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6 Shotguns to Lighten the Load for Spring Turkeys

Better 20-gauge and .410-bore loads mean turkey hunters can carry the easiest handling—and most lethal—setups on the market.

6 Shotguns to Lighten the Load for Spring Turkeys

A .410-bore shotgun like Mossberg’s 500 Turkey model carries easily and balances nicely when setting up to call. (Photo by Adam Heggenstaller)

It wasn’t that long ago when the .410-bore shotgun was considered a turkey gun only for kids or as a last resort for recoil-shy turkey hunters. With a really good .410 load and gun, neither of which were particularly made for killing turkeys, the effective range on gobblers may have been 25 yards.

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Specific turkey loads packed with super-dense Tungsten Super Shot (TSS) changed all that in a hurry, and now the .410 bore is enjoying popularity in the springtime woods like never before. Shotgun manufacturers offer .410 models built just for turkey hunting, and with these guns firing TSS loads, patterns are lethal at 35 yards and beyond.

Likewise, high-density turkey loads extend the range of 20-gauge shotguns as well. Game & Fish staff have hunted with 20 gauges that threw lethal patterns at 50 yards. That’s the traditional territory of the 12 gauge.


Granted, 12-gauge shotguns also perform at a new, and almost unbelievable, level with high-density loads as well. But rather than haul through the woods a 12-gauge shotgun that’s lethal at nearly twice the distance they’d ever consider shooting, many hunters are opting to downsize to smaller turkey guns.


Going with a 20-gauge or .410-bore shotgun affords hunters two main advantages.

  • One, these guns typically weigh less—sometimes much less—than 12-gauge models. If the hike is long or steep, or if an all-day run-and-gun hunt is the plan, a lightweight gun is a big benefit. Plus, the lighter the gun, the easier it is to hold steady while a gobbler takes his sweet time coming into range.
  • The second advantage is many 20-gauge and .410-bore shotguns produce less felt recoil than 12-gauge models because they fire lighter payloads. Smart hunters are tired of taking a pounding each spring to kill a turkey.

The following shotguns are among the easiest handling—and most lethal—turkey setups on the market. And, of course, we didn’t forget the loads, which play a major role in these smaller guns’ success on turkeys. You’ll like these options if you’re looking to lighten up this spring.

SHOTGUNS


Benelli M2
Benelli M2 Turkey Performance Shop

Benelli M2 Turkey Performance Shop

It’s all about the pattern with this 20-gauge turkey gun. Benelli Performance Shop enhancements by pattern guru Rob Roberts improve consistency and increase range. Each gun is fitted with a Burris FastFire II sight (included) and a custom choke tube then patterned. Printouts provided with the shotgun show points of impact in 10-, 20- and 30-inch circles, so much of your preseason homework is done. When you do shoot the Inertia Driven gun, though, the ComforTech stock cuts almost half the felt recoil.

  • Gauge: 20
  • Chamber: 3"
  • Capacity: 4 rounds
  • Barrel Length: 24"
  • Overall Length: 45.3"
  • Weight: 5.7 lbs.

MSRP: $2,999 | benelliusa.com

Franchi Affinity 3
Franchi Affinity 3 Turkey Elite

Franchi Affinity 3 Turkey Elite

One of few 20-gauge turkey guns available with a pistol-grip stock, the Affinity 3 Turkey Elite is the product of feedback from avid hunters. The Inertia Driven action ensures reliable cycling, while two Rhino extended turkey choke tubes produce consistent patterns. The rifle-style fiber-optic rear sight is fully adjustable, and the fiber-optic front sight is protected by a metal shroud. A Picatinny rail is included for mounting optics. The Turkey Elite’s exterior metal components are treated with Cerakote for durability as well as concealment.

  • Gauge: 20
  • Chamber: 3"
  • Capacity: 5 rounds
  • Barrel Length: 24"
  • Overall Length: 41"
  • Weight: 6.8 lbs.

MSRP: $1,279 | franchiusa.com

Mossberg 500
Mossberg 500 .410 Turkey

Mossberg 500 .410 Turkey

Weighing a half pound less than the 12-gauge 500 Turkey model, this little .410 is well-equipped for all-morning walks in the turkey woods. It comes with a Mossberg X-Full extended choke tube and a front fiber-optic bead to direct the pattern where it belongs. The .410 Turkey’s length of pull is a bit shorter than standard at 13.87 inches, making it a good choice for small-statured hunters.

  • Bore: .410
  • Chamber: 3"
  • Capacity: 6 rounds
  • Barrel Length: 24"
  • Overall Length: 45 3/4"
  • Weight: 6 1/2 lbs.

