Bourjaily: My 20-Gauge Turkey Gun

A lot of experienced hunters have made the switch to 20 gauge youth guns lately. Up until now, I’ve always … Continued

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A lot of experienced hunters have made the switch to 20 gauge youth guns lately. Up until now, I’ve always thought there was a certain ego-driven “look at me, I’m an expert, I don’t need a 12 gauge” factor in that choice. That is not me; I need all the help I can get. Even so, since 20s seems to be a trend, I decided to give my 835 the year off from turkey hunting in order to experiment with the smaller bore.

After yesterday, I may not go back to the 12. I misjudged the range on this turkey – he was in an open field – and shot him dead at 50 of my steps, which put him somewhere between 45 and 50 yards away. It wasn’t one golden BB that did him in, either, but a whole bunch of them.

The magic bullet in my 20 gauge set-up is Federal’s new Flitecontrol Heavyweight ammunition, holding a full 1 1/ 2 ounces of very dense tungsten-iron 6 shot in Federal’s Flitecontrol wad. Because they are loaded to a slow 1100 fps, recoil isn’t bad at all and they shoot very tight patterns. After shooting these loads on paper, I was confident they are genuine 50-yard killers in the right gun.

The gun is an 870 Express Jr. with an 18 1/ 2 barrel. I had the receiver drilled and tapped and put the wonderful Zeiss Z-Point on top. The choke tube is a Hunters Specialties Undertaker, a choke that works very well with several different loads, and doesn’t cost anywhere near what many aftermarket tubes sell for.

I added a Knoxx tactical stock, looked at it for a while, decided it was too ugly and took
it off. Then I decided to put it back on and try it. Now that I’ve gotten used to its paramilitary looks and a little extra weight, I love it. The pistol grip is very comfortable and feels natural to hold when you’re sitting scrunched up against a tree, and the length of pull adjusts with the push of a button. I’ve got this set to just under 13 inches. With a short stock and the stubby barrel, it’s hard to imagine a shorter, handier gun in the woods.

I’m no expert, but I don’t need a 12 gauge any more, either.