HUNTING

Turkey Hunting Guns: Gunning for Gobblers

Best Turkey Hunting Guns
Shawn Harrison
Written by Shawn Harrison

Wild turkey meat has fed people on the North American continent for centuries. To hunt wild turkey is to follow in the footsteps of not only one’s ancestors, but also the ancient Native Americans.

Despite being hunted to near extinction in the 19th century, turkey populations have risen dramatically in recent years. Nowadays over 7 million wild turkeys roam throughout all of the States, with the exception of Alaska.

They are a challenge and the excitement of the hunt is fantastic. Stealthily hidden away, the hunter makes a call. The thrill of hearing a response, followed by the emergence of a large gobbler is second to none for many hunters.

Aside from the thrill of the hunt, in a survival situation hunting may be essential. Turkey is a good choice of prey due to their sheer numbers. Hunters can use either a bow or a shotgun to hunt turkey in most States, while some will allow small caliber rifles.

The best turkey hunting guns are widely considered to be shotguns, of which there are many variants available. Shotguns used for turkey hunting can often double up as a tactical defense weapon. This is great in a survival situation as aside from keeping your family fed, the shotgun can also give you a measure of safety.

Below we’ll take a look at the different types of shotguns one can use for hunting turkey and special features to look out for. Finally, we’ll review nine great turkey hunting shotguns.

Different Types of Turkey Hunting Guns

One can, in theory, use any type of gun to hunt wild turkey in a desperate situation. However, regulations are in place and in the majority States, a shotgun must be used. With this in mind, we will focus only on types of shotguns during this article.

Turkey Hunting Guns

The shells do not need to be too heavy duty and most favor a 3” shot shell, though 2¾” and 3½” can also be used with success. Shotguns used for turkey hunting fall into two main categories, pump action and semi-automatic.

Pump action shotguns

Pump action shotguns are generally more affordable than semi-automatic options. This in no way results in an inferior choice.

Many successful hunters bring home plenty of meat using a pump action shotgun. When the handgrip is pumped back, spent cartridges are ejected and a new one is loaded. With practice, one can fire repeatedly fairly rapidly, though certainly not as quickly as with a semi-automatic. They are generally easy to strip down and clean, making maintenance easy for all.

The fewer moving parts in comparison to semi-automatics ensure sustained durability. Often they are marketed as ambidextrous, though this is not strictly true, as the spent cartridge is generally ejected from one side.

Semi-automatic shotguns

These shotguns are capable of firing a round each time the trigger is pulled. There is no need to manually eject spent cartridges. This makes for a gun that is able to fire off several rounds within seconds. Generally, gas is used to cycle the rounds.

While this is great for shooting several rounds quickly, the system must be well looked after. Cleaning and general maintenance is very important to ensure durability. They can struggle to process rounds of varying sizes more than pump action shotguns and are prone to jamming with certain rounds.

Pump action:

  • Easy to maintain
  • Generally cheaper
  • Time spent manually cycling the action can be spent aiming
  • Can normally cycle a variety of rounds
  • Slower reloading

Semi-automatic:

  • Regular cleaning and maintenance essential
  • More expensive
  • Rapid firing
  • Can struggle with varying shell sizes
  • Quicker reloading

Features to Look for in A Turkey Hunting Gun

Now we have a general idea of what type of gun to look for, it’s time to narrow things down a bit. Turkey hunters generally don’t use a shotgun like a shotgun. It is normally shot from a static position and aimed down the sights, similar to a rifle.

Turkey Hunting Guns features

Turkey hunting relies on a certain type of setup for the best results. There are many decisions the hunter must make, from selecting the best barrel length, to choosing the perfect finish.

