Shotguns > Semi-Auto

Mossberg SA-20 Tactical Shotgun

The SA-20 is a practical reduced-recoil defensive semi-auto shotgun with features that often cost twice as much.


When looking for a home-defense firearm, buyers tend to run into salesmen and friends with a one-size-fits-all mentality. The boiler plate answer for a home-defense shotgun will usually be an 18- to 20-inch barreled 12-gauge pump. This particular type of defensive shotgun has several strengths to support its regular recommendation, such as a variety of makes and models readily available, they’re inexpensive to buy, mechanically reliable and ammunition is plentiful and diverse. Not to mention, the 12-gauge has a long history of effectively neutralizing threats.

However, the 12-gauge pump is not a practical solution for every shooter. These shotguns tend to feel heavy, overly long and awkward to small-framed shooters, and successfully operating the sliding forearm under stressful circumstances requires a good deal of practice. Many less-experienced shooters often tend to short-stroke the slide (not bringing the slide fully to the rear). This human-factor malfunction will quickly knock a perfectly reliable shotgun out of commission until it's cleared.

Finally, the 12-gauge pump produces what can be considered to be a stout level of recoil. This is not just an issue of comfort, but of control. It's difficult to make successful follow-up shots if the shotgun is driving the shooter around the room, instead of the other way around. Most importantly, if the gun feels uncomfortable or painful to operate, then home defenders are not going to practice enough to become proficient.
A practical solution to the potential short comings of the 12-gauge pump with certain shooters is the 20-gauge semi-auto. The human factor problems inherent in the pump-action are eliminated by the semi-auto design, and since some energy produced by the fired shell is used to cycle the action, felt recoil is effectively reduced. And, best of all, semi-autos are usually faster when firing follow-up shots, especially for beginners.

The 20-gauge shell offers a significant reduction in recoil while still delivering a significant level of stopping power. In his book “StressFire II,” Massad Ayoob, a self-defense expert who supports the use of 20-gauge shotguns for personal protection, wrote: "Delivering roughly the ballistic force of two .44 Magnum revolver rounds at once, the twenty is described by most shooters as having about half or little more than half the recoil of a 12-gauge with the same type of projectiles. Throwing its lead at about the same velocity as the twelve, the twenty merely has less lead to throw."

Although the 12-gauge offers more ammunition choices, excellent defensive options are available for the 20-gauge. Federal, Remington and Winchester all provide a variety of loads appropriate for personal protection. The rifled slugs weigh in at between 5/8 to ¾ ounces, and launch at between 1,500 to 1,600 fps. If we quantify 20-gauge slugs using handgun cartridge nomenclature, the shells are launching .62 caliber bullets weighing between 273 to 328 grains at 400 to 500 fps faster than most defensive handgun rounds.

Common 20-gauge buckshot loads are filled with 20 pellets of No. 3 buckshot. Each shot pellet is a .25-caliber ball weighing 23.4 grains. This gives the shell a total payload of 468 grains with a velocity of around 1,200 fps. The 20 gauge is not the wimpy gun and ammunition combination some folks make it out to be. However, the defensive and tactical 20-gauge market has been left unattended, that is, until Mossberg stepped in to fill it.
The SA-20 Tactical
Based on the company’s successful and reliable series of hunting shotguns, Mossberg's SA-20 Tactical offers a variety of features ideal for defensive applications. First, the bore is chambered to accept both2 3/4 and 3-inch shells. The matte-blue receiver is also topped with a Picatinny rail for mounting optics, and it comes with an adjustable ghost ring rear sight. The front sight is a steel AR-style sight fitted with a red fiber optic.

The checkered forearm and shoulder stock are both made of lightweight black polymer. The shoulder stock is fitted with a vented rubber recoil pad and is available with or without a soft, textured rubber pistol grip. Other features include a 14-inch length-of-pull, a generously sized operating handle, a trigger guard cross-bolt safety, sling swivels and an unloaded weight of just 6 pounds.

The SA-20 is a light and handy shotgun to work with. The native sighting system is well designed. The bright fiber-optic front sight makes it easy to get solid shots on target quickly. The combination of the rubberized pistol grip and recoil pad worked well to tame recoil and prepare for follow-up shots.

