Affordable Gobbler Guns and Gear: Tristar’s Raptor ATAC—New Shotgun Review

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TriStar’s new turkey gun is a pleasure to shoot.

TriStar’s new turkey gun is a pleasure to shoot.

By Wayne Lincourt

TriStar Sporting Arms
http://tristararms.com/raptor-atac-turkey.php

TruGlo
TruGlo Triton Gobble-Stopper Tri-Color 30mm Sights

Robinson Outdoor Products
http://www.robinsonoutdoors.com/whitewater/thunder-chicken-turkey-vest.php

We are so lucky to live in this time when precision machinery and quality materials allow for the production of affordable guns that give up little to their higher-priced brethren. Imported by TriStar Arms from Turkey, the new ATAC Raptor Turkey gun is a great example. As an extension of the company’s low-priced Raptor series, it delivers solid performance and dependability on a proven action.

The gas piston drives the action arms back to eject the spent round and cock the hammer. The recoil spring drives the action arms forward to chamber the next round and lock the bolt in battery.

The gas piston drives the action arms back to eject the spent round and cock the hammer. The recoil spring drives the action arms forward to chamber the next round and lock the bolt in battery.

The gun has a 24” barrel and is a gas-operated semi-automatic. When a round is fired, gas is bled through the part of the barrel that slides over the magazine tube during assembly. Between the barrel and magazine tube, a gas piston encircling the magazine tube reacts to the gas pressure to open the bolt via a side-by-side locking bar. It’s basically the same setup as a pump gun with the exception that the gas piston and return spring do the pumping for you. Check out the photos and you’ll see what I mean. It’s not only a simple and reliable action, but it helps absorb recoil, making it softer shooting and more controllable.

While the action is the heart and soul of any shotgun, the surprising extras are a real plus at this price point. Included as standard is a chrome-lined chamber and barrel, picatinny rail with ghost ring rear site, bridge-front fiber optic site, pistol-grip stock, and extended turkey choke tube. The choke tubes, by-the-way, are interchangeable with Beretta/Benelli tubes. If you already have some on hand, you can use the tubes you have. If not, they’re readily available to configure your gun for waterfowl, upland game birds, slugs, or home defense. I was a little surprised that there was no choke tube wrench included, but you can substitute anything that’s sturdy and flat enough to fit into the notches on the choke tube.

The TriStar Raptor ATAC Turkey gun comes with a Beretta/Benelli-style extended full choke tube.

The TriStar Raptor ATAC Turkey gun comes with a Beretta/Benelli-style extended full choke tube.

The molded stock and forend in Mossy Oak camo contributes to making this a light gun. It tipped my scale at a svelte 7 lbs. 1.4 oz. The pistol grip is overmolded black rubber with finger grooves. It affords plenty of cushioning and a positive grip, even when wet. I have relatively small hands, yet in the shooting position I could easily reach the safety at the front of the trigger guard with my trigger finger. Ergonomics are good, with a 14 ¼” length of pull and balance point towards the front of the loading gate, midway between your hands when shooting. This is a fast-handling gun.

The Raptor comes with a five-round magazine tube and a plug for waterfowl, which easily comes out when you don’t need it. Sling studs are standard, mounted on the stock and forend cap. Just clip on your sling and go. The trigger has a little take-up then breaks consistently at an average 5 lbs., 11.5 oz

The metal parts were finished in flat black, including the bolt. Fit and finish of the furniture was good except just behind the trigger guard, where the stock extension for the pistol grip had a gap. It didn’t affect the function in any way, just seemed out of place considering the level of fit of the rest of the stock/forend.

The butt pad is a bit unusual, with a V cut out of the stock into which it mates. It worked in absorbing the recoil from the 3” 12 gauge shells though so, unusual or not, it’s an effective design. TriStar recommends using 3” shells, by the way, for break-in. I followed up with some Remington 2 ¾” 7 ½ shot sporting loads, and they cycled the action with no malfunctions of any kind.

The butt pad is a little unusual but works great.

The butt pad is a little unusual but works great.

My thanks, by-the-way, to Mike Lewellen at Lone Star Sporting Clays, Glen Rose, TX, for the use of his patterning board. Located in the Texas Hill Country southwest of Fort Worth, Lone Star is a beautiful place to shoot.

The TriStar ATAC Turkey Shotgun has an MSRP of $498. Other TriStar ATAC guns are selling for around $400. This will probably have a slightly higher street price due to the licensing fee for the camo on the stock and forend. And they’re backed by TriStar’s full five-year warranty.

Overall, the TriStar Arms Raptor ATAC Turkey gun is lightweight for easy carrying, accurate for taking the head off that big ol’ tom you called in, and versatile. If you’re thinking about a low-priced new turkey gun, or all-around shotgun, in my estimation the ATAC will get the job done for you without hitting you too hard in the pocketbook. It’s a great value.

The TruGlo Triton Gobble Stopper is a great match to the Raptor.

The TruGlo Triton Gobble Stopper is a great match to the Raptor.

TruGlo Triton Gobble-Stopper Tri-Color 30mm  Sights

The ghost ring and front fiber optic sights that come mounted on the ATAC Raptor Turkey gun are more than adequate. But for faster pointability, especially under the low light conditions you frequently encounter in early morning hunts, I chose a 30mm TruGlo Gobble-Stopper Triton Tri-Color, which mounted easily to the Raptor’s picatinny rail. For a capable reflex sight at a reasonable price, the 30mm TruGlo  Gobble-Stopper is well worth your consideration. You get an illuminated reticle like all red dots, but you get some great options as well.

