Hunting the wily turkey can be a real challenge, but heading into the field with the right shotgun can make all the difference.
With so many choices, it can be hard to find the right model for you. Read on for our guide to the best turkey guns.
Comparison Chart of the Best Turkey Guns
Remington 870 Express 28" 12ga Laminate Stock Pump Shotgun
Browning - Bps 28in 12 Gauge Realtree Max-5 4+1rd
Maverick Arms Shotgun 88 Special Purpose 12ga
Best for the Money
Weatherby Inc. - Pa-08 Synthetic Shotgun 20 Gauge
Best 20 Gauge
Mossberg Shotgun 835 Ulti-mag Waterfowl Mossyoak Sgb 12ga
Winchester - Sxp Turkey Hunter 20 Gauge Mossy Oak
Beretta Usa - A350 Xtrema 12/28 Max-5 3.5
Can Any Gun Be Used to Hunt Turkey?
Shotguns are the most versatile of firearms and many hunters use the same gun for a variety of game. For example, it is possible to use one shotgun for waterfowl, upland game, and turkey. Unsurprisingly, as a rule of thumb, the jack of all trades is the master of none. To get the most out of your hunt with the least frustration, it is advisable to have a dedicated setup.
12 gauge is standard, but 20 gauge is popular with shooters who desire less recoil. While you can install specialized sights or a reflex sight for turkey hunting and then go back to your brass bead for waterfowl, the ideal turkey-hunting barrel is about 22 inches, 4-6 inches shorter than a standard shotgun barrel.
A turkey gun should be as low-viz as possible, whether camo'd up or matte-finished. It should also have the tightest possible choke. Other features commonly associated with turkey guns are a matter of taste.
Types of Turkey Guns
Double-barreled guns designed for turkey hunting are not common, but they do exist. They are reliable and the likelihood of getting off a third shot at a turkey is overwhelmingly unlikely.
Far more common are semi-autos. These have long been viewed as relatively unreliable, but the technology has come a long way and this reputation is starting to subside. Still, it isn't easy to design a semi-auto that works flawlessly with every round, given the expansive array of shotgun ammunition available.
Pump-action shotguns do not face this problem, as you chamber a round manually. However, you must practice to ensure that you do not short-stroke the pump. Pump-action shotguns are probably the best of both worlds, almost as reliable as double-barrels while offering the multiple follow-up shots of a semi-auto. They are also less mechanically complex than a semi-auto, making them easier to clean.
Besides action type, the other main choice shooters face is bore size. 12 gauge is by far the most common and effective for all shotgun activities. A 3-inch chamber is ample for turkey. Smaller, lighter shooters may be more comfortable with the manageable recoil of a 20 gauge.
Quick Take | Best Turkey Guns
Just looking for the top three best turkey guns? Here they are:
Review of the Best Turkey Guns
Given these considerations, we have compiled a list of the best turkey guns available today. A lot of what makes a gun perfect is personal taste, so read on to discover the best options for you.
Based in Huntsville Alabama, Remington Arms was founded in 1816, making it America's oldest firearms manufacturer. Remington is currently the nation's largest producer of rifles and shotguns, and it has developed more cartridges than any company in the world. The model 870 pump action shotgun first appeared in 1950 and is the best selling shotgun in history. It is used by an endless number of militaries and police forces worldwide.
The Express version of the 870 has a satin laminate stock. The steel barrel and receiver are blued with a matte finish. The satin stock and matte bluing help keep you invisible to the sharp-eyed turkey. The stock has a solid rubber recoil pad, which most shooters will be thankful for on a thumping 12 gauge, especially with 3-inch turkey shells.
The barrel is slightly long for turkey hunting at 28 inches, but this makes it a good multi-purpose gun. The build quality is great. The receiver is machined from a block of hardened steel. The gun has twin action bars for reliability and smooth action. The 870 takes standard Remington chokes, has a four-round magazine and a 14" length of pull.
The top features of this shotgun are the reliability, twin action bars, recoil pad, and non-glare finish. Get yourself the right choke and it's hard to argue with a Remington 870.
