A few years ago, Benelli took me and three other writers to Texas to try out their then-new SteadyGrip tactical turkey stock. I shot an M2 with a Swarovski 30mm dangerous game scope on top. Ballpark, it was a $2500 gobbler rig. I liked it, and, it killed turkeys. But it didn’t kill them any deader than cheap shotguns I’ve used that cost 1/10 as much. One year, I hunted with an old Model 97 Winchester with a pitted, 30-inch full choke barrel that I paid $190 for. My standby turkey gun for the past five seasons has been a Mossberg 835, although this year I’m shooting an 870 Express Jr. just to try a 20 gauge.
All a turkey gun has to do is shoot once reliably. With the money you save on your cheap shotguns, you can buy premium non-toxic turkey loads that pattern well in almost any gun, or or buy cheap, high-quality ammo. Here’s a gallery of 10 cheap turkey guns. I’ve shot turkeys with five of these, and either hunted with or shot targets and patterns with the rest. Only one lists for more than $500. Here they are, in descending order of price.
1. Mossberg 930
The 930 is the 3-inch little brother of the magnum 935 semiauto. It is reliable, its gas action takes some of the bite out of turkey load recoil, and it comes with a black synthetic stock and a turkey choke. If you can live with a 28-inch barrel – and you probably can – you can have it for $545. A 24-inch pistol grip version, in black, goes for $628.
2. Stoeger 2000
Featuring the same inertia action as a Benelli, the Turkish-made Stoeger 2000 is one very light semiauto at just over 6 1/2 pounds. It comes with a synthetic stock and a 24-inch barrel and five choke tubes all for $499.
3. Mossberg 835
O.F. Mossberg and Sons owns the “cheap turkey gun” category with three entries on this list. The 835, the first 3.5-inch 12 gauge, has a barrel overbored to 10 gauge dimensions and it patterns extremely well with a wide variety of loads. The basic turkey gun, with a 24-inch barrel, turkey choke and Mossberg’s version of military Woodlands camo sells for $487. Because I am a high roller, I shoot the $522 Grand Slam version.
4. Benelli Nova
Benelli’s plastic-coated pump works under any conditions and pumps faster than almost any gun out there thanks to a rotary bolt design. The gun looked futuristic when it was introduced in 2001; its built-in sling swivel in the stock was radical then but now everyone has them. The Nova blends right in to the turkey woods, even in basic black. You can get a 24-inch barreled black Nova for $429.
5. Stoeger P350
Stoeger’s P350 is a Turkish-made pump with a passing resemblance to the Nova. I’ve found it to pattern very well out of the box with several different loads. You can get it with Benelli’s SteadyGrip, camo and a 24-inch barrel, all for just $429.
6. Mossberg 500
Mossberg 500 | Spencer Jones
Mossberg 500 | Spencer Jones
Produced: 1962 — present
Don’t let the hardwood stock, plastic parts, and wooden magazine plug fool you. Even in the worst conditions, the humble Mossberg 500 is the Little Engine That Could of shotguns. Although O.F. Mossberg made its reputation producing a good gun at a low price, people don’t give the company the credit it deserves as an innovator. It introduced the first production cantilever-rifled slug barrel; the first completely closed muzzleloading, 209 primer–firing barrel; and the first factory stock with a comb insert that could switch out for a higher one–all accessories for the 500.
7. Remington 870
My guess is, more turkeys have been killed with 870s than with any shotgun. With over 10,000,000 made and counting, the 870 is the most successful shotgun of all time. The Express version is a little less finely finished than the more expensive Wingmaster (shown), but the parts interchange. The basic Express Turkey gun, with hardwood stock and matte, bead-blasted metal finish, has a 21-inch barrel, a turkey choke, and an easy to take $388 price tag.
8. Knight TK 2000
Don’t be fooled by the ramrod. When I owned a TK, I could make it shoot as well as any modern gun if I used the right components. Load the gun well and it will kill a turkey every bit as far away as most modern guns can. There’s nothing primitive about this muzzleloader: external “screw-on” choke comes off easily to facilitate loading, then goes back on to deliver tight, tight patterns, and fiber optic sights help you see your target even through a haze of sleep deprivation. $379
9. Winchester SXP
Winchester’s 1300 was an underrated pump gun: light, cheap, and very fast-cycling, with a rotary bolt similar to the Benelli Nova. The 1300 is back, now called the “SXP.” It’s now made in Turkey but it’s the same design although now it comes only in matte black. Currently, 26-inches is the shortest barrel you can order, but for an MSRP of $359, you can lug a few extra inches of barrel around.
