August 2018

Semi-Automatic Shotguns for Ladies: Comparing 20 and 12 Gauges

We tested three 20-gauge shotguns from Benelli, Mossberg, and Browning against a similarly-configured 12 gauge from Remington. Which one will our female shooters pick?

Benelli Montefeltro 20-gauge

The Benelli Montefeltro 20-gauge

In this test we will evaluate three 20-gauge semi-automatic shotguns and one 12-gauge semi-auto with an eye toward finding a scattergun that our female test shooters would like to buy. We included the 12 gauge because of the vastly larger selection of shotshell loads for the 12 gauge versus the 20. If our distaff shooters took a liking to it, a 12 would be a far easier and cheaper way to stay on the range or in the field than the 20 gauges, and we could choose light loads for the 12 that could make the bigger gauge shoot like the 20 in terms of recoil.

Browning Silver Field Micro Midas 011412605

Browning Silver Field Micro Midas 011412605 20-gauge

We could further mitigate recoil by choosing semi-automatic operation, which uses energy from the ammunition to cycle the bolt, so these choices would reduce recoil to some degree over a fixed-breech over/under. Also, to boot, they’d be lighter than a stackbarrel, a test parameter our female shooters put a premium on when we were shopping.

Mossberg SA-20 All Purpose Field 75789

Mossberg SA-20 All Purpose Field 75789

Our first test gun was the Benelli Montefeltro No. 10865 20 Gauge, $1000, the online price at BassPro.com. The Montefeltro line is fairly extensive in the Benelli stable. There are six 12 gauges and five 20 gauges in the current product list, all with 3-inch chambers (which also chamber 23⁄4-inch shells, of course). The 12 gauges come in 26- and 28-inch-barrel models with satin walnut finishes (Nos. 10861 and 10860, respectively for right-hand models; Nos. 10863 and 10864 in left-hand models) and black-synthetic stocks (Nos. 10869 and 10870 in 26- and 28-inch barrels, respectively).

Remington V3 Field Sport Black Synthetic 83401

A 12-gauge semi-auto, Remingtonís V3 Field Sport Black Synthetic 83401. We included the bigger gauge as an option for our female test team because of load availability. Big factors in their preference for the Benelli were the gunís light weight and easy action manipulation.

The left-hand models command a $100 premium above the $1129 list price. The 20-gauge models all have satin-finished walnut stocks. In the case of the Compact offerings, the Montefeltros mirror the Browning Micro Midas described below in offering shorter stock lengths of pull for the 24-inch barrel (No. 10868, which is 43.6 inches long and weighs 5.3 pounds) and the 26-inch barrel (No. 10866, whose OAL is 45.6 inches and dry weight is 5.4 pounds). Compare those dimensions to the full-length stock No. 10867 (which has a 24-inch barrel, a 45.5-inch OAL, and an empty weight of 5.5 pounds) and our test shotgun, the Montefeltro No. 10865 (26-inch barrel, 47.5-inch overall length, and an empty weight of 5.6 pounds). All list at $1,129. In 2012, we evaluated the Montefeltro Combo unit (No. 10832), which comes only with the 26-inch barrel but adds both stock lengths for a list price of $1299.

Remington Game Loads 7/8-ounce lead No. 6s

Our 20-gauge ammos included three 23/4-inch choices. This is the Remington Game Loads 7/8-ounce lead No. 6s.

As we mentioned, our female shooters wanted to keep the weight down on their shotguns, so it’s interesting to compare the 20-gauge 26-inch barrel in our test with a similarly configured 12-gauge model. Both have 47.5-inch overall lengths, but the 12-gauge walnut-stocked No. 10861 weighs a factory list 6.9 pounds, 1.3 pounds more than the factory specs on our test 20-gauge shotgun — making the 12 gauge 23% heavier than the 20 gauge. (Our measured weight for the 20 gauge was slightly higher at 5.8 pounds).