Here we have my personal favorite gun of all time. Browning was founded in 1878 in Morgan Utah and is now owned by Belgium's FN Herstal. Both companies have deep ties to the greatest firearms designer to have walked the Earth, John Moses Browning. The BPS is an updated version of some of his designs. FN contracts Miroku to manufacture these shotguns in Japan, and the precision workmanship is what you would expect from that country.
The BPS is the perfect pump action shotgun. Loading and ejection take place through the same port on the bottom. There is no side eject port to take in weather or to weaken the structure. Ejected shells fly downwards, completely out of sight. The tang safety is perfectly located for ambidextrous operation. Major components like the receiver and the dual action bars are machined from rigid forged steel.
The magazine capacity is four plus one and the barrel accepts Browning's Invector Plus+ choke tube system, which is designed for durability and tightly-sealed threading to avoid fouling. The rugged synthetic stock, along with the rest of the gun, features Realtree Max-5 camo to remain invisible to wily turkeys. Browning has designed the barrels on the BPS to be back-bored to the perfect width, offering minimal friction but no gas leakage. This gives you less recoil and higher velocity shots.
The BPS is a little-known classic, but those that have them, love them. The top features of this shotgun are the bottom eject, the back-boring, and the camo.
Best for the Money:
Maverick Arms Shotgun 88 Special Purpose 12ga
Maverick started out as a budget brand of Mossberg, the one company that gives Remington a run for its money in market share for pump shotguns. Mossberg is a Connecticut company that was founded in 1919 by a Swedish immigrant.
The Maverick 88 is very similar to the popular Mossberg 500, except that it has a cross-bolt safety in the trigger guard. Otherwise, barrels and chokes are interchangeable between the two models. This gives you endless customization with the Maverick at an amazing price.
Although it looks like a riot gun, throw some turkey sights on it and the Maverick becomes a really handy, affordable turkey gun. It has a three-inch 12 gauge chamber and an 18.5-inch barrel, which can fire steel shot. The cylinder bore will not be to everyone's liking for turkey hunting. Magazine capacity is an ample six rounds.
The finish doesn't really go out of its way to be low visibility, but the synthetic stock and blued steel are unlikely to spook any turkeys. For the price, the 88 comes with a surprising array of quality features, such as dual extractors, twin action bars, steel-to-steel lock up, and an anti-jam elevator. All this is backed up by a nice one-year limited warranty.
This is an excellent budget shotgun with great reliability. The top features are the ability to fire three-inch shells and steel shot.
Best 20 Gauge:
Weatherby Inc. - Pa-08 Synthetic Shotgun 20 Gauge
If you are a smaller or lighter shooter, you may have a better day with a lower recoil 20 gauge shotgun than with a standard 12 gauge. If so, you could hardly do better than going with a Weatherby.
Weatherby started out in 1945 in California but recently moved to Wyoming for reasons any second amendment supporter understands. The company is known for developing magnum rifle rounds. While the PA-08 is less known, it is actually Weatherby's most affordable product, though it is a worthy contender to the Remington 870.
There are no big surprises with this shotgun, just all the standard features you would expect on a pump action, all very well built. It features a cross-bolt safety in the trigger guard. The 28-inch barrel has a vented rail, making it easy to attach many after-market turkey sights.
This shotgun has a five plus one capacity magazine and accepts three-inch shells which are great for turkey. Although the PA-08 doesn't feature some fancy camo or finish that would raise the price, the synthetic stock and blued finish shouldn't spook any turkeys; if you are worried, camo tape may be the way to go.
This is a great budget option that you will probably find yourself using for a lot more than turkey hunting. The top features are the affordable quality and the top rail.
Mossberg is a big rival for Remington in the consumer, military, and law enforcement shotgun markets. Personally, I prefer their tang safeties over Remington's cross-bolts. The 835 was the world's first pump action shotgun to be chambered for 3.5-inch rounds. As the name of this version implies, it is intended for waterfowl.
