Air blast conventional shot peening (CSP), severe shot peening (SSP) and repeening (RP) as a severe plastic deformation applications on AISI 304 austenitic stainless steel is addressed. Shot peened specimens are investigated based on optical, FESEM and digital microscope. The investigations present the austenite transformation to metastable martensite via mechanical twinning due to plastic deformation with high strain rates. It is found that SSP induces thicker nanograin layer with compared to CSP. In XRD studies, the austenite peaks broaden by means of severe shot peening and FWHM increase reveals the grain size reduction below 25 nm regimes on the surface. In EDAX line analysis of CSP specimen, carbon content increase has been detected from deformed layer through the nanocrystalline layer then the content reduces. The carbon segregation takes place due to the energy level distinction between dislocations and Fe-C bonds. 3d contour digital microscope studies and roughness investigations reveal that SSP has deleterious side effect on the surface roughness and surface flatness. However, RP is an effective way to reduce the surface roughness to reasonable values. (C) 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.