Current .410 bore shotguns might need some help entering the turkey woods.
Federal Premium’s new turkey load for 2018—Heavyweight TSS No. 9 in .410 bore— is certainly up for the task for taking a wild turkey at 40 yards. However, the question that will weigh on many turkey hunters’ minds is which .410 shotgun is best to use for turkey hunting?
Small Pellets, Big Performance
Tungsten Super Shot (TSS) is an incredibly dense shot that has taken the handloading world by storm in recent years, and it’s an integral part of Federal Premium’s HEAVYWEIGHT TSS and 3rd Degree loads. When developing the new shotshells for 2018, Federal Premium’s engineers set out to create loads using small TSS pellets in .410 bore that would rival what handloaders have achieved. This task resulted in a 3-inch .410 load with 13/16 ounce of No. 9 shot that uses a specialized, full-length wad designed to prevent direct contact of the super-hard TSS with the barrel.
The material is 56 percent denser than lead. This means a No. 9 HEAVYWEIGHT TSS pellet carries at least as much penetration energy as a No. 5 lead pellet at all ranges. Because of this Federal Premium was able to greatly increase the pellet count of a payload by using a smaller shot size, but penetrate as much or more because of the increased density.
A 13/16-ounce load of No. 9 TSS has about 295 pellets. When engineers tested the loads at the Federal Premium factory using a shotgun with a 24.5-inch barrel and fixed full choke, they averaged 125 to 150 pellets in a 10-inch circle at 40 yards. These numbers are capable of killing a wild turkey, and even rival the numbers produced by some 12-gauge turkey guns using No. 4 or No. 5 lead loads.
Test results also showed more that 3-inches of penetration in ballistic gel and deep dents, with a few pellets even busting completely through a thin sheet of steel at 40 yards. Heavyweight TSS .410 bore loads definitely have the patterns, down-range energy and penetration at 40 yards to be effective at killing wild turkeys.
Turkey Shotgun Questions
So, the ammo can do its job, but what about the shotgun?
For a turkey hunter, an ideal shotgun will have the capability to screw-in an extra-full turkey choke for an ultra-dense pattern. The shotgun should also have an adjustable aiming system to pinpoint the densest pattern in the center of the kill zone—the middle of the turkey’s neck just above the waddles.
Today’s shotgun manufacturers really aren’t currently offering a dedicated turkey gun in .410 bore. There are many .410 shotgun options on the market, but they typically have a fixed full choke and single or double-bead aiming sights which is not ideal for turkey hunting. These scatterguns were designed with wing-shooting in mind. They were not intended for still-shooting at the head of a wild turkey that is the size of a tennis ball. It is quite difficult to aim at a wild turkey target with the large brass bead on most .410 shotguns. The size of the bead can completely cover the turkey’s head at 40 yards.
To clarify, .410 bore shotguns with fixed full chokes will work, but their sight systems—bare beads—simply are not the best at precise still-target shooting. This means the shooter will need to practice and know where their gun is shooting to hit the center of the target before entering the turkey woods.
For an example, a hunter who tested various .410 fixed-full-choke shotguns found all his shots were low and to the left at the distances of 25, 30 and 40 yards. He adjusted his point of aim by holding high right to hit the center target. This worked well when shooting paper targets. But, remembering to do hold high-right in the woods can prove to be quite difficult when his adrenaline is high and his heart is beating fast because there is a big gobbler standing in front of him. Needing to remember to hold high-left is not ideal.
A shotgun equipped a sight system with a rear sight such as an adjustable peep sight or rifle sight is better. The capability to install a small scope base to mount a red dot would also be good. With an adjustable sight or red dot, the shooter can dial in the point of impact. This isn’t very easy with today’s .410 shotgun options.
To add a sight system, a shotgun typically needs to be drilled and tapped for a scope base to add a red dot sight. Or, the firearm needs a vented rib to add a scope base adaptor or after-market sight that affixes to the vented rib. It is difficult—or even impossible—to add a sight system if the shotguns don’t have these features. Currently, there really is not an after-market saddle mount, or speed-bead mount that works on the thinner receiver of a .410 shotgun.
For choke, most current .410 bore shotguns come with fixed full choked barrels. These fixed-full guns will work well with Federal Premium’s new Heavyweight TSS .410 bore turkey load, out to 40 yards. However, with an extra-full choke, they could perform better. There are a few .410 shotguns out there that are equipped with screw-in choke systems. But for turkey hunters, this is a cruel joke, because there are not many after-market, extra-full chokes currently available with a thread system that will fit a .410 bore shotgun. Although some guns have the capability for an extra-full choke, extra-full chokes simply don’t exist.
.410 Turkey Gun Solutions
Considering .410 guns currently on the market, select a shotgun with a vented rib such as a Mossberg 500 (www.mossberg.com) with fixed full choke. Remington and other brands might have some ventilated-rib shotgun options too. These guns will produce good patterns at 40 yards. Because these guns will not be drilled and tapped for a scope base, consider installing a Hi-Viz Sight on the ventilated rib, such as the TriViz Turkey/Deer Sight Set (www.hivizsights.com) which is a set of both rear and front sights. Or, you could install a Rib-Rider Shotgun Mount (www.aimtech-mounts.com) from Aimtech Mounts and then install a Bushnell red dot sight.
For guns without a ventilated rib, a solution would be to go to a gunsmith and have the drill and tap the gun for a scope base to mount a red dot or other sight system. Good single-shot .410 shotguns such as Stevens 301 (www.savagearms.com) or Henry (www.henryusa.com) could work well, if drilled and tapped.
Current fixed-full shotguns will work well with Federal Premium Heavyweight TSS No. 9 .410 bore out to 40 yards when and if the shooter has the practice and skills to shoot that far with a bare-bead sight system. But, if you want to hunt turkeys with a .410 bore shotgun, it might be best to wait until next year. Manufacturers such as Stevens, Mossberg, Henry might decide to produce a dedicated turkey shotgun.
Other manufacturers such as Primos and Trulock might offer extra-full .410 bore chokes for turkey hunting. Companies that produce mounting systems might also decide to produce after-market bases, mounts and other sighting systems. Time will tell, but it is certainly likely that manufacturers will step up and offer more .410 solutions for turkey hunters. The challenge and fun of hunting wild turkeys with a .410 bore is worth the wait.
Barrel Length for .410 Turkey Guns
Common barrel lengths for youth .410 shotguns can range from 18.5-, 20-, and 22-inches. For full-size shotguns, 24- and 26-inch barrels are common. Initial testing of various turkey guns shows that length of barrel was typically not an issue. Longer barrels will typically shoot tighter patterns at longer ranges. But, a Stevens 301 Single Shot with 26-inch barrel and full choke shot next to a Stevens 301 Single Shot Compact with 22-inch barrel and full choke (youth gun) resulted in both guns shooting about the same patterns at 30 yards. The pattern from the shorter barrel gun did open up more at 40 yards. For shorter 18.5- or 20-inch youth guns, it is recommended to keep shots closer. The 25-yard range would be ideal. Shotguns of any barrel length are likely to shoot better if you can install an extra-full choke.
The opinions and article were provided by my contacts at Federal Premium Ammunition.