Thirty years ago, just about the only specially configured scatterguns you could find were the overpriced over/unders designed for wealthy hunters to knock a daily limit of quail from the sky. My first effort at modifying my shiny blued Remington 1100 into a turkey killer was taking a roll of camo tape and wrapping the gun more times than I could count.
In fact, it was Remington who first recognized the unique features a turkey hunter really needed in a shotgun and began incorporating camouflage finishes, shorter barrels and tighter choke constrictions. Other manufacturers were quick to follow with turkey hunter numbers growing by leaps and bounds in the 1990s. Today, nearly every major gunmaker has a specialized turkey shotgun or two, and features have expanded to include a variety of stock configurations, sighting and optic options, recoil dampening pads, operating systems and weatherized finishes for harsh elements.
Turkey hunter numbers have leveled off, but it’s good to know that gun manufacturers still recognize the value of creating even more refined gobbler getters, as this year’s crop of top models reveals.
Benelli Super Vinci
Last year they rolled out their Vinci with the SteadyGrip pistol grip stock, and for 2011, they’ve gone back to the original configuration, but made it extremely capable of cycling turkey crushing 3 ½-inch loads. Now the softest kicking gun around also handles some of the most brutal loads to shoot, and the recoil sensitive hunter is the winner. Capable of handling everything from 3 ½ down to 2 ¾ loads, the Vinci is available with a 26- or a 28-inch barrel, boasts a stepped vent rib with a metal mid-bead and red bar front sight and tips the scales right at 7 pounds. Finishes include black synthetic, Realtree Max-4 and Realtree APG. Overall shotgun length is 48 ½ and 50 ½ depending on barrel length. ($1,649-$1,759)
Remington Versa Max
The barrel and other operating components are nickel- and nickel Teflon-plated, respectively, for maximum corrosion resistance, and for the sportsman prone to not wiping down his firearm as he should, the action is virtually self-cleaning, tested to continuously cycle thousands of rounds without jamming. Available in Realtree HD Camo, the Versa Max comes with four chokes including an extended extra full choke for tightening up most of today’s top turkey loads. ($1,599)
Mossberg Turkey THUG Series
The Turkey THUG 535 features a 20-inch barrel, the option of adjustable fiber optic sights or a factory-mounted TRUGLO red-dot sight, a receiver-mounted Picatinny rail and the company’s Lightning Pump Action (LPA) user-adjustable, creep-free trigger system. It is available in Mossy Oak Break-Up Infinity, a nod to the partnership Mossberg forged with the camo creator. Other guns in the series include a semi-auto Model 835 version and a pump-action Model 500. ($612/$671 with red-dot sight)
Winchester Super X3 NWTF
The 12-gauge X3 is chambered to accommodate 3 ½-inch shells and features a 24-inch back-bored barrel and an Invector Plus extra-full extended turkey choke tube. The finish is in Mossy Oak Break-Up Infinity, and for withstanding the elements, the stock and fore-end are coated in Dura-Touch Armor. An adjustable rear sight and TRUGLO fiber-optic front sight help in the rifle-like delivery of tight patterns at close range. The Super X3 NWTF Extreme Turkey is also available in a 3-inch, 20-gauge model as well, for $150 less than the bigger bore. ($1,559)
Browning NWTF Silver