Although the 28-inch barrel is a bit longer than what is ideal for turkey, the 3.5-inch capability is handy for the big birds. Of course, this means you can shoot any other size of 12 gauge rounds as well. The barrel is ported and over-bored, similar to Browning's back-boring mentioned above. These features reduce recoil and help you make rapid follow-up shots.
The gun comes with a set of Mossberg's Accu-mag chokes, negating the need for you to go out and find a dedicated turkey choke, though that might still be a good idea.
The barrel is ribbed and comes with a Marble Arms bullseye rear sight and a fiber optic front sight, an absolutely ideal setup for turkey hunting. This gun features a tang safety as God intended shotguns to have, dual extractors, twin action bars, positive steel-to-steel lockup, and an anti-jam elevator. The magazine capacity is six. All this is finished with a MossyOak Shadow Grass Blades design.
The top features on this model are the 3.5-inch chamber, the sight setup, the ported and over-bored barrel, and the camouflage.
Winchester - Sxp Turkey Hunter 20 Gauge Mossy Oak
Founded in 1866 in Connecticut, Winchester is a legendary name in American firearms. Today, the original company no longer exists, and like Browning, the brand is used to market firearms by FN Herstal of Belgium, a legendary company itself.
This is another 20 gauge model for lighter shooters or hunters less comfortable with recoil. It is quite similar to the BPS except that it has a standard side ejection port. Like the BPS, it has a back-bored barrel and fits Invector-Plus chokes.
One Invector-Plus turkey choke is included with the shotgun. The 24-inch bore and 3-inch chamber are hard chrome plated. Atop the barrel sit TruGlo adjustable fiber optic sights which are absolutely ideal for turkey hunting. The receiver is also tapped for optics; a red dot sight would be a great idea. The rotary bolt features four lugs for the most solid lockup possible. The bolt and other key components are black-chrome finished for far greater durability, reliability, and lubricity than the traditional bluing.
The trigger group drops out for easy cleaning or replacement. The safety is a cross-bolt design. The magazine capacity is four plus one. Gripping surfaces are textured and the buttstock has an Inflex recoil pad. A nice little choke wrench is included.
The top features of this shotgun are the fiber optic sights, the turkey choke and the chrome lining.
Beretta Usa - A350 Xtrema 12/28 Max-5 3.5
Founded in Italy in 1526, Beretta is not only the oldest firearms manufacturer in the world but one of the world's oldest companies. Beretta has supplied firearms during every European conflict since 1650. In recent decades they have enjoyed some top military contracts. However, they are particularly noted for their work with the world's oldest style of gun, the shotgun.
The A350 is a gas operated semi-auto chambered for 3.5-inch shells. It features a handy self-cleaning piston and Beretta's high-tech 28-inch 'Steelium' alloy barrel. The barrel features a top rail with a steel rib. A 50mm extended extra full turkey choke is available, using Beretta's Optima HP choke system. The safety is reversible for left-handed shooters. Magazine capacity is four plus one.
The stock on this shotgun has more features than most. First, it has a non-snagging MicroCore recoil pad. The gun comes with one-inch spacers to adjust the length of pull and shims to adjust drop and cast. This gun is made in Italy.
Beretta is a huge name in firearms and in shotguns particularly. A semi-auto shotgun that shoots 3.5-inch shells is close to the ultimate in shotgun technology. Besides these features, one more top feature of this gun is the fully adjustable stock. The self-cleaning piston is a really nice feature too.
Aspects to Consider Before Buying
First, decide whether you are comfortable with the recoil of a 12 gauge. If your arms are not long or you don't weigh very much, consider a 20 gauge. Otherwise, recoil is all about mind over matter, you can get used to it.
Your budget will be a major determining factor in what you end up buying. Generally, you do get what you pay for, but shotguns are not precision machines. It may be worth saving a bit on your gun so you can afford a good reflex sight or other gear. Spending more won't make you a better hunter; no equipment is as valuable as rigorous practice.