  • Gauge: Generally, most turkey hunters use a 12 gauge shotgun, although 10, 16 and 20 gauge guns are also used. Smaller gauges, such as 20Ga are more suitable for young hunters.
  • Barrel length: More and more turkey hunters are beginning to favor a shorter barrel. These are generally lighter and more manageable, making movement through the woods easier. Ultimately it comes down to personal preference, with some preferring 20” and others a longer 28” barrel.
  • Choke: The choice of choke is very important when turkey hunting. This determines the shot pattern and is largely responsible for ensuring the shot will hit the turkey only in the head and neck area. This will generally kill it instantly, rather than maiming it with a wider shot pattern. Turkey hunters aim for a tight shot pattern and will generally opt for an extra full choke. Shotguns marketed at turkey hunting will normally have an appropriate choke in place, though this can always be replaced depending on personal preference.
  • Sights: Decent sights can make or break a hunt. High visibility fiber optic sights are good in all conditions and are well worth looking out for. A rear ghost ring paired with blade style front sights are also a good combination. Some hunters will even use a small scope.
  • Finish: Turkeys have excellent eyesight, which is why most turkey hunters stay very still and wear complete camouflage. It is important that your gun doesn’t give you away with a reflection from the sun for example. Turkey hunting guns can often be bought with a choice of finish. Look for a camo finish or matte black.
  • Pistol grip: A traditional shotgun can become cumbersome and awkward. More and more modern shotguns are incorporating a pistol style grip. This is great for turkey hunters, as the shotgun can be securely held in one hand while a call is being used.
  • Recoil pad: These are normally found on the butt of the stock and sit against the hunter’s shoulder. They are designed to take the brunt of the recoil force and help prevent badly bruised shoulders.

Having looked at what makes a great turkey hunting gun, we can now take a look at some of the most popular options on the market.

A Review of Nine Great Turkey Hunting Guns

Winchester Super X Black Shadow Field

Winchester Super X Black Shadow Field

Type: Pump action shotgun

Gauge: 12 Ga 3½”

Overall Length: 47”

Weight: 6 lbs 14 oz

Specific Features: Vent rib with brass bead sight, can fire a variety of loads, non-glare matte finish, recoil pad

Best Use: Great for beginners. Excellent budget option.

Description: The black shadow is a fantastic pump action shotgun. It’s easy to use, easy to set up and it’s very affordable. Though not strictly a pure Winchester, as the majority is built in Turkey under license, the shotgun performs exceptionally well.

The build quality is solid and all the mechanisms work smoothly and consistently. Four rounds can be loaded at a time and these slip into place flawlessly after pumping. The shotgun can be fired fairly rapidly, the slide moving back smoothly ensuring the spent cartridge is out of the way as the next one takes its place.

The sights are precise and with very little setup, one can be hitting the target every time. One complaint lies with the stock, which on first appearances seems undersized in comparison with the rest of the shotgun. After use however, many hunters have found this has very little effect on their accuracy and soon forget that it is not as long as normal.

The stock also has an ergonomic recoil pad and ribs that reduce the shock felt by the shooter. Overall, this is a great budget option that is easy to use and maintain, looks good and is comfortable to use.

Related: Various models available; 26/28” barrel, 20Ga, 12Ga 3”

Remington Model 870 Express Turkey Camo

Remington Model 870 Express Turkey Camo

Type: Pump action shotgun

Gauge: 12 Ga 3”

Overall length: 42.5”

Weight: 7.25 lbs

Specific Features: Hi-vis single bead sight, camo finish, lightweight

Best Use: Excellent for hunters of a smaller stature

Description: The Remington model 870 series has been around for over five decades. As such it has become increasingly popular among turkey hunters. The express model is smaller than the original and more lightweight, making it ideal for youths or hunters looking for a more manageable shotgun.

It is well made, durable and can take a knock or two when out and about. Many hunters have been using their 870 for several years without complaint. The action is smooth, after over half a century of improvements it has become incredibly reliable.

With a four cartridge capacity, reloading is quick and easy. It’s a low-cost shotgun that can be modified easily as there are many aftermarket parts available. This allows a hunter to modify the gun for a range of different uses, making this shotgun an excellent all-rounder.

