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 shotgun, you can buy premium non-toxic turkey loads that pattern well in almost any gun. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.