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When Browning introduced the excellent Maxus semiauto last year one of their engineers walked me through all the features of the gun, including the “turnkey” magazine plug. It is pretty slick: you take the forearm off, use any car key to turn the plug through 90 degrees, and you can slide it out of the magazine tube without any disassembly, increasing the capacity from two shells to four. The plug goes back in just as easily if you need to limit the magazine capacity to two for migratory bird hunting.

I thought, that’s clever, but so what? I can’t remember the last time I took the plug out of a shotgun other than to clean a magazine tube.* I leave my plugs in all the time so there’s never any question about whether my gun is legal. Besides, I am of the belief that if shots 1 through 3 didn’t get the job done, numbers 4 and 5 probably won’t either. But a lot of people do swap their plug in and out, and they, not I, are the turnkey’s target market.

For instance, last weekend a friend of mine took a guest pheasant hunting. They got their gear on, got the dogs out of the truck and loaded their guns. The guest realized he had neglected to remove his plug and couldn’t run four shells up the tube. Over my friend’s protests the guest disassembled the gun right there in the long grass. As so often happens when you take the retainer out of the magazine tube, the magazine spring flung itself out of the tube and many feet from the gun. The party searched the prairie grasses for an hour and never did find it. In trying to turn his three-shot gun into a five-shot, the guest made it into a single shot instead.

Having heard that story I understand why Browning invented the turnkey system but I’m still trying to get a fix on how many people take plugs in and out and how many just leave them in all the time, as I do. So, do you …

1. Leave your plugs in all the time?
2. Change them in and out?
3. Skip migratory birds and run unplugged all the time?


*I use a 12 gauge chamber brush. You’d be surprised what kind of junk you find in a magazine tube.