I would bet I have seen the question a hundred times on shotgun forums and the Book of Faces.
"I am just getting into turkey hunting. What is the best shotgun for this, and what is the best choke for the gun and the best ammo?"
Just to be honest with you — and I am not trying to be negative — I want to help new hunters, but this kind of question kind of makes me tired.
We seem to live in a time where we want the best tool or application for everything, we want the answer fast, and we want the item right now. We don't want to do any real-world testing on our own and gain experience. We just want to ask random people we don't know questions (usually online), take what they say as gospel and continue from there.
OK, I know some of you will think that is kind of harsh, maybe even mean, but it is not meant to be.
The fact is shooting a shotgun successfully — whether it be wing shooting, competitive clay shooting, or competing with the boys down at your local card shooting establishment — is like many things in life. It takes time spent in the trenches, shooting different guns and shells and chokes and learning about what they will do in different combinations.
You can, in fact, go with what some will tell you and use a certain gun, shell and choke combination and be fairly successful in the turkey woods. If you keep your turkeys in moderate ranges and wait for a good shot, you will not have too much trouble. You will just not learn as much if you don't spend some time shooting different guns under different conditions to see what they will do.
OK, now about this "best" thing. You have probably heard me say here before I have never believed there is really a best item for anything. This goes for hunting knives, motorcycles, boots, trucks, squirrel dogs, .22 rifles, girlfriends and wives and husbands — or shotguns. What may be "best" for us, or our buddy, is certainly not the best for at least half of the population of the world right now. Rifles, shotguns, telescopic sights, archery equipment and other gear we love to discuss is very much ruled by what we personally like, which is usually very different from the next guy in line.
It is exactly the same with turkey shotguns.
You like a pump gun, I may want a semi-automatic, some like an over-and-under shotgun, and heaven forbid some may actually want a single-shot option. All this, mind you, is just the type of action; there are a hundred different variations in barrel length, type of choke, camo pattern, and I haven't even touched on if you want a 12-gauge, 20-gauge or a .410 bore.
So maybe you see what I am getting at. I don't think there is any one size fits all for the best turkey killin' shotgun for you. What I can do as your increasingly humble outdoors scribe is make suggestions and show you what's out there. Maybe this will help you in your quest for the mythical nirvana of shotguns, OK?
Here are a few to consider:
I am not the only so-called guns writer who ever stated there have been more turkeys killed with a Remington 870 than any other shotgun. I know this is true, it has to be, more than 11 million of the 870s have been sold, and they are out there everywhere.
I am not really sure what is going on with RemArms, the company that is now making Remington firearms (totally different company than Remington ammunition now after the bankruptcy and sale of different parts of the company), but they are producing the new 870 called the Fieldmaster, and I like it.
If you want one of the old-style 870s, there are many out there for sale and you can easily find them. If you take an 870 shotgun, pattern the choke you have in it with a few different shells and keep your turkeys at 40 yards and under, you will have no problems.
If any shotgun can challenge the most turkeys killed claim stated above, it is the Mossberg 500. This model came out about 10 years after the 870, but there have been millions sold. Model 500s became very popular in the niche of a dependable, rugged, inexpensive shotgun, but it has a vast array of variants and comes in different barrel lengths, finishes and camo.
We have to state here that the cousin to the 500 is the Mossberg 835, another pump gun that made the jump years ago to the 3 1/2-inch magnum world in turkey shotguns. The 835 may have an undeserved reputation as a shoulder bruiser, but I don't think they kick any harder than any other pump gun shooting those nuclear 3 1/2-inch shells.
CZ Reaper Magnum
More than once, I have told the story of how years ago camo pioneer Jim Crumley showed me the advantages of using an over-and-under shotgun for turkeys. With all the hoopla we have today with tight chokes, we never seem to address what to do when the turkey appears at 20 yards or less instead of the anticipated 40 yards or more.
With the two-barrel option, the hunter can use a tight choke for long range in one barrel and an open choke for up close in the other. CZ-USA shotgun product manager and pro shooter Dave Miller took this to the next level with the advent of the CZ Reaper Magnum.
This is a fully camoed over-and-under 12-gauge with a 3 1/2-inch chamber and comes equipped with a low-profile picatinny rail to install an optic.
Benelli Super Black Eagle 3
Few shotguns have gained the loyal following of the Benelli Super Black Eagle. Duck hunters love them, and turkey hunters who carry these shotguns are right behind them. Remember the "Duck Dynasty" guys saying there's one thing a shotgun must do? "Go boom, boom, boom." The Super Black Eagle, now in its third generation, has been famous for doing just that.
Benelli's gun comes in several variations including, the Turkey Performance Shop — if you want a state-of-the-art turkey shotgun and you want to spend some money.
If you are undecided about the choices for these and many other turkey shotguns, remember Case's Outdoor Theorem No. 7: "You can't have too many shotguns."
"Guns & Cornbread" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at email@example.com.