As a long time traditional turkey hunter who loves the challenge of getting Mr. Tom in close, I scratch my head every time I hear or read about someone looking for the biggest, baddest, most pellets in a 10 inch circle at 40 yards, “reach out and get some” at 75 yards turkey gun, choke and load on the market. That conversation seemed to dominate the internet turkey talk sites over the past few years, but now the talk has shifted to finding that magical blend for the smaller shotgun gauges, including the .410.
In today’s turkey gun market, the diminutive .410 has taken a seat on the front row when it comes to a turkey hunter’s bucket list, and the gun manufacturers have responded by introducing a number of new and exciting .410 models specifically made for turkey hunting. What was once considered a beginner’s shotgun can be found in the gun safe of turkey fanatics, young and old.
.410 Turkey Loads
Back in the day, when turkey loads only contained chilled or slightly hardened lead shot, turkey guns, regardless of barrel length and choke, were limited in their range to harvest a gobbler at much more than 40 yards. And back then, most turkey hunters wouldn’t think of taking anything afield but a 10 or 12 gauge shotgun. For those who dared to go afield in search of Mr. Tom with the .410, the real range with a three-inch shell payload of lead funneled through a full choke was in the vicinity of 25 to 30 yards. And 30 was a bit of a stretch.
Much of the move to the smaller gauges has been due to the improvement in choke tubes, shotshell wad designs and heavier than lead shot, which has proven to pattern very tightly in 12-gauge guns at distances well beyond that 40-yard benchmark. When it comes to the .410, the new loads of choice all feature pellets that are noticeably heavier than lead.
The tungsten-based Hevi-Shot Hevi-X Strut and the new TSS (Tungsten Super Shot) loads from companies like Apex Ammunition and Federal Ammunition now make the .410 a viable option for the turkey hunter. The testing for these loads showed that a #9 or 9.5 TSS pellet carried the same punch as a #5 or #6 lead pellet. The #6 tungsten-based pellets in the Hevi-X Strut outperformed its lead counterparts. The TSS manufacturers will tell you that their advantage over lead and the heavier than lead tungsten with this data is that they could put many, many more #9 or #9.5 pellets in a .410 hull than their competition could with the larger shot sizes. Let’s face it, facts are facts, the TSS pellets are 22% denser than tungsten, and tungsten pellets have a higher density than lead. Both shot options offer a decided performance advantage over what their predecessors had at their disposal years ago.
For the Hevi-Shot enthusiasts, it should be noted that the company makes a great .410 turkey load called Hevi-X Strut. This load features #6 tungsten pellets launched at a speed about 100 fps faster than the TSS loads. You will also find that these loads are roughly half the price of the TSS loads. The bottom line here is that it’s a matter of personal preference which way you go. The good news is that the .410 is now a more viable option for turkey hunters than ever before. You will find that these new loads are quite a bit more expensive than lead ammunition, but when all the beans are counted, you can bet that your ammunition will be the least expensive part of your turkey hunt.
Before we get ahead of ourselves and start pronouncing the .410 to be a 50+ yard turkey gun, let’s pause for a moment and look at why we get after Mr. Tom so hard in the first place. For the really diehard turkey hunters among us, a turkey hunt is not about how far you can shoot one….it is all about how close to the gun you can get one. If you ask Toxey Haas, the founder of Mossy Oak, he will tell you without hesitation that his initial Bottomland camo design was specifically designed to get him closer to critters and not to see how far away he could lob a shot at them.
I’m not sure where we got off the tracks these days, just how far away we can kill a gobbler, but it is certainly a radical change from what the purist turkey hunters among us experienced in years past. I guess it’s a product of companies trying to be the best-of-the-best, and they have done a phenomenal job of developing remarkable products. But if technology keeps improving the guns, chokes, and ammo, which it most likely will, we may soon be wearing hunter orange in the turkey woods since those face-to-face experience with Mr. Tom will be a thing of the past. Make no mistake, the “in your face” experience with a gobbler is much more exciting than taking that long 50/50 shot.
That said, it really is important to understand the ballistics capability of the .410 shotgun. The very small bore of the gun produces a narrow shot pattern with a long shot string regardless of choke constriction. As a result, shooting a tightly choked .410 turkey gun is really more like shooting a rifle than a shotgun. As a result, making sure that the point of impact is true is critical. Most hunters will have better success with some form of optics system to aim through, as a single bead or open rifle sights can be tough to put in the right spot on a gobbler if he is hung up at 40 yards and will not come closer. You want to be as precise as possible since you really don’t have much to work with, especially at the end of the .410’s range.
As discussed, we’ve come a long way in a short period of time when it comes to guns made specifically to hunt turkeys. This is especially true of the .410 gauge models. Let’s take a closer look at five different shotguns available today that are specifically designed for turkey hunting.
