Semi-automatic 20-gauge shotguns are often good choices for female or younger shooters who want a lighter gun with less recoil, but with most of the shot-pattern effectiveness of a 12 gauge. There are actually quite a few choices in this niche, but many of them get quite spendy, such as the Benelli Montefeltro 20 Gauge and the Browning Silver Field Micro Midas and similar semi-automatic shotguns from Beretta, all north of $1000.
A much more affordable option is the Mossberg International SA-20 All Purpose Field Shotgun, made in Turkey by Armsan (Armsan.com). It has a 26-inch barrel and a walnut stock and usually sells for around $550 street price.
I had a chance to shoot an SA-20 extensively along with a few women shooters, who found a lot of things to like about the SA-20, such as the bantam 6.5-pound unloaded weight.
Features include a five-round magazine capacity (or 5+1), a 3-inch chamber, ventilated rib, a bead front sight, a good selection of included chokes, an attractive matte-finish walnut stock, and a standard length of pull at 14.5 inches.
The semi-auto shotgun measures 46.25 inches in length and comes with the company’s Sport Set of five chokes and a wrench in a breakdown-style plastic case, a free gun lock, and a one-year limited warranty. All the metal surfaces are glossy blued on top of satin-finish walnut stocks. It handled loads from 7⁄8 ounce to 1 1⁄4 ounce without adjustment.
A set of stock spacers allow the shooter to raise or lower the vertical position of the stock, arguably the most important measurement after length of pull. Each spacer is marked with the amount of drop or rise they provide.
To install the spacers, empty the gun, check it twice, and put it on Safe. Remove the recoil pad (the buttpad screws will remain in the recoil pad). Remove the stock bolt using a 1⁄2-inch socket wrench. Remove the stock. Place the selected stock spacer on back of receiver, text side facing out. Note the clocking slot. Reinstall the stock and stock bolt. Do not overtighten the bolt. Replace the recoil pad, making sure you do not overtighten the screw. Test the adjustment.
Like on a Browning, the autoloader’s gas system vents excess gases to aid in recoil reduction and helps eliminate stress on the operating components. Notable was that while shooting this 6.5-pound gun, neither my fellow shooters or I noticed any more felt recoil with it than with heavier guns. Also, it comes to shoulder and points very fast.
The trigger-pull weight was a decent 6.5 pounds, and the rounded trigger itself was comfortable on the finger. The top of the receiver offers a clear sighting plane. The bolt-release button is easy to work, and none of the female shooters had trouble with the button. However, the bolt-retraction effort is a stout 13.75 pounds.
The stock dimensions are comfortable for most shooters, including a lefty, because there is no cast in the stock. The wrist feels trim in the hand. Also, the pistol grip has a forward edge that increased control of the gun.
The receiver isn’t drilled and tapped for red-dot mounting, and it lacks sling-swivel studs. Both are oversights on a field gun, but the inability to put on a proper sling is the bigger issue. A slip-on sling would have to do if you don’t want to make the investment in adding studs.
The SA-20 had positive ejection with low-recoil 7⁄8-ounce ammo. The SA-20 has a nicely chromed bolt, and it came with a rubber bolt cover. Some shooters used the cover to operate the heavy action.
The SA-20’s trigger guard is plastic, not steel or aluminum alloy. The forend checkering doesn’t wrap as you’d see on Benelli and Browning guns, and the grain of both the stock and forearm were fairly plain. The stock and forearm have a satin finished in a tough, clear lacquer.
Checkering on the wood appeared to be laser cut. It’s clean with no overruns on the borders. The SA-20 has a half-inch-thick rubber recoil pad with a hard insert at the top of the pad, so the rubber doesn’t grab clothing.
The crossbolt-type round safety button on the Mossberg SA-20 is mounted behind the trigger in the polymer trigger guard. The safety moved positively and without incident.
Specifications: Mossberg International SA-20 Field Shotgun
Caliber: 20 gauge
Item No.: 75789
Action: Semi-auto, gas-operated
Chamber Length: 3 in.
Overall Length: 46.25 in.
Barrel Length: 26.0 in.
Receiver: Matte-anodized black aluminum alloy; grooved top strap
Ventilated Rib: 0.3 in. wide; checkered
Sights: Checkered ventilated rib; brass front bead
Choke Tubes: SK, IC, Mod, IM, F
Capacity (Plugged Magazine Tube): 2+1
Capacity (Unplugged): 5+1
Weight Unloaded: 6.5 lbs.
Buttstock: Satin-finish Turkish walnut, wrist checkering. Synthetic-stock models available.
Buttstock Length of Pull (LOP): 14.5 in.
Buttpad: Rubber, 0.46 inch thick, hard heel insert
Trigger Pull Weight: 6.5 lbs.
Warranty: 1-year limited
MSRP: $675 (street price about $550)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style and Appearance * * * *
Plain wood grain in the walnut stock, but nice color and finish.
Customization * * * *
The ability to make major stockfit changes is a real plus on a gun of this price. A drilled receiver and sling swivels would have been nice, especially in a field gun.
Reliability * * * * *
After 1,000+ rounds of mixed Remington, Winchester, and Federal shot shells, no issues at all. Low-recoil loads worked fine, too.
Accuracy * * * * *
It takes some patience to get the gun fit correct to see the top of the vent rib perfectly, but it’s doable without getting the stock bent.
Overall * * * * 1/2
The Mossberg International SA-20 is a very good value for the money. It’s lightweight and customizable enough to fit most any shooter. The lack of sling swivels on a field gun is the only glaring miss.