in the world, driven by the best drivers in the world, in an uncompromising, multi-billion dollar test of man and machine. As a result of pushing every envelope available, these cars can end up looking, well…hideous. And the rules surrounding them are constantly changing to keep public scrutiny about their appearance at a minimum. But these cars do what they do so well because they are built without compromise, maximizing every available ounce of performance, at times even at the expense of reliability.

Brownells Shotgun Extension Tubes
Brownells Installing Shotgun Extension Tubes

That mindset is not unfamiliar. I know quite a few shooters that would happily accept a bit more maintenance or make all the compromises I mentioned earlier for even the smallest competitive advantage. 3-Gunners, just like those drivers, are on the clock, in a race. And shooters at the top of the game look for every edge just like racers. In some instances, extra shotgun capacity can offer that advantage.

Following that mindset, I personally have two different shotgun tubes at the ready and make the choice on which tube I will run based on the match course requirements, shooting positions, and safety of grounding barrels.

Obviously you should consider things like what matches you are attending, the level of competition, and what your budget entails. If you are shooting local matches with buddies for fun, these kinds of choices may not matter all that much. But if you are looking for every advantage and don’t want to leave anything on the table, you would do well to consider the potential options the longer shotgun tubes offer you.

See you on the Range!

About Chris Andersen:
Chris Andersen is an Oklahoma native and lifelong shooter quickly advanced through the USPSA action pistol ranks crossing over to 3 Gun in 2010.

AR15.Com originated in 1996 as a mailing list for firearm enthusiasts. As the years passed and interest grew, a website came into existence to present those same enthusiasts with a means to collect, share, and explore information. Shortly afterwards, a bulletin board was added to create a more interactive experience for the growing list of users. The site was still in it’s infancy, but was growing in popularity. Visit:

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I have what was supposed to be a 10 round tube that I installed in my 1970 Remington 870 Wingmaster with 26 inch barrel. I can only get about 9 3/4, 2 3/4 inch shells in it. Is there a fix to get 10 in? So far I have only shot in my local club 2-gun matches (handgun and shotgun) and I find the non-flying targets easy to hit. I DO own an AR so I have the guns for a 3-gun match. I really do want to try shooting a real 3-gun match but at almost 78 years old… Read more »