Anatomy of a Turkey Gun

A Texas hunt for Rios provides the perfect proving ground for Mossberg’s new 940 Pro Turkey shotgun.

Anatomy of a Turkey Gun

This was far from my first rodeo, and not even my first venture to the Lone Star State to hunt turkeys. But I could barely contain my excitement as we cruised a ribbon of asphalt that dumped us off at Yturria ranch headquarters — the launching pad for our three-day hunt for the Rio Grande subspecies.

This historic site encompasses 14,000 areas of pristine South Texas ranch country and is a haven for both native and imported wildlife species. In addition to whitetail deer, coyotes, javelina and even ocelots, it’s common to see herds of nilgai, waterbucks and blackbucks while cruising the ranch’s two-track roads. And wild turkeys? The ranch is literally crawling with them. 

I even found the 90-degree heat to be exhilarating, having survived a brutal northern Minnesota winter. If fact, more than a foot of snow still covered my yard, even though it was now early April. All indications pointed toward a late spring this year, and I was relieved that I wouldn’t be chasing turkeys in my home state till late May.  

During the three-hour drive down from San Antonio, my long-time hunting buddy Linda Powell and I had plenty of time to catch up. Linda is the director of media relations for Mossberg, and this hunt would serve as a proving ground for the company’s newest special-duty autoloading turkey gun, the 940 Pro Turkey.  

The drive was a reminder of how expansive and changeless South Texas is. But hidden in the endless miles of seemingly mundane terrain are boundless honey holes where all sorts of critters hang out — including the long-legged Rio Grande turkey. 

Once at the ranch, we quickly sighted-in our new shotguns using equally new Apex Ammunition’s TSS Turkey loads and then headed afield for a late afternoon tour of the ranch — seeing plenty enough turkeys to cause a restless night. Linda and I even set up on a small flock that ignored us on their way to the roost but provided a starting point for the next morning. 

Like avid turkey hunters everywhere, we set our alarms for ridiculously early, so we could be on the way to our setup long before first light. Once there, we set out our decoys and settled into a scant finger of brush not far from where the turkeys were roosted. The first gobbles of the morning followed in short order.

Specialized Gear

Turkey hunters are a dedicated lot, reflected in the turkey-centric gear they use. And this is particularly true when it comes to their shotguns. Long gone are the days when a single scattergun served all hunting needs — from upland birds to waterfowl to big game and even self-defense.

Modern-day enthusiasts prefer special-purpose shotguns tailor-made for the task at hand, and nowhere is this more prevalent than in the spring turkey woods. Today’s turkey hunter is a specialist when it comes to firepower. If you were asked to describe the attributes that make up the perfect turkey shotgun, they’d most likely include a synthetic camo or flat black stock and forend for durability and stealth; a short barrel for maneuverability; a reliable, smooth action for quick follow-up shots; sling swivel studs for easy transport and fiber-optic sights for rapid target acquisition. 

And this is good news for shooting sports retailers; in addition to the fact that consumers typically own several shotguns, the wealth of aftermarket add-ons for turkey guns increase sales potential. Powell says this is a real advantage for dealers — to encourage additional sales by stocking a wide variety of aftermarket products. These might include optics and red-dot sights, turkey-centric chokes, recoil pads, slings and more. 

Powell says retailers should also be well-versed when it comes to promoting those features that make a specialized turkey gun, well, special. Selling points include full camo, versatile barrel lengths, optics options, specialized chokes, adjustable stocks and so on. She says a big selling point is being able to adjust and customize turkey shotguns to fit the individual because turkey hunters often find themselves in awkward positions when making the shot and having a shotgun that fits properly promotes accuracy. 

The Mossberg 940 Pro Turkey shotgun we field-tested on the Texas hunt provides an example of the components and design that make up a proficient turkey shotgun. And when it comes to building turkey-specific shotguns, Mossberg has been doing it longer than anyone. 

“Mossberg had the 930 semiauto shotgun platform for years,” Powell says. “And one of the great perks of that is that we had competitive shooters Jerry and Lena Miculek, both world champions multiple times, shooting that platform in competition for a number of years.” The 940 Pro was the result of two years of development alongside these world champion shooters — a shotgun designed to meet the needs of today’s competition shooters with the incorporation of an array of aftermarket modifications and accessories direct from the factory.” 

Using the Mossberg 930 as a baseline, the Miculeks worked with Mossberg engineers to identify and help redesign major areas of improvement that included the gas system, loading port, point-of-aim/point-of-impact, overall product fit and functionality, sight system and choke system. “And that’s what really drove Mossberg’s engineering team,” Powell says. “They worked to make it more reliable and more durable. And that’s key for a competition gun … or a hunting gun.”

