What Distance Should Be Used To Pattern a Shotgun For Turkey Hunting

Patterning out my turkey shotgun is something that I do as early as possible to avoid the crowds and get a jump on my preparation.

Last season, I worked with the Winchester Long Beard XR and the Double X brands of ammo.

I really liked the Long Beard XR, but I also have heard great things about the Browning BXD shotshell, so I wanted to give that a try this year.

I went out to my private range that my brother-in-law and I set up to test which shotshell is best for my shotgun.

I took 5 shots with each ammo to test at 30 yards, 35 yards, and 50 yards.

My goal is to show our readers how both ammo brands did for me and I’ll let you know which one I’ll be using this Spring for turkey hunting.

This year is my 4th season of hunting year around and it seems like I change something every turkey season to hone my skills better. This year, I’m more cognizant of my max-effective range with my hunting shotguns, and the impact that ammo makes for each shotgun.

Use this blog as a guide to understanding the difference in shot sizes, ammo brands, and why a turkey choke matters more than you might have previously thought.

Winchester Long Beard XR Vs Browning BDX Turkey Shot
Winchester Long Beard XR Vs Browning BDX Turkey Shot

What is the Max Range For Turkey Hunting?

The max range for turkey hunting can’t be established until you get to the range and pattern out your shotgun. There are too many factors that impact a shotgun’s max effective range to give a definitive answer for everyone. As unhelpful as that sounds, a max-effective range will be different for everyone. Think about the different ammo, shotgun, gauge, pellet size, the density of pellets, environmental conditions, and user abilities.

Many professional hunters pattern their shotguns by average pellet count with a 10" target. Depending on which camp you’re in, you’ll either want 50-100 pellets inside a 10" target or you’re ok with less than 20 pellets inside the target.

Obviously, more pellets mean a higher chance that it will kill your turkey. However, to get that many pellets inside a 10", you’ll need to be closer to your target (inside 20 yards) or have a nice choke and a larger shot size, such as a (#6-#7).

I normally use the #4 or #5 shot because the pellets are bigger, so I don’t need as many inside the kill zone to bring down a turkey. At ranges past 40 yards, your spread is going to be much wider than 15-35 yards. It’s going to be more difficult to put 100 pellets inside a 10" target without the right turkey choke and ammo.

I determine my max-effective range with my Stoeger M3500 to be the distance that I can consistently put 10-20 pellets inside the neck, spinal column, and head. For my Stoeger that distance is different for the Browning BDX and the Winchester Long Beard XR. Keep reading to find out which ammo performed better during my range day this past weekend.

What Shot Size is Best for Turkey?

I know many of you are looking for more concrete answers, but the best shot size is different for every shotgun. For example, my Mossberg 500 and my Stoeger M3500 don’t shoot the same ammo.


at Guns.com
Prices accurate at time of writing

I prefer to use either #4 or #5 shot for turkey because the pellets are big enough for any inconsistency in the spread pattern. Our shot size chart below should help you get an idea of the right shot size for your shotgun and preference.

My goal is to always get 20 pellets inside a 10" target with a #4 shot and 40 pellets with a #5 shot.

How Does Distance Impact A Shotgun Spread?

I hold myself to only taking ethical, high-probability shots when hunting an animal. I’ve passed up well over half a dozen turkeys in the past few years because I wasn’t confident in my shot.

Most of that confidence is from being at 40-50 yards, with branches often in between myself and the turkey.

As I pattern my Stoeger M3500, I noticed that inside 30 yards my pattern was almost 90-95% inside the 10" target. However, every 5-10 yards I moved back, I lost about 20-30% (50) pellet count in the target. You can expect to lose around the same distance for most ammo you use, but TSS seems to have been hit-or-miss for most shooters.

Even though I’m confident at 60 yards, I haven’t taken a shot past 40 on a live turkey yet. You can see from my private range that shooting lanes are congested and don’t give me over 40 yards in most situations.

What is the purpose of a turkey choke?

The purpose of a turkey choke is to reduce the pattern of the pellets to keep them as tight as possible for the furthest distance.

There is still a lot about turkey hunting that I don’t understand, but I’m confident in saying that one is shooting accurately to 50 yards with a full or modified choke. There are many turkey chokes that I would love to have, but can’t afford.

However, there are 3 specific turkey chokes that I encourage every turkey to consider.

  1. Primos Jellyhead- $64.99
  2. Kick’s Gobblin’ Thunder Turkey Chokes-$34.97
  3. Carlsons TSS Benelli (My M3500 fits this choke)- $39.99

How many pellets are in Winchester’s long beard XR?

