Gun Review: Sauer’s SL5 Turkey Thumpers

by Tommy Grant

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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.

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.

“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.

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.

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….

SPECIFICATIONS

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

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