Building the 940 Pro Platform

At the core of the 940 Pro platform is a durable gas system that can run up to 1,500 rounds before cleaning and is compatible with factory-manufactured 2.75- or 3-inch shells. A stepped and vented-spacer component has also been incorporated that keeps the gas system running fast by shedding moisture and carbon buildup every time it cycles. 

“So, we developed a new self-cleaning gas system, and all the internal operating parts have special finishes,” Powell says. “This means less wear and tear and less maintenance required — so with the new platform we’re saying [the gun is capable of cycling] up to 1,500 rounds without cleaning. That was the first part of developing an autoloader that was more reliable. It’s also softer shooting and fast cycling. Those are things that go into building a premium competition gun — so we had that new platform to start with.” 

Powell says that in addition to making changes to the operating system, Mossberg changed the design of the gun itself. “We went to an adjustable length-of-pull stock with spacer inserts to go from a 13- to 14.25-inch length of pull. Shims are also provided so you can adjust for drop and cast,” she says. “The beauty of that is you can truly fit this gun to the individual, which is important when shooting shotguns. Better comfort. Better eye alignment.” 

Developing a new shotgun platform is the difficult part. What comes next is the fun part — adding a battery of special-purpose versions built on that foundation. So far, Mossberg has introduced the 940 Pro Tactical, 940 Pro Field, 940 Pro Waterfowl and, most recently, the 940 Pro Turkey. 

The 940 Pro Turkey is an optics-ready shotgun featuring a choice of 24- or 18.5-inch barrel lengths, HIVIZ CompSight fiber-optic sight, Mossberg X-Factor ported choke tube and full camo coverage in Mossy Oak Greenleaf. Performance-driven features include an oversized, beveled loading port with redesigned elevator and shell catch to allow for efficient and pinch-free loading into the magazine tube. Other features include a slim-profile forend and user-configurable stock and oversized charging handle and bolt release button for ease of operation. 

Maneuverability is a big issue for turkey hunters, which means it’s imperative that shooters have a proper fit. I prefer a shorter barrel and the 940 Pro delivers with its 18.5-inch version. Powell agrees. “With the development of today’s turkey loads and chokes it doesn’t require a longer barrel length to get the ultimate performance out of that shotshell,” she says. “So, you’re seeing shorter and shorter barrels on turkey guns.” 

And then there’s maneuverability — whether you’re hunting out of blinds or navigating heavy cover. “In my case, I’m shorter and I don’t want that barrel towering over me when I’m stalking and trying to be quiet,” Powell says. 

And nearly every firearms company has joined the parade — producing turkey-specific shotguns. Prominent models include Remington’s Versa Max Sportsman Turkey CamoSavage Renegauge TurkeyWinchester SX4 NWTF Cantilever Turkey,Browning’s Cynergy Ultimate Turkey and the Impala Plus Field Synthetic to name a few. 

The 940 Pro Turkeys we used were topped with Holosun’s open reflex HS507K X2 optical sight. Red-dot and reflex sights are uber-popular with modern-day turkey hunters. They offer nearly instantaneous target acquisition and the ability to track moving targets without losing peripheral vision, allowing quick follow-up shots. Available in low- and no-magnification models, they provide positive alignment from awkward angles and can be adjusted for various light conditions. 

The HS507K X2 features a Lock Mode that, when activated, locks the sight’s buttons to prevent inadvertent setting changes, and its buttons have been redesigned to compliment Lock Mode by placing them lower and out of the way. My favorite feature is the circle-dot reticle — a 2 MOA dot encompassed in a 32 MOA circle. This provides a positive and accurate aiming point (2 MOA dot) as well as a great visual of your shot pattern (32 MOA circle). 

The popularity of these sights for turkey hunting is a boon for shooting sports retailers — a great cross sale for every customer who walks out of your store with a new turkey gun tucked under his or her arm.

“More turkey hunters than ever are using optics [on their guns] and there are a number of reasons for that,” Powell says. “A lot of us are getting older with aging eyes and need more than a bead or even fiber optic-sight. Red-dot sights are also a big help in low-light conditions. But I think it goes back to shotshell technology. Patterns are so much tighter and it’s more like shooing a rifle than a shotgun. So being able to precisely aim becomes really critical.” 

Be sure to take advantage of this trend in optics sales by keeping a selection of quality red-dot and reflex sights on hand at various price points.


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