March 28, 2023
Turkey shotguns can be as purpose-built and specialized as the scatterguns used for the various clay-shooting disciplines. The major difference, besides appearance, is that shotguns designed for clays games are carefully tailored to deliver an evenly spread pattern of shot where the shooter looks, while turkey shotguns send a tightly packed swarm of pellets where the hunter aims. That’s a big distinction, and in part it drove the development of Mossberg’s new 940 Pro Turkey.
It’s almost counterintuitive to think of a scattergun as a precision instrument, yet precision is exactly what most turkey hunters desire. A gobbler’s head and neck combined are roughly the size of a dove, and a turkey gun is charged with putting as many pellets into that zone as possible. Hitting any upland bird with several dozen pellets is almost unimaginable, but for turkeys, hunters these days are looking for well over 100 pellets in a 10-inch circle at 40 yards and beyond. Tight choke tubes, super dense No. 7 and No. 9 tungsten pellets and optimized wad systems make it happen with 3-inch 12-gauge loads.
The tradeoff is less room for error when delivering the payload. I’ve shot some gun-choke-load combinations that put virtually every pellet, save for a handful of fliers, into the diameter of a softball at 25 yards. That’s not much leeway for aiming at a target that hardly ever stops moving. Don’t get me wrong; the performance of modern turkey guns and loads is a tremendous benefit, as long as you put the payload into a gobbler’s neck and noggin. That requires careful aim.
Enter optical sights. Single beads on modern turkey guns are rarer than 25-pound gobblers. There’s a good reason for this: Aiming at a turkey’s head with a single bead can be a nightmare at any distance beyond 30 yards. Adjustable rifle-style sights with fiber-optic inserts are much better, but even they have their drawbacks when shots stretch past 40 yards. They’re big, especially the rear components that form the notch, and they obscure the relatively small target that is a gobbler’s pate. It’s difficult to precisely aim at something you cannot see.
None of these problems exist with optical sights. They present a thin crosshair or small dot that appears on the same plane as the target, which makes aiming easier. Low-magnification shotgun scopes were popular for a short time, but when red-dot sights with unlimited eye relief came along, it was a match made in heaven. The trend has evolved to where tiny reflex-style red-dot optics not much larger than a hunter’s thumb have taken over, and the Mossberg 940 Pro Turkey is designed especially for them.
Rather than having a conventional drilled and tapped receiver, which requires attaching a base or rail and then mounting the optic onto it, the 940 Pro Turkey’s receiver is milled with a cutout that directly accepts micro reflex sights with the Shield RMSc footprint. Don’t let that last part confuse you. It’s simply a set of standards that specify overall length and width of the mounting portion of the sight, as well as the location of the holes that accept the screws used to secure the sight to the receiver. The footprint is named after the Shield reflex sight that introduced it (mainly as a way to attach the mini optic to subcompact handguns), and sights with the footprint are available from Bushnell, Crimson Trace, Holosun, SIG Sauer and other manufacturers.
Attaching the optic directly to the receiver eliminates the middleman component of the rail. This makes the sight sit lower on the gun, which promotes a solid cheek weld on the stock while looking through the optic. Aiming a shotgun is much like aiming a rifle; maintaining consistent cheek-to-stock contact contributes to greater precision, and oftentimes a red-dot sight mounted to a rail sits too high for the shooter to achieve a good cheek weld.
The lower mounting system also permits use of the shotgun’s HiViz fiber-optic front sight with the optic in place—a backup plan if a battery were to die while a bird is coming in hot. Of course, you’ll want to check where the pattern impacts when aiming with the front sight before relying on it to save the day.
The big advantage offered by the 940 Pro Turkey is the ability to pair it with a low-profile red-dot and zero a pattern for confident shots at longer ranges, but that’s far from the only feature gobbler hunters will find appealing. The gun has the same semi-automatic operating system Mossberg introduced in the 940 JM Pro competition shotgun, developed to run longer between cleanings than the company’s previous semi-autos. The key component is a gold-colored spacer that reduces the movement required of the gas piston to initiate the action cycle. Thanks to its ribbed and ventilated design, the spacer moderates friction with the magazine tube. In addition, the gas piston, magazine tube, hammer and sear are nickel-boron-coated and the return-spring plunger is hard-anodized aluminum to promote smooth operation. Mossberg reports that the system operates reliably with up to 1,500 rounds between cleanings.
