Stoeger M3500 Review Facts
A good shotgun doesn’t need a thousand customization parts to do its job, but options are sometimes nice. The Stoeger M3500 is a delightful balance of utilitarian and versatile, with several cosmetic appearances, after market add-on capabilities, and adjustable nuances. It’ll take a little bit to break the gun in – it needs heavier ammunition to get going, when new – but once you do, it will fire reliably on even the cheap shells in varying sizes. As far as 12-gauge shotguns go, the Stoeger M3500 is a good fit for a good price, as long as you take care of it. As with any make or model of gun, there are slight nuances that you need to be on the lookout for such as a sticky safety or a brand-new barrel needing some tender loving care before you chamber in certain kinds of shells. Typically, this means use heavy loads first in order to ready the chamber for cheaper, lighter loads.
Hunting moving targets is no easy feat, and every different animal you hunt is going to move at different speeds, in different directions, and require a gun of a different size and quality to do the job. If your mouth waters over water fowl, wild turkey, or upland game birds such as pheasant, grouse, pigeons, and quail, you can reach for a Stoeger M3500 shotgun with confidence. There were some suggestions of using it on bigger game, but the intended use is on smaller bird-variety game, so that’s where we’re going to keep the focus aimed. Generally speaking, this shotgun is meant to be fired at something of a relatively close range, so bear that in mind when planning your outing in the wilds hunting. Alternatively, there is some mention of using this gun on a range, clay shooting. While that can be fun on its own, typically that’s practice for moving, living targets in the interest of hunting for food or sport. If all you want the Stoeger M3500 for is skeet shooting, we aren’t here to judge, but remember: you can’t eat a clay pigeon.
There are several lengths and looks for the barrel of your Stoeger M3500. The barrel comes in 24, 26, or 28 inches in length, with a red bar fiber optic front sight. It also notably only has three moving parts in the entire bolt, making it one of the most swiftly reloading systems in the field. This 12-gauge shotgun fires differently than a gas-op system because it keeps the action clear, which is great news for those of us who hated dealing with pesky parts like O-rings and gas cylinders. The receiver is pre-set to accept a scope mount
of the Weaver line, if you find you want one, but a mounted scope doesn’t typically come included with the gun.
In addition to the shim kit customization of the stock drop, your Stoeger M3500 comes with a 13oz recoil reducer. The look of your stock is up to you, and you have several options and combinations to choose from. The overall length of the gun ranges from about 45 to about 50 inches, based partially on the barrel length you select, but that isn’t the only way to customize. There are five different stock option finishes for the M3500, and each one is gorgeous in its own way. The standard black synthetic is no nonsense and gets the job done. Three different “Real Tree” options – the APG, Max-5, or APG “Steady Grip” with extra handle – give you three distinctly different realistic camouflage appearances. Not every style comes in every length, so be flexible when shopping for your weapon. When you had your heart set on a full length 50-inch gun in one of the “Real Tree” appearances but find out that not every stock option or finish comes in that length, don’t panic! Any of these options will still get the job done and look great doing it.
No one is expecting to pick up a shotgun and feel like they’re picking up a Beretta, but thankfully you won’t find any crazy surprises on the M3500. For a 12-gauge shotgun, it weighs in as average – somewhere between 7-and-a-half to 8 pounds, without extras. If you add a scope, or add a base, the weight will change based on what you purchase and add on. Just know that your starting point is a little more than a gallon of milk, and anything you add to your shopping list after that is up to you to be willing to heft around hunting
. Maybe you’re sitting in a duck blind all day, where the weight of your gun won’t matter much in the long run, but you still have to hoof all of that in and out of the duck blind and back to the car, so keep that in mind when you start adding extra accessories. Just remember: everything feels heavier when you’re tired – especially if you’re also lugging a newly shot meal. Maybe the glow of victory will have you walking on air, and most birds don’t weigh terribly much in the grand scheme of things, but all of that will start to add up if you’re a mile from the car.
Speaking of extras, the Stoeger M3500 doesn’t need many in order to shine in its field, but if you wanted to add them, you certainly could. There are scopes
, sights, cheek guards, mounts, and even aftermarket skins if you already purchased your Stoeger in black synthetic but want that camouflage look after all. The receiver comes drilled and tapped to accept a Weaver-style scope base
, so you’re even all set to start out. Of course, depending on your retailer, you may find yourself already getting some accessories with your purchase. Some dealer locations will include the 13oz recoil reducer, a stock drop sighting customization shim kit, as well as several chokes. The gun comes standard with a red bar fiber optic front-sight, but as mentioned, there are plenty of aftermarket ways to improve upon it if you need to. As far as the recoil reducer is concerned, this standard 13oz that comes frequently with the gun is usually enough for a very soft recoil – no real oomph was reported upon the wielder. If you happen to feel a bit of a kick that makes you uncomfortable, there are other options that you can check out for the purposes of adjusting the gun to suit your needs. The set of shims and versatile capability is all lined up to help you adjust things to make the M3500 exactly what you need it to be in terms of comfort and fit.
