I bought a Browning gold hunter 3 1/2" 12 ga. when they came out. Now all I do with it is hunt deer. I think its a little bulky or heavy for toting around the woods, but it does shoot real well. Since all I do is hunt deer, I think a 3" would do just fine with a little less weight.
I think the real advantage of a 3 1/2", is in waterfowl shooting so I'd say you're on the right track. Maybe some of you waterfowlers out there can weigh in on the gold hunter 3 1/2"....
I also have a Rem. 870 3 1/2" special purpose pump (turkey) gun, it kills at both ends........
I think the gold hunter comes with a factory barrel that has a lengthened forcing cone (backbarreled).
THE SBE the browning gold have shot well for me. but I shoot a 3 inch Mossberg 500 hundred and kill everyting my buddies kill if not more I get off on getting it done with a 200 dolar gun but that is just me. thats why I bow hunt two! My olds man puts me to shame with a 2 3/4 inch Browning A-5 he says just know your gun SON!!!!! Good luck hunting Brother with what ever you get.
Lots of the debates about shotguns revolve around their patterns. This leads us to choketubes. Maybe we need another thread for choketube arguments. The chokes that came with the gold hunter have performed well for me.
I have had all of them and they all work well if cleaned. If somebody claims theirs jams all the time, ask them when they cleaned it last. Shoulder all the guns you are considering and make your decision based off that. This year I went with a Ruger Red Label over under in the all weather camo version. Swings so much better than those auto's!
Interface is dead right about the clean gun, dirty gun thing. I agree totally.
One thing about the gold hunter. they say it shoots low brass as well as magnum loads, but mine jams within ten shots everytime, with lowbrass dove loads, and thats when its clean. The light loads just don't have enough kick to cycle that magnum action.
Its great for everything else.....
I have the SBe little brother, the M-1 super 90 in a 20 gauge. Yes it's a smaller gauge, but it is the lightest 20 I've ever owned, and I'm pretty sure the SBE 12 gauges are not a lot heavier. IF you plan on trudging through the marsh to get to your spots, you may want to consider the SBE for this reason. I also have a beretta 391 urika. Great gun. Mine is several years old, and I've had no problems with it. I am going to buy the stainless steel spring for it though, as I have spent a lot of time in saltwater areas and the spring is getting rusty.
As far as reliability, Interface should have mentioned that nothing is more reliable than an over and under. You give up a shell, but it shoots every time, and much easier to clean as well. Two different chokes is nice as well, IC for that first shot when they are in your face, Mod for that second shot once you get over the impossible that you missed, and now that bird is screaming away from you at 200 mph
Interface is also dead on about cleaning. If you run across a a Beretta ES 100 Pintail, pick it up and see if you like it. They are a Benelli produced under Beretta's name, and there is no easier to clean automatic. It is almost like cleaning a over and under it is so simple. Unfortunately they quit production of this gun, which is a shame. I completely take apart my beretta 391 and my M1 every 2 or 3 shoots because they are a pain to take apart and put back together, but the ES 100 gets stripped after ever shoot because it is so darn easy to disassemble. I bought it as a back up to my 391, but now it has made its way into the starting lineup because it shoots well, and cleans so easily.
I love my new Franchi I-12, although it's only 3in mag it patterns everything from buckshot to bird shot. It's light, comes w/ 5 choke tubes and comes in shadow grass camo. The same inertia system as the SBE for half the price. I have the hardwoods camo; $650, my son bought the wood version, blued barrel for $640. I hunted doves after Christmas and killed one at 75yrd w/ the full choke. Will be shooting pheasants w/ it this Sat. can't wait to see how it does.