Winchester Xpert Game/Target load 3/4-ounce No. 7s

Winchester Xpert Game/Target load 3/4-ounce No. 7s

Our second 20 gauge was the Browning Silver Field Micro Midas 011412605, $1030 at BudsGunShop.com. It, too, is part of a deep line of shotguns with the Silver appellation. The Silver Field Composite is new for 2018. It’s a matte-black 12-gauge field-style shotgun (011417305, 3-inch chamber, 26-inch barrel, $1000) like the Remington V3 covered later.

Other units in the Silver line include the 3.5-inch 12-gauge Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades field shotgun (011418205, 26-inch barrel, $1140), the 3-inch 12-gauge Black Lightning (011415305, 26-inch barrel, $1140), the Silver Field in 12 and 20 gauge (discussed later), the Silver Rifled Deer model in 12 and 20 gauge (011411321 in 3-inch 20 gauge, $1140), and the Silver Rifled Deer Matte, a 3-inch 20 gauge (011414621, $1200). The Silver Field Micro Midas tested here also has two larger stablemates, the 3-inch 12-gauge version (24-inch barrel 011412306; 26-inch barrel 011412305, both $1070 list), and a 20-gauge 24-inch brother (011412606, $1140 list). We should disclose here that we chose the Micro Midas specifically for its shorter 13-inch length-of-pull stock so our female shooters had one of that length to compare. It turns out they didn’t like it, but more on that later.

Winchester AA Super Sport Sporting Clays 1-ounce No. 8s

Winchester AA Super Sport Sporting Clays 1-ounce No. 8s

Our third 20 gauge was the Mossberg International SA-20 All Purpose Field 75789, $441 at BudsGunShop.com. There are several variations of the SA-20, made in Turkey by Armsan, a collaboration of Kayhan Armsan and ATA Arms. It strongly resembles the A620W by Armsan. Mossberg offers the APF shotgun in three barrel lengths: The 28-inch No. 75771 synthetic stock, the 26-inch synthetic stock No. 75772, and our test gun, the 26-inch walnut stock No. 75789. There are also four specialized turkey guns in the line. The SA-20 in this test has a couple of major advantages: It has a five-round magazine capacity (or 5+1) and it costs hundreds of dollars less than the guns reviewed above it. But it doesn’t give up features to the Benelli or the Browning. It has a 3-inch chamber, ventilated rib, a bead front sight, a selection of chokes, a matte-finish walnut stock (presumably Turkish), and a standard length of pull at 14.5 inches. It weighs 6.5 pounds.

Federal Speed-Shok Waterfowl steel-shot

We also fired a 3-inch load, the Federal Speed-Shok Waterfowl steel-shot rounds, which carried 7/8 ounce of No. 2 shot. The 3-inch load pounded our shooters pretty hard.

We included a Remington V3 Field Sport Black Synthetic 83401 12 Gauge, $670, knowing it was an orange amongst apples. But a trusted female shooter told us that she never recommended that other women get 20 gauges if they intended to shoot well or a lot. She advised us that women could handle a bigger gun, and the availability of more 12-gauge loads were a better deal for them in terms of performance and price. The V3 Field Sport comes in four models; a walnut stock (No. 83420), the black synthetic, our test gun, and two camo units. We wondered if the stock material would make any difference to our lady shooters, who have been offended in the past that manufacturers think that pink in a handgun interests them. No, they say polymer is fine in a concealed-carry handgun, and basic black is suitable for almost any event, during the day or the night. So as well as gauge and frame size, we also were able to get a read on wood versus polymer by including the V3.

Hunter John Shotgun Pattern Target and Charts

On Hunter John Shotgun Pattern Target and Charts, we fired three shots each of 1-ounce No. 8 loads in all four guns, so the number of pellets was the same for the three 20 gauges and the 12 gauge.