There is little to criticize, though some hunters have had problems with rust. The exposed parts are prone to rusting in wet or damp weather and extreme care is advised. Many suggest keeping this shotgun for dry weather.

However, it appears that this issue does not affect everyone. A higher quality finish can be bought to deter potential problems. It’s an excellent all-rounder, though, reliable and durable and with care and attention it should last many years.

Related: Model 870 wingmaster – larger model

Mossberg 500 Turkey Thug

Mossberg 500 Turkey Thug

Type: Pump action shotgun

Gauge: 12 Ga 3”

Overall length: 44.25”

Weight: 7¼lbs

Specific Features: Three dot fiber optic sights, adjustable lightning trigger system, five shot tubular magazine

Best Use: Excellent for hunters of a smaller stature

Description: The turkey thug range is fairly new to the market, though Mossberg are renowned when it comes to crafting pump action shotguns. They are widely considered to be among the best makers of shotguns in the world.

The turkey thug looks fantastic and comes in several matt finishes, including camo. The gun is well made, sturdy and durable. It’ll survive being put through its paces in the wilderness. Deadly accurate, the fiber optic sights ensure the target is hit time after time.

The mechanisms are faultless and the action smooth, ensuring round after round can be fired off quickly and easily. The trigger system is adjustable, allowing hunters to set it to their personal preference, from three to eight pounds. Hunters are happy with the ease of use and maintenance. In fact, it is difficult to find anything wrong with the shotgun.

Some have had problems with the rear sights falling off, although they note that it doesn’t cause a problem with accuracy. All in all, this is another excellent choice which is well made from quality materials.

Related: 510 turkey thug – for youths, 535/835 turkey thug – larger version with adjustable stocks and pistol grips

Weatherby PA-459 Digital

Weatherby PA-459 Digital

Type: Pump action shotgun

Gauge: 12 Ga 3”

Overall length: 39”

Weight: 6.5lbs

Specific Features: Pistol grip, M-16 style front, adjustable rear ghost ring and blade front sights, comfortable butt stock

Best Use: Close range hunting

Description: While Weatherby may be better known for more traditional shotguns, they have created a modern masterpiece with the PA-459. The shotgun is actually marketed as a defense shotgun, though many turkey hunters have been more than happy to use it.

With the right ammo and choke, it’s accurate well past 20 yards and more than capable of bringing home a turkey or two. The build quality is good and the action is smooth and consistent. Hunters are particularly impressed by the sights on this shotgun.

The rear ghost ring is adjustable and the simple blade front sights can be modified. They are deadly accurate and the shotgun also has the capacity to add a flashlight or scope. It’s a very ergonomic shotgun feeling comfortable in the hand and its light weight makes it easy to carry.

The pistol grip allows one to use a call and hold the gun securely in one hand. One drawback is that due to the light weight of this shotgun the recoil is fairly harsh. This can become tiring after a while and can slow down a second shot. Otherwise, it’s quick and easy to use, well made and reliable.

Related: A 20Ga version is also available

Remington Model 887 Pump Combo Camo

Remington Model 887 Pump Combo Camo

Type: Pump action shotgun

Gauge: 12 Ga 3½”

Overall length: 42/48”

Weight: 7.5lbs

Specific Features: Hi-Viz fiber optic sights, recoil pad, ultra-durable ArmorLokt polymer coating, waterproof, two barrels

Best Use: A great shotgun for poor conditions. Brilliant for those who hunt both turkey and waterfowl.

Description: Remington proudly boasts that the 887 is the most durable shotgun on the market. It employs a polymer coating that has been tested in house to check for leaks. One such test sees the shotgun submerged in saltwater for thirty minutes.

It looks to have survived and continues to fire well. The basic action is derived from the Model 870. While it is not quite as smooth as its predecessor, it is fairly reliable and easy to use. It can handle different sized rounds in quick succession with no problems.

