I've been seeing all kinds of people turkey hunting with a .410 for the past couple of years. If you're like me you've wondered why the sudden spike in folks using the .410 and other sub gauge loads for turkeys?
I've been seeing all kinds of people turkey hunting with a .410 for the past couple of years. If you're like me you've wondered why the sudden spike in folks using the .410 and other sub gauge loads for turkeys? You may have even wondered if it's actually possible for a load that small to kill a turkey? After all, I've spent my life going after Toms with a 12 gauge.
With all those questions, we had one more -
You know our answer…it depends.
This week we’re going to attempt to answer that question and discuss some of our recent pattern testing with the smaller gauge turkey shooters.
We asked Rick Taylor of CVA the same question. His answer is that “Guys started realizing they didn’t need that heavy old shotgun that killed on both ends. It no longer takes a 3 1/2” 12 gauge turkey load to kill turkeys at modest distances.”
It could have to do with the advancement and availability of Tungsten Super Shot (TSS) loads. Tungsten is heavier and more dense than lead or steel shot, so TSS loads can use a lot more and smaller pellets but still have the velocity you need. AND, they still carry plenty enough energy down range to deliver the knockout blow we’re all wanting.
So a TSS load sends a lot more shot than a lead equivalent while still packing enough energy for the harvest.
A .410 shotgun is typically a much lighter gun that also has less recoil.
Rick continued, “The fact that we are able to carry much lighter weight and less recoil shotguns while still being effective has made a bunch of us make the switch.”
Depending on your style of turkey hunting, the benefit of less weight to carry could make a big difference.
If you’re primarily a blind hunter that sits all day in one spot, the weight of a shotgun doesn’t matter as much. But if you’re a run and gun hunter, your shoulder and arms can start to get tired after several miles. And if you’re like me, you’re already shaking enough as the turkey is coming into range. I don’t need arm fatigue making me shake even more!
Rick mentioned, “Some guys that have killed a bunch of turkeys with the heavyweights like the extra challenge that goes along with the sub-gauge calibers.”
Some people only hunt deer with a compound bow - maybe even a recurve bow - for that challenge. Others will stretch the effective killing range of their rifle to the limits for that same challenge.
There can be a lot of strategy and skill that goes along with getting that turkey to the right spot with any shotgun, but that challenge increases as the amount of shot from the gun decreases.
It has been said that a 12 gauge using TSS loads could ethically kill a turkey at 100 yards. We did a test last year to just see what a 20 gauge could do at 80 yards, and there's not much hope for the turkey. So, using these smaller loads adds a bit more difficulty to the mix.
I think you already know the answer to that question, or you wouldn’t be interested in this article. But that’s the same question Tricia Kinnard of BPI Outdoors was answering on her first turkey hunt. She recalls, “I knew we had patterned my gun to 30 yards, and I was going to wait on a bird to come in that close. So I had full confidence in my setup.”
The right gun, choke, and load combination from a sub-gauge shotgun can prove deadly at ranges out to even 40 and 50 yards.
Obviously, pattern testing plays a huge part in determining the effective range for you and your gun. Even though the majority of hunters I’ve talked with may pattern their guns to 50 or 60 yards, the larger part of them are shooting turkeys at 30 yards and closer.
Absolutely devastating to a turkey’s face.
The loads we’ve tested lately are capable of putting as many as 103 pellets in a six inch circle at 40 yards. If you can reliably put that turkey’s head within that six inch circle of pellets, bring on the turkey tacos because we’re ready for lunch!
Keep in mind, while the .410 may be currently leading the trend, the 20 gauge and even 28 gauge are fantastic “sub-gauge” turkey killers as well. Be sure to check out all of our pattern testing videos:
If you like what we're doing, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel as reviews and testing videos are coming out each week.
As always, please email or comment with any questions you may have also.
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