Editor’s Note: Deer camp, fish camp, the shooting range, or the gun shop—no matter where hunters and anglers get together, they’ll find something to disagree on. And why not? There’s nothing like a good argument to get your blood pumping. So, to that end, every day this week we’ll be posting stories designed to stir things up around hunting and fishing’s most pressing debates. And for variety’s sake, we’ll make some critters, cartridges, and guns go head-to-head, too. Below, F&S shooting editor Phil Bourjaily and executive editor Dave Hurteau have it out over pistol grips on turkey guns.

Why Pistol Grips Are Good on Turkey Guns

Pistol grips on turkey guns are ugly. Pistol grips on turkey guns are highly useful. While I will generally go along with the idea that you don’t shoot a beautiful bird with an ugly gun, turkeys are an exception. Besides, underneath those gorgeous, iridescent feathers, turkeys are sort of goofy-looking, what with the gaudy red-white-and-blue heads, the snoods, the caruncles, and the dinosaur feet. So, I am fine shooting them with plastic-stocked, camo guns dressed up with rifle sights and optics. And I was happy to use pistol grips for a while, although neither of my current guns has one.

Tactical grips on turkey guns have their advantages. When you are sitting against a tree, a pistol grip is far more comfortable to hold than a traditional shotgun stock. It’s easier to make a good trigger pull with a pistol grip, too. As an added bonus, the grip is easy to grab as the gun starts to slide off your knee when you nod off or get absorbed by something on your phone, not that I am ever less than 110 percent awake, aware, and alert in the woods, of course.

The adjustable, AR-style shotgun pistol-grip stocks also let you shorten them to as little as 11 inches, making them very handy to shoulder when you’re sitting or twisting around a tree. Some of those stocks adjust so you can elevate the comb for use with an optic. A pistol-gripped turkey gun makes a lot of ergonomic sense.

photo of hunter with turkey
Bourjaily with a nice Eastern tom taken with a shotgun sporting an adjustable stock with pistol grip. Phil Bourjaily

During my tactical-turkey-gun phase, I posted the picture you see above on the old Gun Nuts blog, prompting an offended reader to deride the gun as a “cheater stick” in the comments. I didn’t think I was cheating, although if you have ever seen me turkey hunt, you would agree that I need any edge I can get. If that involves carrying a pistol-gripped gun again in the future, I am open to the idea. —Phil Bourjaily

Why Pistol Grips Are Awful on Turkey Guns

Man, I hate pistol grips on turkey guns. It’s not that I don’t like pistol grips, as a rule, or that I think they’re ugly. (They’re ugly.) It’s just that they are so stupid and annoying on turkey guns.

Isn’t it annoying when other people tell you what you want? Seems like half of the turkey guns on the market today come standard with a pistol grip—as if it’s understood that we all want one. I don’t want one. And yet some of today’s turkey gun are not even available without a pistol grip. If you don’t want it, you have to ask special. Or, worse, you have to buy the plain stock separately.

That’s like ordering lunch and having to say, “I’ll have a hot dog, hold the peanut butter and jelly.” (Did you know that there are people who put peanut butter and jelly on their hot dogs? That’s disgusting.) It’s like if you didn’t say “hold the peanut butter and jelly,” then your hot dog would come with it. And you would say, “That’s nasty. I don’t want that.” And they’d say, “Yes you do. But if you really don’t want it, we can take it off for an upcharge.”

Isn’t it also annoying when people try to get one over on you? Like when a gun company takes their standard semi-auto shotgun, puts a pistol grip on it, and says, “Hey, look at our fancy turkey gun. You should buy this. It’s a gobbler gun now. It’s just for turkeys.” I’m fine with the idea of having a dedicated turkey gun. I have two. But the pistol-grip trick almost makes me not want one.

Plus, pistol grips on turkey guns are stupid. Do you remember the original Deer View Mirror? It was a mirror at the end of a metal arm that you clamped to your tree or stand so you could see deer approaching from the rear. That doesn’t sound so dumb at first, until you have to lug the thing, along with all your other crap, up into your stand and clamp it on and get the angle just right and worry about reflecting sunlight—all to save you the trouble of turning your head.

A pistol grip on a turkey gun is like that; it makes the gun heavier, bulkier, and awkward to carry (and uglier)—all for a tiny and unnecessary ergonomic advantage when shooting from a sitting position. When was the last time you couldn’t get a bead on a gobbler for lack of a pistol grip?

Of course, in the end, if you like a pistol grip and want one on your turkey gun, that’s fine with me. Go crazy. Install an electric start and a kickstand if you want. What makes me hate them is that they’re standard on so many of today’s turkey guns—that it is just assumed we want them. When I was a kid, my mother would put beets on my plate and when I didn’t eat them, she’d say, “But, David, you love beets.” But I don’t love beets, and I don’t want anyone putting them on my plate. And I don’t want a pistol grip on my turkey gun. —Dave Hurteau

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