First things first, I am not a hunter. I don't really have any close friends or family who hunt, so no one has ever introduced me to the finer points of the sport. That being said, I do have my hunter safety card, so if I ever do get a chance to go, I'll be ready.
Except of course, I don't have an acceptable shotgun.
I've got a decent assortment of guns, 5 handguns (.38, 9mm, .40, .357 and .44 mag), 3 rifles (AK, 10-22, and K-31) and 1 shotgun (a winchester 1200 defender with 18" bbl.), but none of these are ideally suited to hunting. I could take the K31 or my super blackhawk 44, but neither are ideal for the beginner hunter and would be useless against any kind of fowl.
So I have resolved myself to buy another shotgun. I have settled on the Remington 870, mostly because of the balance between price and quality, and because if I don't end up going hunting I can slap an 18" barrel and other cheap and plentiful aftermarket parts on it and have another hurricane gun.
This is my question: Should I get a 26 or 28 inch barrel? I used to work at Puglia's Sporting Goods, and we sold tons of sporting shotguns. Most people wanted the 28" barrel, but for different reasons. Some said it got more velocity, others said this was BS. Some claimed the longer sight radius improved accuracy. I also ran into the school of thought, however, that seemed to think the extra 2 inches did nothing to improve performance and that the 26 inch barrel was much handier to carry around or handle in a blind.
I would like to get everyone's practical and/or theoretical opinion on which barrel length I should get. I want whichever is best for all-around hunting (deer, birds of all sorts, etc) and some occasional clay shooting at my friend's place. Don't give any consideration to the self-defense aspects of either, since I do plan to get an 18" barrel for it to have on there when I am not going to use it for a "sporting" purpose.