Turkeys check all the boxes. They are cautious and see movement at a long distance which makes the hunt challenging. They respond to calls and know how to put on a great show. They taste great. The Go Gear Direct Team is excited for spring turkey and now we have an additional excuse - need to try our .410 with this new ammo. Awesome

Tungsten loads from Federal and Apex mean hunters can now drop wild birds using small-caliber shotguns

Heretofore hardly enough gun for butterflies, the .410 became the hot new ­gobbler-​getter last season. And the credit for that goes to Tungsten Super Shot. Tight-patterning and dense enough that No. 9 shot can make lethal hits at long range, TSS was all the rage as 2018’s turkey seasons opened. Ammo manufacturers Federal and Apex expected to sell plenty of 12- and 20-gauge TSS loads, but they were unprepared for the run on .410s. They sold out fast, leaving a lot of hunters unable to find out what the fuss was about.

The good news: There will be lots more .410 TSS from Federal and Apex this spring, as well as brand-new TSS loads from Browning. And there will be guns for it too, and possibly even choke tubes. So, if you want to jump on the .410 bandwagon this spring, or if you’re just wondering if .410 turkey guns are a good idea or a stunt, I am here to answer your questions. I had a chance to shoot lots of .410 TSS at home and on a fall turkey hunt in Ohio. The stuff is for real.

Hot Shot

You can kill turkeys with a .410 and lead shot. You can also call them very close and kill them with your breath if it’s bad enough, but that’s no way to fill a gobbler tag. Loaded with any non-TSS shot, the .410 makes an extremely limited turkey gun. After patterning .410 lead, steel, and Hevi-Shot loads, I concluded that even in the best case, 20 yards would be my maximum .410 range.

TSS changes everything. Because the pellets are so dense, even 9 shot makes clean kills, equating to lead 5s in penetration. Going down to 9s allows manufacturers to fit 270 to 295 pellets in a 3-inch .410 hull, leaving room for a tough, full-length shot cup and buffering to protect the bore and improve patterns. What’s more, the hard TSS pellets aren’t prone to deformation like lead.

The difference between any other .410 turkey load and TSS is night and day. Even in a gun that doesn’t handle TSS well, I put more pellets in a 10-inch circle with TSS at 40 yards (69 hits) than I could with any of the other ammunition at 25 yards (56 hits). In guns that liked TSS, patterns were astounding, exceeding 100 pellets in a 10-inch circle at 40.

King Strut Decoy

Top Guns

There are now three turkey-specific .410 shotguns on the market: Mossberg’s 500 pump and a pair of break-action single-shots from Henry and Savage/Stevens. The Mossberg 500 pump has a fixed Full choke, a 26-inch barrel, and Obsession camo, and it costs $500. The Henry is a nicely made single-shot with screw-in chokes for $448, and I’m told that an optic-ready version will be available for spring. The Chinese-made Stevens 301 is the cheapest of the three at just $199 and comes readiest for the turkey woods, with a camo stock and fore-end, an extended turkey choke, and a base for optics. None are expensive guns, which is a good thing, because you’ll need to cut costs to afford TSS ammo.

On the range, I saw the best results from standard Full-choke constrictions for the .410 (.391 to .396). This is important, because it means that with TSS, you can likely get good performance from Grandpa’s old .410 single-shot hanging over the mantel. In fact, our host in Ohio had already taken several turkeys with preproduction Federal TSS last year in an old break-action, Full-choke single-shot .410.

Of the three turkey-specific guns I shot, the Stevens, with its extended .396 tube, was the clear winner with TSS, punching an incredible 156 hits in a 10-inch circle at 40 yards. The Mossberg, which is around .392, shot the worst patterns, although “worst” is relative; I’d still call it a 30- to 35-yard turkey gun with TSS, which is incredible for a .410. Although the 500’s receiver isn’t drilled and tapped, I was able to mount Aimpoint’s excellent Micro S-1 on the rib, making it even better for the woods.

Scott Trulock of Trulock chokes is one of the people working on .410 turkey tubes for TSS. “When we made 12-gauge tubes for TSS 9s, we were able to go really tight, down to .640, for our best results,” he says. “But that doesn’t work with a .410. Patterns get worse when you go very tight.” Instead, Trulock is getting his best results with a .390 tube, and he believes the secret to making TSS perform even better lies in extending the tube, not tightening it. My test results with the extended tube in the Stevens seem to prove his point.

The bottom line is that a good-­patterning .410 will put 100-plus TSS pellets in a 10-inch circle at 40 yards, making it deadly to turkeys at that distance. This equals or exceeds most 20-​gauges loaded with Long Beard or even Hevi-13. Plus, a .410 is light, handy, and all but recoilless at the bench.

I wouldn’t call hunting turkeys with a .410 and TSS a challenge, because you’re not giving up much of anything. And at $5 or more per TSS shell, shooting turkeys with a .410 is a pay-to-play proposition. Still, where it’s legal (not all states allow .410s or No. 9 shot for turkeys; check regs), it’s a great option for young shooters, recoil-sensitive shooters, new hunters, and anyone who would enjoy taking our biggest gamebird with our smallest gauge.

Gear Tip: TSS vs. The Field

Using a .410 Mossberg 500 with a .392 fixed Full choke, I put Federal TSS up against lead, Hevi-Shot, and steel in a patterning shootout. In order to make it a fair fight, I gave the TSS a 15-yard handicap. Field & Stream

Leg Cuff Deer Drag

Leg Cuff Turkey Tote Inserts

Written by Phil Bourjaily for Field & Stream and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]