Best Turkey Guns and Patterning
Posted by Grant at June 3rd, 2012
Selecting the Right Turkey Gun
The RIGHT turkey gun depends on YOU! Everyone will want something different out of their gun. Here are some things to think about:
- Do you want to shoot a 12 gauge or 20 gauge? The 12 gauge has more loads to choose from and has more shot, but a 20 gauge has less recoil and typically makes for a lighter gun to tote around the woods.
- Do you want a long or short barrel? Long barrels typically have a tighter pattern, but short barrels are easier and lighter to get around the woods. The turkey chokes on the market today help make up for the short barrel.
- What action do you want, single shot, pump, or semi-auto? I’m not a huge fan of a single shot, because I’ve had to use a second follow-up shot several times in the turkey woods! A semi-auto is nice because it has less recoil and allows for a quick second shot. A pump is also a good option.
- Do you want a gun that’s chambered for 3″ or 3.5″? A shotgun chambered for 3.5″ gives you the ability to shoot a wider selection of turkey loads.
- How much do you want to pay? Some guns cost over $1,000 – BUT some of the top performing and most versatile guns are the Mossberg and Remington pump shotguns. AND they cost less than $400 and some are as low as $250.
Still have questions about your turkey gun? Find help here!
Selecting the Right Shotgun Load
Finding the right load for your gun isn’t always easy. You’ll have lots of things to consider:
- What size shell? 2 3/4 inch, 3 inch or 3 1/2 inch. Obviously, the larger the shell, the more shot (pellets). Keep in mind, the larger shells have more punch, more shot, but that doesn’t always equate to the best pattern. In some guns, 3 inch shells out pattern the 3 1/2 inch shells.
- What type of shot? Some of the lower-end shells have lead shot. Some have copper plated lead, and others are heavier than lead (HTL) loads. The HTL and copper plated loads are harder and more dense, which allows the shot to maintain form (unlike lead) and carry a higher energy down range.
- What size shot? You’ll need to check the regulations in your area to better understand what shot sizes are acceptable for hunting turkey. I’ve used either a #5, #6, or a blend that contains #5, #6, and #7s. IMPORTANT NOTE: a HTL load #6 or #7 may carry the same or higher energy down range that a lead #5 – and even carry a more dense pattern!
- What wad? Most shotgun shells have a typical shotgun wad. Others, however, like the Federal carry a different type of wad. The Federals have a Flightcontrol wad that you don’t need to use with a ported choke.
Selecting a Turkey Choke
Even the cheapest $25 turkey chokes on the market will improve your shotguns pattern for turkey hunting. However, all turkey chokes are not created equal! If you have the time and money, you can buy several chokes and try them out to see which one works best. You can always ask around to see what others are using too. Just keep in mind that some ported chokes don’t work well with certain wads – more specifically the Flitecontrol wad.
Selecting the Right Sights
The choice of sight is personal preference. I’ve enjoyed fixed fiber optic sites on my shotgun, but I’ll be upgrading to the Burris Fastfire, as everyone I know that is using one is extremely pleased! You can also install a scope if you want to. If your gun is not tapped for a scope, you can either buy a saddle-style mount that connects to the trigger pins of your gun.
Patterning Your Gun for Success!
Patterning your gun is not only FUN, but it gives you the confidence you need when you place the bead on that turkeys noggin! One thing you’ll notice is that each brand of shotgun shell will pattern differently, so once you find the load you like – stick with it! So here’s how you can get started patterning:
- Buy you a brown paper roll from the Home Depot (typically in the paint section). This costs less than $10 and is cheaper than poster board. (1 roll lasts a good while)
- Mark a black dot on the paper, step back to 30 yards using a range finder, and shoot at the black dot. Be sure to write the yardage and the shotgun shell info on the target.
- Find a piece of card board and cut a circle with a 10″ diameter. Locate the most dense pattern on the brown paper and draw your circle around it. Draw some lines (I do mine like cross hairs) to split up the circle and count the holes in each quadrant and total them up.
- Keep in mind, a 10″ circle has 78 square inches. So your target needs to have at least 78 shot in the circle to make 1 shot per square inch.
- Repeat the process with a new sheet of paper, backing up 5 to 10 yards each time until you’re no longer getting at least 78 shot per square inch.
- This should help you identify your effective range. Once you find it, shoot at that distance a few more times to make sure everything is consistent.
Here is my Benelli Super Nova’s pattern with a PureGold Tempest Choke and Federal #5 ammunition. You can see that it totaled 130 shot at 30 yards. While some guns would shoot way over 200 at this distance, my gun still has a nice pattern at 20 yards. The tighter shooting guns will be so tight at 20 yards that you might miss! If I wanted to increase the pattern density, I could use #6 shot or shoot a HTL #7.
Category: Turkey Hunting TIps