These 12 gauge turkey loads will help you drop a gobbler this year.
The trusty 12 gauge has long been the favored turkey hunting shotgun of choice by hunters. In most cases, it offers the best combination of stopping power and long range to reach out and drop those large Toms where they stand. The technology behind both the guns themselves, specialized turkey choke tubes, and turkey ammunition only seems to get better every year.
In truth, our hunting gear today is capable of things our forefathers could only have dreamed about. Today we're focusing exclusively on turkey loads for 12 gauges. We'll talk about choosing a shot size to bring down that gobbler and the different benefits between the types of shot.
More importantly, we'll quickly run down some of the top turkey hunting options as far as ammunition goes for 12 gauges these days. Let's get ready to bring home that turkey dinner!
What size shot is best for a turkey load?
Most hunters go with either No. 4, 5, or 6 shot sizes for turkey ammo. Perhaps more important than the shot size is the type. Lead shot has always been the traditional favorite for speed and knockdown power purposes. However, in recent years, tungsten has really taken off as a premium magnum turkey ammo. Some hunters have taken advantage of the fact that tungsten is heavier than lead to use shot weights of No. 7 or even No. 8, or 9 shot on turkey. Tungsten is popular for public lands since it's usually considered non-toxic and can be used in places with lead bans. The downside is that it's usually very expensive.
Perhaps the best thing to keep in mind is that larger, heavier shot is usually going to be best at longer ranges. However, when you start looking at larger shot, you're also looking at lower pellet counts. That usually means a tight pattern and less room for error if your shot is a bit off. At the end of the day, there is no right answer to this question. It's the responsibility of the hunter to do a little experimenting to find out what shot, and load size is going to pattern best in his or her firearm.
This may also require some adjustments between chokes. What works great with a full choke may not function as well with a modified one and vice versa. The good news is, once you figure out what your gun likes, you can usually return to that load season after season with little worry.
Of course, you can also compromise and try to get all the benefits in one shotgun shell. One trend in recent years has been for ammunition manufacturers to make turkey shotshells offering "multi-stage payloads" with differing sizes of shot. The idea there being that one shell can easily cover close, medium, and long distance ranges. Think of it as like a Swiss Army knife but in shotshell form. The downside to these rounds is they may not pattern well in every gun. They can also be surprisingly expensive.
Hevi-Shot Magnum Blend
This offering from Hevi-Shot is one of those loads with mixed lead shot sizes we mentioned earlier. They offer three and 3 ½-inch shotshells with loads between 1 ½ ounces and 2 ¼ ounces. You're looking at 1,150 to 1,200 fps speeds with these shells, which use shot sizes 4, 5, and 7 for almost all the offerings. Although they also make a 2-ounce load with shot sizes 5, 6, and 7. Magnum Blend is expensive, but many turkey hunters have reported harvests out to 40 and 50 yards using these shotshells.
Winchester Long Beard XR
The Winchesters are a great, mid-priced option for hunters looking for a solid, high velocity lead option. The company offers these shotshells in both three and 3 ½-inch shells with load sizes 1 ¾, 1 7/8, and two ounces. Shot sizes are four and five and you can expect a muzzle velocity of around 1,080 to 1,200 fps. We've heard from hunters online saying they've patterned these loads out to 50 and 60 yards easily, giving you chances at Toms that normally seem to strut just out of range.
Federal Premium Heavyweight TSS
A tungsten shot option from Federal Premium. These loads have become extremely popular in turkey hunting circles for their long range capabilities. That's partially thanks to the FLITECONTROL Flex wad, which helps produce nice tight patterns. Shot sizes 7, 7 and 9, and 9 are available in 1 ¾, 1 ½, 2, 2 ½, and 2 ¼ shot charge sizes. The only thing we don't like is the price which like everything else has gone up recently. We recently priced them on sites like Sportsman's Warehouse at $59.99 to $85.99 for a box of five.
Remington Nitro Turkey
We don't want to stuff this list just with expensive turkey loads. Because not everyone can or wants to drop major dollars just to bring home a turkey dinner. Remington advertises a muzzle velocity between 1,200 and 1,300 fps for these shells. They offer these in shot sizes 4, 5, and 6. Short charges include 1 ¼, 1 ¾, 1 7/8, 1 ½, and 2. You're going to want to keep your shots closer with these. Most users report the pattern loses effectiveness beyond 35 yards. However, for hunters on a budget, Remington Nitro Turkey is a solid option as it comes in around $10 to $12 a box depending on the shot size and load. Remington recently stepped up manufacturing again, so these shells are becoming a little easier to find on store shelves.
This is a solid option for public land hunters. These shells are loaded with a mixture of No. 4 steel and No. 5 bismuth shot in 3 and 3 ½-inch magnum shells. Load sizes are 1 ½ and 1 ¼. The most pleasant surprise about these rounds are the speeds you can expect. Hevi-Shot says to expect about 1,450 fps from both variations. At around $16 a box, they're also highly affordable for the public land hunter trying to get things done without breaking the bank.
Winchester Super X Turkey
Another solid budget option. We like the Winchesters slightly more than the Remington Nitro Turkey. Like the Remington, it's not a long range round. We'd stick within 40 yards using these. However, for copper-plated shot, it's hard to beat $10 to $12 a box. Winchester offers 4, 5, and 6 shot sizes and 1 7/8, 1 ½-ounce loads. Expect around 1,260 fps with the Super X. For a bargain ammo, this one is hard to beat.
Kent Ultimate Turkey Diamond Shot
Affordable and variety. That's what Kent offers with their Ultimate Turkey Diamond Shot. For 12 gauges, Kent manufactures shell lengths between 2 ¾ and 3 ½ inches. Load sizes include 1 5/8, 1 ¾, 2, and 2 ¼ ounces. Shot sizes include four and five. Diamond refers to the hardness of the shot. These are some lethal-hitting rounds for an excellent price. We've even seen them for sale for under $10 recently. Expect about 1,200 fps muzzle velocities out of these loads.
Winchester Double X
Another solid mid-priced option from Winchester. These magnum turkey loads are available in 4, 5, and 6 shot sizes with load sizes including 1 ¾, 2, and even 2 ¼ ounce sizes. Expect between 1,150 and 1,300 fps speeds from this copper-plated lead shot. Expect to pay around $20 to $25 a box, placing these loads squarely in the middle of the pack as far as price point goes.
Enjoy the outdoors?
Don't miss a story! Sign up for daily stories delivered to your inbox.