I haven’t counted them officially, but the 2-ounce #5 shells hold around 400 pellets per shell.

Winchester Long Beard XR 3.5" Magnum #5 shot
Winchester Long Beard XR 3.5" Magnum #5 shot (10 shells)

Even with the advanced technology of modern ballistics, shotguns still can’t maintain accuracy further than 50-60 yards.

Winchester Long Beard XR Turkey

at Sportsmans Guide
Prices accurate at time of writing

What About Browning BXD Turkey Shot?

The Browning BXD 3.5" Magnum shells do an excellent job of providing a uniform spread throughout the target. At 25 yards, I have well over 200 pellets inside the 10" target and have zero doubt that at 25 yards the Browning BDX is an instant kill shot.

However, most commercial turkey shells shoot well at 25 yards with a turkey choke. As I moved the Browning BDX out to 35 yards, I noticed a bigger drop-off in performance versus the Winchester Long Beard XR.

Browning BDX at 25 Yards
Browning 3.5" BDX Turkey Shell at 25 Yards

The Browning BDX are 1.875 OZ versus the 2 OZ in the Winchester Longbeard. I think the lighter weight plays into the distance, but not as much as people think because of the unique buffer zone that Winchester uses in their shotshell.

The buffer they create between the wad and case helps to reduce felt recoil and only has about 1.75 OZ of pellets. At 35 yards, you’ll notice how many pellets the Browning BDX lost on target. The most promising characteristic of the Browning BDX shotshell is it seems more uniform than the Winchester.

The pattern almost has a perfect cylindrical spread that the Winchester XR just doesn’t have. This is a significant feature to have because you know that all you really need is 1 well-placed pellet to the spinal cord or brain and the turkey is down. This type of uniformity from Browning is the type of consistency that we all strive for when hunting turkey.

Winchester Long Beard XR Vs Browning BXD Turkey Shot

As you can see with the comparison, at 50 yards, the shotshell that I’ll be taking into the woods is the Winchester Longbeard XR 3.5 Magnum shell.

50-yd W/Stoeger M3500 and Winchester Long beard XR 3.5" Magnum Shell
50-yd W/Stoeger M3500 and Winchester Long beard XR 3.5" Magnum Shell

I think both shells will get a bird, but I prefer the tighter pattern at all ranges over the uniformity of the Browning BDX.

As I’ve mentioned before, just because my Stoeger M3500 performed really well with the Winchester Longbeard XR, doesn’t mean that you’re going to with another gun. In the Winchester XR target above, I pulled my shot a little to the left because I’m soft and that was my 10th shot with a 3.5" Magnum shell.

Browning BDX at 50 Yards
Browning 3.5" BDX Turkey Shell at 50 Yards

After 6 or 7 shots within a short time, those magnum shells hurt, but I think the Browning BDX shells had less felt-recoil than the Winchester XR. If you look at how tight that pattern is at 50 yards, though, it’s hard to deny the effectiveness of the Long Beard XR shotshells.

Wrapping It Up

Both the Winchester XR and Browning BDX 3.5" Magnum shells are good enough to get a bird at any range up to 50 yards. The Winchester Long Beard XR is the best shotshell for longer distances than 50 yards and it’s not even close.

Personally, I’d never take a 60-70 yard shot on a turkey, but there are many avid hunters and professionals that have killed a bird past 70 yards with the 2 OZ Winchester Long Beard XR Lock’d & Lethal brand.

I chose the Winchester Long Beard XR because it gives me the most confidence that I can bring down a turkey at anything less than 60 yards with no problem. The Browning BDX shells at 60 yards wouldn’t even hit the target. The Winchester has more felt recoil, but the kick I get in the recoil is well worth the added distance and shot density.

As you practice with each shell, you’ll notice that your shotgun will most likely pattern out differently than mine. Don’t use my targets as your zero because unless you have a Stoeger M3500 with my Primos Jellyhead turkey choke, your pattern won’t look the same.

Regardless of your shotgun and ammo choice, I’m confident that both Browning and Winchester make solid ammo that offers great consistency and reliability.

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Table of Contents

  • What is the Max Range For Turkey Hunting?
  • What Shot Size is Best for Turkey?
  • How Does Distance Impact A Shotgun Spread?
  • What is the purpose of a turkey choke?
  • How many pellets are in Winchester’s long beard XR?
  • What About Browning BXD Turkey Shot?
  • Winchester Long Beard XR Vs Browning BXD Turkey Shot
  • Wrapping It Up

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