Although we generally recommend pump-actions, your taste or local laws may push you toward a double-barrel or a semi-auto. Some of the finest, most expensive guns in the world are double-barrel shotguns, but they have obvious limitations. Semi-autos cost more and may not be as reliable. Follow-up shots on a turkey are unlikely anyway.
This concludes our overview of the best turkey guns on the market today. Besides the gun itself, you will find numerous aftermarket upgrades and accessories to hotrod your turkey set up however you like. Whatever you choose, remember to shoot safely and practice as much as possible.
More about Turkey Hunting
Wild turkey hunting is challenging and fun and it requires a lot of preparation and the proper equipment. Although the stereotype of wild turkeys is that they are unintelligent and easy game, the reality is that turkeys are evasive game and not as easy to hit as some think. Picking a suitable rifle is an important step to ensuring success on your next hunt.
When it comes to picking a turkey hunting rifle, you will find that you have several options but few states actually allow you to hunt turkeys with rifles. Shotguns are more popular for turkey hunting, some hunters have reported success with deer rifles and other rifles where it is allowed. This article will focus on shotguns and what features you should look for if you’re hunting wild turkeys.
Most hunters use either a 10 or 12 gauge shotgun with a tight or extra tight choke. Although 10 gauge shotguns are also popular, 12 gauge shotguns are just as effective with a comparable range and they are much lighter to carry through the woods.
Some hunters have started to use 20 gauge shotguns which are much easier to carry than either a 10 or 12 gauge shotgun. However the range on 20 gauge shotguns is limited, so the hunter should only attempt to fire from a distance of around 30 yards.
Semi-Automatic or Pump
A major decision on what type of shotgun to use comes down to whether you want to use a pump or semi-automatic shotgun. Semi-automatic shotguns allow for more than one shot very quickly, but the chances are that you are going to only be taking one shot anyway. Pump shotguns are much less expensive, and for many hunters one shot will do the trick. Single shot guns are not very common because of the lengthy reload time.
Short or Long Barrel
Short barrels are preferred to long barrels because most turkeys are shot from a standing position and it allows for easier and faster motion. Short barrels are much easier to lug around the woods than long barrels as well. Also, short barrels allow hunters to shoot faster if a turkey comes at the hunter very quickly.
Although most hunters use a tight or very tight choke, the choice comes down to your comfort level and whichever choke produces the tightest pattern. The recoil from each type of choke will be different and so you should test out how each choke feels. As a wild turkey hunter, you are looking for a very tight pattern when you’re hitting the head or neck area. At a distance of 40 yards, different chokes may also be tested to see which one produces the tightest pattern.
Most turkey hunters use #4, #5, or #6 shot with lengths from 2.75’’ to 3.5’’. The smaller numbers have more pellets in their shells. The best ammunition choice comes down to how the ammunition is patterned with your brand of gun; each gun patterns ammunition differently and it is a good idea if you test out different types of ammo with your gun.
Sight System and Patterning
It is recommended to purchase a sight for your shotgun. Shotguns are not the most accurate weapons at distance, and having a sight will help you target the vital head and neck area of the turkey. The sight should be 1.5x-4x in power.
After you have a sight system, you should test out your shotgun pattern at 40 yards. You may want to test out different types of chokes to see what patterns you get. You should look for a uniform and dense pattern. The pattern should be representative of a turkey in size and have the head and neck marked.
You should look to hit the neck and head with at least 8-10 BBs and produce a tight pattern. Be sure to vary your ammo and chokes and also test the weapon at 25 and 50 yards. After you have found the best pattern at these distances, you are now ready to take your gun on a live hunt.
Whether it’s car repairs, home improvement, or turkey hunting, having the right tool for the job is vital to success. No tool is more important to the hunt than the proper gun. Since shotgun hunting is the most common firearm for turkeys, we’ll focus on the scattergun.
When choosing a shotgun for turkey hunting there are several variables to consider. The 12 gauge is the most popular choice but if you plan to take a youth hunting, a 20 gauge has a softer bark and a lighter kick. However, effective range of the 20 gauge on an adult tom is about half the distance of a 12 gauge. Most young hunters will tolerate the 12’s pop if they are prepared for it.