Semi-autos, whether handguns, rifles or shotguns, can be ammo-sensitive. This is a polite way of saying these guns can jam when loaded with certain kinds of ammunition. With this in mind, I ran the SA-20 Tactical with a wide variety of shells in defensive situations. From inexpensive lightweight birdshot loads all the way up to 3-inch slug loads, the SA-20 consumed them all without any jams or problems.

Formal testing consisted of firing slugs, birdshot and buckshot loads at 7 and 25 yards. Using Birchwood-Casey Shoot•N•C Silhouette Target Kits made the tests easy to conduct. The stiff cardboard silhouettes were much more useful than a moving box, and the adhesive targets made results easy to read and measure. Slugs proved to have excellent defensive accuracy in the SA-20. Winchester's 3/4-ounce slugs produced 2- to 2.5-inch groups when fired from a standing position at 25 yards.

Some folks feel the need to load their defensive shotguns with birdshot. With this in mind, Federal Premium Wing-Shok 3-inch 1 1/4-ounce No. 4 loads and the Winchester Super X Upland & Small Game 2 3/4-inch, 1-ounce No. 4 birdshot loads were fired into targets set at 7 yards. Both loads produced consistent overall patterns of 12 to 14 inches, with 70 percent of the shot forming dense central groups of 7 to 8 inches.

Of course, for some, the best choice for self-defense is buckshot. The load used for this test was the Federal Premium 2 3/4-inch 20-pellet No. 3 Buckshot round. The pellets consistently formed 9- to 10-inch groups at 7 yards. Since it produces tighter patterns, deeper penetration and a similar level of felt recoil as the heavy birdshot loads, the No. 3 buckshot loads are one way to go.

Final Thoughts
The Mossberg SA-20 Tactical shotgun fills an important niche. The 20-gauge chambering will likely reduce its appeal to military and law enforcement organizations but the tactical enhancements make it an attractive option for home defense. Too often people get caught up in the mindset of thinking they need the most powerful firearm instead of the most practical. The SA-20 offers a feature set and recoil level that almost anyone could use to successfully protect their home and loved ones.

Manufacturer: O.F. Mossberg & Sons;
Model: SA-20 Tactical Shotgun
Action: Semi-Auto
Caliber: 20 Gauge 2 3/4" and 3"
Finish: Matte Blue
Stock: Black Synthetic Pistol Grip Stock
Front Sight: AR-Style Fiber Optic
Rear Sight: Adjustable Ghost Ring
Barrel Length: 20”
Overall Length: 37”
Choke: Cylinder Bore
Length of Pull: 14”
Weight: 6 lbs.
Capacity:  5 Rounds
Suggested Retail Price: $510

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44 Responses to Mossberg SA-20 Tactical Shotgun

Paul Balich wrote:
August 02, 2014

Kentucky Gun Co. has SA-20 in stock at a good price as of 7/25/14.

Ron wrote:
July 20, 2014

According to police forensic experts who have studied the effects of different shotgun blasts on human tissue, they say that #1Buck has 30[%] MORE LETHALITY IN ANY GAUGE than Double-Ott or Triple Ott. The 20 gauge is the best for home defense b/c of lower recoil and less penetration. Works for me.

FurMuncher wrote:
February 16, 2014

I'm looking at buying this gun for Turkey hunting & getting a gunsmith to thread the barrel for removable choke tubes. this way the gun can serve 2 purposes.

mike white wrote:
December 19, 2013

The Moss wqas ny first ever 20ga, had the 7 shot extension installed and I'm happy with it, still thing a 12ga is better for home defense but the 20 is a viable alternative.