This sight allows you to select the color that works best for you – red, green, or blue. There’s been a lot of talk about whether red is the best all-around color for a reflex sight, or if green might be better. Green is actually easier for the human eye to see. But what about when you’re hunting in a very green area like in the northeast or northwest? Then maybe a red dot is better. With the Gobble Stopper, it doesn’t matter. You have your choice of using a red dot, green dot or blue dot. You select the color that works best for you in your given situation. There are three intensity settings for each color.

 

There are three illumination settings for each color. The color is indicated by the color of the numbers on the right side illumination knob.

There are three illumination settings for each color. The color is indicated by the color of the numbers on the right side illumination knob.

I also like the reticle. Instead of just a dot, it has a small center dot (3 MOA) surrounded by an illuminated circle. The circle subtends 24” at 30 yards, or about the spread of your shot pattern, making it easy to get on target fast while also helping you center the dot in the tube to eliminate parallax. Another nice feature is an integral mount on the bottom of the optic. This ensures that the sight is properly oriented and permits mounting it low on your shotgun, close to the bore axis for greater accuracy. On the TriStar Raptor ATAC Turkey gun, it meant I could co-witness the Triton with the iron sights. That put me on the money from the first round. (Who wants to waste ammo in this day and age?) As you can see from the accompanying photo, 90% of the shot hit within a 16” circle from 30 yards.

The Gobble Stopper came with a detachable sunshade. That might not seem like a big deal, but when you’re hunting this sharp-eyed bird, the glint of glass can give you away. The sunshade not only shades the lens providing a clearer image, it also helps prevent reflections which could spook a turkey coming in to your call.

The detachable sunshade helps prevent reflections from the glass. The optical-quality clear lens caps provide protection for the optic while you retain the ability to use it with the caps closed.

The detachable sunshade helps prevent reflections from the glass. The optical-quality clear lens caps provide protection for the optic while you retain the ability to use it with the caps closed.

It also has some other great features. The flip-up clear lens caps were unexpected at this price point. It’s a bummer to have a turkey break from cover right in front of you when you have the lens caps on because you’re moving through the brush and want to protect your optic. Not a problem with the TruGlo. Just pull up and take your shot. Anyone who’s ever dropped an adjustment cap in the field will appreciate that those caps are secured on lanyards. The adjustments for windage and elevation are simple click-type adjusters, providing easy zeroing that stays where you set it.

The optic is shock resistant to 1,0000 Gs, waterproof/fog proof, has multi-coated lenses for brighter images, uses the common CR2032 battery, and comes with a remote pressure switch. You can preserve battery life by mounting the pressure switch where you hold your gun when it’s in the firing position, so it’s always on when you need it but you’re not wasting your battery when you don’t.

The MSRP for the TruGlo Gobble-Stopper is $94 but I’ve seen it advertised in the $70 – 80 range depending on whether you buy it in black or Realtree camo. At that price, it is a good match for the Raptor. For all the features that come with it, plus the limited lifetime warranty which covers any manufacturer’s defects, it is a good buy.

Whitewater Outdoors Thunder Chicken Turkey Vest

The Whitewater Thunder Chicken Turkey vest provides a lot of useful storage.

The Whitewater Thunder Chicken Turkey vest provides a lot of useful storage.

Now that you have a new gun and sight, what else do you need to ensure you have a comfortable as well as successful turkey season? A great complement to a new turkey gun is a vest to carry your box calls, slate, diaphragms, hunting license, extra ammo, camera, lunch, beverage, cell phone, gun tools, GPS, snacks, camo sticks, bug dope, emergency medical kit, knives, zip lock storage bags, toilet paper and other assorted necessities for spending long periods of time sitting in the woods.

You just can’t seem to find shirts and pants with enough pockets to carry all the stuff you need. One thing the Thunder Chicken is not short of, though, is pockets. There are zipper pockets, mesh pockets, flapped pockets, water bottle/thermos pockets, a large game pocket and various rings and elastic loops to carry spare ammo and whatever else you need to have at your fingertips.

Whitewater’s newest vest is made from polyester, which wears well and is a great wicking material. Natural fibers soak up perspiration and get cold as the wind evaporates the moisture. That’s OK as long as you’re hiking, but as soon as you sit down, you get chilled. Not a good thing when the temps are low as they often are during turkey season. That’s where synthetics are at their best.

Plenty of mesh and strategically positioned pads ensure good airflow.

Plenty of mesh and strategically positioned pads ensure good airflow.

There’s also plenty of mesh so that you don’t get over-heated. Mesh-covered pads under the shoulder straps and back area cushion the load and help maintain space for good air circulation. The fabric is printed in a RealTree camo pattern and treated with Scent Block to hide you from those wily birds. When you want to be seen, there’s a blaze orange flag concealed in a small pocket in the back of the vest—a nice safety feature for when you’re enroute to your favorite stand.

This is a rugged vest with close attention paid to materials, stitching and overall construction. Case-in-point, the insulated seat is suspended from quick-release straps and is further held close to your body with a small magnet concealed in the fabric of the seat and vest back. It rides close and secure but is ready to easily drop for use. It’s hard to stay still when you’re sitting on wet, cold ground. With the Thunder Chicken vest, you stay warm on the comfortably padded seat.

MSRP for the Whitewater Outdoors Thunder Chicken Turkey Vest is $89.99. It’s widely available at most sporting goods store, but I saw it on sale at Midway USA for $59.99. That’s a great price for a quality hunting vest.

Now that you are fully outfitted, good luck!

 

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