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8 Great Turkey Hunting Shotguns

By Chad Meyers

turkey hunter with shotgun

Not too long ago, turkeys were hunted with standard hunting shotguns. But as the needs of turkey hunters became clearer, manufacturers began producing shotguns designed specifically for turkey hunting.

This produced a shorter, handier gun. The accuracy of the turkey gun was augmented with specialty chokes and newer sighting options. Combined with better ammunition, the modern turkey hunter can push the limits on traditional turkey hunting ranges.

But what goes into a turkey shotgun and how do you really benefit from these upgrades? Or what can you do to get the most out of your turkey gun?

Let’s go over some of the factors of a turkey gun and the ammunition available.

Turkey Guns At a Glance

A good turkey gun will be chambered in 12 or 20 gauge as well as .410. It should have rifle-like sights, a scope, or a red dot-type sight to increase your accuracy at range using #4-#6 copper coated or tungsten shot in 2 ¾ inch to 3 ½ inch shells.

Turkey Gun Basics

turkey shotgun

At its core the turkey gun is still a shotgun. Today there are so many options that we need to take a step back and see what these specific shotguns offer us and see why they are a benefit.

This comes down to the barrel, the barrel chokes, the sights, and the ammunition we are going to use.

The Barrel

The standard for shotgun barrels is 26-28 inches but for turkey guns we see a range of 20-26 inches. This is because we are expecting to be moving around in some vegetation with a maximum range in mind.

Usually this range is anywhere from 20 yards to 70 yards. Ideally, we’ll be shooting at closer ranges but since the turkeys have a say in this as well, we are not guaranteed a distance.

Now 70 yards is starting to be right at the end of the shotgun's standard effective range. This means we have to maximize our accuracy in order to bag a turkey. This comes down to a combination of sights, shot pattern, and ammunition.

Let’s look at the shot pattern. The shot pattern is mechanically modified by the barrel choke and the shot size, but we’re going to be looking at the choke first.

Chokes

A barrel choke allows us to modify our shot pattern. Why would we want to modify the shot pattern? Well when we use traditional shotgun shot we are launching a number of projectiles at once.

As they fly through the air, they spread apart. This increases the chance of us actually hitting the target we’re aiming for. This allows us a certain margin of error when we are hunting. However if the pattern is too wide too soon we are more likely to miss or just wound our target.

This is not ideal, especially if the pattern is very large at closer distances. If we have a large pattern up close then the pattern will get larger and larger the further our target is from us. If the pattern is too large we won’t be able to ethically take down our turkey, if we hit them at all.

A choke shrinks the pattern of your shotgun by forcing the shot into a particular shape. This means that the pattern will be tighter at closer ranges but allow for longer shots to be taken. The tighter pattern will open up at distance but still cover a decent area.

Keep in mind that extremely tight patterns at close ranges require more accuracy than a wider pattern. The choke will help prevent the pattern from opening too soon, but all of the shot will be in a much smaller spread making missing easier.

Chokes can also cause some other patterning issues. Larger shot can damage tight chokes if the choke is not designed for the shot. Using smaller shot will solve this problem in addition to filling any holes in the pattern that larger shot might have.

These holes in the pattern are a result of the pellets running into each other in the air. Pattern holes hurt our coverage of the target, making it a possibility that the patterns will be ineffective at longer distances.

This brings us to sights.

Sights

Sights are an important part of using your turkey gun. While you might have a good patterning shotgun, this doesn’t matter if you can’t place that pattern accurately.

Traditional bead sights offer a lot of visibility of the target and the surrounding area but leave a lot to be desired in terms of accuracy. With training, you can become very good with using a bead sight, but we have better options available to us.

Front and rear sights, similar to rifle sights, and fiber optic front sights are great upgrades if you don’t feel the need to add a red dot or scope to your shotgun.

Red dot or holographic sights are great options for non-magnified sights. This is because they can be seen in a wide variety of lighting conditions and can help those with eyesight issues see where they are aiming.

Red dots are easier to aim than other non-magnified sights like rifle or bead sights. This is because they offer a single focal plane that is overlaid on the target rather than two corresponding points over the target.

Most red-dot sight pictures are dot then target while more traditional rifle-style sights are rear sight, front sight, and then target. The red dot simplifies the aiming process and allows for quicker transitions from target to target.

If you want to extend the range of your shotgun, a scope might be just the thing you need. Be sure to get a shotgun specific scope, otherwise the scope might be damaged by the recoil. Most turkey scopes are going to be around a 3x magnification. This allows you to see the turkey but also see the obstacles between you and the turkey.

Magnified scopes aid in getting your shot pattern on target at those longer 50-70 yard ranges. This does come down to your ammunition and environment, but if you need to take a longer shot it’s better to be able to see your target clearly.

This brings us to specialty turkey barrels.