10. NEF/H&R Pardner
H&R’s venerable single shot comes super-sized as a 9-pound 10 gauge. You get a turkey choke, sling, camo, and a barrel drilled and tapped for optics, all for $262. You have to make one shot count, but with a 10 gauge, it’s a big shot.
How to Trick Out Your Old 870 Pump Shotgun
My left-handed Remington 870 Wingmaster dates to around 1979. It has a 30-inch Full choke barrel and a slick action further honed by years of shooting. Despite its shiny finish, you could take it to the woods and kill a turkey with it. It’s the kind of gun people used to shoot turkeys with all the time back when I started hunting turkeys in the 80s. However, as the 870 is the most popular shotgun ever made, there are tons of aftermarket parts available for it. I gave the gun a Turkey Season Makeover: piece by piece I changed out almost everything until not much of the original gun remained besides the receiver, action and magazine. In all I added $998 worth of parts. Here’s what happens when you invest $1000 into an old pump gun:
Timney 870 Trigger Fix $89.95
The Trigger Fix kit lets you put a 2, 3 or 4-pound trigger into any 870. It’s user-installable with a little effort. It is also well worth the time and trouble to have a light, rifle-quality pull on a shotgun that’s meant to be used like a rifle.
Wilson Combat Safety from Scattergun Technologies. $16.00
An extra large safety button is easier to find on those early season hunts when your fingers are numb and you’re wearing gloves. I know we’re talking about spring turkey hunting, but some early northern hunts can be cold. I have hunted in eight inches of snow on opening day in Iowa. Besides it’s cheap and takes only minutes to install yourself.
Weaver Saddle Mount $20
This polymer no-gunsmithing mount slides on to the receiver and attaches firmly with bolts that replace the trigger group pins. A set screw through the top tightens the mount on. The polymer mount is surprisingly strong. Being plastic, it can’t damage the stock or receiver during installation.
Remington Shur Shot Stock and Forearm $69
The ShurShot stock has a raised comb for use with optics, an ergonomically friendly grip, and a shorter length of pull (13 5/8″ inches) that makes it easier to shoulder when you’re sitting against a tree. It also has an integral swivel stud.
26-inch Rem Choked Barrel $179-$199
A shorter barrel handles better in the woods and the new ones are threaded for choke tubes, too. I had this particular matte-finished 26-inch Rem choked ribless barrel lying around from another gun project, but you can buy accessory barrels including a 21-inch, choke tubed, iron sighted barrel for $199.
Remington Universal Magazine Tube Cap and Swivel Stud 19.99
Buy it, screw it on. Installation doesn’t get any simpler, and a sling is a necessity if you cover miles hunting turkeys. I robbed mine from another 870, but you can order one from Cabelas.
HeviShot Choke Tube 69.95
Back when this gun was new a standard Full choke and magnum lead loads could kill turkeys reliably to 40 yards. Screw in a super-tight choke and shoot tungsten-iron pellets through it and you can drop birds dead at 50 yards. In my experience, costly aftermarket choke tubes work, and so do much less expensive branded tubes like the HS Strut Undertaker.
Aimpoint 9000 $422
Red dot sights provide fast, precise, two-eye open shot placement with tight patterns. Aimpoints aren’t cheap, but they are rugged and combat-proven. A single battery will power one for five years so your chances of a having your dot disappear on a hunt are virtually nil.
Avery Power Hunter Sling 24.99
A padded neoprene sling makes a gun ride comfortably on your shoulder and the neoprene adds some give. Avery slings have a handy loop for your thumb, too.
Stoney Point Rapid Pivot Bipod (56.95) and magazine cap adapter $14.99
A bipod is perfect for hunters who shoot out of blinds, less necessary for those who like to sit against a tree and rest the gun on one knee. This one is very clever: the mag cap adapter installs easily despite having a daunting number of parts. The bipod clips onto and off the adapter very easily, yet provides a solid aiming platform while allowing you to traverse the gun.
Underbrush 3-D tape 14.99/roll
Turkeys have very sharp eyesight and while I don’t believe they can pick out a gun, anything that breaks up your outline helps you stay hidden. This tape from Underbrush goes on quickly and has a powerful adhesive backing that keeps it in place. It comes off fairly easily as well when the season ends.
The finished gun in the studio, and then…
…me, with the gun, in the woods. Except for the sling, almost nothing I added to my old gun was necessary. Even so, all the aftermarket parts definitely made the gun into a more effective turkey getter. I’d rank the sight and saddle mount as the next most important additions, followed by the shorter, higher stock. The shorter barrel and choke tube make the gun handier and increase its range by 10 yards. The trigger fix really does improve the pull and the Underbrush tape, as you can see here, makes the gun nearly invisible.