Making the case for one round, one dead bird
by Larry Case
Ok, I said I wasn’t going to do it this early, but here we are.
Do what? Well, start talking about turkey shotguns, of course. I like to think we can get through February before we start all the hoopla about tight choke tubes, TSS, which camo pattern is best, and so on. But really, I guess it is time, as tomorrow we will soon witness the spectacle of what Phil the groundhog will do when he gets up from a mid-winter nap and peeks outside to see how deep the snow is…or isn’t.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love the whole turkey shotgun world — all of it — as witnessed by the number of said shotguns stashed around the house, at the Turkey Track Lodge (hunting camp), and probably a few in the truck. It’s just that I sometimes think there might not be anything new under the sun.
Well, I was wrong.
Henry Repeating Arms, maker of fine rifles and shotguns, has something new for the turkey hunter this year — the Single Shot Turkey Camo Shotgun.
“A single shot turkey shotgun,” you say? Why?
Simplicity is the first thought that comes to mind. Do you really need a second shot on spring gobbler calling scenarios? Not very often.
Front to back, this is a rugged, rock-solid, no-frills shotgun meant to take to the woods and bring back big, long-spurred gobblers.
Well, I said “no frills,” but you may want to put the fiber optic front sight and the fully adjustable fiber optic rear sight in that category. That fully adjustable part is important. An adjustable rear sight on a turkey shotgun allows you correctly sight in you gun so you know exactly where your pattern is going at different yardages. Plain beads or non-adjustable sights do not allow this. For those that want to install an electronic optic, the Henry comes drilled and tapped to accommodate a Weaver 82 scope base.
Also, from front to back, the shotgun is decked out in Mossy Oak Obsession camo. The stock and forearm are American walnut under the Mossy Oak camo, and that is significant. Most companies would not put a good wooden stock under full camo, but Henry did. Usually, you get a hollow synthetic stock, which is little help for the type of magnum loads you may be shooting in this gun. The walnut stock is going to help with the magnum loads, including those in the 3 ½-inch variety.
The barrel on this shotgun is 24 inches with overall length 39.5 inches, and I think that is an advantage on any turkey gun. First, I do not belong to the “you must have a longer barrel for tight patterns” club. Modern shotshells and chokes took all of that off the board. The extra full choke that Henry ships with this shotgun may be all you need for your gobbler encounters. If you wish to try other aftermarket chokes, the thread pattern is the Remington Rem-Choke and the choices out there for this pattern are vast.
Next, I have always been partial to a shorter barrel when it comes to sitting and calling in the turkey woods. Invariably, a pesky sapling will have decided to grow right in front of your chosen set up and hinder you when you are ready to draw down on a turkey. Also, many of us have taken to the comfort of a ground blind for turkeys, and while they certainly hide your movement, space is usually limited, so a shorter gun is easier to maneuver.
Back to the “why a single-shot” question. There may be more advantages to this than you think.
When most young hunters were properly trained (I hope this is still often the case), it was common to require them to hunt with a single-shot firearm, or maybe just give them one shell or cartridge. There is an entire mindset to hunting if you know you only have one shot. You are much less carless; you know that if you encounter game, you must make that shot count. There is no “spray and pray” mentality. You wait until you have a good shot or you don’t take the shot at all. This is a major component of being a true hunter.
Also, a single-shot shotgun is just naturally less gun in terms of length and weight. The Henry Single Shot Turkey Camo Shotgun is 39.5 inches in length (as mentioned) and weighs 6.78 lbs. As I have said many times before, you carry a shotgun much more than you shoot it. Weight matters.
Another aspect you may not consider is safety. Not to belabor the subject, but in my years as a Conservation Officer, I saw some pretty amazing, sad, and devastating things happen when people got careless with a shotgun in the turkey woods. The single-shot, break-action shotgun may be the safest type of shotgun you can carry. This action is easy to check to see if you are loaded, easy to carry unloaded, and easy to load when you sit down to call. When you cross fences or other obstacles, you simply open the action for safety. Lastly, the hammer safety may be the best option for young and experienced hunters alike. At a glance, you can see if the gun is on safe or not.
One more thing about safety. I have always been a little nervous when the shot is taken and the hunter springs up to get on the downed turkey. With pumps and especially semiautos, I am always wondering if the shooter has put the safety back on. In all the excitement, it is not unusual to forget to do this. With the single-shot shotgun, there are no worries.
Test firing the Henry Single Shot Turkey Camo Shotgun went smooth as butter. Again, with a single-shot shotgun, not much can go wrong as far as the functioning of the gun. Test rounds were fired at 20 and 40 yards for patterning on turkey targets. I only used the supplied choke that ships with the Henry shotgun, and it is marked “Extra Full.” As noted earlier, the thread pattern on this gun is for Rem-Chokes, so there are numerous choices out there for aftermarket chokes, but you may not want to venture past the choke that ships with this gun.
We shot several brands of shells: Winchester (standard turkey loads and Long Beard XR), Remington (Nitro Turkey and TSS), Federal (a bunch…TSS loads of #9 shot, 3rd Degree loads, and Grand Slam Turkey), Fiocchi (Golden Turkey loads in lead and TSS), and probably some I can’t remember. Magnum, low brass field loads, 3-in. and 3 ½-in. magnum loads, and TSS rounds, the Henry shotgun ate them all with respectable patterns.
Turkey hunters always want to know which ammo a gun shoots “best.” Well, that is hard to answer. I would have no problem saying this gun will kill turkeys at 50 yards (beyond that with some loads) with most of the loads I tested. If you absolutely pinned me down, the gun I tested seemed to really like Winchester 3 ½-in. Long Beard XR and Apex TSS #8 shot. Remember that almost every gun, choke, and shell combination is different. After a long test firing session, we even took the Henry shotgun to the squirrel woods and bagged some gray and fox squirrels in the top of some very tall oak trees with standard field loads of #6 shot.
This is a rugged, single-barrel shotgun that you can hunt anything with, not just turkeys. If you want to go simple and less complicated for a turkey gun, take a look at the Henry Single Shot Camo Turkey Shotgun. MSRP $756.00.