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Is the 20-Gauge the Perfect Turkey Gun?

Brodie Swisher

What’s the best shotgun for turkey hunting? There was a time when the answer was clear and simple. There was a time when anything less than a 12-gauge over your shoulder left you feeling ill equipped and under-gunned. A few decades ago, turkey hunters wanted their bird at 40 yards or less to make a clean kill with their 12-gauge shotgun. But times are changing fast. Thanks to the ability to load a sub-gauge shotgun with TSS ammunition, the game has changed. So nowadays, when the question is asked, “What’s the best shotgun for turkey hunting?” the answer isn’t so clear and simple. The opinions are changing. The question now seems to be, “Is the 20-gauge the perfect turkey gun?”

What are some of the characteristics that draw hunters to the 20-gauge for turkeys? 

Read on for a look at why the 20-gauge shotgun has grown to be a new favorite among turkey hunters across the country each spring.

turkey hunter with 20-gauge
A Lighter Gun

Regardless of the gear we carry to the woods on opening day, we’ll typically find ways to trim the fat as the season wears on. When the weather warms up, and the days grow long, we typically do our best to shave the weight from our turkey vest when grinding it out for a hard-headed longbeard. We cover a lot of ground each spring, so it only makes sense to lighten the load on our back. One way to do this is with a lighter gun. That’s just one area where the 20-gauge can shine. It’s easy on the back and a pleasure to carry on all-day hunts. 

What’s the difference? The hunter willing to pack a 20-gauge can shave anywhere from 1-2 pounds of weight, depending on which model gun they tote to the woods. It may not seem like a lot, but you’ll certainly notice the difference on those long days when you’re putting lots of miles on your turkey boots.  

A Lighter Load

There’s a variety of lighter shotshell loads available for the 20-gauge these days that make the gun a pleasure to shoot for youngsters and older turkey hunters alike. You’ll find versatility like never before when it comes to the options available for the 20-gauge turkey gun. Sure, you can load up the heavy loads and punish your shoulder with the recoil for a little extra reach, but in most cases, the lighter, super-efficient 20-gauge loads are more than enough to get the job done on your bird. Hunters across the country are trading in their 3 ½” turkey loads for lighter 20-gauge options that still pack plenty of punch. 

20-gauge Benelli

A Gun for Hunters of All Sizes

One of my favorite turkey guns is a 20-gauge, youth model Mossberg in Mossy Oak. I added an adjustable stock to the gun to make it the perfect option for my whole family. With the stock slid forward, my youngest son can easily shoulder the gun. When it’s my turn to hunt, I simply slide the stock back to fit me, and I’m good to go. The gun allows us to make adjustments on the fly. No more carrying a gun for dad and a gun for the kiddos. The one-size-fits-all approach makes life easy and efficient. This little gun allows more versatility for shooters of all sizes than anything I’ve carried to the woods yet. Its freedom you won’t find when carrying the heavier 12-bore gun. The 20-gauge is a well-rounded option with ample versatility to meet the needs of shooters of all sizes.

How to Equip the Beginner Turkey Hunter

Plenty of Power

As mentioned above, there was a time when 40 yards was considered the far side of a turkey hunter’s effective range with a 12-gauge. However, with the introduction of TSS loads, 40 yards and beyond, is easily accomplished with the 20-gauge shotgun. 

For me personally, I like to see how close I can get a gobbler to my gun barrel. It’s not about how far out I can kill a bird. But it’s nice to know you’re packing a gun that can deliver the payload at longer ranges, particularly when you misjudge the distance. 

These lightweight guns are routinely taking birds at 40 to 50 yards each spring, and 60-yard shots are not uncommon. It’s amazing to see the power a little 20-gauge can produce with TSS loads now being produced by companies like Apex Ammunition.
Final Thoughts

Is the 20-gauge the perfect turkey gun? Well, that debate continues to rage on in turkey camps across the country. But if you’re looking to lighten the load this spring, yet maintain all the deadly knockdown power you’ve known with the big guns over the years, you just might consider giving the 20-gauge loaded with TSS a look. It’s incredibly tough on turkeys and allows more versatility than most any other gun on the shelf. Look across the turkey-hunting community, and you just might find that the 20-gauge is the most popular shotgun in the turkey woods this spring. 

Mossy Oak Store turkey hunting gear

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