Scott wrote:
October 21, 2013

I bought this gun for my son who if a lefty, he has no problem shooting in and doesn't mind that the spent shell ejects on the right side but would like the safety to be on the left side as would be on a left hand model. Question I have is can the safety be changed around onto the left side? If anyone has any experience with this I'd appreciate feedback. Thank you,

xlbadger wrote:
October 13, 2013

Purchased a SA-20 in April ... it's all I expected, and more ... I researched many products and the SA-20 offers great value and performance ... very good balance, weight and personal fit ... I'm 63Yrs old, 6'0', 215lb and this weapon is EASY to handle ... defense ammo inventory includes: - Power Shok Slug - 3' @ 1700 fps - Magnum Boar Shot - 2x .58 caliber 279gr musket balls @ 1200fps - 00 (9) Buckshot 2-3/4', @ 1345 fps - #1 (9) Buckshot 2-3/4', @ 1345 fps - #2 Shot Nitro Steel 3', @ 1600 fps ... All shells performed perfectly ... With a Remington 700 BDL 30-06, DT AR-15, Ruger 10/22, Glock 20C and Taurus 9mm Pro Millenium, the SA-20 fills a significant role in self defense and home protection ...

laura wrote:
September 19, 2013

Friend needs money is 100.00 to much for mosburg 20 gauge pump

zunooo wrote:
August 18, 2013

I bought this with home defense in mind. I wanted a shotgun that both me and my wife could handle. I went to one of the local shops and had her hold one. She really liked the pistol grip and the light weight. I was able to find one not too much longer. Both her and I really enjoy shooting it. I want to get her a 26' model for clays and I think se will really like it. I have had a few FTEs, but I am still in the breaking in period. Great shotgun for the cost.

foggybottom wrote:
August 12, 2013

A little more clarification: the 8-round extension is listed for the 20' barrel and the 7 for the 18' tactical barrel. The 8 sticks out several inches beyond the muzzle on the 20' barrel, while the 7 fits the 20', but would probably not fit the 18'. (Although I don't have the 18' version) Choate folks were very nice to work with.

foggybottom wrote:
August 11, 2013

Choate offers two magazine extenders for this item, but note: The 8-round extension is listed for the SA20, but it sticks out beneath barrel by several inches. The 7-round extension fits much better. This Mossberg International is a Turkish product and was difficult to modify with the extension. One smith gave up before hurting the gun. The second was able to modify it. That said, it shoots beautifully and is short and handy. Love it and like the extra rounds.

Hamilton wrote:
August 09, 2013

I am a lefty. Are there SA-20 models for lefty?

Cerph wrote:
May 26, 2013

If you think racking is a form of deterrent you are wrong. Never enter a 'situation' with an unloaded shotgun expecting the perp to run when he hears it.

JP wrote:
May 22, 2013

Just bought an SA20 and have been looking around for a pistol grip or collapsible stock. Everything I see seems to be for a Mossberg 500, no mention of SA20. Will a 500 stock fit an SA20? They look very similar.

Gary wrote:
May 10, 2013

I am 6'4", 250lbs and own a 20 gauge shotgun. The usual line of thinking is male + 12 gauge, female = 20 gauge, and this line of thinking never seems to get challenged. The 20 gauge is very underrated and very powerful. The Mossberg SA 20 is a very appealing shotgun, and as soon as I see one in a store I will definitely check it out.

Darrel wrote:
April 16, 2013

Comments..You will pay less for the Mossberg Bantam 20 ga. - it's a youth model with several standard options included- you can also order a interchangeable pistol grip. Light weight - short barrel - top saftey- choke selection- black composite- bought mine two years ago for $250 - I am a old Rem. 870 user but this is much handier. Used in my RV camper and bedroom closet.

870 Guy wrote:
February 08, 2013

Love hearing the 'only a 12 gauge has the firepower!' crowd. No amount of firepower is enough if the smaller-framed person can't keep rounds on target. I have a 12 gauge 870 tactical I modified for myself, but my wife isn't comfortable with the weight and recoil, which of course means less practice. The solution? Bought a 20 gauge 870 at Dick's Sporting Goods and have added mag extension, junior composite stock, tactical forend, and grind to fit limb saver recoil pad. Waiting on the 18.5' barrel and ghost sights I ordered. A lot of fun to build and she loves it so far, but God what an expensive way to do it. Only reason I'm tact-ing out a hunting 870 is so her muscle memory will allow her to pick up my 12 gauge if necessary. If it weren't for that I'd buy one of these Mossbergs in a heartbeat and save the money. Never shot one, and I hear the action's a little rougher, but I'd be proud to own one.

oracle wrote:
November 25, 2012

Just what I needed as I'm confined to a wheelchair. The SA 20 will be pefect for the range and home defense.

