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Mid-April last year I was sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with long-time friend Eddie Stevenson before sunrise listening to a longbeard hammer the day awake. Before long, the tom was gobbling so close to us we could smell his breath. Problem was, the tom was directly behind us. He skirted to our rear and walked off in the direction of a real hen while never presenting a shot.

As the first morning’s hunt wound down, a band of feral hogs moseyed into a corn feeder about 120 yards distant. Always willing to help thin wild hog populations, I snuck downwind to about 30 yards of the troupe. They finally spotted me in the open mesquite and began trotting off. The last of the 13 pigs turned and faced me at 33 paces, so I put the red dot of the Trijicon MRO on the pig’s skull and let the new Sauer SL5 turkey gun eat. The payload from a Federal 12-gauge TSS found its mark right between the sow’s eyes, and she dropped like a rock. Amazing the power and penetration of a modern turkey load.

If this gun/optic/load combination was so devastating to a hog’s thick skull at that distance, I was sure that it could handle a turkey’s more-fragile noggin a bit further.

The author with the wild hog he took with the Sauer SL5 Turkey shotgun. Jay Langston Photo

SL5 Turkey

J.P. Sauer and Sohn, Germany’s oldest manufacturer of hunting firearms, introduced their new high-performance SL5 Turkey shotguns last spring.  Featuring a durable Inertia-Driven System requiring fewer parts and minimal cleaning, the smooth-cycling, accurate, and reliable SL5 12 gauge is available in three camo patterns—Mossy Oak Obsession, Mossy Oak Bottomland and Mossy Oak New Bottomland.

Designed for hardcore turkey hunters, these semi-auto 12-gauge shotguns accommodate 2¾- and 3-inch shells and feature an 18.5-inch deep-drilled, chrome-lined barrel with stepped rib for precise alignment.

All SL5 Turkey models feature a black anodized receiver with an oversized extended bolt handle and release button, removable Picatinny rail and durable camo composite pistol-grip stock with Cervellati recoil pad and sling attachments. A red single-bead LPA front fiber-optic sight facilitates fast and accurate target acquisition.

Sauer SL5 Turkey in Mossy Oak Bottomland Camo

“We are excited to partner with Mossy Oak to introduce these new high-performance, camo pattern turkey guns in our SL5 series,” Jason Evans, CEO, Blaser Group said. “There is strong demand, and we designed these new shotguns to deliver desired features and consistent reliability at a very competitive price point.”

Made in Italy by Breda, these shotguns are backed by a 10-year factory warranty. The SL5 Turkey shotguns weigh 7 pounds, have a 3+1 capacity and come standard with three chokes—a flush Cylinder, an extended CRIO Plus Modified choke and a Carlson extended turkey choke. The Carlson choke measures .675, which is a happy medium for a turkey choke that may fire copper-plated magnum loads or more-dense tungsten loads.

The SL5 Turkey checks a lot of important boxes for a great, dedicated gobbler knocker. The two most prevalent features—a pistol-grip stock and optic rail—set this gun apart from the crowd.

A Blast from the Past

In mid-2001, I left an 11-year gig with the NWTF, where I finished up as Editor of Turkey Call Magazine, and went to work for Stoeger Publishing. Stoeger was a part of the Beretta Holdings conglomerate, housed at the BerettaUSA factory in Accokeek, Maryland.  I shared office space with BenelliUSA.

During my initial job interview, the conversation turned to my opinions about the future of turkey guns. My previous experience with pistol-grip turkey guns convinced me that guns so equipped would be the next trend in turkey guns. A few weeks later when I arrived at my new job, my boss had four prototype Benelli M1s fitted with pistol-grip stocks and ghost ring sights. I soon thereafter got a chance to buy a Benelli M1 at a rock-bottom price that wore a prototype camo, Realtree’s 20/200. I added a black pistol-grip stock and an 18 ½-inch tactical barrel that accepted choke tubes.

A few months later, BenelliUSA was the first firearms manufacturer to offer pistol-grip turkey guns; the M1 and Super Black Eagle fitted with a “Steady Grip” stock. The first guns sold out quickly and supply couldn’t keep up with demand for several months. The following year Mossberg, Remington, Franchi and several other companies offered their own pistol-grip or thumbhole turkey gun models.