Turkey Barrels

If you don’t want to upgrade your current barrel, but have a shotgun with a swappable barrel, you can buy a turkey barrel.

Turkey barrels feature dedicated turkey chokes and sights built in. This is great if you don’t want to try out a lot of different chokes for your primary barrel and modify the sights.

Dedicated turkey barrels can be expensive as can dedicated turkey guns. However what type of shotgun should you use for turkey hunting? Let’s look at some of the action options.

Semi-Auto, Single Shot, or Pump

Turkey hunting has a number of restrictions placed on it from location to location. But most locations allow pump-action, semi-automatic, and single shot shotguns for hunting turkey. But what does each bring to the table?

Starting with single-shot shotguns, we have a very simple option. If you don’t want something complicated or too expensive, single-shot shotguns are a great option. They are more modernly equipped to accept scopes or other sights and are easier to get a dedicated turkey gun without breaking the bank.

Pump shotguns are going to be one of your standard options. They allow for multiple shots in a robust package. Pump-actions have been part of the standard hunter’s collection for a long time.

Today pump-actions are very affordable but run the risk of user induced malfunctions. This is because the shooter provides the power to chamber the next shell. This is fine when we’re more than likely taking only one shot at a turkey, but it adds a potential failure point.

While this failure point can be overcome with training, newer hunters might struggle in the short term using pump-action shotguns.

Pump-actions are very viable, especially as more and more turkey guns are featuring dedicated sighting systems over traditional bead sights.

Finally we have semi-automatic shotguns. Semi-automatics are the simplest to use from a shooter’s perspective since the shotgun chambers the next shell for you. You just have to focus on aiming and shooting.

Semi-automatics also allow for quicker follow up shots should you need them. One drawback to semi-automatics is that getting a quality one often costs more than their pump-action equivalents.

Semi-automatics can be more ammunition sensitive as well. If your chosen load does not have enough energy to move the bolt back far enough, you might experience a malfunction and a failure to feed the next round.

This brings us to ammunition.

Ammunition

Ammunition for hunting turkeys is very simple, however many locations have restrictions for what type of shot you can use. This can range from what the pellets are made of to what size of shot you can use.

Be sure to check your local restrictions before selecting a turkey load.

That being said, most 20 and 12 gauge options are going to be anywhere from #4 to #6 shot. Some hunters prefer to avoid #4 but it is still effective on turkey. The #5 shot is considered to be a good compromise between #4 and #6 in addition to mixed loads.

Some loadings come with more than one type of shot in them and are referred to as mixed loads.

As far as pellet construction goes, copper coated pellets or tungsten pellets offer better ranges than standard lead shot. Lead shot is toxic and many modern loads come in non-toxic varieties while being beneficial to accuracy.

There are also more ammunition options available today. A 3 inch magnum load can be considered standard but smaller shells can still do the job with the right load. Most turkey specific loads should be enough to use for your hunt.

Recently .410 shotguns have been made legal in certain areas to use on turkey hunts. If you can legally use .410 there are a number of loads in that chambering as well. Be sure to check the restrictions in the area you will be hunting in.

Now let’s look at some good Turkey guns.

Turkey Gun Options

There are numerous turkey guns available today. We’re going to look at a wide variety of them to give you an idea of what’s out there. If you want a dedicated turkey gun without having to build it from your normal hunting shotgun, this list is for you.

Mossberg 500 Turkey

mossberg 500 turkey

The Mossberg 500 Turkey is a great option for turkey hunting. This all-in-one package features a number of upgrades to the 500 series that target turkey hunting.

Starting off, the 500 Turkey features a 20 inch barrel with a fiber optic front sight. This allows you to easily move around while hunting and provides a better sighting option than the standard bead sight.

The barrel also features an X-Factor Ported Tube choke to help keep your pattern tight at close range. Combined with a top mounted safety, this shotgun is ready to go for both left and right-hand shooters.

The 500 Turkey features Mossberg’s twin-action bars, dual extractors, and anti-jam elevator. This makes it a durable and reliable hunting shotgun with a 5+1 capacity.

The 3 inch chamber allows for most standard turkey loads. That makes this pump-action shot gun a must for those who don’t want to spend a lot on a turkey gun, but also want more than one shot.

The synthetic stock also features a recoil pad just in case you want to use hotter loads or need something to absorb the kick of this 12 gauge shotgun.

Mossberg 500 Turkey features and stats:

Gauge 12 Gauge
Chamber 3 in.
Capacity 5+1
Barrel Length 20 in.
Stock Vented recoil pad, synthetic
Choke X-Factor Ported Tube
Weight 7 lbs.
Action Pump
Hand Ambidextrou
Overall Length 40.25 in.
Sights Fibe Optic Front

Benelli Super Black Eagle 3 Turkey

Benelli Super Black Eagle 3 Turkey

This semi-automatic option from Benelli, is a good semi-auto option if you want a 3-½ inch chamber with a pre-mounted optic.

