Saturday, April 17, 2010

Day 12: Mossberg 500 Turkey Shotgun & Optics

If you didn't know, this Monday kicks off Michigan's spring wild turkey season! So I figured I would make a post introducing you to my turkey shotgun and the rationale for selecting good turkey hunting gear. My focus will be on shotgun optics, because this topic isn't often discussed but it can provide a distinct advantage out in the field.

The platform I selected was the Mossberg 500, because it's and can be configured for any possible purpose. It is pump-action, which brings down the cost, and is easier to field strip. I can use this gun for hunting deer, small game, turkey, and as a home defense weapon simply by dropping in the appropriate load. The 500 is durable and relatively inexpensive. The base model I purchased included a thumbhole Monte Carlo stock and fiber optic sights, with a 20" barrel and a threaded choke.


Like I said, I use my shotgun for turkey, deer, and small game, and I decided to mount a 1.5-4.5 x 20 scope to assist in hunting. If you don't already know, the first set of numbers is the magnification, which is adjustable in this case, and the second number is the aperture size. The larger the aperture, the more light gets transmitted through the glass, assisting in low light conditions.

If you get a Mossberg is like mine, it should be "drilled and tapped," and have 4 screws on the top of the receiver that can be removed to mount a rail. I bought a two-piece Weaver rail, which is just screwed in to allow attachment of scope rings. I got a nice set of rings that I trust to withstand the recoil of my 12 gauge without loosening up over time. Then there's the scope itself. So total, it's three pieces you'll need to get to mount a scope.

My scope setup consists of the following parts:
- Weaver 48473 Matte Top Base Pair For Mossberg 500
- Leupold Quick Release Weaver Style Rings 49853, 1", Low, Matte
- Nikon Monarch Turkey Shotgun Scope 6590, Turkey Pro Reticle

Scopes made specifically for shotguns usually have longer eye relief, which is helpful if you use magnum hunting loads. Also, keep in mind that the eye relief is shortened with a variable power scope at higher magnifications.

Any rail will do, as long as it's drilled for your specific shotgun. The cheaper ones are made of aluminum and the more expensive ones are steel. I just went with aluminum to save a few bucks, and I prefer the two-piece rails for aesthetic reasons. As for the rings, just make sure they match the diameter of your scope. Most scopes are 1" in diameter, but there are other configurations out there so just be sure you match them. I went with this Leupold model because I liked the quick-release style where you don't need a torx wrench to remove the scope, because I remove it for shooting clays. They come in several heights, and "low" should be sufficient for scopes with an aperture less than 25mm.

With the Turkey Pro reticle of this particular model scope, the center crosshairs are very faint, while the circle around the center is heavy. I think this is perfect for switching between shot and slugs, but a different reticle might be ideal for a dedicated slug gun. Nikon's Monarch African Rifle scope looks almost identical, but the parallax is set for 100 yards (vs. 50 with the turkey) and the reticle is a German variant.

There is slight chromatic aberration evident when the sun is positioned just right, but not noticeable unless you're looking for it. It works great with both eyes open and allows fast target acquisition. The optical quality seems pretty consistent at all zooms, and it works well in low light, considering the small aperture.

I don't have a ton of experience with scopes, but I do have experience with camera optics, and you get what you pay for. Nikon is a great trade-off of cost and quality in my opinion, and I have been very happy with this model.


One of the most important aspects of preparing a shotgun for hunting season is a task called patterning. Every shotgun, barrel, and choke will behave differently when fired, so it's important to try a large variety of different shotshells to see what performs best in your setup. After trying half a dozen different kinds, I settled with 3" Winchester Extreme Elite magnum turkey loads in #4 shot because they pattern most consistently in my particular gun.

Shooting trap is a lot of fun. All you need to guarantee several hours of fun at the range is a cheap plastic clay thrower, a box of sporting clays, and a friend. Shooting trap with a scope mounted is cumbersome, so it's best to either take it off or use a dedicated shotgun for this purpose. You usually use a wide choke while shooting clays due to the small shot size and close range.

Speaking of chokes, selecting one will be the topic of a future post. You can use whatever choke comes with the gun, but many choose to upgrade to attain more consistent patterns. I use a Briley Ported Super Turkey in this gun, and it was worth every penny.

I tried to cover a lot of ground in just one post. This was essentially an overview of my gear, why I chose it, and what you need if you're looking to build a similar shotgun. If you have any questions feel free to comment.

Good luck this season, everyone!

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