The Sauer SL5 Turkey boasts a pistol-grip stock like those first introduced on turkey guns by Benelli back in the early 2000s. Jay Langston Photo

It is interesting to note that while I worked at Stoeger, today’s Blaser Group CEO, Jason Evans, was the product manager for BenelliUSA’s subsidiary Franchi. His office was directly across the hall from my own.

The other prevalent feature of the SL5 Turkey is an optics rail. Stick around and I’ll tell you why. (If you want the long-winded version of this, click here.)

Optic Spotlight

To outfit the Sauer turkey gun for my Texas hunt, I mounted a Trijicon MRO HD 1×24 red-dot sight. The “MRO” stands for Miniature Rifle Optic, but it works on shotguns, too.

My normal sight-in process with a turkey gun is to use dove loads fired at a large sheet of paper at 15 yards. The pattern is tight enough at that short distance to make sight adjustment easier. Once the point of aim and point of impact line up I moved back to 40 yards and again shoot a dove load to fine tune my zero. Lastly, I switch to a magnum hunting load to verify zero or make any final adjustments. With popular turkey loads selling for around $10 a shot, this procedure makes the most sense. You don’t get pounded with as much magnum recoil, either.

When sighting in a turkey gun, the author starts with dove loads until he has the pattern centered on the target and then finalizes it with a turkey load. This saves both money from using expensive turkey loads early in the process, as well as your shoulder thanks to less recoil on the lighter loads. Jay Langston Photo

MRO Specs

The Trijicon MRO is a sealed, miniature reflex sight with a large aperture and tapered light path to maximize the viewing area. The MRO allows for better situational awareness and faster target engagement, especially from non-standard shooting positions you might encounter while turkey hunting.

Combine these features with ambidextrous brightness controls, sub-flush adjusters, advanced lens coatings and the fully sealed, waterproof, hard-anodized forged 7075-T6 housing and you have a military-tough mini-reflex sight.

The MRO HD offers battery longevity, too. Forget and leave the dot reticle on and the battery will last 2½ years. If you leave the complex reticle (dot in circle), it’ll last 75 days with a continuous use setting cranked up to 5 of 8. The top-mounted brightness adjust knob is ambidextrous, too. The brightness dial is equally usable by left- or right-handed operators without having to remove your trigger hand.

If you’re looking for a top-notch red dot for your turkey gun, the Trijicon MRO is tough to beat. A parting word of advice: The MRO I used came with a full co-witness mount, which put it higher than I like for a turkey gun optic. You might want to go with a low mount for a more comfortable fit.

Turkey Time

Three days into the West Texas hunt had a small flock of birds located in a mesquite-lined creek bottom at the base of a huge cliff. Studying their patterns from multiple previous hunts, we laid siege that afternoon. After an hour of calling, first one then another tom answered from about 150 yards distant. Over the next 90 minutes the feathered duo closed the gap to about 100 yards. We kept silent and the toms got frantic and started double- and triple-gobbling on their own. I answered with some loud hen yelps and staccato cutting, which broke the stalemate. They were coming.

In short order a fan popped into view about 60 yards out, so I sent a few more yelps their way. The pair kept walking and looking, gobbling every few steps. When they were at 30 yards, the biggest tom turned to our left and the smaller bird followed. I swapped the red dot to the smaller trailing tom to give Eddie a chance to kill the lead bird.

The plan almost worked, but when the trailing bird was almost out of sight, I lit the fire. The bigger tom wasn’t in the clear from Eddie’s angle when I shot, so it spoiled his chance. In this case, a bird in the hand truly was better than….

The author with his Texas turkey. Jay Langston Photo


Manufacturer: J.P. Sauer & Sohn

Importer: Blaser USA

Model: SL5 Turkey

Gauge: 12, 2 ¾-in. and 3-in. magnum

Barrel: Chrome-lined, 18.5-in.

Finish: Mossy Oak Bottomland

Weight: 7 pounds

Capacity: 3+1

MSPR: $1,200

Check out Ammo To Go, the ammunition retail sponsor of TTAG gun reviews. Get your bulk and quality ammo for a bargain by visiting their site

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  1. I really like the inertia system. I have an m2 Benelli and cleaning is a breeze. And it has been reliable with all loads I’ve used in it. I have not used slugs in it.

    Italian shotguns are sweet.

    • I used to wonder why militaries did not like inertial shotgun designs. Then I found out they won’t cycle when braced against something immobile, like a parapet, or the ground. Mystery solved.

