By Jeff Johnston, Field Ethos Hunting & Shooting Editor
In preparation for the spring season I assembled what I believe to be the ultimate shotgun for turkey hunting. Why does anyone need a specialized shotgun for turkeys, you might ask? That’s not important. So I’ll get right to the gun.
I started with J.P. Sauer’s SL5 Turkey model that comes dipped in old-school Mossy Oak Bottomland camo. This semi-auto employs an inertia-action that mimics Benelli’s venerable system. I can tell you with certainty that if fed with anything but the lightest, cheapest target loads, there is not a more reliable semi-auto action type available because it relies on recoil to cycle the action and not on gas ports that can clog. Yet unlike break-open guns, inertia-actions also mitigate some recoil.
The SL5 features a rubberized pistol grip stock, and I’ll be the first to tell you that for the vast majority of shotgun applications—anything involving wingshooting—I’m against them. But for turkey hunting and tactical applications, the pistol grip lends a real advantage in that you can better grip, aim and control the gun with one hand while calling a bird or the cops with the other.
I like its 18.5-inch barrel that’s handy in the woods, both in terms of carrying it and maneuvering it as the old gobbler zig-zags in. Certainly, long 28- to 30-inch barrels are a boon to wing and clay shooters when using the sustained lead shooting style, but for turkeys, an 18- to 20-inch barrel is perfect. The barrel comes standard with a fiber-optic front light pipe and a custom extra-full choke tube from Carlson’s, as well as a flush fitting cylinder tube that should be used if you plan to grab this puppy to defend your home when it’s not serving duty in the woods. Indeed, with the exception of its smallish 3-round magazine, everything that makes the SL5 great in the woods—reliable, quick handling, etc.—also makes it the perfect shotgun for home defense. (A little research revealed that its magazine tube is a Benelli pattern, so extended, 6 round mag tubes are readily available for it from Carlson’s and other aftermarket vendors.)
All the SL5’s controls—safety, bolt knob, and bolt release button—are huge so they can be easily manipulated even while wearing gloves and/or while the adrenaline starts to flow and fine motor skills diminish. Finally, it comes equipped from the factory with a pic rail, on which I placed the most reliable red dot sight in the business, Aimpoint’s Micro H-2. While I normally don’t love optics on shotguns, the ultimate turkey gun must wear one because when fired with its extra full choke and premium loads like Fiocchi’s Golden Turkey TSS, it patterns so tightly that the red dot is a hedge against missing. This combination resulted in destroyed turkey targets at 70 yards when I figured out the hold. Am I advocating shooting a turkey at 70 yards? Damn right I am, if you’ve proven the gun and load are capable of it first. My ultimate turkey gun is.
Of course, after all this work I wound up hammering a gobbler at 25 steps. But that’s beside the point. $1,100
Pros: reliable, handy, reasonably priced, perfect for turkeys … and villains
Cons: three-shot magazine should be upgraded before serving home defense duty.