How We Tested

Our test rounds for the 20 gauges were 23⁄4-inch Remington Game Loads 7⁄8-ounce lead-shot No. 6s GL206 (($7.29/25 @ MidwayUSA.com); 23⁄4-inch Winchester Xpert Game/Target load with a 3⁄4-ounce payload of #7 steel shot rated at 1325 fps ($8.19/25 @ MidwayUSA.com); and 23⁄4-inch Winchester AA Super Sport Sporting Clays 1-ounce No. 8s rated at 1165 fps ($8.99/25 @ MidwayUSA.com). We also fired 3-inch Federal Speed-Shok Waterfowl Load steel shot, with 7⁄8-ounce No. 2 WF207 2 rated at 1300 fps ($8.99/25 @ MidwayUSA.com). For the 12-gauge, we used 23⁄4-inch Winchester Super X Xpert shotshells with 11⁄8 ounces of No. 6 steel shot WEX12H6 (1400 fps rating; $15/25 @ CheaperThanDirt.com); 23⁄4-inch Remington Gun Club Target Loads with 1-ounce of No. 8 shot and 23⁄4-dram equivalent powder charge GC1218 ($5.99/25 @ Academy.com); and 3-inch Federal Premium Black Cloud steel-shot load with 11⁄4 ounces of No. 2 shot PWBX142 2 (rated at 1450 fps, $21.99/25 @ Academy.com).

On Hunter John Shotgun Pattern Target and Charts, we fired three shots of 1-ounce No. 8 loads in all four guns, so the number of pellets was the same for the three 20 gauges from Browning, Benelli, and Mossberg and the 12-gauge Remington. We prefer to shoot three rounds per target rather than one shell in three targets because it’s easier to see the shape of the pattern with higher pellet density. To count the pellet impacts inside a 30-inch circle at 40 yards, we quartered the circle and highlighted holes with a marker in one hand and a manual clicker in the other, then record the impacts per quarter on the target and total the whole mess. The lead shot nominal pellet count table on the Hunter John target lists 410 pellets per charge, so our target maximum would be 1230 hits per sheet.

23/4-inch Winchester Super X Xpert shotshells

We used three 12-gauge loads. This is the 23/4-inch Winchester Super X Xpert shotshells with 11/8 ounces of No. 6 steel shot.

The Remington 12-gauge IC choke patterned 52%, in between the top of the IC pattern percentage (45%) and the Modified pattern density (55% to 60%) listed on the Hunter John target for that choke. It had a high bias in the pattern, putting 61% of the shot in the pattern above the midline and 39% below. We didn’t see any holes in the pattern.

The Browning 20-gauge IC choke patterned 44%, also near the top of the IC pattern percentage. It likewise had a high bias in the pattern, putting 70% of the shot in the pattern above the target midline. As you might expect, it had several holes in the bottom of its pattern, mainly in the lower right quadrant. Using a light-red secondary 30-inch circle around the pattern edge and estimating the center, we’d say the gun shot 6 inches high and left.

The Benelli 20-gauge IC choke patterned 60%, or the top of the Modified pattern percentage. It was more balanced, putting 54% of the shot charge above the midline.

Remington Gun Club Target Loads

Remington Gun Club Target Loads with 1-ounce of No. 8 shot and 23/4-dram equivalent powder charge. The Gun Club load had the same number of pellets per shell, 410, as the 1-ounce 20-gauge Winchester load.

The Mossberg 20-gauge IC choke patterned 49%, or somewhere between the IC and Modified pattern percentages. It, too, shot high, putting 80% of the shot charge above the midline. It also had holes in the pattern and shot high and to the left.

Because we had to adapt to the guns rather than fitting them, we’d attribute the pattern-location problems to the shotguns’ fit.

Shotgun Fit

Because shotguns don’t have sights, it’s important to make the stock fit the shooter, which means when you bring the gun’s stock to your face, you consistently see the top of the receiver and the top of the rib the same way each time. Variations in the mount location will cause misses high and low mainly, but bad mounts can also throw the shot charge left and right. To fit yourself with a shotgun like the Benelli Montefeltro, use the provided shims and spacers to change the drop, cast, and stock length. It helps to have a friend help out.

Federal Premium Black Cloud steel-shot load

The 3-inch Federal Premium Black Cloud steel-shot load with 11/4 ounces of No. 2 shot.

Check around and see if a local range has a 4-foot-square steel plate or other patterning location. At American Shooting Centers in Houston, there are two target frames on Field 1 where we hang the Hunter John paper targets. Using a tight choke from 16 yards away, the shooter fires at a 2-inch aiming mark in the center of the plate or paper. With the gun down, the shooter raises the shotgun and fires as soon as the target touches her cheek. Repeat this process until a hole appears in the target.

