View Full Version : Turkey Gun Barrel Length...

Shane Tuttle
April 26, 2009, 07:31 PM
I was reading June 2009 of Shooting Times' section titled Ask the Experts. Someone wrote asking about advantages/disadvantages of shotgun barrel lengths. Layne Simpson responded to the question talking about how most longer barrel lengths work well in wingshooting but shorter lengths are the fad for tukey. He used to make do with a Remington 870 with a 21" barrel. Today, he uses a 28" in the same model. Now, my question...

He stated that a great disadvantage to a short barrel on a turkey gun is the increase in muzzle blast. What disadvantage is there that's so great? I don't hunt, but it still piqued my interest on what he's talking about. In my estimation, you're drawing the turkey fairly close if possible. Most of the time it's a one shot deal and it's over. With this observation, I don't see the big deal. I can understand if you're hunting at dusk or dawn the flash could be a bit much on your eyes. But that's the only issue I see. What am I missing?

April 26, 2009, 08:09 PM
I use a 20" encore. I have never noticed the muzzle blast. I like the short barrel for two reason. Lighter and more manuverable.
If you are sitting in a blind it is easier to swing a shorter barrel.
however you do lose a little velocity with the shorter barrels.
I have read this has been reduced with different powders.(faster burning)

April 26, 2009, 08:14 PM
28 is a little more than I want. The 20-22" barrels were quite popular several years ago, but they do seem to be less popular today. I never thought about it but I guess it could be considered a fad. I don't think a hunter is at a disadvantage with the shorter barrels for turkey hunting, but have always prefered a 26" for everything. I do have a couple of shotguns wit 24" barrels and that is about as short as I want to go.

cole k
April 27, 2009, 08:34 AM
Over 25 years ago when I started turkey hunting I used a 28 inch barrel because it was what I had. Bur, within a few years I bought a 870 turkey gun. Why because it had a 21 inch barrel. Later a bought an Encore with a 24 inch barrel.
IMO the shorter barrels are better for turkey hunting.
I have never noticed the muzzle blast. In fact last year I killed my first turkey for the year 10 minutes after legal shooting light at 20 yards.
I guess if you want to do all of your hunting with one shotgun and one barrel a 28” or a 26” barrel would be the way to go.
But I use different shotguns for different kinds of birds.

Art Eatman
April 27, 2009, 09:48 AM
I'll pass on a bunch of "I heard" stuff, other than to say that there seems to be no particular ballistic advantage to shotgun barrels longer than around 20".

The main deal with barrel lengths is balance and the rate of swing on flying birds. Faster handling via shorter barrels (26", for instance) for quail; longer for doves and waterfowl.

So, for a turkey gun, it sems to me that the tight chokes now available are more important than barrel length. Shorter barrels would make for easier handling in thick cover or inside a box-blind.

April 27, 2009, 11:53 AM
If you shoot early enough or late enough that the flash is a problem you are probably illegal on most game. I've shot different lengths of shotgun barrels for years and until this thread had never even thought about muzzle blast as an issue.

April 28, 2009, 02:50 AM
The whole thing about muzzle flash is sort of like the camo shotgun for hunting turkeys. Stupid and useless. By the time anything I've ever shot at had a chance to see the shiny blueing or the muzzle flash it was already dead. I hunt turkeys with my 20ga modified choke in the spring and 12ga full choke in fall.

April 28, 2009, 04:52 AM
i have a 28" and a 21". i plan on using the 21".

If you shoot early enough or late enough that the flash is a problem you are probably illegal on most game. I've shot different lengths of shotgun barrels for years and until this thread had never even thought about muzzle blast as an issue. depends on the game. with a 2 dollar permits here,and from mid jan to mid feb you can hunt coyote and fox day or night.

Brad Clodfelter
April 28, 2009, 06:09 AM
I prefer the 28" barrel over the shorter 21" barrel. 26" probably would be the best of both worlds if you want a little shorter barrel and still have a longer length barrel to help give slightly better patterns. There's nothing really wrong with the shorter barrels, but I like the longer barrels because they seem to put a few more shot in the target. That has been my findings. I'll take the added 10-15 shot that a longer barrel will help to give you.