Brian Martin wrote:
November 21, 2012

excellent article. new to guns. I just bought the SA-20 Tactical after research but not delivered yet. very hard to find. wish I had seen this article first and saved some legwork. mods seem tough as no parts available and no-one knows about this gun like it is a secret. anything I should add when I get it? Any suggestions appreciated. want to go further with shooting and gun work. i used to do it with cars and boats. too old now

Robert wrote:
October 05, 2012

I noticed most of the posts here fail to mention the newer accessories that are available for the SA20. I've been researching this weapon for the last week or so, with the intent of finding a decent autoloader for my 11 year old to use in USPSA three gun competition. For those of you that are interested in a larger capacity for the SA20, check Choate's website at They have extended tube magazines that'll effectively give you a 7+1 capacity in this shotgun. Some filing may need to be done in order to mate the tube extension, but the work is not complicated. Price of the extension is around 45-50 bucks. Varying lengths are available, in the +2 or +3 shell range.

MisterT79 wrote:
August 23, 2012

Why 'rack' a round when that round should be chambered already to maximize the clip/chamber volume. Also, that slows down your abiulity to take down a threat and you could just fire a round down the hall(or whatever) toward the intruder to scare them...a shotgun blast is scarier that a shotgun shift after all.

Mike wrote:
August 09, 2012

@ P Harris - I just checked Mossberg's internet site a few weeks ago, and they still show the SA20 as a current choice in their line-up. It is still available. Might be worth a look? Have a great day,

Ron wrote:
July 06, 2012

I own several shot guns including some for home defense. I recentrly bought a 20 gauge and ot has me thinking seriously about retiring my HD 12. It is simply easier to shoot well indoors or out. I still love my 40 year old 1100 12 for bird hunting.

P Harris wrote:
May 03, 2012

I was very interested in the SA20 for snakes two legged and belly crawlers both but beling in CA the antigun capital of the world finding one reasonably priced it near impossible. She who delays is lost, I understand that Mossberg is no longer manufacturing this gun and has dropped it from their line up. The Weatherby SA459 is very similar but likewise expensive and also hard to find in tactical. Wish all had more capacity than 4+1 like 6+1 or 7+1.

eric wrote:
January 09, 2012

I have a 1947 remington model 11 in 16 gage sitting by the front door. I had the barrel cut to 20" new bead sripped and parkerized BLACK BLACK. striped the wood and painted it black added a griggs recoil reducer, and loaded with #7 bord shot. It has an improved cyl and keeps about a 20"pattern at 20 yrds. My smith that stripped and parkerized and cut the barrel was like "are you sure that is what you want" after itwas done he shot it and was like gotta find me one. The nice thing it has the five shot tube +1 in chamber. Thought about sending to Briley to have it chocked up, not sure yet!

Tom wrote:
December 03, 2011

I bought on of these when they first came out and it's a great addition to my PD set-up. This thing will still put a bruise on your shoulder with the right load and I think it's plenty of gun for inside the home. I got mine before BATF made them get rid of teh tri-rail on the magazine. With a reflex sight and light it's a nice set-up. I bought mine for $415. BTW there is a YouTube video about the gun and the fellow had a mag extension put on by a machine shop. There are no after market products as of yet.

BaabSlaab wrote:
November 26, 2011

Too bad Mossberg went away from their signature safety button location (on the top rear portion of the receiver). Cross-bolt designs like on the SA-20 are less intuitive and require taking your finger off the receiver and placing it right near the trigger way before you might want to actually fire. Bad.

Lglenn wrote:
November 23, 2011

If a criminal is brazen enough to enter mine or anyone else's home while occupied hearing the rack of a shotgun is irrelavant. The first and last thing the intruder should hear is the homeowners weapon discharging. Also the sound of the racking gives away your location, intruder may also be armed.

