March 2012

Turkey-Hunting Dilemma: Does A Thumbhole Give You an Edge?

Toss the recent introduction of thumbhole stocks into the pool of turkey-shotgun options, and you might as well pack a lunch to help pass the time while the pros and cons are hashed out.

For many turkey hunters, getting their hands on the right gear is almost as important as getting into the game of gotcha with a big tom. If the hunters think a new camouflage pattern, a different style of call, or an updated version of their favorite smoke pole will give them the edge over a wary tom turkey, they are all for adding the new piece of gear to their hunting ensemble.

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One of the recent innovations catching the eye of more than a few hunters are shotguns featuring thumbhole stocks. This stock design lets the shooter place his or her thumb through the stock rather than wrap it over the grip, as rifle shooters have found. For scattergun enthusiasts, the concept is fairly recent and has received a relatively modest reaction.

We decided to check out two models of O.F. Mossberg and Sons Inc. turkey shotguns, one with a standard stock and one with a thumbhole stock, to see if there was a difference in performance and handling between the two popular turkey tools.

The two shotguns in our test were the Mossberg Model 500 No. 55216 Turkey THUG 12 Gauge with a suggested retail price of $409 and the Mossberg Model 500 Mossy Oak Break Up Synthetic Thumbhole Turkey pump-action 12 gauge with a suggested retail price of $493. According to Linda Powell, director of media relations for Mossberg, the thumbhole stocks are popular with steady sales, but make up a relatively small percentage of the many thousands of shotguns the company sells each year.

The various versions of standard, black synthetic, camouflage and other models of Mossberg pump-action shotguns are among the most popular firearms found in the hands of hunters across the country. It came as no surprise that the two models we put to the test lived up to the pumpís reputation as a dependable and easily handling shooting tool.

As part of our handling and performance examination of the standard versus thumbhole stock, we selected several different types of popular shotgun ammunition. On the patterning board range, we used three different sizes of shot ó Nos. 4, 5, and 6 ó in 3-inch 1.75-ounce Winchester High Velocity Turkey Loads, all with an average muzzle velocity of 1300 fps. For overall handling and to test second- and third-shot capabilities, we switched to 2.75-inch Federal Game and Target shells loaded with 1 ounce of No. 7 1/2 shot, averaging 1290 fps at the muzzle. As noted in the comments below, recoil from the 3-inch shells in both shotguns was not particularly pleasing during the patterning tests. To reduce shoulder shock, lighter loads were brought into play for the multiple-shot review. Anyone who has spent much time touching off 3-inch shells at a patterning board can appreciate our decision. Here is our report:

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