If the shooter is high or low, alter the drop of the stock. If the center is left or right, adjust the cast. To decide how much to change the shims, dial in 1⁄16 inch of change for every inch off center the group is at 16 yards. Generally, most right-handed shooters can use some cast off, or a stock-offset to the right. Lefties need cast on.

Here’s more about the individual shotguns and what our shooters liked, and didn’t like, about them.

Benelli Montefeltro No. 10865 20 Gauge, $1000

GUN TESTS GRADE: A (Our Pick)

Excellent patterns from a full set of chokes and drop-and-cast versatility means this 20 gauge can do a lot of work.

Benelli Montefeltro No. 10865 20 Gauge

ACTION Semi-auto Inertia Driven
CHAMBER LENGTH 3 in.
OVERALL LENGTH 47.5 in.
BARREL 26 in., gloss-blued steel
RECEIVER Matte-anodized black aluminum alloy; grooved topstrap
BOLT-RETRACTION EFFORT 5.5 lbs.
VENTILATED RIB 0.281 in.; grooved
SIGHTS Red bar front, silver bead middle
CHOKE TUBES IC, Mod, F (Crio)
MAGAZINE TYPE Tubular
MAGAZINE CAPACITY (plugged) 2
MAGAZINE CAPACITY (unplugged) 4
WEIGHT UNLOADED 5.8 lbs.
WEIGHT LOADED (3) 6.1 lbs.
WEIGHT LOADED (5) 6.25 lbs.
BUTTSTOCK Satin-finish walnut, checkering
BUTTSTOCK LENGTH OF PULL 14.4 in.
BUTTSTOCK DROP AT COMB 1.5 in., adjustable
BUTTSTOCK DROP AT HEEL 2.25 in., adjustable
BUTTSTOCK PITCH 4 in., adjustable
BUTTSTOCK CAST (off) 0.1875 in., adjustable
BUTTPAD Rubber, 0.5 in. thick
FOREND 1.57 in. thick, checkered walnut
TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT 6 lbs.
WARRANTY 5-year limited
TELEPHONE (800) 264-4962
WEBSITE BenelliUSA.com

Benelli Montefeltro No. 10865 20 Gauge

The Benelli Inertia Driven system rotated the bolt in and out of the barrel lugs. With few components to hide underneath, the forend was slender, the thinnest in the test at 1.57 inches wide.

This was a recent price at BassPro.com. This shotgun holds up to five rounds unplugged and is delivered with three Crio choke tubes in IC, Modified, and Full constrictions. Length of pull as delivered was 14.4 inches, with a 1.5-inch drop at the comb and a 2.25-inch drop at the heel.

The minimum recommended load is a 2.5-dram 7⁄8-ounce load, so naturally we wanted to see if the gun failed to cycle a light load. The Inertia Driven system handled light loads to 3-inch magnums without a hitch. We function-fired some 20-gauge Winchester AA Low Recoil Low Noise Target Loads (minimum dram equivalent, 7⁄8 ounce, No. 8 lead shot) through the Benelli, Browning, and Mossberg, and saw the Browning choke on the load, where the other two functioned with it. (Directions on the box specifically say not to use it in semi-autos because it “may not function the firearm’s action.”)

Benelli Montefeltro No. 10865 20 Gauge

Benelli provided three-screw-in flush-fitting choke tubes and a wrench.

The stock on this shotgun was shaped from handsome walnut to match the forend, and our female shooters praised the checkering on the wrist and forend for helping grip the shotgun during hot Houston days. In fact, they preferred the Benelli’s treatment and feel better than the synthetic-stocked Remington, whose surface had a lot more visible texture than the V3 12 gauge. They said the Mossberg’s grip surfaces were likewise the right feel, with the Browning close behind.

Length of pull was 14.4 inches. Our test shooters liked the longer stocks on the Benelli, Remington, and Mossberg better than the 13-inch length of pull on the Micro Midas. This depends on the size of the shooter, of course, and shooters on this particular team of women were taller than most men.

