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Old March 28, 2018, 02:50 AM   #1
Senior Member
Join Date: October 9, 2009
Location: North Alabama
Posts: 6,806
evolution in turkey guns and loads

As I prep for gobbler season this weekend, I leafed through some old patterning targets (yes, I kept them) from years past. My patterning target for a long time has been a simple 8-1/2 x 11" sheet of typing paper. Of course I use a larger backer, but the plain sheet of paper (with a crude rendition of a gobbler's noggin) is the standard.

My first turkey gun was one of my Grandad's 28" solid ribbed Model of 1921 Savage pump. It would place about 70 pellets of # 6 shot from a standard hi-vel 1-1/4 oz load on the target. It killed my first gobbler, just fine at about 20 yds.

But Grandad's gun broke, the repair was costly, and the likelyhood of more parts was slim. I retired her and bought a Rem 870 magnum with a honkin' 30" fixed full choke tube 'cause Ben Rogers Lee said that's what you needed. The 3" load in those days was either 1-7/8 of #6, then Federal came out with the first 2 0z load. Both of those loads and the long fixed tube would put about 150 pellets on the page. I felt I really had something. At the end of each hunt I was sure I did, 'cause that 30" tube was far too long and heavy! A fixed 26" tube was acquired, and it threw about the same numbers, but was way shorter and lighter. In a search for a still lighter gun, I hunted 26" Lanber O/U for a while too. Choked fixed F/M, it's 2-3/4 chambers with 1-5/8 oz of short mag, would put about 115 #6 pellets on the page. That Lanber killed one turkey. But it's performance was only a small step above Grandad's old pump, and no where near the equal of the 3" Mag 870, and I reserved the O/U for small game and stuck with the Rem pump.

I went shorter still when I was given a Rem Choked 20" rifle sighted slug barrel. On it I screwed a Rem extra full, and later a super full extended turkey choke. About the same time, I started shooting the Activ 2-1/4 oz load (3 inches). A load of #6 shot from that set up would put an amazing 200 plus on the page, consistently. Dense. But something had to give and I suspect velocities were low. I killed turkeys farther than I care to admit, with both #6, and later #5 shot Activ loads, but I had to stomp quite a few.

Activ went under, and I discovered Winchester XX (black hull) 1-3/4 hi vel loads. I also switched over to #5 shot permanently after reading that formal studies had determined #6 lead was a bit feeble past 30 yds. The hi-vel XX loads would put 165 or so #5 pellets on the page, at higher velocity than the old 2 or 2-1/4 loads of #6 would do. I sensed a distinct improvement in killing power with the hi-vel #5 loads (1-3/4 oz) and have not gone back to the heavy 2 oz loads since.

Most recently I've started shooting the Win XR hi-vel load, and have posted about it before. From that same 870, bought 37 years ago, and it's stubby rifle sighted tube with a Rem factory super full choke, it places an astounding 200 plus #5 pellets on target. That equals the numbers I was getting with 2 and 2-1/4 oz of very slow #6 shot. And those #5 hi vels have to be going faster too. And that stuff is tight. Like, you can miss'em tight inside of 25 yds if your not paying attention. I've added a optic this year, as my 60 yr eyes struggle with the bead/blade rifle sights if the light is not quite right, or sometimes, for no reason at all except I'm getting older!

It's been a wild trip. Comparing Pap's old Savage, to the tidy Rem with XR loads, is like night and day. Three times the amount of pellets on target, and I'd have to say double the range......though long ranging gobblers is NOT the way to go. I don't shoot alloy "space shot", all my shooting is done with lead. But the tungsten alloys likely take the modern turkey gun into another dimension yet again. Specialty guns, chokes and ammo make this the true modern age of turkey guns and loads.
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