Dale wrote:
November 22, 2011

To the idiots who must rack the slide. You are racking the slide to chamber a round. You will also have to rack the bolt to chamber a round in the SA20. Duh.....

Kevin wrote:
November 19, 2011

No need to rack either one if you keep one in the pipe. The advantage of the SA is that you can't forget to rack it. I am used to shooting SAs handguns rathetr than my pump action 12 so I do tend to take longer to 'get another ready'. Just my findings, your mileage may vary but under stress conditions a SA to me is definately an advantage. As for the focusing power of racking a shell, I don't buy into it, I see no reason in giving the advantage to the BG. If they can hear the safety going off, that is the only warning they are going to get. Don't want a 00 greeting? Stay out of my house.

Jillian wrote:
November 17, 2011

Nothing beats the semi-auto....the time it takes you to pump, you could be dead...within a split sec...semi-auto shotguns are the only way to go...

Sean..... wrote:
November 11, 2011

Having read the current posts, I have to agree with Kerr Mudgeon. Anyone with any sense who hears the sound of a shotgun being racked and sticking around is really stupid and deserves to be eliminated from the gene pool. My wife who is 68 has a Mossburg 500 with 00 knows the stopping power it provides. She also thinks a 20 gauge is good for snakes outside the house. For a 20 gauge, I think it is way over priced....

Jared wrote:
November 11, 2011

Dang Bob, I wouldn't think she would be with a 14 foot barrel. Just kidding

Regor wrote:
November 11, 2011

I believe in in the Tim Taylor view point the more horse power the better. We used 12ga pumps in Nam, the more lead the more dead ! Now for a youth or woman with little gun savvy, probably better than a 12ga pump

Nate wrote:
November 10, 2011

If you're going to have two different gauge shotguns be careful not to mix them up with the guns. Your wife's 20 ammo will fit in your 16. As it lodges in the barrel and you fire a 16 -no more fun.

EdC wrote:
November 10, 2011

This is a great-looking shotgun for lighter and recoil-sensitive shooters. I'm definitely intrigued for use by my wife. Although she currently uses a 590SP this could possibly be "hers". Re: Racking Sorry but if you pick up a gun to deal with an intruder, the point isn't to scare them away with the sound of racking a rd. If that is what you want to pretend you are doing, then put a siren and push button control in your hand. Push the button.

Bill wrote:
November 10, 2011

Re Kerr's comment, seems to me that one has to rack even a semi-auto to get a round into the chamber. So there goes the disadvantage, I think.

Michael wrote:
November 10, 2011

Sam, you should look at the Mossberg 930spx... you won't be disappointed.

Dale wrote:
November 10, 2011

I like everything but, the price. However, in todays market the price is comparible to others on the market. May have to buy one.

Steven T wrote:
November 10, 2011

Does someone manufacture a tactical type light?? Most home invasions happen after dark and handling a shotgun and flashlight simultaneously is next to impossible.

Sean wrote:
November 09, 2011

I enjoyed this article. It makes sense to use 20 gauge and semi-auto. I am one who has not fell into that trap to buy a 12 gauge tacticl pump-shotgun. It just didn't appeal to me, I like semi-auto bu Banelli's are expensive. I appreciate the Mossberg offering of this sa-20. I only wish the capacity was higher, like 8 rounds versus 5. Thanks

Bill pPorter wrote:
November 09, 2011

Thanks for data on this weapon. Going to look at for my home. Keep up the good work.

Kerr Mudgeon wrote:
November 09, 2011

Drawback is that manual racking often serves as an effective deterrent that makes shooting unnecessary, and this is lacking in the case of a semiautomatic weapon.

Bob Millaway wrote:
November 09, 2011

It will be perfect for my wife to have when I'm on the road. Mine is a Rem 870 16 ga. with 14' barrel and pistol grip stock. She isn't comfortable with it.

Harvey Harris wrote:
November 09, 2011

IThis shotgun was available for $350-$375.oo I would order one immediately. My Remington 870 is no longer useable for me as I am 86, have a right shoulder pacemaker. Unfortunately my strength has caught up with my "Want too being greater than my can do"