Mossberg 940 Pro Turkey Specs
- Type: semi-automatic shotgun
- Gauge: 12
- Chamber: 3”
- Capacity: 4+1 rounds
- Barrel Length: 18 1/2"
- Overall Length: 39 1/4"
- Weight: 7 1/4 lbs.
- Stock: composite; Mossy Oak Greenleaf
- Length of Pull: adjustable, 13"-14 1/4"
- Drop at Heel: adjustable, 2 5/8" factory setting
- Drop at Comb: adjustable, 1 3/4" factory setting
- Sights: HiViz fiber-optic front; receiver cut for mounting optics with Shield RMSc footprint
- Choke Tube: extended, ported X-Factor XX-Full
- MSRP: $1,189
- Info: mossberg.com
Other upgrades the company has carried over from the competition gun should prove to be welcome features in the turkey woods. The oversized and beveled loading port has a redesigned elevator and shell catch. These improvements were designed to allow competitive shooters racing against the clock to quickly stuff rounds into the magazine tube, but they also make it easier for turkey hunters to load up by feel before dawn. Similarly, the oversized charging handle and bolt-release button are a cinch to operate when wearing gloves, and easing the bolt forward by riding the charging handle allows a hunter to chamber a round quietly without alerting the roost.
The slim-profile fore-end cradles nicely in the hand, and its checkering ensures it won’t slip against a glove. While the old-school Mossy Oak Greenleaf finish is just for the turkey woods, the adjustable stock is another nod toward competitive shooters that hunters will find beneficial. Spacers permit adjustment of drop, cast and length of pull from 13 to 14 1/4 inches. The trigger, too, is worthy of a gun developed for competition. In the 940 Pro Turkey I tested, it broke at a pull weight of about 4 pounds after a bit of take-up. Mossberg clearly understands the importance of a good trigger in a shotgun meant to deliver precise patterns.
The 940 Pro Turkey is available with two barrel lengths: 18 1/2 and 24 inches. Both come with Mossberg’s X-Factor XX-Full ported choke tube, which has a constriction of 0.670 inches. I much prefer a short barrel on a turkey gun because there is less chance of it hanging up in the undergrowth when I have to make a late adjustment to my position, so I opted to test the 18 1/2-inch version. I mounted a Holosun HS407K reflex sight to the receiver.
At the range, patterns with 2-ounce No. 9 Apex Turkey Tungsten Super Shot and 1 3/4-ounce No. 7 Federal Premium Heavyweight TSS loads were impressive. With each load there were more than 100 pellet holes in a 10-inch circle at 50 yards, and the patterns were even with no gaps that would leave a gobbler unscathed. Recoil from the 7 1/4-pound gun was stout but not punishing, the 940 Pro Turkey’s gas system and cushiony recoil pad helping to reduce some of the kick. There were no failures to feed or fire, and I was able to load and unload the gun smoothly. The redesigned shell catch, in particular, was much improved over other Mossberg shotguns I’ve tested, and removing rounds from the magazine tube was no longer a source of frustration.
I carried the 940 Pro Turkey for almost a month during seasons in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. A few of those hunts began before daybreak and stretched into the mid-afternoon, my mapping app showing that I hiked more than 6 miles on several occasions while trying to get away from other hunters on public land. There was no time during any of those hunts where I felt like the gun was weighing me down. It carried nicely on my shoulder, freeing up my hands to run calls and pick morels when the birds weren’t talking.
I didn’t kill a bird with the gun, but I had several close calls and passed on a shot at an estimated 60 yards. Having a gun with the capability to reach out is reassuring, but I didn’t see the point in stretching it. The Mossberg 940 Pro Turkey will force you to make those kinds of decisions.
This article on turkey hunting is featured in March's Game & Fish Magazine. Click here to learn how to subscribe.