When I was growing up, my turkey gun was the same gun I used to hunt everything else: a 16-Gauge Winchester Model 12 with a 28-inch, full choke barrel. Back then, the idea of a gun purpose designed and marketed for turkey would have been unheard of. But things have changed a lot in the 60 or so years since I roamed the Holly Springs National Forest in Mississippi. Later in life I had access to a National Guard helicopter for scouting places for upcoming turkey hunts. Without the helicopter, it was very difficult to know where to locate some of the illusive creatures.
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These days wild turkeys are plentiful enough. It’s not unusual to see them even in residential areas. At least it’s that way in Texas. A few years back, we were awakened one morning to the sound of two gobblers facing off to see which one of them was going to dominate our yard on his quest for a mate. Before feathers started flying, one of them hopped the fence to take up abode in a neighbor’s yard. After a few days of no hens showing up, they both wandered off to seek love elsewhere.
A New Passion
It’s a gun that has me thinking about turkey hunting again — a really nice turkey gun from American Tactical. It’s the ATI Turkey Fowl 410 Bore Cavalry Over/Under in Mossy Oak Bottomland Camo. While this gun is an awesome answer to the struggles of an old guy with worn out and damaged shoulders trying to hunt with a shotgun, it’s much more than that.
For one thing, it’s beautiful — I mean put on your wall rack to impress people beautiful. And while it is a great option for young hunters, male or female, wanting to try their hand during turkey season, hunters of all ages are turning to the .410 Bore as their primary tool for taking turkeys. And what better time and place to try the gun than Spring turkey season in Texas.
As I started thinking about trying my hand at a type of hunting I have not done in many years, I discovered in today’s turkey gun market, the little .410 has taken a seat in the front row when it comes to a turkey hunter’s bucket list. As a result, the gun manufacturers have responded by introducing a number of new and exciting .410 models specifically made for turkey hunting. What was once considered a beginner’s shotgun can be found in the gun safe of turkey fanatics young and old. American Tactical is right there with a .410 over/under that would make any turkey hunter proud.
Back in the day, we used #4 or #6 shot with a full choke shotgun, because we might not get a shot at a turkey closer than 30–40 yards. The heavier shot was better at keeping a tight pattern up to those distances. Of course, in those days, we only had lead shot. We knew it would take a 12 or 16-gauge shotgun to push the lead pellets out to the distances needed to bag a turkey.
Much of the move to the smaller gauges, such as 28 and .410 Bore, was due to improvements in choke tubes, shotshell wad designs, and heavier-than-lead shot. In fact, the ideal .410 loads feature pellets that are noticeably heavier than lead. It has been shown through testing that tungsten-based shot shells with #9 shot carry the same punch as #5 or #6 lead pellets.
None of us like to get beat up, so if we can bring home the game or punch holes in the target with a .410 as well or better than with a heavy like the 12-gauge, that makes the .410 very attractive. The small bore of a .410 produces a narrow shot pattern with a long shot string regardless of choke constriction, so shooting a tightly choked .410 turkey gun is really more like shooting a rifle than a shotgun. That’s why ATI has given us the ability to add an optic to the shotgun in addition to the brass bead and green fiber-optic front sight added to the ventilated rib on the Turkey Fowl.
Turkey Fowl Features
Regardless of whether or not I make it to the turkey woods this Spring, the ATI Turkey Fowl .410 is one cool firearm. It only weighs 5 pounds. That makes it highly maneuverable and easy to pack. Looking at it from butt to muzzle, the first thing you see is a butt pad. It’s not really needed because the .410 has negligible recoil. But it looks good and feels comfortable when brought to the shoulder.
The stock is a smooth surface composite with a checkered pistol grip and forearm. The camouflage pattern is one of Mossy Oak’s outdoor patterns designed to help you get as close to game as possible by blending in with your surroundings. As I said earlier, it makes for a pretty gun, too.
The tang safety doubles as a barrel selector for the single trigger. With the safety in the safe position, which is to the rear, move the selector fully to the left to fire the top barrel first, or fully to the right to fire the bottom barrel first. Pulling the trigger a second time fires the second barrel.
The lever just ahead of the tang safety is used to open the firearm for loading. With the safety in the safe position, push the lever fully to the right and with your off hand, and pull down on the forearm. If you are ready to fire the gun after loading the chamber close the action. When you open the gun, the ejectors will automatically eject fired cartridges and will partially remove unfired cartridges. How does it know? I don’t know, but it does.
The length of pull measures 14.5 inches on my gun. I’m told this could vary slightly because the guns are hand fit at the factory. I measured 1.45 inches drop at the comb and 2.2 inches drop at the heel. Overall, it’s just a nice fitting gun for most shooters.
The barrels are 22 inches long with a ventilated rib atop them. The rib is pre-drilled in two locations for an optic such as a red dot sight that could come in handy for nailing a turkey at 30 to 40 yards. Mounting a red dot will require adding a rail that fits over the rib.
One option is to get a weaver-type adapter that attaches a Picatinny rail over the rail, allowing you to mount any red dot sight that fits onto a Picatinny rail. The other option is a Meadow Creek rib mount that fits over the rib and works with any of the standard red dot mounting adapter plates.
I’m not sure when I’ll get a chance to go on a turkey hunt. However, I took the gun for a spin at my local outdoor shooting facility. I was interested in seeing how the #9 shot worked with various chokes and compared to a #6 shot, for example. I gave up on trying to locate some #4 shot. I guess people just don’t use it anymore because nobody seems to be carrying it.
The Cavalry Turkey Fowl gun ships with five choke tubes. The two that were installed in the gun when it arrived were full in the bottom barrel and improved modified in the top. Shooting at Mossy Oak Turkey Pattern targets showed that these two chokes are perfect for hunting at ranges I would expect to see and shoot at a turkey.
#9 shot, through the chokes provided, put enough shot at a turkey’s head for a quick, humane harvest. There is little, or no, felt recoil with the .410, and if by chance you happen to miss, it’s very easy to get back on target and make use of the second barrel.
Even if you never plan to hunt for turkey, adding this shotgun to your collection will provide you with a tool for practically any type of small game hunting or varmint elimination. Based on some of the short-range patterns I produced with the full choke and #9 shot, it will make a fine home defense weapon as well. And if you don’t want camouflage, ATI offers the Cavalry in beautiful walnut and steel models as well.
Are you a turkey hunter? Have you taken on the challenge of turkeys with a .410 before? What are your thoughts of the ATI Turkey Fowl Cavalry? Share your answers in the comment section.