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Is a 20 Gauge Turkey Gun in Your Future?

Advice for the Shooter

I began shooting 20 gauge turkey guns "seriously" in 1999 when I began to work on the design of a 20 gauge turkey choke that became the Swarm turkey choke in late 2004. Rob Keck, then the CEO of the NWTF was and still is a dedicated 20 gauge turkey hunter. Conversations with him and numerous hunters at an NWTF Convention who all complained about the lack of a good 20 gauge turkey choke, inspired me to work on developing that choke.

Still target shooting competition became my true testing ground for the new 20 gauge turkey choke. In thise competitions we shoot at 40 yards from the muzzle of the shotgun. I was able to compare patterns of the Swarm in the 10" circle with chokes that other shooters were using. We only offically score 3" circles but the outer ring is 10" in diameter and it was easy to do a quick count and look at all the gaps that chokes were leaving.

The early 2000s also saw the development of "good" 20 gauge shells. Frankly until that time, 20 gauge turkey shotshell performance was terrible. A 20 gauge gun was maybe good out to 15 or 20 yards, if you wanted to see consistent patterns that would reliably kill a turkey cleanly. With the development of Hevi-Shot 20 gauge shells (Remington Hevi-Shot and then Hevi-13), Winchester Xtended Range and Federal Heavyweight shotshells, we finally had shells that would deliver consistently reliable patterns out to 40 yards.

In 2005 I was fortunate enough to set a new World Record with the Swarm choke and in 2006 Doris set the Women's World Record (it still stands and is the longest-standing World Record in the history of the sport) with the Swarm. Those records and patterns they produced got the attention of several choke makers who really started to work on their products. Today there are several good 20 gauge turkey chokes. All of us as turkey hunters have benefited from the development of those products.

A good 20 gauge gun, properly choked and with the right shotshell can do all that needs to be done out to 40 yards, just like a 12 gauge gun. The only real difference is that there are fewer pellets in a 20 gauge shell than in a 12 gauge shell. The same amount of energy transfer takes place, all things being equal, with a pellet launched from a 20 gauge gun as a pellet launched from a 12 gauge gun.

If all that is true, what are the real differences in 20s and 12s, you might ask? There may be differences in length and weight of the guns and the recoil from a 20 gauge may be less than that from a 12 gauge. Those differences seem pretty obvious but there are a couple more that may be less obvious.

When it comes to barrel length, most 20 gauge guns pattern much better with barrels of 26” or longer. That is many times true with 12s as well but it can be very difficult to get the kinds of patterns most of us expect to see with a really short-barreled 20 gauge.

It is also true that for the most part, 20 gauge guns pattern better with bores that are clean. That may not mean “squeaky clean” but when a 20 gauge bore becomes fouled, patterns may degrade so greatly that consistent patterning just is not possible. It is vital that a 20 gauge shooter spend time with his gun at the range, starting with a very clean bore   http://allaboutshooting.com/article_info.php?articles_id=282 and shooting it, without cleaning between shots, to see exactly what happens as that bore becomes fouled. In that way the shooter learns how his gun does best, very clean or slightly fouled.

The choice of a 12 gauge shotgun or 20 gauge shotgun for turkey hunting is no longer limited by performance.
It's now just a matter of preference.



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