Nothing is more satisfying than shooting a turkey in the face with a load of 5s. It’s just such a wonderful experience, and it is made even more special with the right gun.
It wasn’t that long ago when dedicated-turkey shotguns hit the market and the category has blown up in lockstep with the rise in turkey populations and our desire to hunt them.
These days, it’s a sad gobbler chaser who doesn’t possess a camouflage shotgun chambered for 3.5-inch magnums and choked just right in order to place a ridiculous amount of pellets in a paper plate at 40 yards.
Following are five shotguns that shaped the market into what it is today.
Mossberg 835 Rifle
I was 14 when I first shot an 835 and although I hit the paper target, I also got a bloody nose and a new respect for recoil. At 15, I called in a gobbler and shot him while he faced me. He went tail feathers over apple cart and most of his beard fell off. That gun was nasty medicine for turkeys and was the result of Mossberg originally addressing the waterfowl market. They did, but they also decided it was the ideal pump-gun for turkey hunts so in the late 80s they released their first. Since then, Mossberg has churned out some of the best, and least expensive, turkey guns on the market.
Remington 11-87 Rifle
Although the original 1100 series shotgun came out a few decades earlier, it wasn’t until 1987 that Remington released the 11-87. This shotgun featured a revolutionary gas system that allowed it to shoot 2.75-inch and 3-inch turkey loads, making it one of the first semiautos targeted toward turkey hunters. They later released the Super Magnum version that could handle 3.5-inch beak busters, which really catapulted the 11-87 into turkey-gun stardom.
Winchester Model 1300 Rifle
At a time when there weren’t a ton of hunters willing to shell out good money for a gun specifically to hunt turkeys with, Winchester persuaded them to part with a modest amount of money anyway. The gun they were buying was the bargain-priced 1300 pump. It’s now known as the SXP but back in the day it wasn’t, and it was the workingman’s turkey gun and a lot of those workingmen and workingwomen used it to fill tags throughout the spring. And still do.
Benelli Super Black Eagle Rifle
We go from one of the cheapest turkey guns to one of the most expensive in Benelli’s trail-blazing auto-loader. Over two and a half decades ago, Benelli released its first 12-gauge chambered in 3.5 inches, and while financially out of reach for many folks, others bought it and never looked back. Originally designed to withstand the brutal conditions duck hunters subject their shotguns to, the Black Eagle easily won a spot in the hearts of diehard turkey hunters.
Browning A5 Rifle
What hasn’t been hunted with Browning’s Auto-5s? The answer is not much. Of the game taken with the gun, turkeys were common. This do-it-all semi-auto was offered in a three-inch Magnum model (among others), which was perfect for a budding group of turkey hunters. This shotgun, which looks more at home in a pheasant-filled CRP field, is one of the reasons many of us used to buy a cheap, camouflage gun sock for turkey season. It didn’t have to be camo, to be honest, but we wanted it that way.