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Old March 28, 2018, 02:50 AM   #1
bamaranger
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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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Old March 28, 2018, 02:09 PM   #2
Coppershot
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# 5 shot is absolutely the way to go with turkeys. I like the Winchester Long Beards but there are numerous other good loads as well.
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Old March 29, 2018, 03:03 PM   #3
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I prefer #5 shot (or even #4) for Turkeys too. Especially in the FC wads. But the reason #6 will remain most popular is because that is the largest shot allowed in many 3Gun matches and a lot of folks use the #6 turkey loads for the heavy plates and spinners. I shoot maybe 4 or 5 #5 Turkey loads annually, but I shoot 20 of the #6 loads in 3Gun matches. The sales figures are skewed by the alternative use.
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Old March 29, 2018, 03:14 PM   #4
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My dad switched over to a semi auto 20 gauge. He was able to still put over the magic number(110) in a 10 inch circle. That was at 45 yards. We test all our guns at that range.


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Old April 2, 2018, 12:12 PM   #5
bamaranger
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interesting

I had no idea that turkey loads were being used in 3-gun matches! Seems like recovery from recoil would slow down repeat shots and add up through a long shotgun stage. Huh! What you don't know.

The 20 ga is somewhat popular here by a few serious turkey men I know due to it's light weight. Loaded with the modern "space shot", they kill turkeys with authority out to normal turkey ranges with no problem. All those fellows are younger (than me) types who cover a lot of ground, on public land, and the lighter gun is a plus to them.


A general comment, I see the addition of some type of optic the other big leap forward. Minimally, fiber optic rifle sights. I've got a good friend, in his mid 70's now, who has a Leupold 2.5x scope with 3-post reticle, that allows very precise shooting,and positive ID on birds as well.
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Old April 2, 2018, 07:36 PM   #6
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Now you got me counting bb holes on old targets to see what I was getting.

Debating what to do this year as i'm thinking of using my O/U and it takes Invector Plus chokes. Currently set up for ducks/geese and likes steel Winchester 3 inch 1550 BB,2, and 4's.

The Mossberg 500 on the other hand is always ready to go. Here turkey, turkey.
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Old April 2, 2018, 07:36 PM   #7
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I started hunting turkey about the same time the specialized guns hit the market. At the time I had a 26" 870 as my primary shotgun and didn't see it as a real handicap. But over the years I've tried a few of the special guns with 21-23" barrels. Didn't keep any very long.

A Benelli M-1 with a 24" barrel popped up at a gunshow at a good price several years ago and I've come to use it for everything. One of those things that is hard to explain, but it just suits me, I hit better with it than any other gun I've ever owned, it is as reliable as my old 870 and lighter. Due to the length of the receiver the overall length and balance is virtually identical to my old 26" 870.

I've settled on 3" #5 shot and normally just use the factory full choke although I do have an aftermarket tube.

A couple of years ago I bought a youth 20 ga 870 with a 21" barrel and shorter stock. I wanted it around for the grandkids to use, but I did turkey hunt with it last season using 3" #6 shot and an extended super full choke. Maybe I need to experiment with more loads, but I didn't feel as confident in it on shots over about 20 yards. I read that some guys claim they are getting patterns that they feel good about out past 40 yards.

I've gone back to the Benelli for this year. It is just over 7 lbs and not terribly heavy. The 870 youth gun is about 1 lb lighter and is easier to carry. But I just have more confidence in the 12. Now if I find a 20 ga load that makes me feel better I'm open to changing my mind.
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Old April 3, 2018, 10:59 AM   #8
MarkCO
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Quote:
I had no idea that turkey loads were being used in 3-gun matches! Seems like recovery from recoil would slow down repeat shots and add up through a long shotgun stage. Huh! What you don't know.
Long shots at heavy plates, plate racks at distance and spinners are the main purposes. Only a few rounds on a stage here and there.
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Old April 6, 2018, 12:07 AM   #9
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I took a H&R topper 88 20 ga and built a lean mean bird machine. Weighing in at 4.5 lbs…

ATI stock set, sent the gun to William Sumtoy at Sumtoy customs. Had barrel cut and threaded, drilled and tapped for red dot, bought a limb saver recoil pad and added a Carlson’s choke.

This combo including Federal Heavyweight #7’s is a stone cold killer at 40 yards.

I’ve yet to try the new Federal TSS loads, which can be had in #9, but amazing patterns are being put up in sub gauge shotguns. Including 410…

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Old April 6, 2018, 12:11 AM   #10
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I started out years ago with 3 inch 12ga federal #4’s in a 870 express.

Never thought I’d ever be packing a twenty gauge that could hit harder and pattern better.
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Old April 8, 2018, 11:23 PM   #11
bamaranger
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heavy

I showed a pal my old 870 in its current set up, with its thick 30 yr old aftermarket synthetic stock you could probably drive a nail with, rattle can paint job ( I got tired of taping it) duct tape and foam pad raised comb, to accommodate the saddle rail and the See All sight which sets pretty high. Once he got done laughing, he said "This thing is heavy!" and I guess it is. I came home and did the comparison against bamaboy's Moss 835, and the Moss 835 with its 24" barrel (my Rem is 21" including choketube) is indeed much lighter.
'Course that's due to the alloy receiver of the Mossberg more than anything. I've got a lighter, pistol gripped stock for the 870, complete with Kick-eeze pad, but I do not like it, the pistol grip wacks me in the ribs all the time when slung, which is how it usually rides. I've got a light boat paddle looking Choate which may be ideal, but it does not have a Kick-eeze. I'll likely arrange that for next year.

'Till then, I'll just hump the 870 like I always have, just a bit slower that's all. I must say, after 37 years, it is indeed beginning to look like my Grandad's old gun in terms of honest wear.
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Old April 11, 2018, 10:09 PM   #12
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I use a early 90s vintage BPS Turkey/Deer special....but don't spring turkey hunt much anymore....way to many tics in the spring woods in central Wisconsin for my liking....and in the fall if I happen to see a turkey while pheasant hunting it will get shot at with a 12ga upland SxS....
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Old April 16, 2018, 06:13 AM   #13
bamaranger
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interesting

perryt, that is one interesting gobbler gun, and as about as evolved as they come I suppose. I believe I would have to have a second shot though, but I've only had to shoot but a few gobblers more than once, usually because I took the first shot way too far, and not on purpose...misjudged range.
Although I've shot a 3" twelve gauge pumps at turkeys for over 40 years, a light more portable shotgun gets more attractive all the time.


What dot sight are you running?
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