Turkey season is right around the corner and if you’re anything like me, you can’t wait! I could not get a single turkey in the Fall and I went out for 6 full days.
I covered about 10 miles a day in the National Forest and most of it was valleys that are filled with rocks, snakes, ticks, and sharp sticks from broken branches.
The point of this story of failure is that I’m due for a turkey this Spring and although I have my turkey guns ready to go, I know both new and veteran hunters will be in the market for hunting shotguns this Spring.
This blog is going to give you the top turkey hunting shotguns that are currently in stock for Spring 2022.
Autoloader or Pump-Action?
I’ve only been turkey hunting for about 4 years now and I sometimes find myself in the middle of this debate about which action in a shotgun is better. I’ve been fortunate (lucky) enough to bring down birds with all 3 actions (over/under, pump, autoloading) and I will use whatever I have at the moment in a pinch.
However, most professionals with a track record way better than mine hunt with pump action. Normally, pump-action shotguns are lighter and are easier to carry and hold for longer periods of time.
Best Hunting Shotgun under $500
The Mossberg 500 Hunting All-Purpose shotgunfeatures a 28" barrel with a 3" chamber that’s capable of shooting 2.25", 2,5", 2.75", and 3" shells with varying weights. It’s called the All-Purpose Shotgun because of its versatility to be used for any hunting application that you would need a shotgun. My brother-in-law took down an 8-point buck (4×4) with his Mossberg 500 Hunting All-Purpose shotgun last year. He used the Federal Power-Shok Rifled 3" slugat 30 yards and brought the buck down after a few steps.
The length of the 28" barrel provides better accuracy at longer ranges to reach birds and other game animals at 50 yards with relative ease. Mossberg is famous for its durable and non-binding rail system for its pump-action shotguns. I can attest to that durability from years of experience with no issues and many successful hunts.
Why I Love the Mossberg 500 For Hunting?
I’ve written multiple blogs on Mossberg and stand by my support for their weapons because I’ve never had issues with a Mossberg. The 500 Hunting All-Purpose is incredibly versatile with the option of changing the stock based on the game you wish to hunt. For example, this model comes in a fixed satin walnut stock, but you can change it out for a tactical or synthetic stock without a gunsmith.
The twin-action bars on a Mossberg ensure you don’t get any binding and the shell always feeds properly. It might not have all the bells and whistles, but it has everything you need to get yourself a turkey for an incredible price.
How many people have heard about a Stoeger shotgun? I know it took me a few years to warm up to the idea of buying a Stoeger over a Remington or Mossberg, but I’m a believer now. The Stoeger M3000 is an auto-loader that chambers 3" magnum shells for the versatility to hunt any bird we’re legally allowed to hunt.
When someone says Inertia Driven action, I think of a Benelli. However, most other companies caught up to that technology and can incorporate it into their guns. They equip the Stoeger M3000 with a ventilated stepped rib to provide a better sighting plane than barrels that don’t have a vent rib.
Why I Love the Stoeger M3000?
Anytime you can get an auto-loading shotgun for less than $600, it almost sounds too good to be true, especially with a brand you might not know as well. I can tell you with confidence that I believe in this gun. Inertia-driven actions are really fun to shoot because they make a difference in control and felt-recoil. I believe you can trust Stoeger to provide you with a great product at a much more affordable price than a Remington or Benelli.
The Winchester (Super) SX4 is an incredible autoloader that I shot at an NRA training event near San Antonio a couple of years ago. They built the SX4 with a synthetic stock, textured grip surface, and a matte black finish.
When you’re hunting a turkey, any kind of light or color that the turkey doesn’t recognize will spook the bird and he’ll be gone faster than you can say “shit". Having a matte black finish will significantly reduce the glare from your barrel so you won’t have to worry about missing a trophy because of glare.
The SX4 has 4 ports to vent gas as you fire the shotgun to allow optimal ventilation to reduce the felt recoil. The real unique feature of the SX4 is the self-adjusting active valve system. This system somehow only pushes the amount of gas each size shell needs to be effective.
For example, if you’re shooting a 3.0" magnum shell, the SX4 will use more gas to shoot the round than the 2.75" shell. This system allows you to shoot almost any size load, depending on the game you wish to hunt. The endless array of features for the SX4 makes it one of the best shotguns on the market but will cost right around $1,000. I’ve shot the Benelli M2 and Super Black Eagle 3and I still felt better with the Winchester SX4.
I realize the SX4 has received a lot of criticism from gun owners, but there are 2 main reasons I love this shotgun so much for turkey and waterfowl hunting. First, the gas-operated piston travels barely an inch to give enough force to fire the shell. In short, the short operation provides a quicker follow-up shot than any other shotgun I’ve used before.
Many turkey hunters know that it’s rare to get a 2nd shot at a bird if you miss, but the SX4 is fast enough to give you an accurate second shot before that turkey skedaddles into the woods and The Flys into the tree canopy.