Without any preamble, the Stoeger M3500 the chamber is ready to fire a 2-3/4”, 3”, or 3-1/2” shell with its well-renowned, trademarked Inertia Driven system. It is the fastest cycling and arguably most reliable system in the business, with a surprisingly small number of moving parts in the bolt. This inertia-bolt assembly includes a rotating locking head with steel-to-steel lockup. The forward and rearward motions of the parts in the firing and ejection sequence are so fluid, so streamlined, that the act of ejection is part of an almost simultaneous reload, meaning the entire thing takes a fraction of a second to occur. You may be sitting there thinking “so what, all semi-automatics reload quickly” but remember that most other firearms of this kind require more moving parts to make it so. Also, recall that the Stoeger M3500 requires some heavy shot first in order to get used to firing. You may have fired a shotgun a thousand times before, but if your gun is a new purchase it will still need a warm up grace period in order to get used to being fired. Make sure you’re reading the boxes when you shop for ammunition, and stock up on all the light ammunition you like but get a few boxes
of the heavy stuff to flex those metaphorical muscles first.
If you only just purchased your M3500, it is highly recommended that you start off with heavy load first, for about 50-100 (or sometimes 200) rounds. This is referred to as a “breaking in” period. After that point, you can fire lighter (cheaper) rounds without a problem. Think of it as giving your Inertia firing system a bit of a warm-up before you let it run the marathon. In addition to all of this, it has been advised that the loading gate will get angry with your thumb, if you aren’t cautious when setting up. Wear gloves and be careful. Don’t try to reload while running after a quarry – that technique usually doesn’t work with birds anyway – and you’ll get the hang of things. The actual trigger pull doesn’t seem to have much weight, so you’ll have no problems firing at your pigeons or turkeys or ducks. As with most firearms, though, it is recommended to empty the magazine before reloading. Trying to reload a partially emptied magazine can be tricky, which is always compounded when one is in a small duck blind on a river or pond. Generally speaking, try to fire everything before needing to reload your weapon
, for the sake of simplicity if nothing else.
As previously mentioned, there are several different finishes for this gun, but all of them are on the functional side. The black synthetic, satin walnut, or “Real Tree” finishes all have in common the same sleek, clean lines and overall silhouette. Additionally, they all have a slight texture built in at the common handhold areas on the stock for the purposes of an easier grip. A purely smooth finish doesn’t really help if the gun slips from your hands, and this was taken into account when the Stoeger M3500 was designed. Just because a shotgun is designed to handle the wet and cold of a riverside duck blind or the cold crisp air of the woods at the wee hours of the morning doesn’t mean you should have to risk dropping it in the mud and underbrush because it was too slippery to hold with your gloves on. For those who want more than just some ribbing on the body to hold onto, if you select the Real Tree APG Steady Grip option, an extra handle protrudes off the bottom of the stock behind the trigger, so keep that in mind if you plan on getting a carrying case
that doesn’t have much wiggle room.
Like most guns, the safety on a Stoeger M3500 is a simple enough mechanism to engage or disengage, with simple indication: red means “ready to fire”. This is one part of the gun that we will say needs to be cleaned regularly, because even though this shotgun is meant to withstand general rough and tumble of being out in the habitats in which water fowl thrive, the fact is that the safety will stick if it isn’t cleaned. It doesn’t sound like much of a problem – there are worse things that could get stuck – but if nothing else consider that the safety being stuck at the wrong time could cost you a prize turkey. There are aftermarket safety options that you can install instead – typically they come bigger in size – but even if you change out a sticky safety for a new one, clean it regularly. You may still experience sticking. It’s just something that some users reported about the M3500. Contrarily, you may never experience a sticky safety mechanism. If you can, have a look when you’re shopping for your shotgun, so that you can have a sales rep help you judge the potential dilemma before it becomes a problem in the field.
Depending upon which stock, which finish, and which length you choose when purchasing your Stoeger M3500, you could see a price anywhere from approximately $600 to $800. Bear in mind that this also has to do with your source: some people are happy purchasing privately, and sometimes you’ll even get some extras
that go with the gun from the previous owner, but there’s no guarantee of such a thing. Going to a chain store or full retail dealer usually means you’re more likely to find yourself a gun with every part of a kit it’s supposed to come with, along with a warranty. There’s no harm in buying your gun from a smaller shop – small businesses need love, too – but do your homework. If the price isn’t right, keep looking. Cost per use is a mental math that can be used to calculate how many times you have to use something you’ve purchased before it has paid for itself, so to speak. Consider this: if you buy your shotgun and get no extras for the higher side of the price
, while the same finish and length is available from a dealer for a lower price tag, you will have to shoot quite a few more quail or pheasant before your gun has ‘paid for itself’. Shop the price and go with what feels right for you.
-Inertia Driven firing system
-minimal moving parts in the bolt keeps the action clear
-various ammunition sizes compatible out of the box
The Stoeger M3500 is a fairly priced gun for its category, with enough cosmetic options and extras to make it your own without having to break the bank. Just be sure to clean and oil it as soon as you bring it home and start off firing a hundred or so rounds of heavy load shells first in order to get it warmed up. The M3500 is more like a diesel engine than a bottle rocket when it comes to starting up the first time, but once you break it in this shotgun will faithfully score you a grouse as long as you treat it right
. The Inertia Driven loading system makes this semi-automatic a breeze to fire and to clean, giving you a fresh shell in the chamber in less than a second. Lefties have a bit of a dilemma with the unavailable left-side option, but others have reported being able to flip the most important parts. The most that can be advised on this score is to proceed with caution, if you try doing a custom flip-job. If you’re looking to wield the Stoeger M3500 on a range, competitively skeet shooting, by all means. It won’t steer you wrong because all in all, the Stoeger M3500 is a good, reliable shotgun for anyone with a hankering for a trophy of the display sort, or a trophy of the edible sort; no water fowl, turkey, or pheasant will be safe from a hunter out for their next dinner with this gun in hand. Just be sure to invite friends over, so you can brag about how you didn’t buy the main course in the meat section of your local grocer’s freezer.