The recoil pad works very well, largely reducing shock and keeping comfort levels high. While the majority of hunters have no issue with the accuracy, some claim that they can’t seem to get to grips with it. It isn’t the best-looking shotgun either and resembles a tire track at times.

This design certainly helps with handling, however. Some serial numbers were recalled due to a malfunction with the firing pin. Since then the shotgun has ceased to be produced. However, they can still be bought and for a reasonable price.

They’re a great choice if one needs a wet weather gun. Finally, two barrels come supplied, a shorter 22” for hunting turkey and a 28” for waterfowl.

Related: A 20Ga version is also available

Escort turkey Tactical

Escort turkey Tactical

Type: Semi-automatic, gas action shotgun

Gauge: 12 Ga 3”

Overall length: 44”

Weight: 7.4lbs

Specific Features: Adjustable ghost ring rear sight, adjustable fiber optic front sight, built in extra cartridge holder, pistol grip, recoil pad

Best Use: A superb budget option

Description: As the name suggests, this shotgun is made for turkey hunting and it does it well. Ergonomically it is fantastic and handles like a dream. The pistol grip allows one to carry the shotgun one-handed, leaving the other free for calling.

The recoil pad is remarkably effective and will save your shoulder from heavy bruises. As a gas operated shotgun, one can fire off several rounds in a matter of seconds. This is great for multiple targets. Despite the low price tag, the shotgun performs well.

The ghost ring, fiber optic sights ensure that one hits the target from as far as forty yards. Many hunters have happily used this shotgun for several seasons and swear by its reliability. That is not to say that it is 100% perfect. Jams can occur, however, they are generally infrequent. Some have had issues with the shotgun jamming more frequently, or the trigger being ineffective.

These cases are generally the exception to the rule and may be down to improper maintenance. As a gas operated shotgun, thorough cleaning and maintenance are essential. Fortunately, it is fairly easy to strip the shotgun down and clean it.

Related: Escort MP-S/A 12Ga – the tactical, defense version, featuring different sights. Available in gas or pump action

Mossberg 935 Magnum turkey

Mossberg 935 Magnum turkey

Type: Semi-automatic, gas action shotgun

Gauge: 12 Ga 3½”

Overall length: 42”

Weight: 7.5lbs

Specific Features: Adjustable fiber optic sights, camo finish, excess gas venting for reduced recoil and increased durability

Best Use: A fantastic shotgun for longer range targets

Description: The 935 packs quite a punch and is widely considered to be one of the best shotguns for hunting turkeys. The build quality is excellent and it’s certainly a durable gun. However, longevity is ensured by proper and thorough maintenance and cleaning.

The shotgun will suffer considerably from a lack of cleaning, causing jams. It’s a fairly high maintenance shotgun and one should bear this in mind. When kept clean and used with the correct ammo this is a highly reliable shotgun.

Many hunters believe it to be rather fickle when it comes to the shells it chooses to fire. The general consensus is that three inch shells perform best, with 100% success more often than not. Though trial and error is often necessary as various brands can have different results.

While smaller shells can be loaded, it is not recommended. The action is smooth and recoil is reduced by both the recoil pad and the system responsible for venting excess gas. The aim is true and accurate even over longer distances.

Related: Also available with a 28” barrel – more suitable for waterfowl

Remington 11-87 Sportsman SuperMag ShurShot turkey

Remington 11-87 Sportsman SuperMag ShurShot turkey

Type: Semi-automatic, gas action shotgun

Gauge: 12 Ga 3½”

Overall length: 43”

Weight: 8lbs

Specific Features: TruGlo rifle sights, SuperCell recoil pad, pistol grip stock, Wingmaster HD turkey choke, camo finish

Best Use: A fantastic all round turkey hunting gun

Description: The 11-87 is fantastically durable and utilizes high-quality materials and expert craftsmanship. It’s certainly a gun that with proper maintenance will last a long time. It works very well at distances between 30 and 40 yards, but can also reach 50 with success.

