As a longtime, 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 diminutive .410.
In today’s turkey gun market, the little .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 make 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 going afield in search of Mr. Tom with the .410, the real range with a 3-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 and Federal 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% more dense than tungsten and 56% more dense 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 to these days of seeing 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 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 experiences 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 shotstring 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 six different shotguns available today that are specifically designed for turkey hunting.
1. 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.
2. Mossberg 500 Turkey
For many years, the Mossberg 500 pump shotgun has been a go-to gun for turkey hunters nationwide. New for 2020 is the Mossberg 500 .410 turkey gun. This pump action model comes in Mossy Oak Original Bottomland, features a 24-inch vent rib barrel with a X-Full Extended choke tube, a 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 for easy target acquisition in low light. The gun weighs in a 6.5 pounds, so it’s an easy carry in the turkey woods.
3. Mossberg SA-410 Turkey
In addition to the popular Mossberg 500 pump model, the company has reacted to the needs of hunters who prefer a semi-automatic shotgun. New for 2020 is the Mossberg SA-410, a semiautomatic .410 gauge shotgun that is loaded with custom features.
The gun comes standard with a synthetic stock and 26-inch barrel finished in Mossy Oak Original Bottomland camo. The vent rib barrel is factory fitted with a XX-Full Turkey Choke and adjustable fiber optic Ghost Ring optics for precision sighting. The SA-410 also comes with a receiver mounted rail to allow additional scope or red dot optics to be added to the gun. The SA-410 weighs in at 6.5 pounds, has a 13.75” length of pull and features a 4+1 magazine chambered for 3” ammo.
4. 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.
5. Stevens (By Savage) 301 Turkey
Any time you see Federal Ammunition come out with a new specialty load like the Heavyweight TSS in .410, you can bet that Savage Arms is going to come up with a shotgun to handle the new load. Savage and Federal are both manufactured under the Vista Outdoors corporate banner, so the blend of gun and ammo was pretty much a given.
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.
6. TriStar Arms NWTF G2 .410
For years, TriStar Arms in North Kansas City has imported excellent semi-automatic shotguns for turkeys. Like Mossy Oak, Tristar is a major sponsor of the NWTF, and in 2019 the company 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 and optics listed above are specifically designed as “turkey models” or deemed perfect for turkey hunting 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 shotstring. 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.
At the same time, some hunters will want to go with a more adjustable scope option. The flexibility of increased magnification, most light through a higher lens objective and an adjustable eyepiece are sometimes warranted.
.410 Shotgun Choke Tubes for Turkeys
Charlie Boswell at Comp-n-Choke has long been known as an innovator when it comes to custom choke tubes. He designed his custom chokes with release ports to dissipate the gases as the payload is exiting the choke, which results, according to the company, in a slight reduction in felt recoil. Now, this isn’t an issue with the .410, but the tubes are designed the same way through the spectrum of gauges. Comp-n-Choke’s Turkey Choke for .410 models is bored .385, and they offer chokes for many of the more popular shotgun models.
Jeb’s Choke Tubes has introduced a turkey choke for the .410 following a very successful launch of their 12 and 20-gauge Head Hunter models some years ago. Instead of noting a defined constriction in the chokes, Jeb’s offers their .410 turkey model in Improved, Modified, Full and Extra Full. This gives hunters who choose to use a more open choke for their turkey hunting location a variety of options.
Carlson is one of only a few companies that makes different choke tubes for specific ammunition. They recently introduced the Carlson TSS Turkey Choke in 12, 20 and .410 gauges. The .410 model has been optimized for the Federal Heavyweight TSS loads, but works very well with other manufacturers’ heavier-than-lead loads in shot sizes 7-9.
4. Indian Creek
For many years, Indian Creek choke tubes were the talk of the turkey hunting world. That’s because Indian Creek was among the early pioneers of turkey specific custom choke tubes. Today, the company manufactures its Black Diamond custom choke in .410 for a variety of different turkey guns. The .410 choke restrictions for turkey guns ranges from .380-.390. Indian Creek reports that these custom chokes improve pattern density by as much as 40% with .410 loads.
Printable Turkey Head Targets Available for Download
Since the .410 turkey loads contain far fewer pellets than their 12 and 20-gauge counterparts, it is critical hunters deliver the .410 payload onto a very precise spot. As a result, many hunters choose to top their .410 turkey gun with a more sophisticated optic than plain open or fiber optic sights. Some use scopes while others go the red dot route. Let’s take a look at some of the more popular optics that would fit a .410 turkey gun perfectly.
1. Vortex Optics Venom
One of the more popular red dot optics is the Vortex Optics Venom. This one-ounce optic comes ready to mount on the gun using Weaver or Picatinny applications. The Venom features a 3mm MOA bright red dot that is adjustable for brightness. A 6mm MOA model is also available. The Venom feature a 1X magnification and is fully windage and elevation adjustable.
Bushnell makes a number of different red dot sights, but for the turkey hunter, the most popular is the TRS-25. This optic features a 3mm MOA red dot, and like many Bushnell products, it is built to take the rigors of a turkey hunt. Bushnell promotes it as waterproof, fogproof and shockproof. The TRS-25 easily mounts on either a Weaver or Picatinny mount system and is fully adjustable for both elevation and windage.
Truglo designed this dot sight specifically for the turkey hunter. Realizing that backgrounds can be different in the turkey woods and fields, they made this optic with a dual color option – red or green. In addition to the color choices, they also added an extendable and detachable sunshade on the front of the optic to help with bright sun and shadows. The optic is adjustable for windage and elevation, features an MOA reticle and 1X power magnification. The Gobble Stopper comes with flip up lens caps and a Weaver style integrated mounting system.
4. Weaver Kaspa 1X-4X-24mm with VZT (Vertical Turkey Zone) Reticle
If you prefer a more traditional optic for your .410 turkey gun, look no further than Weaver Scopes for a scope designed specifically for turkey hunting. The Kaspa line 1X-4X-24 model comes finished in Mossy Oak Obsession camo and features the unique Weaver VZT reticle. This reticle features standard crosshairs with two vertical ovals that allow you to center the turkey’s head in the scope for a quick, clean harvest. These ovals also help you determine the distance to the target since at 20 and 40 yards, the turkey’s head is centered in either the large or small vertical oval. The scope uses the Weaver mount system that most shotguns readily accept. Magnification is 1X to 4X with ½” click value at 100 yards. Eye relief on this scope is between 3.54” and 4.”
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, optic 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 a 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 up close can provide.