March 2009

20-Gauge Semiautos: The 11-87 Beats the Silver and New SA-20

Remington’s 11-87 Sportsman wasn’t overwhelmingly good, it was just solid and dependable. Mossberg’s SA-20 has a big flaw, but you might disagree. Browning’s Silver cost too much silver.

One of the major reasons hunters choose a 20 gauge over a 12 gauge is the former’s smaller frame, weight, and recoil. Though they may already own a 12, many field sportsmen wind up reaching for their 20s because the smaller gun is just easier to handle, and there are just a few hunting situations—layback goose hunting and spring turkey hunting, to name two—in which the bigger payload might make a difference.

We recently tested a trio of autoloaders in 20 gauge that offer quite a savings in physical form over their bigger stablemates. Our 3-inch-chamber 20 gauges were the Browning Silver Mossy Oak Duck Blind No. 011366604, $1,064; Mossberg SA-20 No. 75771, $496; and the Remington 11-87 Sportsman No. 29825, $757. The Remington and Mossberg guns have black synthetic finishes, but the Silver 20 is only available in wood-and-blued and camo treatments. Since the stock underneath the Mossy Oak is composite, we opted for it rather than the wood finish.

In two cases, our test guns are the sub-gauge siblings of well-known 12s. The Remington Sportsman line has two 12s and three 20s. The 12s come in 26- and 28-inch barrels and weigh 8.1 pounds and 8.25 pounds respectively, compared to the weight of our test 28-inch-barrel gun, about a full pound lighter. The 28-inch 12-gauge Browning Silver, which is chambered for 3.5-inch shells rather than 3-inch shells like the 20, weighs in at 7.6. Our test Silver 20 was likewise a full pound lighter. The Mossberg is a new-for-2008 line for that company, so the SA-20 designation names just a single chambering, as you might expect. However, comparable guns in the 930 autoloader line, which are chambered only for 12 gauge, weigh 7.75 pounds to the SA-20’s feathery 6.0 pounds.

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