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My SA20 review

Discussion in 'Mossberg SA-20' started by sneektip, Sep 25, 2017.

  1. sneektip

    sneektip .22LR

    So this is going to be a two part write-up. This first thread will be my initial experiences with the shotgun as it came "off the shelf" as it were. My second thread will be concentrated on the modifications I have performed to date.
    My end goal here has always been a home defense shotgun that both my wife and I could comfortably and confidently manage. After taking the wife on a snowshoeing/ shooting date with multiple scatter guns, we decided on 20ga semiauto for relatively reduced recoil, keeping in mind that this particular firearm's primary fodder will be buckshot loads.
    Now I had/ have my reservations about using a semi for defense. I believe that all other things being equal, a pump gun is generally going to be more reliable. But given that my lady does not put in significant training time with shotguns, I figure there's less of chance that a good semi is going to jam, than the likelihood that she may induce a jam by short-stroking a pump in the heat of the moment. Just my thoughts.
    After extensive research, it seams the market is severely lacking in the 20ga semiauto defense category. And that's a real shame. So the decision was made on the SA20. It seemed that the various pistol grip versions were available in three different flavors. I found the one I wanted, pictured below, and ordered it.
    SA-20 5.PNG
    Unfortunately, when my gun arrived, it did not have this stock on it. It had, and still has, the same buttstock as most everyone else's SA20 Tactical. I spent much time on the phone with various companies trying to get it straightened out, to no avail. It would seem that this stock doesn't actually exist. Despite their logo at the bottom, Mossberg denies it's existence. In fact, I told the a guy at Mossberg that the photo was actually on their website. The next day it was gone haha. It appears to be a Choate stock, but they also have no idea where this picture came from. Perhaps someone's photoshop brainchild generated early in the development stages?
    I would have even preferred the rubber grip version without the finger grooves:
    SA-20 4.jpg
    But this is the one i got:
    (I didn't sell my gun. I just stole this pic from the web.)
    You'll notice that the finger grooves are set down very low below the trigger guard. So my hand doesn't line up at all. My middle finger rides on the plastic/ rubber transition area just below the trigger guard, and the rest of my fingers stack haphazardly below that. So the finger grooves are just a terrible design flaw that must have never been tested before production started. Oh well.

    Due to the awesome members on this site, I was fully aware of the possibility of getting an SA20 that would need some tuning to get it to run well. And that turned out to definitely be the case. Mine wouldn't cycle anything outside of the heavy "high brass" load class. It wouldn't run any 1oz loads. Even after putting about 200 stout shells (High Brass, Express, 3.5", etc.) through it, it still wouldn't cycle any 'standard' birdshot. So before I went to work on it with my dremel, I wanted to give Mossberg a chance to look at it, and sent it in with a note detailing the cycling issues. I requested a phone call when their gunsmith had a chance to look at it. No such luck, I got the gun back in the mail about two weeks later. I can't be mad about that. It was a quick turn around time, and I know their smiths must keep very busy over there. What got to me, however, was their supposed "fix". There was no note documenting the work performed, so I called. The woman I spoke with read to me the notes on file. The gun was found to work just fine with Remington Express and Federal High Brass, so it was sent back to me. Well, DUH! That's what I said! There was no mention that this shotgun wouldn't cycle the loads outlined in the users manual. Some time later I noticed that the recoil spring had been cut, and left quite rough. That didn't make me too happy. Seems to me like they got it, possibly read my note, clipped the spring, ran some high brass through it, and sent it back. Oh well, I gave them a shot.

    When shooting loads that it would cycle, I enjoyed this gun very much. It's quite light, and easily maneuverable. Because of it's light weight, when shooting heavy/ fast loads, the recoil can be a bit much. I think the light weight may actually cancel out any recoil reduction that a gas-driven operating system affords it. Does that make sense? All other things being equal, I find that gas systems will usually reduce felt recoil, while a lighter weight gun transmits more felt recoil. And although I am not a fan of the finger grooves, I do find the buttstock and forend to be comfortable. It's got a pretty decent recoil pad on it. And I like the checkering on the slim forend. The ghost ring style sights are fast to acquire, and I generally shoot quite accurately with them. The fiber optic bead up front is an added bonus. The only perceived downfall here is the lack of good cheek weld, as the sights are set a good bit taller than a plain bead sight. We'll address this in my next post, hint hint.

    So how 'bout it? Do I like the gun? Would I recommend it to someone else? In a very abbreviated nutshell-

    If, like me, you're a shade tree gunsmith who likes to tinker, then yes, I like it and could even recommend this firearm. Given, of course, that you go into it knowing full well that there's a good chance you may need to do some work to get it to run a wider range of loads. If I wasn't a tinkerer, I would have sold this shotgun, and probably felt guilty about sticking someone else with it.
    I feel like I have gone into detail on the negative points, and only briefly mentioned the positives. But aside from the stock mix-up and the action cycling issues, I think that this is a decent little 20ga for the money. It's a joy to carry in the field, and I have taken several critters with it. It points fast and shoots even faster. I feel like I may be forgetting some other good points about the gun, but that's how it goes sometimes. The negatives stick out in my mind, while the positives just just get lumped into a big pile of "I like this gun".

    If, however, you want a shotgun that runs as advertised, I could not, in good conscience, recommend this firearm. Did it run buckshot and High Brass just fine? Yes. But who the heck wants to hunt rabbits or birds all day with 3.5" loads in such a lightweight gun? Not me. And although this guns primary purpose will be home defense, I do still like to use it for other things. Not to mention that a long day of training with birdshot is easier on both the wallet and the shoulder.

    Now I do understand that for the most part, most of the SA20 shotguns out there do cycle most 'standard' 1oz birdshot loads just fine, straight out of the box. Mine was just a bit rougher than most, and I can only comment on my own experiences.

    My days are quite busy as of late, but I will get to the second, more funner installment (the mods) of my write-up as soon as I can. Unfortunately, that will probably be sometime after elk season. Maybe another month. I hope this first part will be of some help in the decision making process of any would-be purchasers out there in interwebs land.
    John A., Bobster and Elbert Garrett like this.
  2. Lefty9

    Lefty9 .270 WIN

    Ready for your second thread !
    John A. likes this.

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