The Super Black Eagle 3 features a pistol grip synthetic stock to keep the gun from being impacted by the weather.

The ported Crio barrel is on the longer side at 24 inches but it comes in multiple choke options ranging from standard to extended chokes.

This shotgun features an oversized bolt handle and bolt release button for ease of use in the field. There are two sighting systems included with the Eagle 3 Turkey, one is a fiber optic bead and the other is a Burris FastFire 2 red dot sight.

The FastFire features windage and elevation adjustments while being parallax-free. This means there is going to be almost no distortion when looking through the optic.

The gun comes pre-patterned from the factory using Federal Premium ammunition with a print out of the impacts on 10, 20, and 30 inch circles.

Keep in mind that if the pattern is off you can adjust your red dot to bring the point of impact back in-line with your point of aim.

The major drawback to this shotgun is the steep price. If you’re a dedicated turkey hunter and want a quality semi-automatic with a 3-½ chamber, this is the gun for you.

Benelli Super Black Eagle 3 Turkey features and stats:

Gauge 12 Gauge
Chamber 3-1/2 in.
Capacity 3+1
Barrel Length 24 in.
Stock Steady Grip, synthetic
Choke C, IM, F/Extended IC, M
Weight 6.8 lbs.
Action Semi-automatic
Hand Right
Overall Length 45.75 in.
Sights Burris FastFire

Franchi Affinity 3.5 Mossy Oak Bottomland 20 Gauge Semi-automatic

Franchi Affinity 3.5 Mossy Oak Bottomland 20 Gauge Semi-automatic

If you’re looking for a good 20 gauge option the Franchi Affinity is worth your time. At a much lower price point than the Benelli, it doesn’t have as many pre-mounted features but it is a good step up from a traditional hunting shotgun.

With a 24 inch barrel it matches the Benelli for length, but it does come tapped for mounting other sighting systems other than the included fiber optic rifle sights.

If you’re not interested in having a battery operated sight on your turkey gun, this semi-automatic is ready right out of the box.

The inertia Driven system combined with a TSA pad will absorb up to 50% of the gun’s recoil, making it a good choice if you plan on training a lot with it, especially with hotter loads.

A front sight hood protects the fiber optics insert to ensure you won’t easily damage your front sight in the field.

The 3 inch chamber offers a lot of round versatility when it comes to ammunition choices. Keep in mind that lighter loads might not fully cycle the shotgun.

Franchi Affinity 3.5 20 Guage features and stats:

Gauge 20 Gauge
Chamber 3 in.
Capacity 4+1, 2+1 (hunting plug)
Barrel Length 24 in.
Stock Pistol grip, synthetic
Choke Extended Turkey, Extended Turkey XF
Weight 6.7 lbs.
Action Semi-automatic
Hand Right
Overall Length 40 in.
Sights Hooded Dual-Color Fiber-optic Front Bar sight

Franchi Affinity 3.5 Mossy Oak Bottomland 12 Gauge 3-½ in Semi-Automatic

Franchi Affinity 3.5 Mossy Oak Bottomland 12 Gauge 3-½ in Semi-Automatic

If you’re looking for a more affordable 12 gauge option, the Franchi Affinity 3.5 also comes in 12 gauge.

While offering the same benefits as its 20 gauge sibling, this shotgun is only slightly more expensive.

Despite its price hovering around $1,000, it is still almost half the price of the Benelli super Black Eagle 3 while having changeable chokes.

This shotgun has the versatility of using 3-½ inch shells which goes beyond the 20 gauge version. Using these heavier loads means the gun will mean that the gun cycles properly and that you get the most out of the inertia system for recoil mitigation.

Gun features and stats:

Gauge 12 Gauge
Chamber 3-1/2 in.
Capacity 4+1, 2+1 (hunting plug)
Barrel Length Barrel Length 24 in.
Stock Pistol grip, synthetic
Choke Extended turkey, Extended Turkey XF
Weight 7.5 lbs.
Action Semi-automatic
Hand Right
Overall Length 40 in.
Sights Hooded Dual-Color Fiber-optic Front Bar sight

Rossi Tuffy Turkey Black/OD Green 410 3” Single Shot

Rossi Tuffy Turkey Black/OD Green 410 3” Single Shot

If you want absolute simplicity, the Rossi Tuffy Turkey is a great starter shotgun. Chambered in .410, this single shot shotgun is ideal for younger hunters. The controls are simple and there is not a lot of weight to the gun.

It is perfect for those areas where .410 is legal to use on turkey and costs a fraction of a quality pump-action.

The Tuffy features a basic bead front sight but also has a picatinny rail to mount whatever compatible optics you want on it.

