Hunting for a New Turkey Shotgun on a Budget

Turkey hunting season is just around the corner (or already started depending on where you’re at), so if you’re new to it or a novice don’t bother with the antique Browning and Remington that you got from Grandpa.  Sure they’re great guns, but I would hate for you to mess one up on a rainy spring morning during a turkey hunt, so will show you three hunting shotguns that are a little more up-to-date.

Before we start, we have to establish a few standards.  First, the shotgun needs to have a 26-inch barrel, a 3.5-inch chamber and a removable choke. Second, it has to have a synthetic camouflaged stock.  Third, semi autos are great, but it’s hard to beat a pump gun—just in case mud and crud could be an issue.  Lastly, let’s make a price point—$500.

Remington 870 Express Super Magnum Turkey

Remington 870 Express Super Magnum Turkey Shotgun
Remington has been making the 870 since 1951, it is a tried and tested platform.  This particular model, the Remington 870 Express Super Magnum Turkey, has exactly what I am looking for.  Heck, it’s even called the Turkey-Waterfowl and it is available at most any sporting goods store.

The fit and finish on these models is usually good—bordering on great—and the action is smooth and strong. The 870 is heavy, about 7.5 pounds.  Not too heavy, but in the good way that feels strong and reliable.

However, the one thing I have never liked about the 870 and it’s that the location of the slide release is difficult to reach.  In order to engage it, in my experience, I have to move my dominate hand to push it.  Now this is not usually an issue but I have missed a duck or two fumbling around with it.

The price tag was just under $500. It is chambered for 3.5 inches.  It is offered with the Mossy Oak’s Bottomland camo and comes with two chokes.

Mossberg 500 Turkey/Field

Mossberg 500 Turkey shotgun
Mossberg’s offering that fits the bill is in their 500 line, specifically their Turkey-field pump shotguns.  The fit and finish on the 500s are typically good, but some I have seen have had a little rattle in the forend, which is not bad but not great either because it can make the whole gun feel a little loose.

The location of the safety on top of the tang is handy. It’s always easy to manipulate quickly. The slide release is also easy to use. I can press it with my middle finger while leaving my dominate hand in the ready position.

I was able to locate one at a sporting goods store near my house for about $400. It has the Lightning Pump Action Adjustable Trigger System, LPA for short.  Mossberg says it is user adjustable down to less than three pounds, but the model I tried felt more like four to 4.5 pounds.  It was very crisp and creep-free at that setting.  This model of 500 weighed in at slightly more than seven pounds.

The 500 is offered in Mossy Oak’s New Break-Up.  This camo pattern is about the best available for a turkey and duck gun because it has a little green to help with the spring turkey season, but not too much.  Mossberg ships these with the standard three choke tubes, too.

Benelli Nova

Benelli Nova pump action shotgun in camo
If you haven’t checked out Benelli’s pump gun, you should.  It looks and feels different than most other pump action shotgun.  The most noticeable difference is that the stock and receiver are one piece. Running the action is very smooth and quiet, but the most noticeable detail about it is the grip texture.  It has substantially raised ribs on the grip and forend, which give it a very positive feel to it.

Also, Benelli has a handy shell stop on the Nova.  It’s a button on the forend that stops the chambering of a shell and could come in handy when moving from different setups and needing to have an empty chamber.

To work it, just hold the button and eject the shell in the chamber while not chambering a new one.  The Nova also feels lighter than both the 870 and 500, but the Nova is actually heavier at around eight pounds.  My explanation for that is, I think, is that it’s a balanced gun. There seems to be an equal distribution of weight throughout, which would give an illusion of less weight.

This one would, ideally, have a Realtree Max-4 finish with the standard three choke tubes.  The local price on a Benelli Nova was about $450.

Decisions, decisions

So who makes the best sub $500 turkey killer?  That is hard to say.  Any of these three would be a good choice for shooting incoming green heads or waiting out a big tom.

Although I liked all three, there were also things I didn’t like about them, so if I had to narrow it down to choose just one I’d lean towards the Benelli Nova.  Sure I liked the feel of it and I loved the balance, but the real reason is it just seemed to fit me better than the others and that is one of the most important aspects when looking for a shotgun.  What fits YOU. And whatever it is that you pick up, just be sure it’s up to the task of putting meat on the table.

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