Mossberg International SA-20 All Purpose Field, the Best Twenty Gauge Autoloader on the Market
No one was more surprised than I when the Mossberg SA-20 easily came out on top, compared to other 20 gauge autoloaders in the recent Battle of the 20 Gauge Autoloading Shotguns, but it did just that. Not only is it the best value in a 20 gauge hunting autoloader on the market, it is the best, regardless of price.
It was not always that way. The SA-20 was introduced nine years ago, in 2008. I did not particularly care for it, as it was a hassle 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 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. However, that was then and this is now. Armsan of Istanbul, Turkey is itself a fairly new company, having been formed in 2006. Armsan has upped their game and now builds something in the area of 5000 shotguns per month, which are sold throughout the world.
When you pop out the trigger assembly 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 butt stock. 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 ounce loads, which is something several inertia guns, as well as a goodly share of gas guns, lack. The SA-20 loads smoothly, without any of the thumb-busting for which Benelli and Franchi inertia guns are known. The SA-20's barrel extension locks up securely to the bolt, so there is no obnoxious inertia-genre bolt rattling.
The SA-20 has a nicely chromed bolt and an authentic walnut stock, not the so-called satin crate wood or fake finish fodder that is prevalent. Checkered walnut and bluing never goes out of style.
Mossberg SA-20 International Field Specifications
At 6-1/4 pounds, the SA-20 is the right weight. It does a good job of handling the spectrum of 7/8 ounce to 1-1/4 ounce loads without adjustment. The SA-20 comes in a nice, internally foam-padded, plastic hard case. It is supplied complete with stock adjustment shims and five Mobil-choke style choke tubes.
It take 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 SA-20 is not perfect out of the box. The SA-20's trigger guard is plastic, not steel or aluminum alloy. The fore end checkering pattern is skimpy. It has an excessively heavy trigger and the trigger mechanism of my example is already on its way to Dave at Precision Sports in Oshkosh, Wisconsin for some much needed work.
The barrel of my SA-20 measures .616 inch inside diameter. This is on the small side for a 20 gauge, as the Benelli M2 I have 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, the choke tube marking, by itself, does not. The Improved Modified, lead-only choke supplied with the SA-20 measures .603 inch, for a .013 inch constriction.
I am 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 who have asked, for years, for a 20 gauge Vinci, Maxus, or V3, you are still waiting.
As a result, much of what is out there are old designs that have not changed much over the last fifteen years. In that sense, the current Mossberg SA-20 is a fairly new model. The reviewed SA-20 All Purpose Field blued/walnut was new for 2016 and the SA-28 All-Purpose Field 28 gauge new for 2017.
In the felt recoil department, for 6-1/2 pound gun, the SA-20 is a bit softer-shooting than the Beretta 303 and the related Browning B-80. All three of these guns weigh essentially the same, so the better recoil pad of the SA-20 is the difference.
A 6-1/2 pound 20 gauge is just about ideal for wild pheasant chasing and the more you walk, the more you will appreciate not having a 7-1/4 pound shotgun. By the end of the day, you will be extremely thankful.
I cannot remember the last time a "best value" firearm turned out to be the overall best on the market, perhaps never. The blued/walnut Mossberg International SA-20 All Purpose Field is the wing shooter's screaming deal of 2017.
Copyright 2017 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.