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Why do people say shotguns can hold a maximum of 3 shells?

Why do people say shotguns can hold a maximum of 3 shells?

Why do people say shotguns can hold a maximum of 3 shells? 

This comes from Migratory Birds Regulations. When not used for Hunting the magazine can hold 5 or unlimited rounds depending on the action type.

In short:

  • When hunting waterfowl the maximum magazine capacity is 3.
  • In MOST other situations:
    • Most shotguns are not limited in the number of rounds or Unlimited cartridges.
    • Semi-automatic and centre-fire shotguns are limited to 5 cartridges.


Regulations Respecting the Protection of Migratory Birds. These Regulations may be cited as the Migratory Birds Regulations.

Hunting Methods and Equipment

  •  (1) Subject to subsections (4) and (5) and section 23.1, no person shall hunt a migratory bird

    • (d) with a shotgun of any description capable of holding more than three shells unless the capacity of the gun has been reduced to three shells in the magazine and chamber combined, by means of the cutting off or the altering or plugging of the magazine with a one-piece metal, plastic or wood filler that cannot be removed unless the gun is disassembled; or

C.T. https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/C.R.C.,_c._1035/FullText.html

Any magazine that exceeds the maximum permitted capacity as described in the Regulations Prescribing Certain Firearms and other Weapons, Components and Parts of Weapons, Accessories, Cartridge Magazines, Ammunition and Projectiles as Prohibited or Restricted, is a prohibited device.

As a general rule, the maximum magazine capacity is:

  • 5 cartridges for most magazines designed for a semi-automatic, centre-fire long gun

With some exceptions, there is no limit to the magazine capacity for:

  • semi-automatic, rim-fire long guns
  • other long guns that are not semi-automatics

Note: The maximum allowable capacity of a magazine does not depend on the classification of the firearm, nor does it influence the classification of the firearm. The maximum permitted capacity of a magazine is determined by:

  • the physical characteristics of the firearm for which it is designed or manufactured
  • the type of ammunition for which it is designed


The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.  Information on this website may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information.  This website contains links to other third-party websites.

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