This makes it beneficial for those more experienced shooters who want a longer range challenge while hunting turkey. This is aided by the extra full choke that comes with the shotgun.

If you don’t want to spend too much on a dedicated turkey gun and can use .410 for hunting, this shotgun is perfect, especially if you want a pistol grip stock.

Gun features and stats:

Gauge 410 Gauge
Chamber 3 in.
Capacity 1
Barrel Length 26 in.
Stock Pistol grip, synthetic
Choke Extra Full
Weight 3.675 lbs.
Action Single Shot
Hand Right
Overall Length 41 in.
Sights Front Bead, Picatinny rail

CVA Scout Compact Realtree Timber 410 3” single Shot Shotgun

CVA Scout Compact Realtree Timber 410 3” single Shot Shotgun

Another single shot option, the CVA Compact Scout is a more robust .410 option. Not geared towards new shooters, this shotgun features a number of choke options but no base sights.

Instead it features an optics mounting rail. This rail is a DuraSight scope rail which is ready for any standard scope ring on the market currently.

This means you are going to have to have an optic ready for it otherwise it is not ready out of the box.

The controls are fully ambidextrous and the shotgun is heavy for a single shot. This aids in accuracy and places it in a similar weight category as the semi-automatics on this list.

If you want to push the limits of your .410 load’s range, this is a good gun to use with the appropriate scope.

Gun features and stats:

Gauge .410 Gauge
Chamber 3 in.
Capacity 1
Barrel Length 22 in.
Stock Composite
Choke IC, F, T
Weight 6 lbs.
Action Single Shot
Hand Ambidextrous
Overall Length 41 in.
Sights Optics rail

Winchester SXP Turkey Hunter Shotgun

Winchester SXP Turkey Hunter Shotgun

This Winchester SXP is another standardized pump-shotgun. This model comes in both 12 and 20 gauge offerings with almost exactly the same dimensions.

The only major differences are the chambering, the size of the chamber (3-½ inch on the 12 gauge, 3 inch on the 20 gauge), and the weight of the two variations.

The 12 gauge option weighs slightly more than the 20 gauge option. But both come with Tru-Glo rifle sights and an Invector-Plus Extra-Full Turkey Choke.

The barrel is 24 inches and the SXP Turkey features a drop out trigger design. If you’re expecting a light trigger, the SXP trigger tends to be heavy. This can be fixed with some custom trigger work if you want to lighten the trigger pull.

The SXP Turkey is still a quality turkey gun but it lacks the ambidextrous benefit of the Mossberg 500 Turkey.

Gun features and stats:

Gauge 12 Gauge, 20 Gauge
Chamber 3-½ inch, 3 inch
Capacity 5+1
Barrel Length 24 in.
Stock Synthetic
Choke Invector-Plus Extra Full Turkey
Weight 6 lbs 10 oz, 6 lbs 4 oz
Action Pump
Hand Right
Overall Length 45 in.
Sights Tru-Glo

Stevens 301

Stevens 301

If you prefer to use .410 Heavywight TSS loads, the Stevens 301 has been designed to use these special turkey loadings.

This single-shot shotgun falls between the Rossi Tuffy and the CVA scout in terms of features and price.

The Stevens is closer to the Tuffy in price, making it a good affordable option with simple controls and a bead sight. However it is closer to the weight of the CVA which aids in the accuracy of the gun itself.

The Picatinny rail allows you to mount an optic to increase the effectiveness of your one shot. If you’re looking for an accuracy minded .410 with a more affordable price point, the Stevens 301 fits the bill.

Gun features and stats:

Gauge .410 Gauge
Chamber 3 in.
Capacity 1
Barrel Length 26 in.
Stock Synthetic Camouflage Sporter
Choke XF
Weight 5.07 lbs.
Action Single Shot
Hand Ambidextrous
Overall Length 41.5 in.
Sights Bead, Picatinny Rail

Conclusion

There are numerous other choices out there for turkey guns. But this list is mostly to give you an idea of what’s out there and what you can get right off the shelf.

You could dump a lot of money into upgrading your current hunting shotgun or even a specialized turkey barrel. Or you can get a dedicated turkey shotgun for a similar or lower price, depending on what you want.

As with anything hunting related, your skill as a hunter dictates how well each of these guns performs. Many of these options offer better accuracy options than the standard hunting shotgun, but that doesn’t matter if you don’t fulfill your role.

Loads, scopes, and hunting conditions all come into play when you’re on the hunt, you just have to recognize when you have the opportunity to bag a turkey.

Sometimes, that opportunity is not there. But with some of the options on this list, you can make more opportunities due to the greater range that modern turkey guns have. This is from better designs and ammunition than more general-use hunting shotguns. Ultimately what you bring on your hunt comes down to your personal preference, hopefully you can now make an informed choice when selecting your next turkey gun.

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