      • They’re also sensitive to added weight. If you’re a hunter who’s just gonna ad a lightweight sling you’ll be fine, but if you’re setting it up for tactical use and want a heavy duty sling, side saddle, flashlight, optic, and extended magazine, an inertia gun isn’t the right choice

  2. It is that time of the year. I’ve been killing gobblers with an 870 SP Turkey Gun. It’s was deadly with 3″ #5s, then Hevi-Shot hit the market. I know I’ve killed three birds at 50-55 yards. This looks like a good shotgun too, but I’m not sold on the pistol grip. Not sure I want the appendage in the tight turkey woods. Understand, I’ve owned several Benellis with pistol grips, but they were all working guns.

  3. OT, sort of – if you shoot mama hog, little piggies go hyper-reproductive. Same with coyotes.

    If you focus on the young pigs, the herd trajectory is not accelerated. Plus they taste better…

    • XZX, I never knew that. I always shot the bacon bits simply because they were the best eating. Never seen a coyote pup. Only mature dogs. Still, I don’t think I’ll change farm rules. Swine or canine it’s shot on sight.

      • Shoot on sight, probably wise, especially w/coyotes. In the rare case you have a choice (the coyotes in my neighborhood are hard to get on cam, much less shoot), go with the betas, is my thought.

        Ain’t really settled science, l guess, but there is peer-reviewed stuff out there. Seems to hold with deer, hogs, and coyotes.

        • XZX, you may enjoy this. After I divorced my wife I met Renee. This is important. We dated for seven years. She is a vegetarian and an animal lover. Especially dogs. So. We’re sitting in the Hilton one afternoon. (She loved to go to the farm, walk her dogs and “observe” wildlife.i have a pretty long shots from this stand so I always hunt it with a semi custom 700 in 7 mag. Two coyotes pop out of the wood line at around 200 yards trotting down the wood line. I said, ” Coyotes, “They are staggered. I put the cross hairs on the rear coyote and sent him a 150 gr Swift Scriccoo. I threw the bolt. His friend was not very smart. For a coyote. Instead of turning back into the wood line he turned into the cut cornfield I was watching. Okay, make it easy for me. I’ve got the cross hairs under his chin and tracking. I was just about to touch the trigger when he made it even easier. He stopped and looked back for his friend. Cross hairs shifted to the front shoulder, fired and I threw the bolt again. Dead dogs. Renee was standing behind me watching. She had never seen anything killed. I looked over my shoulder and said, “Your boyfriend can shoot a little bit, can’t he?” Renee said, “But, But, it was all so sudden!” Later I told her that’s the way it will be on the street, “Sudden.” We spent many hours on the defense range. She knew what I meant.

        • Last time I went turkey hunting, a train went by and set a whole pack to howling. Which spooked the gobbler we were apparently all going after. Hunt over. They sounded way closer to him than me, maybe only 50 yards from him, but I guess they just couldn’t control themselves.

          Per usual, did not see a thing.

  4. The Sauer not only serves in the field its setup works for home defense which for me would be its sole purpose like my $200 Made in Turkey pistol grip semi. Out of the box not worth a dime. Properly tweaked it runs like a race horse…Joe Bob dun saved you $1000.00. If the Sauer fits your budget do not hesitate to invest in one.

  5. I’ll open the discussion… so is a german turkey gun made in Italy a better piece of equipment than a supposed Italian branded gun made in Turkey?
    Or is it like a Harley with it’s pajamas off, and you get to see parts from ALL OVER God’s green earth bolted together to make The Great American Iron Classic – the rules are made up and the points don’t matter.

    • uni…I’ll answer your question without it being anything about me…There are reasons why Vance & Hines Racing switched from HD to Suzuki. Obviously Made in Japan was not seen as a negative or should it be. In other words differences can be so close nowadays they need a high speed camera to see.

    • TFB TV does melt down tests with firearms. So far as I am aware none of the Turkey made guns have survived the 500 round tests.

      I have an Italian shotgun. They are good to go.

  6. “With popular turkey loads selling for around $10 a shot…” Am I reading that correctly? It’s MUCH cheaper to use .50 BMG rounds?!

    • Last I checked here in CA it is legal to hunt them with .177 cal air rifles. I’ve never tried it. but then I don’t hunt turkeys.


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