MSRP: $566 | mossberg.com

Mossberg International SA-20
Mossberg International SA-20 Turkey

Mossberg International SA-20 Turkey

The SA-20 Turkey weighs just 5 1/2 pounds, but if you’re concerned about recoil from magnum 20-gauge loads, its gas-operated action helps keep it moderate. Mossberg outfits this shotgun with features any turkey hunter will appreciate. It comes with an extended turkey choke tube. A fiber-optic ghost-ring rear sight works with a fiber-optic front bead for easy aiming. Hunters who want more precision will find it easy to add an optic, thanks to the included rail that mounts to the receiver.

  • Gauge: 20
  • Chamber: 3"
  • Capacity: 5 rounds
  • Barrel Length: 22"
  • Overall Length: 40 1/2"
  • Weight: 5 1/2 lbs.

MSRP: $749 | mossberg.com

Stevens 301
Stevens 301 Turkey XP

Stevens 301 Turkey XP

Two major upgrades make this single-shot .410 ready for the turkey woods. First, it comes with an extra-full choke tube instead of the full or modified fixed choke typically found on shotguns of this type. Second, a 1x30 mm red-dot optic is included with the gun—a far better aiming system than the common single bead. Stevens worked with Federal Ammunition to optimize the barrel for Federal Heavyweight TSS loads. If you’re looking to try the .410 for turkeys, this gun is a real bargain.

  • Bore: .410
  • Chamber: 3"
  • Capacity: 1 round
  • Barrel Length: 26"
  • Overall Length: 41 1/2"
  • Weight: 5.07 lbs.

MSRP: $268 | savagearms.com

Winchester SXP
Winchester SXP NWTF Turkey Hunter

Winchester SXP NWTF Turkey Hunter

The SXP is Winchester’s workhorse pump gun, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a nimble 20-gauge turkey gun. With a 24-inch barrel, the NWTF Turkey Hunter model weighs a little more than 6 pounds. The chamber and bore are hard chrome plated and the bolt is protected with black chrome for resistance to wear and corrosion. An Invector-Plus extra-full-turkey choke tube is included with the shotgun, and it comes with TruGlo fiber-optic adjustable sights. A portion of the sale of each NWTF Turkey Hunter is donated to the National Wild Turkey Federation.

  • Gauge: 20
  • Chamber: 3"
  • Capacity: 5 rounds
  • Barrel Length: 24"
  • Overall Length: 45"
  • Weight: 6 1/4 lbs.

MSRP: $529.99 | winchesterguns.com





LOADS


Browning TSS
Browning TSS Tungsten Turkey

Browning TSS Tungsten Turkey

At 18 g/cc, the TSS pellets Browning packs into these loads are among the densest available. The density and small diameter of the No. 9 TSS pellets loaded in the .410 offering allows them to penetrate like lead No. 5 pellets. Within that 13/16-ounce load, there are about 275 of them. The 1 1/2-ounce 20-gauge duplex load of No. 7 and 9 TSS is even more impressive, holding about 400 pellets, and No. 7 TSS pellets offer greater penetration than lead pellets. These are two wicked loads that really boost performance in smaller guns. browningammo.com

Federal Premium TSS
Federal Premium Heavyweight TSS

Federal Premium Heavyweight TSS

These loads from Federal also use 18 g/cc TSS pellets, and they are offered in a variety of pellet mixes. There are 20-gauge, 1 1/2-ounce loads of No. 7, No. 9, No. 7 and 9, and No. 8 and 10 pellets in the line, as well as a .410-bore, 13/16-ounce load of No. 9 pellets. All have a muzzle velocity of 1100 fps. The 20-gauge loads use Federal’s rear-braking FliteControl Flex wad for improved pattern delivery. federalpremium.com

Hevi-Shot
Hevi-Shot Hevi-X Strut

Hevi-Shot Hevi-X Strut

A dual-pellet load, Hevi-X Strut contains 25 percent Heavier Than Lead tungsten No. 6 pellets layered over Heavier Than Steel Hevi-X tungsten No. 5 pellets. The No. 6 pellets have a density of 12 g/cc, while the No. 5 pellets have a density of 10.1 g/cc. Hevi-X Strut has an advertised velocity of 1450 fps, high for a turkey load, which Hevi-Shot says is possible because of the higher-strength tungsten pellets. Put it all together, and the load offers up to 50 percent more energy than a conventional No. 6 lead load at an economical price. Hevi-X Strut is available in a 20-gauge, 1 1/4-ounce load and a .410-bore, 9/16-ounce load. hevishot.com

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