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Delivering a knockout punch: turkey loads and choke tube systems extend killing range.

THE DEVELOPMENT OF specialized turkey guns has brought about the advancement of shotshell loads and chokes. Ammunition manufacturers worked to bring out new powders, better wads and harder shot, while ballistics experts went to work on the range to make the new shotshells pattern tighter and more consistently by using specialized choke systems.

Tungsten: A Heavy Hitter

If I had to select the greatest contribution to today's high-performance turkey-taking system, it would have to be the introduction of tungsten-based shotshells. Tungsten, because of its ultra-high density, maintains hard-hitting velocity farther downrange. Originally developed for waterfowl hunters, the ability to greatly increase range and energy excited turkey hunters, too.


Tungsten shot can be used in a far smaller pellet size because of its density and ability to hold energy downrange. A No. 7 1/2 tungsten pellet will hit as hard as a No. 4 lead pellet. Therefore, a hunter shooting tungsten can use smaller shot sizes to gain pellet count while also maintaining energy. More pellets should hit the turkey.

Tungsten shot, to my way of thinking, has turned other types of shot into antiques. All you need do is check zero a shotgun on a turkey head/neck pattern once in a great while, so even the very high-priced tungsten loads won't break the bank. I have taken eight birds with a 10-round box of tungsten-based shot. That, my fellow hunters, is worth the price, even at $2.75 per round.

Lead shot loads require a different standard. For turkeys, I suggest a No. 5 pellet in plated lead, as it will tend to stay round better as it goes through a tight choke constriction. No. 5 shot will retain lethal energy to 45 yards, and also produce good penetration on a turkey. Small lead shot such as No. 6 pellets is great if you can hold out for a shot inside of 35 yards. Remember, smaller pellets are lighter, so they lose energy faster. Sure, you can get more pellets of No. 6 shot into a 1 3/8-ounce 12-gauge load, but you give away yards of effective killing range.

Buffered loads, which like tungsten, started among duck shooters, hold payloads together better. Buffering helps lead pellets maintain roundness. Because most plated shot is merely a surface treatment--much like a paint job of sorts--on the pellet, the ground plastic type buffer tends to help pellets downrange as round balls, not as rough chunks of lead. As a result, buffered loads are better than plain lead loads in the turkey woods.

Turkey Chokes

Assuming you are about to shoot high-performance lead shot or tungsten shot loads, the next step is to select a turkey payload delivery system. The choke tube is the heart of the beast, so to speak.

Today, many companies make a turkey tube. However not all are created equal, nor is every gun barrel equal, either. You need a choke system that does at least some of the workload (handles stress elements) outside of the primary barrel. In other words, an extended tube system.

Briley builds many of the chokes in other brands you might have used in the past, even if you didn't know they were the manufacturer. Carlson Chokes are high quality, and the company works with state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment when developing new chokes. While some chokes systems in turkey tubes don't allow the use of tungsten-based material because it is so hard, Carlson extended tubes--even in tight turkey choke constrictions--allow all current shot production types to be used.

Ammunition manufacturers are also starting to get into choke tube production, with Environ-Metal now producing Hevi-Shot turkey tubes designed to shoot the company's Hevi-13 offering.

In almost all cases, a tight tube constriction is what you are searching for in a turkey choke. A choke tube should deliver very dense patterns at longer ranges. That means a tube constriction of .550 through .695 is required. Outside of that constriction range, you are back to a waterfowl or upland bird choke. For turkeys, you should be less interested in a nice-looking 30-inch pattern than a tight 15- to 20-inch core pattern that holds 75 percent or more of the total payload downrange. Remember, you want to take the gobbler's head off at 40 yards, and break his neck at 50 yards if required.

When you bring a gun and choke together with a turkey load, measure 40 yards, then pattern test your combination with care. You want at least 20 pellets in the bird's head/ neck area on a commercial turkey pattern target. The more hits on the head/neck target, the better. If you are shooting a simple test circle, you want the previously discussed 75 percent of the pellets in a 20-inch ring.

My Preferences

My personal choice in a turkey gun, even though I own several, is a Mossberg 835 Ulti-Mag, using a Mossberg X-Factor .695 turkey choke, with a load of Winchester Xtended No. 6 tungsten shot, Remington H.D. No. 6 shot or Federal HeavyWeight No. 6 shot. I will also use No. 6 shot Hevi-13 by Environ-Metal. I don't worry about birds hanging up or running away wounded.

However, when shooting Federal Heavy Weight, I change chokes to a standard full based on the performance of the Federal Flitecontrol wad system (Black Cloud design) used in that turkey load.

If you don't want to shoot tungsten, then make sure you get the best lead load possible. Winchester Supreme, Federal Premium and Remington Nitro Turkey are top of the line in lead shot turkey ammunition.

New Loads

New turkey loads are in the works. Pinnacle Ammunition supplied me with a new ultra-high-density turkey load factoring a. 18 density, which is off the charts in weight. It is a headhunter of the first order, with not much left for pretty dead bird pictures when the range closed to under 30 yards.

Remington H.D. Turkey was the primary turkey load being used during a hunt in Nebraska, and 12 harvested birds on the hunt indicated that Remington high-density shot gave a great account of itself afield. All guns were choked with Hunter's Specialties Undertaker turkey specials.

Last spring, Federal Ammunition representatives came to my area to hunt with new special 20-gauge HeavyWeight turkey loads that produced the basic results of a high-performance lead shot 12-gauge load. I know, because I shot a bird with a 20-gauge Remington 870 at 45 yards and just about took its neck and head apart.

Get the Sight Picture

When shooting special factory turkey loads and chokes, regardless of the type of shot, better sights will help because of the very tight patterns going downrange. I like the glow sights offered by TruGlo. On one of my turkey guns, a special Bushnell low-magnification scope gets the job done. The days of the old front bead sight are about over for turkey hunting.

In the final analysis, once the gobbler moves into range, your shotgun, load and choke will tell the rest of the story. Drop the ball in any of these areas, and you could find yourself looking at a running or flying bird. And that's not the way to end a turkey season.
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Title Annotation:Ballistics
Author:Brezny, L.P.
Publication:North American Whitetail
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 17, 2010
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