Another key decision is the action of the gun. A semi-automatic can cost double what a pump from the same manufacturer would cost. Keep in mind, a semi-automatic can fire a follow-up shot while the shooter‘s eyes stay on target. A semi-automatic typically delivers less recoil since the gun uses the force of the shell to cycle the next round. When it comes to reliability in extreme elements, the pump shotgun almost never fails. Semi-automatics continue to improve but a hunter carrying a pump will most certainly have more confidence than a semi-automatic owner if conditions are less than ideal. There is a case to be made for the nostalgia of using a single or double barreled gun. But purchasing one for turkey hunting would be ill-advised in most cases.
The next element to look at is chamber size. Cost is a factor as most guns that chamber a 3-½” shell are priced at a premium compared to firearms with 3” chambers. A 3-½” shell doles out a bigger thump on the front and back side of the gun but a youth hunter can always use a 3” shell in a 3-½” chambered gun.
Speaking of size, barrel length is another factor. Many shooters prefer a long barrel for shooting game birds on the wing. But for turkey hunting, shorter is better. A 24 or 26 inch barrel is easier to swing when shooting from a seated position. Often times turkeys approach from an unexpected direction and it’s just easier to move around with a shorter barrel.
Many synthetic stock guns come in black or camouflage with camo choices costing more. If the cost of camo is out of your price range or you go with wood, taping or wrapping the gun with camo material is always an option.
The most important factor in buying any gun is fit. Wear similar clothing to what you will wear hunting when gun shopping. Make sure the gun moves to the shoulder and your eye looks down the barrel in a smooth, natural motion. If the dealer has a demo model to shoot, even better.
Modern manufacturers offer interchangeable choke tubes. In most turkey hunting situations, extra full choke tubes will be used. If you plan to use an aftermarket choke, be sure it is compatible with the gun you are considering. There are dozens of quality gun makers to choose from. Some are better than others. But for most hunters the brand name of their gun, truck, or camo is simply personal preference.
We are going to get a little technical for this article in preparation for the upcoming turkey season. Over the last 15 years or so my partner Dave Miller and I have conducted extensive test on different firearms at the Fort Polk Shooting Complex. In no small part the Turkey Gun has been one of our main subjects.
To make a good tight shooting turkey gun, one that shoots a pattern that is smaller in diameter than the standard full choke you have to go to the special Super Full chokes smaller than .700 inch which is standard for a full choke in a standard 12 gauge shotgun barrel. Notably the newer back bore shotgun barrels found in Browning, Mossberg and Winchester barrels are slightly larger making full choke at .710 inch. Many companies make after market super turkey chokes from .690 all the way down to .640, Hastings being the first to come to mind, which can be ordered to fit just about any screw in shotgun barrel. Some of these chokes are designed for lead shot only, while others will take on the heavier than lead shot, which now is very popular among turkey hunters.
The back bored shotgun barrel will slightly out perform the regular barrel, but not enough to make a real difference in field performance when actually shooting at a turkey. If you consider 40 yards as your maximum ethical range, and you have a good sighting system on your shotgun, it all boils down to how dead you want to kill your turkey. I once killed a gobbler with one #4 copper plated lead shot from a Winchester Supreme shell, fired from a Remington 870 Super Magnum. The distance was a clean 70 yards, so I know such a pellet will go right through a turkey’s skull. That doesn’t mean you should or I should try such shots. Most turkeys are taken around 25 yards anyway, so take your time and go for the close shot.
You don’t need an expensive gun such as a Benelli to get top performance, as one of the best turkey guns I’ve ever seen is the modestly priced Mossberg 835 (pump) and 935 (semi-auto). Mossberg was first to come out with the three and a half inch magnum 12 gauge, and with it’s stock turkey choke by Hastings, and a back bored barrel, it’s hard to beat.