Most hunters use the SX4 as a waterfowl shotgun because of the fast trigger reset and follow-up shots, but you can use this shotgun for just about any purpose. Second, the trigger pull is smooth for a semi-auto shotgun. When hunting duck or dove, you need to swing that shotgun quickly across the sky to identify and acquire target birds. The crisp trigger pull, quick reset, and relatively lightweight Winchester SX4 make it a great universal hunting shotgun.
Winchester SX4 Problems?
I’ve seen many problems with the SX4, but many of them seem to be avoidable with proper maintenance and care of your guns. For example, the Matte finish shotguns are not cera-coated, so the barrel and receiver are prone to scratches, marring, and water damage. I use the Wheeler Cerama-Coaton the barrels of all my matte finish blued barrels.
This spray can protect your barrel from all the wear and tear that people complain about. Many gun owners have complained about the reliability of the gas-operated Invector system, but never take enough accountability to clean their shotguns more than twice a year. I’m sure there are many valid complaints, but I know that I love this shotgun for hunting waterfowl and turkey and would buy one if the price came down.
How many people have heard of the new Mossberg 940 Pro-Turkey shotgun? I was able to see it firsthand at Shot Show 2022 and they impressed me with the gun features, weight, and camo pattern. I haven’t been able to get my hands on this shotgun and shoot it, but everything I’ve heard and witnessed has been great.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve learned that for my purpose it makes sense to only buy guns that are drilled, tapped, and ready for an optic to be installed. There are many shotguns that are optics ready, but I’ve never seen this notch cut out for the base plate. At first, I thought it was unnecessary, but after watching the Mossberg rep install an RDS in less than a minute, I was convinced that it makes it easier for attachments.
Mossberg claims that the new 940 Pro Turkey shotgun can run through 1500 shells before it needs to be cleaned. For an inertia-driven shotgun, that’s pretty normal, but not for a gas-operated shotgun. It’s known that gas-operated shotguns get mucky with carbon, copper, dirt, and water, but to boast 1500 shells without cleaning is pretty incredible.
As soon as I saw the new 940 Pro Turkey shotgun, I was impressed with the aesthetics of the MO Greenleaf camo. The weight of the shotgun was lighter than I thought and the balance of the weight is evenly dispersed throughout the center of the shotgun. So, even at 7.5 lbs, the 940 Pro Turkey shotgun feels lighter and is easier to hold up longer to prepare for a turkey walking out of the thicket.
As I turned the shotgun over to see the loading port, I noticed the port was larger than the Mossberg 500 and most other shotguns that I’ve seen. It’s beveled to help guide the shell into the chamber and features a bright orange follower for quickness and ease. The best part about the new large loading port is a pinch-free mechanism to ensure you don’t get the common pinch on your thumbs as you push the round into the chamber.
Mossberg 940 Pro Turkey Specs
24" Barrel Length
Adj LOP/Cast/Drop -Synthetic (MO Greenleaf)
X-Factor XX-Full Tky Choke Tube
44.75" Overall Length
Best Over/Under Turkey Gun
For our longtime readers, you may know my affinity for over/under shotguns, but if you’re new to the blog I’d like to start with the Browning Cynergy Ultimate Turkey Shotgun. With lead bullets (and pellets), it’s proven that it’s detrimental to birds of prey, such as the Red-Tail Hawk, Bald Eagle, and even the majestic California Condor. I don’t know of any shotgun that boasts better performance with steel-shot than the Browning Cynergy.
They made the Browning Influx recoil pads popular in the legendary Browning Citori, but are also standard in all Browning Cynergy shotguns. Shoot a high-end Browning shotgun to notice the difference, but the recoil pads deflect most of the felt-recoil outward and away from your face.
With an over/under shotgun, it’s also important that the trigger reset for the bottom barrel is fast. They built the Cynergy Ultimate Turkey gun with a unique process, called back-boring. Back-boring is fairly new, and it involves increasing the diameter of the bore to reduce friction between the shot cup and the barrel. You’ll notice better pattern consistency, less recoil, and better velocity of your pellets.
Back-boring increases the inside bore diameter to its ideal, maximum allowable specification. This reduces friction between the shot cup and the barrel, allowing the energy developed by the powder to propel the shot pellets to a higher velocity.
Why I Love the Browning Cynergy Ultimate Turkey?
Browning loaded the Cynergy Ultimate Turkey gun with as many premier features as a company can put into one gun. The Reverse Striker does not use the inertia from recoil to set the hammers. So, it offers a crisp feel, reduced lock time, and less over travel than other over and under shotguns and ensures that your second barrel ALWAYS fires. You’ll spend a lot for this shotgun, but with the multiple adjustments with the stock, optics-ready M1913 Picatinny Rail system, and back-boring, this is an untouchable shotgun.
Turkey hunting is a genuine passion of mine for more reasons than I can state in a single blog. However, my passion (obsession?) has given me the opportunity to test out a lot of shotguns over the past 4 years.
Obviously, everyone is going to have different opinions, but I can say with some authority that these 5 shotguns will give you years of service without spending thousands.
Whether you go with a pump-action or autoloader, I know you’ll have a gun to be proud of, and get you some fresh turkey nuggets for the air-fryer. Good luck and happy hunting!
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