Why the Mossberg SA-20 is the Best Upland Twenty Gauge Autoloader on the Market Today
No one was more surprised than I was, when the Mossberg SA-20 easily came out on top compared to other 20 gauge autoloaders in the recent “Battle of the 20 Gauges,” but it did just that. Not only is it extremely wallet-friendly, it is not just just the best value 20 gauge hunting autoloader on the market: it is the best, regardless of price, for many. For the left-hand shooter, the Benelli "M2 Field Shotgun" Left Hand Comfortech (yes, a far pricier model) remains a top choice.
It wasn't always that way. Back in 2008, yes, nine years ago, the SA-20 was introduced. I didn't particularly care for it at all, for it was a real pantload to load. After chambering the first round, you had to press the bolt release button to release the shell elevator to push a shell into the magazine, then repeat the extremely clumsy button-pressing for subsequent rounds. Nine years ago, the SA-20 was a forgettable shotgun, and I certainly was happy to forget about it. But, that was then and this is now. Armsan of Istanbul is itself a fairly new company, having been formed in 2006. Armsan, apparently, has really upped their game and now runs something in the area of 5000 shotguns per month, sold throughout the world.
When you pop out the trigger for cleaning, you might be surprised. There is no tongue at the back of the breech-bolt, no potentially problematic mainspring and mainspring tube in the buttstock. The return spring is nested underneath the forearm on the magazine tube, and the bolt closes with snappy authority.
There is no suspicion of sluggish bolt syndrome. The SA-20 has confidence-inspiring positive ejection with 7/8 oz. loads: something several inertia guns lack, as well as a goodly share of gas guns for that matter. The SA-20 loads quite smoothly, without any of the thumb-busting that Benelli and Franchi-branded inertia guns are known for. The SA-20's barrel extension locks up securely to the bolt, so there is no obnoxious inertia -genre bolt rattling, either.
The SA-20 has a nicely chromed bolt and an authentic walnut stock set, not the so-called “satin” crate-wood or fake-finish fodder that is prevalent. Checkered walnut and bluing never goes out of style. The SA-20 isn't perfect out of the box: it has an excessively heavy trigger (just like most Browning and Benelli models), and the trigger guard of my example is already on its way to Dave at Precision Sports in Oshkosh, Wisconsin for some much-needed rescue work.
At 6-1/4 lbs., the SA-20 is the right weight and neutrally balanced-- the same weight as my alloy Browning B-80 and Beretta 303 20 gauge models. While the SA-20's trigger guard is plastic as opposed to the alloy of the long-discontinued B-80 and 303 models, the Mossberg SA-20 does a better job of handling the spectrum of 7/8 oz. to 1-1/4 oz. loads with no adjustments whatsoever. The SA-20 comes in a nice plastic, internally foam-padded hard case, complete with stock adjustment shims and five Mobil-choke style choke tubes.
It takes only moments to remove or install the magazine limiter: it is a simple rod that resides right beneath the forearm cap, quickly slipping in or out.
The barrel of my SA-20 measures .616 inch as the inside diameter: that is on the small side for a 20 gauge, as the Benelli M2 I've been using for the last seven years mics at .620 inch. This is yet another example why a factory choke tube called “Modified” does not necessarily mean anything: it is the constriction that determines the performance, a choke tube marking itself does not. The “Improved Modified” lead only choke supplied with the SA-20 measures .603 inch, for a .013 inch constriction.
I'm adding a Trulock Precision Hunter extended choke with a .595 inch exit diameter for an actual constriction of .021 inch, my speculation at a starting point for where it needs to be for my type of dove and pheasant hunting. The patterning board will show whether it actually is appropriate or not, but either a Trulock PH “Improved Modified” (.595 inch exit) or a Trulock PH “Full” (.590 inch inch, .026 inch resultant constriction) are highly likely to get the job done with this specific SA-20.
The 20 gauge autoloader segment has not been overlooked in terms of quality chokes and quality ammunition, but it is hard not to notice that many of the most heavily propagandized self-loaders tend to be 12 gauge only. For those that have asked, for years, about a 20 gauge Vinci, Maxus, or V3, you're still going to be waiting.
As a result, much of what is out there are old designs that haven't changed much over the last fifteen years with some far older than that. In that sense, the current Mossberg SA-20 is fairly new model. The tested SA-20 “All Purpose Field” blued / walnut is new for 2016, according to Blue Book, with the SA-28 “All-Purpose Field” 28 gauge new for 2017.
In the felt recoil department for 6-1/4 lb. gun, the SA-20 is a bit softer-shooting than the Beretta 303 (most came with hard plastic butt-plates) and the related Browning B-80 that came with a hard solid rubber buttplate. All three of these guns weigh essentially the same, so the better recoil pad of the SA-20 is the difference. Once a 20 gauge auto drifts past the 6-1/2 pound mark, it starts to make several 6-3/4 pound 12 gauges look more and more appealing and more and more practical.
A 6-1/4 pound 20 gauge is just ideal for wild pheasant chasing and the more you walk, the more you'll appreciate not having a 7 – 7-1/4 lb. shotgun with you. By the end of the day, you'll be extremely thankful. I can't remember the last time a “best value” firearm turned out to be the best on the market in current production, perhaps never: but with the Mossberg SA-20 it is one of those very rare times. The Mossberg SA-20 blued/walnut is the wingshooter's screaming deal of 2017.
The trigger is off to Dave at Precision Sports.
4717 State Road 44
Oshkosh, WI 54904http://thefirearmsspecialists.com/
Trulock Precision Hunter chokes are available from Trulock: https://trulockchokes.com/ .
Other SA-20 configurations are available, see http://www.mossberg.com/ for further details.
Copyright 2017 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.