January 25, 2022
In 1999, to address concerns about burgeoning populations of snow geese, blue geese and Ross’ geese (aka light geese) and the damage they were doing to northern breeding areas, the federal government mandated the Light Goose Conservation Order (LGCO). This created a spring season in many states with relaxed regulations intended to boost harvests and reduce the numbers of these migratory birds.
Bag and possession limits were removed, shooting hours were extended, unplugged shotguns were allowed, and electronic callers with recorded sounds were permitted.
In the years since the LGCO was federally mandated, each spring hardcore waterfowlers have chased wily light geese on their return migration from wintering habitat back to breeding grounds in the Arctic.
Pursuing these birds effectively, however, requires specialized gear. Giant decoy spreads and loud e-callers are the norm. As are highly dependable semi-automatic shotguns—ideally, ones outfitted with magazine extensions to handle spring light goose hunting’s high-volume shooting.
While dedicated DIYers can add an aftermarket magazine extension to their shotguns, there’s a definite advantage to a factory-built gun already equipped with an extended magazine tube. And if such a gun happens to offer other features perfectly suited for the unique demands of hunting light geese, so much the better.
This is exactly what Stoeger Industries has done with its new M3500 Snow Goose shotgun, which I was able to test last season while hunting snows and blues in southeast Missouri with K&K Outfitters (duckandbuck.com). Tailor made for whacking and stacking snows, blues and Ross’ geese, the Snow Goose pairs Stoeger’s field-proven inertia-driven M3500 shotgun with an extended 10-round magazine tube from the company’s Freedom Series line.
Stoeger also incorporates other snow-goose-specific niceties like a 3 1/2-inch chamber, oversized controls and a stylish and functional distressed white Cerakote finish on the stock, fore-end, receiver and barrel. Apart from the extended magazine, this distressed white finish is one of the more eye-catching elements on this new gun. And it’s rugged, weather-resistant and blends right into white snow and decoy spreads.
M3500 Put to the Test
I’ve long favored inertia-operated guns for waterfowl hunting due to their cleaner functioning, and the M3500 Snow Goose’s action performed flawlessly during testing. It spit out and cycled shell after shell while hunting from layouts or sitting in whites in a dry, dusty ag field. The larger chamber accommodates 2 3/4-, 3- and 3 1/2-inch shells. I generally prefer shooting 3-inch shells, but some like 3 1/2-inchers, especially for longer shots on wary geese, so it’s nice that the Snow Goose has that capability.
To assist gloved hunters—or simply those scrambling to reload in the chaos of spring light goose hunting—the M3500 Snow Goose has oversized controls and a specially machined and beveled loading port. In the field, the enlarged bolt handle proved very intuitive to find and operate with or without gloves, and the paddle-like bolt-release button was similarly large, tactile and easy to engage.
Stoeger appears to have borrowed these features from its earlier M3K competition shotgun, but it’s sensibly chosen to alter their color from light blue to black. The only controls not oversized on the gun are its crossbolt-style safety and the cartridge drop lever, which should be familiar to anyone who’s used a Benelli, Franchi, Stoeger or similar inertia-driven semi-auto shotgun. The beveled loading port, meanwhile, naturally facilitates easier reloads, especially when loading five to 10 shells at a time to refill the extended magazine tube.
Speaking of the extended tube, the Snow Goose’s 10-round unit is 922r compliant. For those who don’t know, 922r compliance refers to a specific portion of federal law that prohibits the import of certain firearms not "suitable for …sporting purposes." It also forbids the assembly of one of these guns from too many imported parts—namely, no more than 10 from a list of 20 key components.
This small subsection of the U.S. Code most often applies to imported FAL, AK and similar rifles, but it’s also the reason why foreign semi-auto shotguns aren’t sold with magazine extensions. In this case, the M3500 Snow Goose complies with 18 USC 922r and thus eliminates the need to add any additional U.S. made parts to satisfy the law.
Already having a 922r compliant extended magazine in place doesn’t just take legal concerns off shooters’ plates, though. It also removes the burden of installing an aftermarket magazine extension themselves. While not exceedingly complicated, this process can involve trimming an oversized magazine tube spring to fit and attaching an extension tube barrel clamp, which requires a proper fit to avoid potential damage to the barrel’s finish.
Many hunters could probably install an extension on their shotgun and create a suitable light goose rig, but the M3500 Snow Goose offers a no-fuss turnkey solution that ensures it’s done right. Of course, those using this gun on birds outside of the LGCO season will need an extra-long dowel rod to limit shell capacity where required.
If there’s any downside to the extended magazine, it’s likely the additional weight. The M3500 Snow Goose weighs 8.2 pounds, and with its 28-inch barrel, it has an overall length of 50 inches. It’s not a handy gun to take on extended treks, but, then again, it’s not designed to be. To help tote its weight afield, the Snow Goose features a black paracord sling. While great for walking, it kept hanging up on the layout I was hunting from, so I ultimately removed it on my test gun.
The gun has an advertised length of pull of 14 3/8 inches, a drop at heel of 2 1/2 inches and a drop at comb of 1 1/2 inches. However, an included shim kit permits drop and cast adjustments. It also has five extended choke tubes (IC, M, XTF, Close Range and Mid Range) and a choke wrench, giving shooters ample options for varied setups. Meanwhile, a ventilated rib rides along the full length of the barrel, and up front a red-bar sight provides a highly visible reference point for the eye. Finally, a simple rubber buttpad offers recoil mitigation when firing heavy goose loads.
Overall, I really liked Stoeger’s new M3500 Snow Goose. With a reliable inertia-driven operating system at its core and a built-in extended tube magazine, it’s a simple, straightforward snow goose slayer. In fact, it may very well be one of the most affordable snow-goose-ready shotguns on the market. And it comes with a 5-year warranty. If you’re already a snow goose fanatic, put this gun on your list. If you’re not, maybe this new extended capacity shotgun made just for snow geese could be the incentive you need to get started in this challenging yet extremely fun pursuit.
MSRP: $899 | stoegerindustries.com
Stoeger M3500 Snow Goose Specs
- Type: semi-automatic shotgun
- Gauge: 12
- Chamber: 3 1/2"
- Capacity: 10+1 rounds
- Barrel Length: 28"
- Overall Length: 50”
- Weight: 8.2 lbs.
- Stock: composite; white Cerakote
- Length of Pull: 14 3/8”
- Drop at Heel: 2 1/2”
- Drop at Comb: 1 1/2”
- Receiver/Barrel Finish: distressed white Cerakote
- Sights: red-bar front
- Choke tubes: extended; IC, M, XFT, Close Range, Mid Range