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Preview – Mossberg SA-20 Shotgun

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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.

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.

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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