Benelli Montefeltro No. 10865 20 Gauge

The ventilated rib is stepped and a red-filament bar provides a front sighting element our shooters preferred over the other guns.

Still, they credited the Micro Midas with offering a full-size buttpad, a problem for them in the past. Many shorter, or youth, stocks have a downsized contact area at the butt pad as well, the result of simply cutting off a full-length stock, in which the height of the buttpad gets proportionally trimmed. But in the case of the Micro, the actual dimensions of width, height, and thickness were nearly the same as found on the adult length stocks. It was 4.875 inches tall, compared to five inches on the others. This is important because someone requiring a shorter length of pull may not necessarily be a small person. Full-length buttstocks that have been cut down tend to stab rather than provide adequate dispersion of impact. As with each of our shotguns, the smaller buttstock could conceivably be stretched by mounting a thicker buttpad or even a butt sleeve. Or another option is to choose the Silver Field, which would be configured with an LOP (14.25 inches) more like the others in the test. It comes in a 20-gauge 3-inch-chamber 26-inch model that weighs a factory-spec 6.3 pounds. (No. 011413605).

Benelli Montefeltro No. 10865 20 Gauge

Our female testers appreciated how their hands fit in the groove in the top of the forend and the Benelliís light weight.

The Montefeltro offered a full-length vent rib above the barrel. There was a red filament bead up front and a small silver bead about halfway down. The rib measured about 0.3 inch in width and was horizontally grooved to diffuse glare. The lines were continued into the top strap of the aluminum receiver. Below the barrel, the forend offered a grip groove that ran its full length, which our shooters praised. Also, checkering ran continuously from one side to the other just below the forend groove.

The magazine end cap that ratcheted the forend down onto the magazine tube prevented overtightening, no matter how much the cap was turned. The forend profile was slender, and magazine capacity was four rounds. The Montefeltro employs an aluminum receiver, and the trigger guard was a synthetic plastic. Despite the weight-saving materials in the middle of the gun, the 5.8-pound (unloaded) Benelli was not muzzle heavy. Its point of balance was directly below the bolt-release button. The bolt, bolt handle, cartridge drop lever, carrier and trigger were each chromed in contrast to the black finish of the receiver. In fact, the bolt handle pointed out a major advantage the Benelli held over all the other shotguns: Low bolt-retraction effort.

Benelli Montefeltro No. 10865 20 Gauge

The angle of the Benelliís stock in relation to the bore line can be dropped or cast to the left or right to improve individual fit. The mounting stud is shown locating the stock downward and cast to the right. Rotating and flipping the plate over provided four different positions the shooter could use.

Using a 25-pound spring scale hooked to the bolt handle, we measured the effort needed to rack the bolt back on the Benelli at a low 5.5 pounds. The Remington V3 was next at 9.5 pounds, followed by the Mossberg at 13.75 and the Micro Midas at a hefty 19 pounds. One shooter said, “The Browning is hard to get open. When I gripped the handle with my palm, it marked my skin. The Benelli was super smooth and easy to open.”

The Benelli’s trigger safety was located at the upper right rear corner of the trigger guard and told the gun’s status by feel and sight. Protruding from the right-hand side, the safety was triangular shaped, indicating engagement. With the safety off, the opposite end of the crossbolt was peg-shaped, protruding from the left-hand side of the trigger guard. A serrated cartridge drop lever was located on the right-hand side at the upper front corner of the trigger guard. This could also be considered a safety feature because it gives the shooter the option of transporting the shotgun with the magazine loaded and bolt closed on an empty chamber. Working the bolt will not chamber a round until the drop lever is pressed. This feature also allows the shooter to eject a dud or safely switch to a different load, such as from birdshot to slug or buckshot. Ejecting the chambered round to load the next round from the magazine can be accomplished by pressing the drop lever rather than by pressing the trigger and firing a shot.

