What Gauge Shotgun is Best for Turkey Hunting?
You can’t go wrong with a 12-gauge shotgun when it comes to killing turkeys. Not only is it the most versatile shotgun size for hunting multiple game species, but it also has the most options when it comes to finding the right load for your target species – especially turkeys. However, after the remarkable success of many new turkey specific loads over the past couple of years, ammo manufacturers are now catching up and creating similar loads chambered in 20-gauge. Shop the Best New Turkey Loads for 2019.
The use of 20-gauge shotguns for turkey hunting is becoming ever more popular and it’s not just the kids toting them around the woods anymore. Again, with shotshell technology advancing, the 20-gauge has been likened by a tribe of turkey hunters who prefer to cover lots of ground in the run-and-gun style of hunting. The biggest advantage is the weight and size reduction of a 20-gauge versus a 12-gauge, which can wear on you after a long day of chasing gobblers. Another major advantage a 20-gauge boasts is its significant reduction in recoil. Recoil is often one of the biggest fears for youth when it comes to shooting guns, which is why a 20-gauge will be their best friend.
Whether you opt for a trusty 12-gauge or lighter 20-gauge, be sure to consider the chamber size before you purchase. Turkeys are in fact a big and tough bird…just ask any experienced turkey hunter and they are sure to have a story of a longbeard they rolled only to watch get up and fly out sight, leaving the hunter in a moment of disbelief. Don’t be that guy. While you can certainly kill birds with 2 ¾ – inch shells, it’s advised to have a shotgun that can tote a 3-inch or even a 3 ½ – inch shell. Again, improvements in turkey specific ammo such as the Winchester LongBeard XR and Federal 3rd Degree have made the smaller 3-inch shell size more capable than ever. With larger cartridge sizes, it’s not to go without saying, the larger the shell, the more recoil – an important consideration especially when it comes to youth hunters.
What is the Ideal Barrel Length for Turkey Hunting?
Shorter barrels have become the general norm for turkey guns because they are more maneuverable and lighter to carry. Choosing a turkey gun with a barrel length between 21 – 26 inches will suit you well. The shorter barrel length of a turkey gun makes it easier to use in a blind and is ideal for both adult and youth hunters.
What is the Best Action Type for Turkey Hunting?
First, we’ll look at the semi-auto shotgun. A semi-auto will allow you to get off a second shot quicker than a pump, but there is an increased likelihood of experiencing a jam. A good semi-auto will often times double as a great waterfowl gun, however, you’ll pay significantly more for a semi-auto. Semi-autos also have less recoil and they eliminate the need to physically load another shell.
Now, on to the pump action shotgun. Here you’ll find perhaps the most popular do-everything shotgun of all time, the Remington Model 870 Express. Pump action guns are extremely reliable and durable with proper maintenance. They often come with an attractive price tag and are simpler to use. With a little bit of practice, you’ll be able to cycle through rounds nearly as fast as a semi-auto. In the end, turkeys are made to be taken with one shot, after that you’re just sending prayers down range.
Should I Get a Turkey Choke?
If you’re setting your gun up to be a dynamic turkey killing machine, you’ll definitely want to equip it with a turkey choke. A turkey choke is basically an extra-full choke that will hold a tighter pattern at further distances, thus increasing your effective range. Turkey chokes aren’t always a one size fits all type of accessory and they often require testing multiple chokes with different turkey loads to hone in on the best combination for your specific gun. Taking the time to experiment and pattern your shotgun before the season is the only way to ensure your shotgun will be shooting a perfect pattern when that longbeard steps into range.
Best Turkey Hunting Shotguns
Now that we’ve cruised through the meat of considerations to account for when choosing a turkey hunting specific shotgun, here are a few specific shotguns that will serve you well in the woods this season.
Remington 870 Express
The Remington 870 Express has been a time-tested legend in the turkey hunting woods. Perhaps the most popular shotgun of its time, Remington has kicked it up a notch with The 870 Express Super Magnum Turkey/Waterfowl model. The dual-purpose bird slayer cycles 2 3/4″, 3″ and 3 1/2″ 12-gauge rounds interchangeably and features full Mossy Oak Bottomland camo coverage that blends into everything. The 26″ barrel with HiViz fiber-optics sights makes it ideal for virtually every turkey hunting or waterfowl situation. Best of all, you can get the 870 Express chambered in 12-gauge or 20-gauge.
Benelli M2 Turkey
If you’re looking for a higher end shotgun to withstand the torments of belly crawling through the brush as you creep closer to that gobbler, look no further than the Benelli M2. The M2 Field shotgun is light, ruggedly built, and fast handling. It is the backbone of the Benelli semi-auto line that cycles everything from target loads to the heaviest 3-inch magnums. The ComforTech™ recoil-reduction system with gel recoil and combo pads dampens recoil by up to 48% and significantly decreases muzzle jump. The Benelli M2 is also available in 12 and 20-gauge models.
When you combine the proven reliability of the most revered, top end pump shotgun ever with the extremely sophisticated and durable Hi-Vis 4-in-1 sights, you have a turkey smashing machine. It helps to have the time-tested Browning EXTRA FULL SPECIAL choke tube to put a tight, consistent pattern exactly where it needs to be.
The Mossberg® 535 Turkey Pump-Action Shotgun is specifically designed for serious turkey hunting. The 535 cycles and shoots 2-3/4″, 3″, and 3-1/2″ shells flawlessly. The 535 turkey gun comes with front and rear adjustable fiber optic sights that put you on target quickly, even in the deep woods. An XX-Full choke tube shoots tight patterns to knock toms down at maximum shotgun range. The buttstock, forend, receiver, and barrel are all finished in Mossy Oak® Obsession™ camo, designed specifically for spring turkey hunting. Mossberg’s 535 Turkey Pump-Action Shotgun delivers heavy magnum loads of shot at long range, cycles smoothly for quick follow-up shots, and blends into the turkey woods naturally. It’s everything you need to consistently bring big toms home year after year.
Hopefully, this list of important turkey gun features has given you a reason to go out and buy another gun. If not, hopefully, you’ve already got one. In the end, buying the right gun ultimately comes down to personal preference. Be sure to handle and shoulder as many different makes and models as you can to find one that fits you properly. Also, spend plenty of time on the range experimenting with different types of ammo at different distances, as these two factors will significantly impact results.