In my opinion, which does not lie, Winchester makes the finest off the shelf turkey loads. If I’m shooting at the range and someone challenges the great Uncle John, to save money I fire a Winchester shell and usually win a tight pattern contest. However, if the guy happens to be shooting Winchesters too, I have to dig out the secret weapon by which all other shotgun shells are measured. The logo for Nitro Ammunition Company is “Playtime Is Over” and they are not kidding. This is a special order item, available on the internet, by far the best turkey shotgun shell in the world, and you will find they are priced accordingly. These should not be confused with Remington Nitro shells, so be advised.
What shot size is best would seem to be the next question. A quick answer would be 4s, 5s, and 6s in other words it doesn’t matter. If your shooting all your turkeys at 25 yards #6 shot is great, but there is nothing wrong with taking the 40 yard shot with #4s, especially N.A.C. Technically, lead shot is better in #4s and Heavy Shot is a good idea if you are using #6s at the 40 yard mark. I don’t condone shooting past 40 yards but technology seems to be catching up with my ethical opinion.
You see right at the 40 yard mark the shot load comes back through the sound barrier as it slows down, which causes each shot pellet to flare like a knuckle ball. No matter how you look at it, the only way you can make the shot string stay together is to increase the speed and keep it above Mach 1. That can only be done by decreasing the shot load, and this reduces the probability of a lethal spine or brain hit significantly enough to bring about the “Law of Diminishing Returns.” That’s why 40 yards is the limit, no matter what.
With all that lingo, you would think they would make me a school teacher, but to get the shot on target we need a precise sighting system and use the turkey gun like a rifle. Therefore leave your wing shooting ideas at home. Forget shooting at circles, your only wasting shells. The only things that count are lethal spine and brain hits on a life sized turkey head target. The best is the standard Birchwood Casey “Sight and Glow” turkey head target.
Next you need an adjustable sight or scope designed for shotguns. I use the Bushnell Turkey scope 1X4 power with a circle in the crosshair. It is mounted on the ventilated rib of my Remington Supermag with a standard cantilever base and mount available through Remington. Kade Jones my teenage hunting partner does well with glowing iron rifle sights, while Dave is in between with the popular Red Dot electric sight. But the trick is the Zero.
If you have good adjustable sights you can absolutely zero the center of the pattern for your gun. The turkey load starts off at about the same speed as a .22 long rifle cartridge. If you zero your shotgun dead center at 25 yards you will be slightly high at 40 yards. Therefore the classic center neck hold will drop the house on the wicked witch of the West every time. For your information the pattern at 25 yards will be about the size of your fist, and at 40 yards it will be about the size of your hand with your outstretched fingers. These are patterns as tight as they get, and missing due to just not knowing where your gun shoots is common. Once zeroed in this manner you should get around 12 lethal hits with #4 shot in a Winchester load and about 20 or more with a N.A.C. load of lead #4s. in a 3.5 inch 12 gauge magnum. This same formula will work even with a small 20 gauge shotgun if rigged out properly. You won’t get as many lethal hits but you will get enough to bring home a gobbler.
Now you have to practice from a bench rest to zero and this brings up a real problem with turkey guns, and that would be recoil. The little trick here is to pre zero the gun with skeet loads at 25 yards first and then fine tune with the Magnum shells. Do you know that a skeet load kicks harder than a 30-06. My combination gun 12 over 30-06 will instantly show you this first hand when you shoot both barrels from a bench rest. But that’s nothing; a 30-06 only has about 19 pounds of recoil with a 180 grain bullet. The powerful 300 Weatherby Magnum kicks with approximately 34 pounds of recoil, while the 458 Winchester Magnum with 600 grain bullets thumps the shoulder with 58 pounds of recoil. All well and good, no body hunts turkeys with an elephant gun, but a common 12 gauge 3.5 inch magnum will bash your shoulder with 60 pounds of recoil energy.
Don’t worry, if you get a big tom turkey in your sights and you have done all your homework like I showed you, chances are you won’t feel a thing, and neither will the turkey…..Pass it on.