by Adam Heggenstaller - Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Any ol’ shotgun will kill a turkey, much like any ol’ pocketknife will skin a deer. But if you hunt enough turkeys (or skin enough deer), you’ll come to realize certain features aid in the outcome and even make the process more fun. In other words, there are shotguns, and then there are turkey shotguns. As its name suggests, the Winchester Super X Pump Long Beard is decidedly a turkey shotgun, and it has several traits that give it an edge over general-purpose scatterguns when facing a springtime showdown.
The range at which they will produce dense patterns is often the stick by which turkey shotguns (and loads and choke tubes) are measured, and 40 yards has become the accepted minimum for a 12-gauge. You can expect the Long Beard version of the Super X Pump (SXP) to add another 10-15 yards to that distance when firing a magnum turkey load. Turkey-smashing patterns are the product of the barrel, the choke and the load, and Winchester the gun company teams up with Winchester the ammunition company to bring all three together in the SXP Long Beard. It’s no coincidence Winchester’s turkey shotgun has the same name as the other Winchester’s turkey load. If you’re not following me, just shoot Long Beard shotshells in the Long Beard shotgun and call it good. During my tests, I learned I could trust the patterns of both the 3-inch and the 3½ -inch No. 6 Long Beard XR loads to kill turkeys at a range of at least 50 yards.
While both Winchester companies stand to benefit from this arrangement, so does the consumer. Rather than spending time and money trying multiple loads with several chokes to find the perfect combination, turkey hunters can go with a proven recommendation from the shotgun’s manufacturer. Of course they should confirm this before they hunt, and although it’s impossible to predict if a Long Beard XR load will produce the best pattern, it’s safe to say it will be more than adequate. The SXP Long Beard’s barrel is backbored to .742 inch, while the Invector-Plus Long Beard choke tube’s internal diameter measures .665 inch. Engineers and ballisticians from the two Winchester companies found this combination was ideal for squeezing Long Beard XR’s Shot-Lok technology into tight, even patterns. To be fair, other turkey loads pattern well in the SXP Long Beard, too. My test patterns showed 3-inch Federal Premium 3rd Degree and 3½ -inch No. 5 Remington Premier Magnum Turkey loads to be effective at 40-50 yards.
Turkey hunters will appreciate two other features of the SXP Long Beard’s barrel. Winchester shortened it to 24 inches for easier handling from a scrunched-against-a-tree position and to lessen the chance it will hang up on bushes or branches when making adjustments to aim. I wish it was another 2 or 4 inches shorter yet, especially since the extended choke tube adds a full 2 inches to the muzzle. The bore and chamber are chrome-plated to resist corrosion, because cleaning a gun after a long morning in the woods is far less satisfying than catching a 10-minute nap. (When you decide to give the gun a full cleaning, the trigger group comes out as one piece after drifting a pin through the receiver, which then allows complete disassembly.)
The TruGlo Pro Series Magnum Gobble Dot sights are excellent for a gun meant to be aimed as precisely as a rifle. Adjustable for windage and elevation, the rear sight rides on a ramp clamped to the barrel rib. Fiber-optic elements provide two green dots that bracket the rear notch. The front sight is an orange fiber-optic unit that’s nearly an inch long but just .029 inch in diameter at the end. While the front aiming point is essentially the size of a pinhead so it won’t blot out a gobbler’s neck, it’s plenty bright for fly-down time. The sight bases and fiber-optic housings are steel and should hold up to accidental bumps against tree trunks during predawn hikes.
The SXP Long Beard’s stock has two things that help keep those sights steady on a bird’s wattles. First, it comes with a pistol grip that offers improved ergonomics while seated. The pistol grip allows you to lower the elbow of your shooting arm and rest it on your ribcage or gut, without forcing your wrist to bend at an uncomfortable angle. Now you’re using the bone structure of your forearm to support the gun instead of relying on muscle strength, and it results in a steadier hold while you wait what seems like hours for a tom to come those last 5 yards.
Second, the stock is adjustable for length of pull and comb height. Winchester includes two, .25-inch-thick polymer spacers with the SXP Long Beard that increase length of pull from 13.25 to 13.75 inches. Two interchangeable comb inserts also come with the gun: a low one for hunters who want to use the iron sights and a high one for pairing with optics. (The aluminum-alloy receiver is drilled and tapped for a base.) In addition, four polymer disks allow you to raise each comb in .125-inch increments for another .25 inch in height. The system gives you six different comb heights from which to choose, which should cover just about anyone’s face structure and preferred sight setup.
Finally, the SXP Long Beard’s four-lugged bolt and other internals are plated with matte-black chrome for easier cycling and resistance to wear. Nearly the entire gun is dipped in Mossy Oak Break-Up Country, save for the comb insert and the Inflex recoil pad. I don’t think Winchester could pack more turkey-specific features into a shotgun, except for a better trigger. The one in my test gun had a disappointingly heavy pull.
Since the SXP Long Beard is made in Turkey, where manufacturing costs are low, the 12-gauge, 3½-inch version is available from dealers for less than $550. Considering the sights and choke tube would add about $125 in aftermarket cost to any other shotgun, this is a pretty good deal on a gun that’s as dedicated to turkeys as the hunters who pursue them.
• Type: pump-action shotgun
• Gauge/Chamber: 12/3", 12/31/2" (tested), 20/3"
• Capacity: 4+1 rnds.
• Barrel: 24"; vent rib; threaded for Winchester Invector-Plus choke tubes
• Sights: adjustable fiber-optic TruGlo Pro Series Magnum Gobble Dot
• Trigger Pull Weight: 9.5 lbs.
• Safety: cross-bolt
• Stock: synthetic; Mossy Oak Break-Up Country; LOP 13.25-13.75", drop at heel 2", drop at comb .875-1.75"
• Metal Finish: Mossy Oak Break-Up Country
• Overall Length: 45"
• Weight: 7 lbs.
• Accessories: Invector-Plus Long Beard choke tube (XF), two LOP spacers, two interchangeable comb inserts, four comb-height adjustment disks
• MSRP: $559.99
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