H & R Excell 12 gauge Auto 5 Shotgun

By Ed Turner

Well, It finally arrived. I had been patiently (all right, impatiently) waiting for the arrival of my new turkey shotgun for nearly a month. A SNAFU with the shipping got it to me after opening day, and after my first turkey had already been collected using an "improvised" turkey shotgun on. I actually used a 12 gauge O/U on that one.

The new Excell looked as good or better than I had figured when I finally ripped open the box. It's a compact semi-auto covered completely with Realtree Hardwoods camo pattern, except for the bolt, the trigger guard, the end cap and the sights attached to the vent rib.

It has a 22" barrel and the one thing, right off, I did not like was the inclusion of 1" sling swivels on the shotgun in the European fashion. These are fixed, not detachable, sling swivels. I am not a fan of them because they pretty much require a sling to remain in place and not rattle on the gun. So I was a tad displeased by that.

The rest of the gun looked wonderful. The reason I was so interested in this particular model was because it looks like one of my favorite other shotguns, but is much less costly. It has the same lines as the fine Franchi Model 48AL. A semi-humpback receiver and as fine a design, to my eye, for a semi-auto as the immortal Browning auto-5. Heck, maybe even nicer. I have a 20 gauge 48AL deluxe with the upgraded wood and bluing and it is a very attractive gun. This one, although covered in camo, has the same lines and looks great.

It seems to fit me well, but having the fiber optic sighting system installed on the vent rib may somewhat mask any ill fitting tendency of this particular gun as a perfect fitting "shotgun." There are several Excell models available. Among them are a waterfowl camo model with 28" barrel, a combo model with a synthetic stock and two barrels, 28" for upland game and 24" rifled for deer or big game, and a walnut stocked model with 28" barrel. Specifications for the Excell Auto 5 Turkey model from the 2007 H&R 1871 catalogue are as follows:

  • Stock #: SA1-131
  • Type: Semi-auto shotgun
  • Gauge: 12
  • Barrel: 22" with vent rib
  • Sights: fiber optic front and rear
  • Chamber: 3"
  • Magazine capacity: 5 maximum; plug included to reduce magazine capacity to two shells
  • Choke: interchangeable tubes with 4 supplied (IC, M, F, XF)
  • Stock: complete camo finish
  • Length of pull: 14-1/4"
  • Drop at comb: 1-1/2"
  • Drop at heel: 2-3/8"
  • Overall length: 42-1/2" (XF tube adds about 1")
  • Weight: 6-3/4 pounds
  • 2007 list price: $521 (taken from the Shooter's Bible)

I finally got an opportunity to hunt with my new turkey "special" on the second weekend of the Tennessee turkey season. We have a very good turkey population here, and our bag limit is 4 bearded birds for the season with no more than one per day. Our spring weather had suddenly turned cold with record lows, and I really did not know what to expect from the turkeys. They had been gobbling pretty well each morning when it was warm.

Sunday dawned very cold and still, about 20 degrees when we left the truck for our setups. The turkeys gobbled hard all morning from a bit after 6:00 AM until around 8:00 AM. They promptly stopped all gobbling at that time and the woods became very still.

I sat quietly for a time, then decided to make a few calls and, to my surprise, I heard not only an answering yelp, but a half-hearted gobble as well. I called softly a few more times until I heard a bird approaching, from behind me, of course. I sat perfectly still as the lead hen passed me, clucking as she went by. Then I heard the rest of the birds approaching behind me.

I was sitting against a 3 foot mound of dirt with my 2 decoys downhill from me, and the first hen had passed very close to the left of my spot. The other birds went by just slightly uphill of my "hump" and when the noise of their walking told me they were passed, I turned my head to look. Two hens and a very nice "longbeard" were still within about 25 yards of me, having crossed no more than 20' away.

I mention this scenario because without this new gun I am sure that those birds, at one point within mere feet from my position, would have noticed the shiny blue and varnish finish on my 412S O/U, had I been using it. The full camo finish certainly helped me to remain unseen until they had passed and I got in position to shoot. I am now convinced that a full camo shotgun might not be required to collect a turkey, but it surely can help out.

To keep from boring all, suffice to say a tracking job was required, but did result in taking home a tom with 9 1/2" beard. A very pleasant start to my new turkey special's hunting career and my 2nd best tom ever.

To be very honest with you, only after collecting some turkey for the table did I get a chance to pattern my new Excell. I know this is not the way it's supposed to work in a perfect world, but I've not found that particular place yet.

Using the supplied XF choke tube (call it a savings of around $25) I found the pattern from said choke to be lethal at no less than 50 yards shooting Federal 2 3/4" Magnum, 1-5/8 oz. loads of # 4s. The gun functioned fine, but to be honest I have not yet fired even a full box of shells through it.

I think that a 50 yard shot is as long as any turkey hunter should attempt. After all, we are not trying to impress the turkeys with our ability to shoot, but rather our ability to call them in or outwit them.

All in all, except for the sling swivel issue mentioned earlier, I am more than pleased with this bargain priced, good looking shotgun. The finish looks great and seems very durable to boot. The sights are rugged and the trigger pull is adequate for a shotgun of this type. The recoil pad appears different than the type supplied on the walnut/matte blue finished models (judging from the pics in the brochure), but seems to work just fine. I'd be hard pressed to talk myself out of a walnut/matte blue model as well, were it not only supplied with a 28" barrel. I much prefer a 26" or even a 24" barrel on my typical upland (repeating) shotguns. A 26" barrel normally is about the same length as a 30" barreled double shotgun.

One final note; there is also an Excell pump shotgun model as well, and it also has a semi-humpback shape to it's receiver. The Excell pump turkey special has matte blue metal and a camo patterned stock and forearm with a 22" barrel. If there had been no semi-autos available, I likely would have ordered one of those. I'd figure its list price to be $150 or more below the price of the autoloader.

It should be possible to purchase either one of the Excell guns for about $50 to $100 below the list prices. That is a truly excellent value in today's high priced semi-auto shotgun market. It's nothing to see list prices of $700 to $900, or even over a grand for a camo wrapped special from better known firms such as Browning, Bennelli, and Beretta. If you are a turkey hunter on a budget, I suggest that you consider an Excell of your own if you are in the market for a new semi-auto shotgun.

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Copyright 2007 by Ed Turner. All rights reserved.