April 28, 2009, 11:51 AM
Definately like Art said, there is no ballistic advantage with a 28 over a 24 or 21". If you can, shoot one of each to see which one you like the best. And just like anyother gun, you will have to experiment with chokes to find the best patterning combo (choke & barrel) that you have. I hunted turkeys this year with my M500 with a 28" accu-choke vent rib barrel and a leapold 3x9 and a TruLock full turkey choke. I used the 28" barrel because, thats what I had! For the Fall season I do feel a 24" becoming part of the family though.

good luck

April 28, 2009, 04:17 PM
21" about perfect........in a shotgun anything more is useless.

Brad Clodfelter
April 28, 2009, 05:51 PM
I strongly disagree with that last post. I have a 21" barrel shotgun. I prefer the 28" or 30" for overall use.

April 28, 2009, 08:54 PM
You certainly don't see competitive sporting clay, skeet, and trap shooters with anything that short. But, I'm sure it's fine for a stationary target.

The card shooters also use longer barrels. Although the forcing cone, amount of backbore, taper and amount of choke are very important, length is also a contributing factor. As far as card shooting goes you cannot make a 21 inch shoot with a 32 inch. May not be a big difference, but when money is on the line you take every advantage.

April 28, 2009, 09:34 PM
I strongly disagree with that last post. I have a 21" barrel shotgun. I prefer the 28" or 30" for overall use. Whats your reasoning?

Brad Clodfelter
April 28, 2009, 10:31 PM
You get a slightly better shot count with the longer barrel vs the shorter barrel. I also like the longer barrel because it gives a longer focal plane to shoot game birds with.

April 28, 2009, 10:34 PM
Since the question was "turkeys" I'm sticking with the 21" bbl over anything longer.............patterning can be made up in chokes and backboring.
Velocity dont even matter enough to make a diff.......I will agree with the longer focal plane though for upland game birds but no longer than 24".

Brad Clodfelter
April 28, 2009, 10:46 PM
Longer barrels swing more smoothly and are considered better for predictable targets. Shorter barrels are both easier to maneuver in restricted spaces and are quicker to point. They are considered better for combat or unpredictable birds. Longer barrels give you a longer distance from the end of the barrel to your eye, making eye alignment less critical. This makes them more accurate.
There is a slight increase in muzzle velocity with longer barrels, but it's not enough to worry about. More important is the increased flash and noise when shooting a shotgun with a short barrel.

I myself can't see the need for a short barrel shotgun after owning one myself.

I'll stick with the slightly better patterns I get with my longer barrels where I can see the difference on paper or game.

April 28, 2009, 10:51 PM
16 turkeys in 5 yrs would disagree.............................

Shane Tuttle
April 28, 2009, 11:03 PM
16 turkeys in 5 yrs would disagree.............................

I'm sure all the turkeys others have been shot with longer barrels wouldn't...:)

My point is I think the cop-out answer is actually a valid one: Each persons' preference is the best for themselves. I would venture to guess a longer barrel could be advantageous for a hunter with limited experience and his/her best shot is at the far end of the distance that's comfortable to shoot. Understanding what choke you have is a big factor, I'd have to think a longer barrel could be beneficial.

I could be wrong. I'm not an expert in the matter...just making observations.

April 28, 2009, 11:06 PM
If bbl length was a detriment you'd think Remington made a mistake when they introduced the Rem 870 NWTF youth edition 20 gauge with an 18 1/2" bbl...........Hmmmmm!

April 28, 2009, 11:06 PM
I've been using the same 28" for 45 yrs., full and modified. Also use it for almost everything else, dove, quail.........

16 turkeys in 5 yrs? That's a pretty good year here.

April 28, 2009, 11:12 PM
16 turkeys in 5 yrs? That's a pretty good year here. Really??? considering Florida has a springtime limit of 2????

Brad Clodfelter
April 29, 2009, 01:46 AM
I have killed quite a few more than that. 9 of those were killed in a 2 yr span.

Here's the kind of patterns I get with my Moss 835 28" barrel in a 10" circle at 40yds.


Here's one a guy I know shot with his Moss 835 with I believe a 28" barrel, Star Dot choke and his special reloads using 2 1/4oz Hevi #7 at 40yds in a 10" circle. You won't get this in factory shells. He himself says the 835 is his best shooting shotgun.


Art Eatman
April 29, 2009, 11:25 AM
The main thing is to remember that pattern is independent of barrel length. Choke is part of it, but the difference among various loads is apparently the biggest factor. E.g, my ancient Model 12 is near-perfection with Winchester high-brass heavy loads of 7-1/2, but horrible with field loads or dove/quail loads.

