One of the major reasons hunters choose a 20 gauge over a 12 gauge is the formers 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 situationslayback goose hunting and spring turkey hunting, to name twoin which the bigger payload might make a difference.
Gun Tests magazine recently tested an autoloader in 20 gauge that offers quite a savings in physical form over its bigger stablemates. Its 3-inch-chamber 20 gauge was a Mossberg SA-20 No. 75771, $496.
The Mossberg was 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-20s feathery 6.0 pounds.
Here’s what they said:
We charged our team to shoot two different types of targets for this gun, since we were evaluating it for all-round use. We first shot patterning targets with Modified tubes. Our test ammo for that was Federal Hi-Power 2.75-inch loads containing 2.75-dram equivalent powder charges propelling 1 ounce of 7.5 shot, with a rated muzzle velocity of 1170 fps. This load has approximately 350 pellets in the cup.
On Trap Field 1 at American Shooting Centers in Houston, we mounted Hunter John Shotgun Pattern Targets on steel frames and had a single shooter fire three times into each target from a slow, low-gun mount. The marked distance was 40 yards. With the gun fitted with Modified chokes, we were looking for densities of 55 to 60 percent.
Also, shooting three shots into each target is a shorthand way to assess pattern density and location, rather than shooting three different targets. With three shots in the paper, its easy to visually identify where the shot charge is hitting.
The Mossberg delivered 596 pellets (56%).
Where those patterns hit on the target are much more important, we think. The Mossberg showed a strong bias, with the center of the pattern being two clay-target widths low and to the left.
We also shot two field tests with the gun. The first test came with the team shooting a half a day of sporting clays and going through nearly two cases of ammo. The second half saw the team visit a trap range and shoot that game with the gun unmounted, like a field gun would be used. For these two tests, we used the aforementioned Federal and two Remington loads, a 2.75-inch 7/8-ounce Game Load No. GL206 running No. 6s at 1225 fps, and a load we really grew to love, the Premier STS Steel Light Target Load No. STS20LS7, a 2.5-dram-equivalent powder charge under 7/8 ounce of No. 7 shot, with a rated muzzle velocity of 1200 fps. Combined with the light 20s, this load didnt create a lot of push on the shooter, but it broke trap clays fast and solidly.
Mossberg’s initial-release copy for this gun is actually pretty accurate: “Introducing the new SA-20 Semi-Automatic 20 Gauge Shotgun by Mossberg International-perfectly balanced, fast handling, lightweight and just as important, easy on your wallet.”
This gas-operated shotgun is available with a standard 14-inch length of pull synthetic stock and forearm, while the SA-20 Bantam features a shortened 13-inch LOP for younger or smaller shooters. Barrel lengths include 26 and 28 inches for the SA-20 and 24 inches for the Bantam. All have ventilated ribs. Our gun measured 48.5 inches in length and weighed 6.0 pounds. It handles 20-gauge 2.75-inch and 3-inch factory loaded shotshells and has a five-round capacity of the shorter shotshells. It comes with the companys Sport Set of five chokes and a wrench in a small plastic case, a free gun lock, and a one-year limited warranty. All the metal surfaces are matte blue on top of synthetic black stocks. The gun was supposed to come with three drop spacers and one spacer for cast, but those items werent included in our sample. Cest la guerre.
The gun is made by Armsan (www.Armsan.com) in Turkey, a collaboration of Khanshotguns Co. and ATA Arms. It strongly resembles the A620S by Armsan and the Cy Synthetic by ATA Arms.
The gas system vents excess gases to aid in recoil reduction and helps eliminate stress on the operating components. Notable to us was that while shooting this 6-pound gun, we didnt notice any more recoil with it than the other, heavier guns. Also, it pointed very fast, our team said, and even though we werent able to adjust it with the non-included LOP and cast spacers, it fit most of our shooters well out of the box. The trigger-pull weight was a lowest-of-the-test 5.0 pounds, and the rounded trigger itself was comfortable on the finger. The top of the receiver offered a good sight plane, our team said.
The stock dimensions were comfortable for most of our shooters, including Lefty, since there was no cast in the stock. The wrist, 1.20 inches thick, felt trim in the hand. Moreover, the pistol grip had a forward flip that increased the sensation of control of the gun. On the SA-20, the distance from the middle of the trigger to the forward point of the pistol grip was 4.0 inches. It was probably the most noticeable single handling characteristic separating the guns.
But for all these positives, there were some things on the gun our testers didnt like. Like the others, it wasnt drilled and tapped for scope mounting, and this gun lacked sling-swivel studs. For a hunting shotgun, the former item is a big plus, since getting it done well aftermarket is a hassle. Not having studs is a big oversight for a working gun, we feel. Yes, we could buy a loop sling for $10 or we could cut strips out of old towels, for that matter. We prefer being able to affix a proper sling.
A bigger problem, our team said, was the SA-20s loading sequence. After the shooter loads one in the chamber, he has to press the bolt-release button to release the elevator so another round slides into the tube. Other shotguns have a similar sequence, but in this test, having to use two hands on the receiver to load was a big disadvantage. Also, on our sample, the bolt-release button was stiff, and younger shooters, for whom this gun would otherwise be a great fit, had trouble with the button.
Gun Tests said: Grade: B-/A. If the bolt release and loading-gate release button is a problem you don’t want to deal withas it i for usthen take the lower grade. If you’re used to that sequence and can adapt, then this is an awful lot of gun for the money.