With new loads like Federal Premium's Heavyweight TSS in #9 shot, the right .410 shotgun can deliver top-shelf performance in the spring turkey woods with a bottom-end shoulder kick.
As turkey hunters gear up for the coming spring season, there's a new kid on the block - sort of.
While the .410 bore shotgun has been around since the late 1800s, the .410 scattergun has rarely — if ever — been thought of as the best shotgun option for spring turkey hunters.
But thanks to Federal Premium Ammunition's new turkey load — the Heavyweight TSS No. 9 — the .410 bore is certainly worthy of a second look by hunters wanting to take longbeards out to 40-yards, all without turning their shoulders into a jumble of mincemeat.
If the thought of utilizing a .410 bore shotgun appeals to you this spring, start off by considering the new .410 load being brought to market by Federal Premium.
Utilizing the extremely dense Tungsten Super Shot (TSS) as its payload, the Heavyweight TSS harnesses a shot material that has wowed handloaders in recent years, thanks in part to the material being 56-percent denser than lead.
Because of this, the new material carries as much penetration energy in each pellet as a #5 lead pellet has. Translated, that means that the Federal Premium .410 bore turkey load is able to increase the pellet count with a smaller shot size while retaining the lethal energy necessary to silence a loud-mouthed gobbler at 40-yards.
With a three-inch shotshell carrying approximately 295 pellets, the 13/16-ounce load of #9 shot takes advantage of a full-length wad designed by the ammo maker's engineers to prevent direct contact of the super-hard TSS shot pellets as they travel down the shotgun's barrel.
What does that mean downrange? Well, Federal Premium says that when its engineers tested the loads at the factory (using a shotgun with a 24.5-inch barrel and a fixed full choke), the results were typically somewhere between 125 to 150 pellet hits in a 10-inch circle at 40 yards.
But just punching paper targets with a bunch of pellet holes isn't enough to justify using a load if there isn't sufficient downrange energy for the load to be as lethal as it needs to be in the springtime woods.
With that in mind, Federal Premium reports that its testing showed more than three-inches of penetration per shot in ballistic gel. What's more, when the load was shot into a thin sheet of steel at 40-yards, there were numerous deep dents and several complete pellet pass-throughs.
If the new .410 load can do that to ballistic gel and steel, then there's little doubt that a wild gobbler is in serious trouble at 40-yards when a load of Heavyweight TSS #9's are sent in his direction.
If the .410 load described above is up to the ballistics task in the spring woods, what .410-bore shotgun should a hunter consider using to tag a trophy tom?
To start with, as is the case with 12-gauge and 20-gauge scatterguns, an ideal .410 spring turkey shotgun will typically feature the ability to have a screw-in extra-full turkey choke to help create an ultra-dense pattern.
Next, the shotgun will also need the ability to have an adjustable aiming system to pinpoint the densest pattern in the center of a wild turkey's kill zone, the middle of the gobbler's neck just above its waddles.
Keep in mind that most .410 bore shotguns on the market today are targeting wingshooters and clay pigeon busters. Because of that, they typically feature a fixed full choke instead of changeable screw-in choke options.
That isn't a problem in most instances since Federal Premium engineers say that such fixed full choke guns will work well with the ammo maker's new Heavyweight TSS .410 bore turkey load out to 40 yards. However, they also note that with an extra-full choke can be added, such shotguns can perform even better.
Another potential issue when taking a .410 bore into the spring woods is the fact that most current .410 shotguns feature a single or double brass bead aiming system. While that may work well on a passing dove, unfortunately, such beads can all but cover up a turkey's head at 40-yards, lessening the chance of a more precise, lethal shot.
So that means that shotgunners will need to practice and know where their scattergun is shooting — which is always true, isn't it? — to be able to consistently hit the center of the target before entering the turkey woods.
Or they'll need to consider a sighting system with a rear sight such as an adjustable peep sight or, even better, a rifle sight. Federal Premium points out that the capability to install a small scope base to mount a red dot is also desirable. Because with both the adjustable sight or a red dot, the shotgunner can really dial in the point of impact.
So what can a prospective .410 bore spring turkey hunter do? Well, in addition to having a few Primos (www.primos.com) calls in their vest, consider using a full-choke shotgun with a vented rib from such companies as Mossberg (www.mossberg.com), Remington (www.remington.com) and others.
When such vent-rib shotguns are combined with something like a Rib-Rider Shotgun Mount (www.aimtech-mounts.com) and a Bushnell (www.bushnell.com) red dot sight or something like a TriViz Turkey/Deer Sight Set from Hi-Viz Sight (www.hivissights.com ), the result is a hard-hitting .410 bore shotgun in the spring woods.
Another option for .410 bore scatterguns without a ventilated rib is to take the shotgun to a gunsmith to have it drilled and tapped for a scope base. Once that has happened, a red dot or other sighting system can easily be added to the shotgun.
A final option is to obtain a good single-shot .410 shotgun — something like a Stevens 301 (www.savagearms.com) or a single-shot from Henry (www.henryusa.com) — and have it drilled and tapped.
Hopefully, within the next few months to a year, shotgun makers, choke manufacturers, and accessory companies will begin to bring more spring turkey hunting .410 bore products to market.
And when they do, the .410 bore shotgun will be well on its way to acceptance as a paradoxical older yet new kid on the spring turkey hunting block.