Bill Pool, a gunsmith and owner of Arkansas Gun Traders in Benton, made a few pertinent comments about Sunday's article about testing turkey loads.
Pool specializes in rifles, and he readily acknowledges that he has only a casual interest in shotgunning, but he knows everything about all guns. If you mount sights on a shotgun or any other kind of gun that deconstructs into components, Pool said, the sights will only be accurate if they are mounted to the barrel.
Case in point, Pool said, is the famous and beloved Browning ATD, a .22-cal., semiautomatic rifle with a barrel that separates from the receiver for easy cleaning, storage and transport. Early models were drilled and tapped to mount a scope on the receiver, but those guns were notoriously inaccurate with scopes.
The reason, Pool said, is because owners often fail to adequately tighten the barrel to the receiver. This allows the barrel to wobble and misalign very slightly, but any amount of barrel movement changes point of impact from shot to shot. That will prevent the rifle from ever shooting accurately. Browning corrected the issue by reconfiguring the rifle to take a cantilever type mount that replaces the rear iron sight. As long as the scope is affixed to the barrel, the sight will remain aligned with the barrel, regardless of its orientation to the receiver.
Except for the Winchester Model 12, which screws directly into the receiver, all shotguns are takedown designs. Their barrels orbit loosely over a magazine tube and attach to the end of the magazine tube with a threaded cap. If you do not screw the cap down to the last click, you introduce the potential for movement.
If you mount a scope or a red dot sight to a shotgun receiver, you are at risk of experiencing the same problems, Pool said. That is why the best dedicated turkey hunting shotguns have cantilever barrels. A red dot or a scope attaches to the cantilever Picatinny rail where it is always aligned with the muzzle, no matter how tight or loose it is screwed to the magazine tube.
Popular shotguns that have receivers drilled and tapped for attaching scope mounts are the Remington 11-87, Remington 870, Remington VersaMax and Remington V3. Some models of the Benelli Nova and Super Black Eagle II and III are also drilled and tapped. Non-turkey versions of the Winchester SX3 are not drilled and tapped.
Curiously, no mainstream manufacturer makes a mount that actually fits the VersaMax or the V3. I learned this while testing turkey loads, when I sought a mount on which to attach a Truglo red dot reflex sight to my Remington V3. Weaver makes a rail mount for the Model 870 and 11-87 that has the same screw pattern as the V3 and VersaMax. However, the 870 and 11-87 have curved receivers. The Weaver rail mount is concave flush against the convex tops of the 11-87 and 870 receivers.
The V3 and VersaMax have flat tops. Only the edges of the rail mount contact their receivers.
After I completed the turkey testing article, I returned to the range to pattern additional loads with the V3. The zero had shifted quite a lot. The problem was evident after one shot when the Weaver mount sat cockeyed on the receiver. The screws are too short to bite past the first two threads. The recoil of the heavy turkey loads ripped the screws from their moorings and stripped the top threads. Fortunately, the loose screws landed in the padding of a wadded up T-shirt.
"The only way for that to work is to get longer screws," Pool said.
If I am to use the V3 for turkey hunting, I must mount a set of Truglo Gobble Stop fiber optic sights to the barrel rib like I did long ago with my Winchester SX3. Once you sight them in, you never have to adjust them, and they will never shake loose.
The problem with that solution is that once you zero turkey sights, you're stuck with them. If you remove them for duck hunting, you'll have to relive the joy of sighting in turkey loads every year, or you'll have to buy a different barrel for waterfowl hunting.
The Truglo red dot reflex sight is outstanding, but until it earns my trust I will have a nagging doubt that it has shifted zero. I mentioned this to a Truglo representative who assured me that my sight is designed for turkey hunting and that it will easily tolerate 20-gauge recoil.