Deadly Duos: Turkey Hunting with the Winchester SX4 and Long Beard XR

By author of Brow Tines and Backstrap

Finding the Right Turkey Rig for You Is Important

Turkey gear. Modern advancements. Improvements on dated ideas. All important. Sure, you can grab your granddaddy’s 100-year-old shotgun out of the safe, slip on your boots and go kill a turkey. We aren’t denying it. We’ve all done it. And still do. It’s a bit of fun, downright nostalgic even, to play that card.

I still hunt with granddaddy’s gun from time to time. But I tote the new guns, too. One such firearm is the Winchester SX4. Now in Realtree Timber camo, it’s the perfect gobbler getter. Based on my impression after trying different combinations, paired with a Carlson’s choke and Long Beard XR ammo, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better option.

Winchester SX4 Specs at a Glance

Gauge: 12 or 20

Chamber: 3- and 3½-inch (12 gauge) / 3-inch (20 gauge)

Weight: 7 pounds

MSRP: $1,069.99

Patterning revealed a Carlson's choke tube and No. 5 shot offered best results at 40 yards. (Josh Honeycutt photo)The action on this shotgun is one of the more impressive features. It’s extremely smooth and refuses to jam, despite the dirt, grit and sand I’ve packed in it from turkey hunts this spring. If I can say anything about the SX4, it’s resilient and reliable.

While I can’t confirm nor deny, Winchester’s Jason Gilbertson says it’s the fastest-cycling gun (in its class) in the world. That’s a believable statement given the speed at which this gas-operated gun cranks out shotgun shells.

The chrome-plated chamber and bore seems to hold up well, despite my refusal to clean the poor gal. Just shy of torture testing, I put my stamp on the SX4 as a turkey gun with true grit. I’m personally a fan of the 26-inch, ventilated-ribbed barrel this model comes with. The 47-inch overall length is about right, as I’m still not a fan of short turkey guns.

The receiver is another shining star in this lineup of features. Its aluminum alloy composition is built tough yet helps reduce overall weight of the gun. At a total of 7 pounds, the Realtree Timber composite stock also lends to this effort.

Recoil is less than average for its class. Thank the gas-operated Active Valve System and better-than-average recoil pad for that.

Specs aside, looking purely at functionality, this gun performs as a good shotgun should. It feels good shouldered, holds a tight pattern and cycles shells cleanly. The safety operates smoothly. Ergonomically speaking, while a good fit is different for everyone, we believe this gun will satisfy most hunters in that department. The gun is easy to load, unload and doesn’t rip your thumb off in the process. Lastly, the complete, well-crafted camo finish gives the gun a good look, as well as protection.

It’s $1,069.99 price tag fits it well. It isn’t the cheapest auto loader on market. It isn’t the most expensive, either. We feel it’s adequately priced for the gun you’re getting.

The SX4 is a solid option for those who plan to add to or replace their turkey gun arsenal.

The same goes for Long Beard XR ammo. It’s a reliable load made to put turkeys in the grave. The good news is it performs incredibly well with the SX4.

Winchester Long Beard XR Specs at a Glance

Gauge: 12 and 20

Length: 3 or 3½ inches

Shot Size: 4, 5 and 6

Rounds Per Box: 10

Muzzle Velocity: 1,000-1,300 fps

MSRP: $19.99-24.99

A nice Kentucky tom taken with Long Beard XR. (Josh Honeycutt photo)Long Beard XR isn’t a new load. It’s been on the market for a while now. Things change over time. What hasn’t — how good this load is. On top of an already great product, improvements have been made within the last few years to increase downrange energy and performance.

I tested numerous combinations with the Long Beard ammo. Different shotguns. Different shot sizes (4, 5 and 6). Different choke tubes. The best combination in my tests was a Winchester SX4 shotgun, Carlson’s choke tube, and No. 5 Long Beard shot.

It routinely put anywhere from 80 to 100 pellets in the head and neck region at 40 yards. Around 80 to 85 was most common. The best, most consistent rounds were produced by the Carlson’s and No. 5 load option.

Tungsten seems to be the new trend for a lot of hunters. And it's great. That said, from what we can tell, and given the fact that Long Beard is much cheaper than most tungsten market options, and comes with twice the shells, the Long Beard ammo outperforms most of its peers.

The turkey I killed this spring fell over stone-cold dead. The load was more than capable of the 47-yard shot I took. Although difficult to be sure, I guesstimated approximately 50 pellets in the head of the dead turkey. Solid performance from solid products.

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