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Is the 20 Gauge a Turkey Gun?

Advice for the Shooter



Several years ago, after a conversation with Rob Keck, CEO of the NWTF, I began a quest to determine if the 20 gauge shotgun could truly be a turkey gun. In April of 2004, I published the article that follows. Since that time, I've had an opportunity to really test the 20 gauge, help design the Swarm 20 Gauge Turkey Choke and be fortunate enough to set a World Record at the Grand National Still Target Shoot in 2005. My wife also set a new Women's World Record in 2006 using the Swarm 20 Gauge Turkey Choke.

I can now state with absolute certainty, that the 20 gauge is a turkey gun! There are caveats however.

If you carry a 20 gauge to the turkey woods, you must pattern the gun and you must choose a shotshell that works well with the choke tube you choose.

You may want to take a few minutes to read this article to see my remarks before I had an opportunity to completely form an opinion on the 20 gauge. I'm sure that some/many of you still feel as I did then. I had to prove to myself that the 20 gauge had enough "fire power" and that the shotshells and chokes were good enough to do the job. The advances in both those products have convinced me that the 20 can get the job done and get it done well.

I'll continue to refine my thoughts and recommendations for the 20 gauge as I test new shotshells, shotguns and turkey chokes. It's an exciting time to be a turkey hunter!

The Original Article

“I can really reach out an touch ‘em with my 10 gauge.” “Ever since I got my 3 ½’ magnum 12 gauge, if I can see ‘em, I can hit ‘em.” “Why I …” Okay, you’ve got the idea. Bigger is better. The more shot, the longer the shell, the “deader” he’ll be. Maybe!

A few years ago, few of us would have picked a 20 gauge as our first choice for a turkey gun. It might have been okay for junior or, if you’re lucky enough to have a wife or girlfriend who hunts, for her but not for you, right? Has that really changed? I don’t know but…

There are an increasing number of turkey hunters who are choosing to take the 20 gauge to the turkey woods. The reasoning is that the true sport is in calling the turkey to within range and that the 20 has enough “umph” to handle him. Those same hunters are trying to encourage more participation in the sport by youngsters of both sexes and by ladies. They reason that the 20 has less kick than the traditional 12 and thus will not make them recoil shy. I applaud that effort. A part of the future of our sport is in our youth and it sure is nice if ladies not only approve of it but join in, at least sometimes.

So, how does the 20 gauge stack up? Not as well as I'd like. I’ve seen some decent scores at NWTF Still Target Shoots with the 20. I know from conversations that I’ve had with some serious turkey hunters that they’d like to see more use of the 20 and that they believe, that with modern ammunition, it's more than adequate.

I have to confess that my experience, before I began this quest, with the 20 gauge had been long ago and far away. One of my first shotguns was a Mississippi Arms 20 gauge single shot. It was a break open, exposed hammer, cracked stock, pitted barrel, squirrel killer. I thought it was great! It had belonged to my Great Uncle Barney and my brother Charlie gave it to me, for a while anyway. When I was 11, my brother Shelby gave me a .22 Winchester Model 67-A single shot rifle and that became my squirrel gun. At some point, I purchased a couple more 20's but soon my taste changed to 12’s. Now, a lot of years have passed and I’ve mostly shot 0/0’s for trap, skeet and sporting clays and semi-autos, side-by-sides or pumps for everything else, all in 12 gauge.

That has changed. No, I’m not going to abandon my 12’s and for now will still take them to the turkey woods but…a while back I started testing 20’s. I’ve bought a couple more 20 gauge shotguns, every 20 gauge turkey choke tube I can locate and I've even worked on designs of my own. I've shot every turkey load available. I'm trying to decide for myself if the 20 is a true “Turkey Gun”.

It's been a bit frustrating at times but I’ve kept good records and I’ve counted lots of little holes in targets. I’ll soon be able tell you which, or if, a choke tube/ammo/gun shoots best for me. I'll compare the results with those of my 12's and then rate some rather subjective subjects, like recoil, ease of carry, etc.

Keep checking…..I’ll be shooting.

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