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Preview – Mossberg SA-20 Shotgun

Photography by John Teator and Steven Kuo

The Little Mossberg that Roared
Mossberg is Known for its 12-Gauge Smoothbores, But the 20-Gauge SA-20 is Worth a Serious Look

For months now, our friendly local Wal-Mart has been completely sold out of 12-gauge ammo of almost any type. But sitting forlornly on the shelves were boxes of 20-gauge shells. So, we thought to ourselves, why not give 20-gauge a try? Mossberg sent us an SA-20 shotgun, and we got to work seeing what we could do with the cool little Turkish-made blaster, utilizing just the tools one might have in a typical garage. Could we entrust it with three-gun and home defense duties?

The Mossberg SA-20 really felt like a 12-gauge that had been left in the dryer on high for too long, and sure enough most everything on the gun looks like a scaled down version of a 12-gauge auto loader. Our gun was also a Bantam model, featuring a shortened buttstock, which made it even more pint-sized. The length of pull was actually too short for most of our staffers — but this could be remedied by swapping in regular furniture or adding a recoil pad. Mossberg provides a set of stock shims that adjust cast and drop; this is very welcomed, though we wished for more range of adjustment.

Preview   Mossberg SA 20 Shotgun photoPreview   Mossberg SA 20 Shotgun photo

The SA-20 is a gas-operated shotgun, with its gas piston and recoil spring encircling the magazine tube and an action bar stretching back to the bolt. It’s a neat system that also frees the buttstock from its typical duty of housing a recoil spring and guide rod as in many other semi-auto shotguns. So if you were so inclined, you could rig a folding stock on the SA-20, which would be an interesting project for tactical applications.

Our gun had a 24-inch vent rib barrel with interchangeable chokes (five came with the gun) and a small front bead. Courtesy of HiViz Shooting Systems, we fitted a neat new fiber-optic front sight — its Two-In-One sight attaches easily to the vent rib via magnets. During our testing, the sight did not budge, shrugging off even full-power slugs. The sight assembly can be flipped around to expose either a red or green fiber element to fit your preference or environmental conditions, and comes with round- and triangular-shaped fiber elements — the latter was useful to provide a precise aiming point for slugs. Note that the housing adds some height to the front sight, compared to the stock front bead.

Preview   Mossberg SA 20 Shotgun photo

From the factory, the SA-20 holds one round in the chamber and five in the tube — not enough for our needs. Choate Machine and Tool makes a ruggedly stout magazine extension that threaded on perfectly and increases the magazine capacity to eight rounds. It stops short of the muzzle on our 24-inch barrel, and we would have liked an even longer extension — a nine-round version would be flush with the barrel. It’s possible to load an additional shell on the lifter (typically referred to as “ghost loading”) to make for a total of seven or 10 rounds in the stock or modified gun, respectively. However, since racking the bolt releases a shell from the magazine tube, you have to position it just right to squeeze one shell in the chamber and another between the bolt and lifter. Still, 10 rounds is a respectable load whether for competition or defensive purposes. The stock Mossberg magazine tube has a crimp at its tip that captures the magazine spring and follower, which we ground out to fit the mag extension. As a result, any time you fieldstrip the gun, the magazine spring will leap out of the tube like a demonic jack-in-the-box, a small price to pay for the increased capacity. A super slick, Teflon-coated Nordic Components follower and matching spring rounded out our magazine tube upgrade.

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