The TruGlo sights ensure accuracy in any conditions and many hunters have filled their freezers with turkey meat as a result. With 3 and 3½” shells the shotgun fires and expels spent cartridges flawlessly. This is an incredibly reliable shotgun, which is one of the reasons it is so popular.

It does, however, have some issues with smaller rounds and anything less than 3” is generally not recommended, although a kit can be bought to remedy this issue. It’s a comfortable shotgun to use and the pistol grip stock allows for great handling.

Some hunters have commented that compared to other guns it is a little heavy and awkward. In general, though, hunters agree that this is among the best turkey hunting guns.

Related: Model 11-87 sportsman – the original model this gun is based on. Standard stock and sights.

Stoeger P-350

stoeger-p-350

Type: Pump action shotgun

Gauge: 12 Ga 3½”

Overall length: 45.75”

Weight: 6.6lbs

Specific Features: HiViz bead sight, pistol grip available, easy maintenance, camo finish

Best Use: Durable gun, great for more serious hunters

Description: This fantastic shotgun can become one of the best for hunting turkeys. However it takes time and patience. Straight from the box the gun is stiff and difficult to use and many users have had problems with jamming. However, more often than not this is down to user error and not pumping fully.

It is worth giving the shotgun a thorough clean and working through a few boxes of rounds. This helps to loosen up the gun up and makes it much easier to use, just be sure to clean frequently. It is very easy to take apart, making cleaning and maintenance a piece of cake.

Once the gun has bedded in it will generally fire a variety of ammo with no problems. It feels great on the shoulder and is a comfortable shotgun to use. One can choose from a traditional stock or a pistol grip and a choice of finishes.

For turkey hunting, the pistol grip paired with a camo finish makes for a comfortable and practical gun. Finally, it’s a very versatile gun and can be modified to hunt a range of prey.

Related: Available in a range of barrel lengths and finishes

Lock and Load

Having looked at some great examples of turkey hunting guns, the only thing left to do is to choose the one for you. Remember price isn’t always an indicator of quality and many great guns can be bought for a great price.

Choose your Turkey Hunting Guns

Beginners are generally recommended to look at pump action shotguns for their ease of use and maintenance. If the gun is to be used only for turkey hunting, a shorter barrel will work well and allow easier movement through the woods.

For those looking to use their shotgun for a variety of uses including defense, look out for combo packs and features such as mounting rails or pistol grips. Finally, ensure the finish is either a camouflage pattern or matte black for great results.

Do you have any turkey hunting tips? Let us know in the comments.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shawn Harrison
Shawn Harrison

Shawn Harrison is our expert in hunting. He was born in Alaska, so hunting was his hobby since high school. Later, Shawn took a Hunter Training at Alaska Department of Fish and Game to structure his knowledge and now he is open to share his knowledge with our readers. Shawn is taking ‘Safety First’ approach on all of his trips, especially is some people are going hunting for the first time.

  • Carl Thompson

    I bought my 11-87 5 years ago and I use it as an all-around gun. It does everything I need well enough. I use it as a trap and skeet gun, for turkey, duck and goose. Before I bought it I had an opportunity to test it, feel the trigger and get the overall impression. My words of wisdom are that it will put holes wherever you point it and that’s the main objective.

    • Shawn Harrison

      Indeed, Carl. The 11-87 fires a moderate range of coverage so it will definitely leave holes wherever you shoot. Reliable, durable, and well-built, this is something I would recommend.

  • James Phillips

    PA-459 is the best turkey gun I’ve ever owned. In my opinion it’s just perfect for turkey hunting. It has a great grip and it’s very light. So far it has performed flawlessly. Smaller barrel is easy to be maneuvered around the house so it’s also a great home defense weapon.

    • Shawn Harrison

      Not only about the great grip and a very compact package for a turkey hunting gun, the PA-459 is also very stylish and really ergonomic. It effectively combines power and style, fit even to the most design-conscious hunters.

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