Between BookYourHunt.com’s international team, we often discuss and compare different approaches to hunting and hunting techniques in different countries. One of the questions that came up recently is “why don’t Americans ever seem to use an over/under shotgun for turkey hunting?”
Seriously, browse through hunting offers on BookYourHunt.com and pay attention to shotguns in the photos. You often see an over/under on pics illustrating pheasant, grouse, woodcock, chukar and other upland bird hunts. Not infrequently on duck and geese hunt pics. But turkey hunting is almost totally dominated by pumps and semis.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with repeating shotguns. From the classic Browning Auto-5 and Winchester Model 12 to modern plastic and alloy featherweight models, pumps and semi-automatics are all-American tools with efficiency proven by decades of hunting. But double-barreled guns do have undeniable advantages over repeaters, namely:
- Short Action
This is perhaps the greatest advantage of a double-barreled gun. It’s not a secret that an over/under with 28” barrels is as short or shorter overall than a semi or pump with a 24” barrel. So you can have a gun with the same length, but with longer barrels for (potentially) better patterns, or you can have a gun with the same barrel length, but shorter and more maneuverable in dense vegetation.
- Instant Second Shot
Who ever needs a third shot for turkey hunting? In most cases the gobbler won’t give you a second chance, and it’s a hit or miss thing. But when you must get a second shot on, for instance, to stop a cripple, you need to do it faster than fast. And there simply isn’t a design design that gets you to fire that second round faster than a double-barreled gun.
- Instant Choice between Two Chokes and Loads
Can’t decide between choke tubes? Screw the one you’re more likely to use in the under barrel, and the other in the over barrel. Same thing with loads – load the traditional lead shot shell in one barrel, and put that over expensive Tungsten shot in the other in case you’re really going to need that extra range. With double-trigger or selective single trigger over/under, you will have both at the flick of your finger!
Over/under shotguns have other benefits, too. Safety is in the hands of the gun holder, but it can be argued than a break-open shotgun is inherently safer than a repeater. Just break it open, and it can’t go off; take the shells out in one simple motion and the thing is as safe as can be. Unloading and reloading a pump or semi is a bit slower and trickier.
Any feature that makes a shotgun a “Turkey special” can be applied to an over/under. You can put a red-dot sight or a scope on it, just like on a repeater. Most makers today offer their double guns in camo and plastic stock versions, and with modern aftermarket solutions, DIY camo coating of your gun is easier than ever. The only conceivable disadvantage of a double barreled action, therefore, is regulation: the chance that the two barrels may not shoot to precisely the same point of impact. But with over/unders by quality brands, the difference is not big enough to matter for shot patterning.
So why do most American hunters seem to prefer a semiautomatic or pump action shotgun for turkey hunting? Perhaps there’s a good reason for that we haven’t thought of. If you tried an over/under, and were disappointed, tell us why!