Kauger Arms Tomahawk .410
This shotgun is actually more akin in design to a handgun than a long gun, but in hand and with the right optics, it is a .410 shotgun with an effective range out to 40 yards. Every Kauger Arms firearm is made to order in the Hazlehurst, Georgia. This custom-made turkey gun takes four to six weeks to produce once ordered and is priced at $1,348.00 before options. There are custom wood colors that are standard, and options such as finishing the gun in a choice of a couple of Mossy Oak patterns and adding a Burris FastFire sight are available.
Mossberg .410 Turkey Gun
For many years, the Mossberg 500 pump shotgun has been a go-to gun for hunters nationwide. New for 2019 is the Mossberg 500 Turkey. This pump action model comes in Mossy Oak Bottomland, features a 26-inch vent rib barrel with a fixed full choke, synthetic stock with a length of pull just under 14 inches, a top mounted safety, swivel studs on the stock and forearm cap and an adjustable fiber optic front sight. The gun weighs in a 6 ½ pounds, so it’s an easy carry in the turkey woods.
Pointer Phenoma .410
It’s always interesting when something new, new hits the market. Legacy Sports International in Reno, Nevada has introduced a new gas operated semi-auto to the market called the Pointer Phenoma. This gun is available in both Mossy Oak Obsession and Mossy Oak Bottomland patterns and is available in a variety of gauges, including the .410. The guy features a vent rib, fiber optic front sight and is compatible with Beretta/Benelli Mobil choke thread patterns. Each gun comes with five different choke tubes.
Stevens (By Savage) 301 Turkey
The Savage 301 Turkey is a break action, single shot .410 shotgun that is available in either Mossy Oak Bottomland or Obsession. Savage engineers have certainly made it “turkey specific” with the camo color, one-piece removable rail for a red dot or other optic, swivel studs to add a sling, a Tru-Glo compatible front sight, and an extra full Win. Choke compatible choke tube. It is hammer driven and features manual safety located on the receiver of the gun. The little gun has a 26-inch barrel optimized for Federal TSS loads and weighs in at just a tick over five pounds. Suggested MSRP is $199.00.
TriStar Arms NWTF G2 .410
For years TriStar Arms in North Kansas City has imported excellent semi-automatic shotguns from Turkey. Like Mossy Oak, TriStar is a major sponsor of the NWTF, and for 2019 the company has introduced the TriStar NWTF G2 .410 semi-auto in Mossy Oak Obsession. This little gun features a 26- inch barrel with a Beretta/Benelli Mobil turkey choke tube and a fiber optic sight. Because of the interchangeable choke system, this little gun could double as a great early season dove gun when fitted with a more open choke.
Other .410 Shotgun Options to Consider
The guns listed above are specifically designed as “turkey models” by the manufacturer, but there are other options that you might want to consider when making the .410 your gun of choice. As discussed earlier, the .410 bore prints patterns that are fairly narrow and with a long shot string. Since most turkey hunters strive to get a gobbler as close to the gun as possible, some .410 purists opt to use an over and under .410 model fitted with a more open choke for very close encounters with Mr. Tom and a conventional turkey choke for shots 25 or more yards away.
.410 Shotgun Choke Tubes for Turkeys
There are a couple of shotgun choke tube manufacturers jumping on board with the .410 chapter of turkey hunting. One manufacturer immediately offering a design tailored to turkey hunters is JEBS Choke Tubes. JEBS is no stranger to making some of the best in the industry, currently holding the NWTF Still Target World Record.
JEBS took their patented world-record holding technology and applied it to their .410 offering, the Head Hunter .410; made from the same 17-4 stainless steel their other chokes our engineered with.
Another manufacturer we reached out to and learned would be producing a .410 choke for turkey hunters is one that needs no introduction to turkey hunters, either. Indian Creek Shooting Systems explained, "We will be offering a .410 choke in the very near future."
When all is said and done, the .410 today is most certainly a much more viable option for the turkey woods than ever before. The gun and ammo manufacturers have made that possible. But it is important to get a real handle on the capabilities of the little gun when it comes taking a shot at any distance. Make no mistake, the .410 shotgun is not the same as a 12-gauge at distances beyond 40 yards. There is a noticeable “on target” pellet count difference between the two at 40 yards and beyond, and any time you squeeze the trigger on a big tom, the goal is to make a quick, clean kill. It is important for us to be ethical when it comes to hunting and making sure we take shots inside the range of the gun is a big part of that.
So get yourself one of these little guns and get started on that .410 Grand Slam. Get Mr. Tom in range and enjoy the thrill that turkey hunting can provide.