Another major advantage the Montefeltro arrived with was a set of shims to change the angle of the stock, cast left or right, or drop up or down. The drop and cast shims were plastic and applied between the receiver and the front of the buttstock. The stock was then slipped over the mounting rod. A steel locking plate coded to match the shim held the stock at the desired angle. A 13mm socket wrench with an extension is a handy tool for tightening down the nut that seats the stock. The Benelli’s stock arrived slightly in favor of the right-handed shooter. The supplied buttpad connected to the stock with a Phillips-head wood screw that was retained with the pad. Additional accessories were a complement of flush-fit Crio choke tubes including Full, Modified, and Improved Cylinder. Also included was a choke wrench.

At the 40-yard pattern board, we learned that the Benelli Montefeltro put 60% of the shot above the target midline through the IC choke. Density was 45%, or about the middle of the IC range on the Hunter John target table.

At the range, our shooters immediately noticed that the Benelli was lighter than the other shotguns. Together with its slender profile, the Montefeltro was easy to point and quick to move, they said. One of the reasons our Benelli weighed less was its Inertia Driven system, which utilized fewer moving parts (bolt body, inertia spring, and rotating bolt head). This likely contributed to the smaller overall weight and easy bolt-retraction effort. In particular, the 6.1-pound (loaded) Benelli was not muzzle heavy at all.

It also resulted in a thinner forend because there was no need to house a gas mechanism. For our shooters, the handling characteristics of the Benelli made the faster shots easier. But until they got accustomed to its weight, matching the speeds of longer-traveling targets resulting in some run-past leads, but that was a temporary problem.

Our Team Said: This is a well-made, fast-handling shotgun. Its light weight makes it easy to carry in the field, and if the shooter matches shotshells to the light weight, she can find comfortable, well-performing hits on practically any target. Yes, the 3-inch magnum punched hard, but physics being what they are, a slim shotgun will kick more. But with a properly fit stock, that negative can be eased as well. Take out some of the pitch and the shotgun pushes more back rather than slapping the face. Once properly fit to the shooter, we think any complaints related to recoil would be minimized.

Browning Silver Field Micro Midas 011412605 20 Gauge, $1030

GUN TESTS GRADE: C

A relatively heavy bolt-retraction effort and a too-short stock didn’t meet the expectations of our testers. There is a full-size-stock version in the Silver line that adult women might prefer.

Browning Silver Field Micro Midas No. 011412605 20 Gauge

ACTION Gas-operated Active Valve System
CHAMBER LENGTH 3 in.
OVERALL LENGTH 45.75 in.
BARREL 26 in. long matte-blued steel; chrome-plated chamber, back bored
RECEIVER Matte-anodized silver/black aluminum alloy; grooved topstrap, semi-humpback
BOLT-RETRACTION EFFORT 19 lbs.
VENTILATED RIB 0.25 in. wide; grooved
SIGHTS Brass bead front
CHOKE TUBES IC, Mod, F (Invector Plus)
MAGAZINE TYPE Tubular
MAGAZINE CAPACITY (plugged) 2
MAGAZINE CAPACITY (unplugged) 4
WEIGHT UNLOADED 6.7 lbs.
WEIGHT LOADED (3) 6.98 lbs.
WEIGHT LOADED (5) 7.16 lbs.
BUTTSTOCK Satin-finished Turkish walnut, Grade 1 wrist checkering, 18 lpi
BUTTSTOCK LENGTH OF PULL 13 in.
BUTTSTOCK DROP AT COMB 1.5 in.
BUTTSTOCK DROP AT HEEL 1.75 in.
BUTTSTOCK PITCH 1.875 in.
BUTTSTOCK CAST None
BUTTPAD Rubber Inflex 1, 0.834 in. thick, hard heel insert
FOREND 1.82 in. thick, 18-lpi checkered walnut
TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT 7.3 lbs.
WARRANTY None written
TELEPHONE (800) 333-3288
WEBSITE Browning.com

Our Browning shotgun was easily distinguished from our other test guns by the satin silver finish on the alloy receiver, an extra-thick Inflex 1 buttpad, and a satin-finished walnut stock. The trigger was gold anodized. The vent rib was noticeably taller than those found on the other 20-gauge test guns, and about the same height as the rib on the Remington 12 gauge. The crossbolt safety at the rear upper corner of the trigger guard was triangular shaped on both sides, and it was nestled into a recess at the rear of the receiver integrated with the contour of the pistol grip. The pistol grip was somewhat flat sided and checkered. The forend was squared off and offered a shallow finger groove beneath the barrel. Checkering on the Micro’s forend was handsome, covering about 180 degrees of the wood side to side continuously. The Mossberg’s forend had side checkering, but it lacked the bottom texture found on the Micro and the Montefeltro. The Remington forend had a texture in its synthetic forend. But the Montefeltro’s checkering was taller than the Browning’s.