What is as important as the percentage of hits within a circle is that there are no blank areas, no "holidays" in the pattern...

April 29, 2009, 12:04 PM
Just what I thought, I dont like #6's for turkey

#4's is where its at.

Brad Clodfelter
April 29, 2009, 02:18 PM

You sound just like I used to be. So I will give you a little education just like the guys that knew more than me took the time to educate me to the truth. It shall set you free. It did me. I was a #4 big fan for turkey hunting.

Hevi-Shot #6's will penetrate better than lead #4's. I'll show you some proof. Actually Hevi-Shot #7's will penetrate better than lead #4's.

Read these for the facts.



I hope you, too, will see the light like I did and admit that you are wrong and not edcucated to the facts like I was.

Seeing is believing.

Try some of these Hevi-13 loads and you will love them. They shoot way better than lead. And they kill better as well.

Brad Clodfelter
April 29, 2009, 02:28 PM
18g/cc #9's at 40yds

That's right, #9 shot that is super hard.


Compare the holes in the tin to the holes from the lead #4's in the link above.

No ands, ifs, or buts. Just take it for what it is.

Brad Clodfelter
April 29, 2009, 02:43 PM
One more to put the proof on the table.


Lead is obsolete to the Hevi-13, hard tungston shot.

Brad Clodfelter
April 29, 2009, 03:01 PM
This is the guy that converted me, and shot that awesome 542 count in a 10" circle at 40yds I showed earlier. This guy is just a wealth of knowledge when it comes to turkey hunting and he loves to test his reloads. He reloads some of he most wicked shells out there as well.


April 29, 2009, 03:11 PM
Therein lies the rub.........I cant use Heavyshot in my 12 gauges choke tube...my predominant turkey gun.

My 20 gauge on the other hand I use Heavyshot #6's when I feel the need to use it for turkey.

Brad Clodfelter
April 29, 2009, 03:27 PM
Then you should switch to a choke that can. ;)

Indian Creek, Jelly Head, Pure Gold are some of the best.

I have such good luck out of my $20 Star Dot that I can't see paying more for one that probably won't shoot as good.

April 30, 2009, 03:52 AM
I am sure Hevi-Shot is good but umm at $24/pound??? Its not that good. I will use my lead #5 and call them in closer than 50yds. My $0.75/pound lead gets the job done, never had a turkey get away yet.

Brad Clodfelter
April 30, 2009, 08:00 AM
I'll pay the $4 or $5 a shell for the Hevi -13 shells that will reach out farther than lead. When you only shoot 2 shells a spring season, $10 ain't going to break the bank. And you can reach farther out and hammer a bird to the ground that lead will just pepper spray them. ;) I would rather extend my lethal range today and be packing a bird to the truck than to stick with lead because it's cheaper and wait for hopefully tomorrow for the same bird to get closer when it didn't want to today. ;) But hey, go ahead and keep shooting your lead loads. It's your decision.

May 4, 2009, 03:33 AM
Definately like Art said, there is no ballistic advantage with a 28 over a 24 or 21".

Well I can't completely agree with that as worded. You may say that there is not enough ballistic advantage for you to care about with a 28 inch barrel vs a 21. But to say there is none is just flat wrong. You definately lose some velocity with a 7 inch shorter barrel. And less velocity means less energy which in turn affects pellet penetration. Also while you can certainly get some short barreled guns to pattern well enough to kill turkeys at any ethical shot range (I own one) the best shooting 21 inch barreled shotgun will never out pattern the best shooting 28 inch barreled gun. Go to a NWTF still target shoot and count how many 20 or 21 inch barrels you spot. The fact that you will see none is not a fluke. There's a reason for it! Longer barrels typically outshoot shorter ones.

To me a 24 inch barrel is the best compromise between light weight and portable vs lethal patterns when it comes to turkey hunting.

Now all that said, the muzzle flash knock on shorter barrels mentioned in the origin post makes little sense as a criticism to me as well. One of my turkey guns is a little 21 inch barreled mossberg tactical turkey. I have never been handicapped by or even noticed the muzzle flash of it in a turkey hunting situation.

Brad Clodfelter
May 4, 2009, 09:39 PM

I will agree with all that you said above except the 24" barrel thing. I think the 26" barrel would be the best of both worlds for turkey hunting.

I'll still stick with my 28" 835 barrel though. The .775 backbore barrel just thows some superior patterns to most other shotgun barrels from what I have seen.

But the rest of it your pretty well deadnut. ;)