April 07, 2021
The dawn broke cloudy and cold in the Alberta pea field. The usual nonsense banter stopped abruptly as a screaming mob of snows and blues, looking like a disturbed nest of hornets, lifted from a distant slough. As they came in, they became a mass of screaming, chattering, cackling white geese that blotted out everything up and down and to both sides. A wall of geese. When Sean Mann shouted, “Now!” we blazed away and so thick were the geese we had time to stuff another shell or two into our three-shot guns for a second volley.
That was then, and this is now. Snow geese are prolific little guys who have literally hatched themselves out of house and home, and so they have their own time at the end of the regular waterfowl season that’s called the “Conservation Season,” which means the gloves are off. Electronic callers and extended magazines are not only okay, they’re encouraged.
Magazine Extension Tubes
Extended magazines are nothing new. The Browning Auto 5 propped suggestively against the sack of corn is from the early 1900s! It was used on Maryland’s Eastern Shore by a market gunner who, in the dead of night, would silently slip up on a raft of ducks mesmerized by his “night light” propped on the bow of his low-rise skiff. At 20 yards he would rise and kill as many as he could until his A-5 ran dry. It’s about as close to a belt-fed machine shotgun as you can get.
Magazine extension tubes (some call ‘em a Pinocchio after Geppetto’s puppet whose nose grew longer with every lie) screw onto the existing magazine of most semi-auto and pump guns. Winchester, Fabarm, Browning, Mossberg, Franchi, Tristar, Benelli and Remington guns have open-ended magazines. Some, such as Retay, use a closed-end magazine tube that cannot accept an extension. Many, including Carlson’s, Briley, Nordic Components, Choate, Lanser Systems, GG&G, TacStar, NAK, Scattergun Technologies and probably a couple more are among those making extensions, followers, springs and barrel-to-magazine clamps.
It is not quite as simple as just getting a tube and screwing it on. Remington and others use a pair of dimples at the end of their magazines that accept a plastic spring retainer. However, when an extension is used, these dimples have to be ironed out in order for the shells to load and slide down the extra-long tube. Some require an adapter nut, and all must have an extra-long and stronger magazine spring to ensure positive feeding. It might be a good idea to get an aftermarket follower—the part that you push forward when you load a shell—to smoothly shove the shells back down the extra-long extension. The Midway USA online catalog has several pages of extension-tubes and their accessories.
One thing that I would strongly advise is getting an extension-tube-to-barrel clamp that holds the whole shebang together, as one kink in the tube can turn your many shots into a couple in one bounce.
Snow Goose Ammo & Loads
Now that we’ve got the gun ready to go, how about some ammo? If you really get into them, you’re gonna pour lots of shot down the tube, and if you’re in the sweet spot, they’ll be close. Strokin’ down a high-flier ain’t what this is about; its close-quarter combat, so leave your brain-rattling 3 ½ and the $5-a-shot shells at home. Steel shot is plenty and take your 3-inch gun; it’s a lot easier on your shoulder and ammo bill.
Most ammo manufacturers make low-cost shells, and those are what you want. Kent has Fasteel, Remington Sportsman Hi-Speed (while inventory remains), Federal Speed Shok Snow Goose, Winchester Xpert, Remington Peters Premier Blue, Rio Blue Steel and Environ-metal Hevi-Steel all fill this bill for excellent ammo at a good price. The adjacent table shows the loads and velocities as well as shot sizes available.
One thing often forgotten is that the addition of a loaded extension drastically changes the swing dynamics of your shotgun. It's gonna feel like there’s a boat anchor hangin’ from the front bead, so shoot a round or two of skeet if the club will allow you to fully load up.
Last but most important is safety! We are creatures of habit and all of us are used to our smokepole going bang three times. When we cram seven or more shells up the magazine tube it’s easy to lose track and forget there’s still one in the chamber ready to go. Gunshot wounds are not pretty, especially from a 12 gauge. Just sayin’.