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Gobbler Shots: Stocking Up

As the demand for “dedicated” turkeys guns has increased, so have manufacturers’ efforts to offer shotguns that give hunters every advantage.

After we accepted camouflage finishes, shorter barrels and a huge array of specialized turkey choke tubes as standard, there was really only one more thing left for gun designers to tinker with: the stock.

Benelli was first to take the next logical step and offer a tactical-style stock on its Super Black Eagle. The company aptly named its new creation the Steadygrip, and now, just a few years later, a hunter looking for the ultimate turkey gun has several great choices in ergonomic stock designs from Benelli, Remington and Mossberg.

Tactical, or pistol-grip, shotgun stocks are nothing new, but the Steadygrip marked the first time, to my knowledge, that such a stock configuration was marketed specifically to turkey hunters. It’s just logical: We are often forced to sit for long periods, gun propped on a knee, scarcely daring to breathe as a gobbler comes tip-toeing into range. And because you never know whether you’ll be sitting that way for a few minutes, many minutes or even upward of an hour or more, being comfortable is important.

Gripping the gun vertically rather than with your palm tilted back toward you (as you are forced to do with a traditionally stocked gun) allows a much more relaxed hand position. It’s also easier to maneuver the gun from the stock end without it slipping because you have a more secure hold on it.

(Left) Remington's latest excursion into ergonomic turkey guns is its ShurShot stock, which is a hybrid of an extended pistol and a thumbhole stock. The author found it to be well designed and extremely practical.

Variations

Having used several modified stock designs, I believe this feature is more of a nice-to-have than a must-have. Your grandpa would agree; he most likely shot ducks, quail and turkeys with one gun, and he probably did it quite well.

But if you’re going to follow the logic that a turkey gun is meant to be aimed like a rifle instead of swung around like a wing-shooting gun, a dedicated stock design makes sense. It’s very reassuring to be able to wrap your hand around a vertical grip as you settle your check onto the stock to make those final aiming adjustments before pulling the trigger. You’re locked into position like a benchrest rifle shooter, and that’s a good feeling.

After Benelli’s Steadygrip hit the market, Remington and Mossberg followed with thumbhole stock designs. These have been popular with target shooters for years, but now turkey hunters could also enjoy the precision aiming benefits.

Remington built its SP-T turkey gun around the 870 pump action, using a thumbhole stock from gunstock specialist Boyds’. A couple of years later, Remington added this stock option to its 11-87 semiauto. Both models feature 23-inch barrels with fiber-optic rifle sights. Early versions were not drilled and tapped for scope mounting, but newer models are.

Remington’s latest excursion into ergonomic turkey guns is its ShurShot stock. It’s also offered on the 870 and 11-87. The ShurShot is sort of a hybrid of an extended pistol grip and a thumbhole. At a glance, it might strike you as unnecessarily space-age, but forget the looks; it is well-designed and very practical.

I was fortunate to be one of the first hunters to try this stock during a South Dakota hunt this past spring with Eddie Stevenson, Remington’s media-relations manager. When I first saw the 11-87 Stevenson had brought for me to try, I smiled politely but secretly wished for the thumbhole design I had used the previous spring. But after a couple of sighting-in shots, I knew I could like this gun.

(Left) The author was one of the first hunters to try Remington's ShurShot during a South Dakota hunt. After a couple of shots, he knew he would like the new stock design.

About the same time Remington got into the specialized turkey stock business, Mossberg introduced and continues to offer a dizzying selection of thumbhole-stocked pump guns with ultra-short 20-inch barrels. Turkey models include various versions of the 500, 535 and 835.
Benelli continues to offer its Steadygrip stock on the Super Black Eagle II and M2 Field. Its most recent addition to the Steadygrip-available models is the Supernova pump, the newest edition of the popular Nova.

More Tactical Versions

Specialized stock design doesn’t end with the grip format. Mossberg was first to offer a dedicated turkey gun with a skeletonized, length-adjustable pistol grip stock. The company designates these as “tactical” turkey guns and offers this stock on the 535 and 835 Ulti-Mag.
Two years ago, Remington partnered with stock-maker Knoxx to create the 870 Gobbler Max. It too is quickly and easily adjustable for length.

Having played around with the Gobbler Max, I found the adjustable-length feature was more useful than I originally thought. Being able to shorten the length of pull when you’re wearing extra clothes is quite convenient. Also, as shotgun expert and Turkey & Turkey Hunting contributor Phil Bourjaily pointed out to me a few years ago while discussing the Mossberg 535 Tactical, when you sit down and set up in the standard gun-on-knee shooting position, the average stock length is a tad long for the average guy.

That’s a very good point, because one size will never fit all. This is a case where you definitely want to handle the gun and play around with the adjustments before making a buying decision.

Miscellaneous Notes

As you shop for and consider dedicated turkey gun stocks, be aware of a couple of quirks.
If you are shooting a pistol-grip stock such as the Benelli Steadygrip, some hunters have a tendency to torque the grip as they tighten up on it in anticipation of the shot. For a right-hander, this could result in shooting to the left. This isn’t a flaw in the stock design, but it’s a reminder to practice often before opening day.

Another thing to be aware of on the Mossberg thumbhole models is that the safety is tang-mounted, as it always has been on Mossberg shotguns. When you’re hand is gripping the gun through the thumbhole, you have to pull your thumb out of position to flick the safety off, and then reinsert it before you can shoot.

If you are an experienced shooter, it shouldn’t take much effort to get used to doing this, but it takes a bit of coordination and practice to get comfortable with it.

Conclusion

In your quest to create the most accurate, effective turkey gun possible, the back end deserves as much attention as the front end. Consider using a stock that helps you take your best shot every time.

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