Browning Silver Field Micro Midas No. 011412605 20 Gauge

Itís hard to fault the Browning on cosmetics or fit and finish. The wood-to-metal fit was nice all over the gun; the checkering was deep and sharp, and the two-tone anodized finish on the receiver was well executed.

The 26-inch barrel offered a lightweight profile. The vent rib, fit with a brass front bead, was grooved to reduced glare and measured 0.25 inches across. The line of the rib was continued on to the receiver, which likewise featured machined lines cut longitudinally into the top of the receiver. It continued all the way back to where it dropped away suddenly toward the stock. Browning calls this a semi-humpback design.

Each of our test guns arrived disassembled, but all that was needed was to insert the barrel into the receiver, slip the forend over the magazine tube and/or the gas assembly, and screw down the retainer cap. The Browning’s Active Valve gas system was slightly more complicated, probably because its gas operation is more sophisticated. The Active Valve system is selective in how much gas it uses to cycle the action. When firing lighter loads, the valve will capture and utilize most of the gas. When firing magnum loads, much more of the gas will be bled off, reducing felt recoil.

Browning Silver Field Micro Midas No. 011412605 20 Gauge

To assemble the Silver Micro, we began by making sure the push rod was in the proper slot. Viewed from the front of the receiver, the slot was located at about 10 o’clock. The 12-gauge models capture the push rod at about the 2 o’clock position. Next, the gas piston fits into the loop-shaped gas bracket attached to the lower radius of the barrel about 1 foot from the chamber. At this point, it was just a matter of fitting the chamber end of the barrel into the receiver, then applying the forend and screwing down the magazine cap while working against the sleevebar spring. The aluminum cap was checked by a spring-loaded detent consisting of three fingers that extended from the end of the magazine to mesh with grooves inside the cap. We doubt the retainer cap will be able to work its way loose.

Browning Silver Field Micro Midas No. 011412605 20 Gauge

The choke package mirrored the Benelliís selection, with IC, Modified, and Full flush-fit tube Invector Plus tubes, along with a choke key (not pictured).

Extras included a ľ-inch polymer spacer that can be placed between the buttpad and the stock. We added this piece at the request of our shooters. The Browning also arrived with three flush-fit Invector Plus chokes in Improved Cylinder, Modified, and Full constrictions. The Invector Plus chokes were the only ones in the test that had their designations spelled out on the surface of the chokes as well as indication by notches along the edges of the tubes. A flat choke-tube wrench came along as well.

Browning Silver Field Micro Midas No. 011412605 20 Gauge

Hereís one of the two problems with the Browning: The shorter Micro stock didnít fit our female shooters. You can see here how the shooterís face is forward toward the receiver. To shoot comfortably, they had to add a slip-on rubber buttpad. Also, the bolt-retraction effort was too high ó 19 pounds, almost four times the Benelliís effort.

As we mentioned above, the Browning felt too short for our lady shooters, but we recognize how subjective shotgun fit can be. Women with shorter arms could easily have been pushed too far back. Ballparking what that sleeve measurement might need to be, if the woman’s regular sleeve measurement is less than 31 inches, she might prefer the shorter stock. To get a better read on this, it’s worth renting a couple of shotguns with different buttstock lengths at your local shooting range.

Our Team Said: The action was very stiff, and our female shooters instantly figured out that racking the bolt took a lot of effort, which got an immediate downgrade. The stock was too short, and the forend was a little bulkier than the Benelli, and they didn’t like the shape as well, which knocked it down another notch. The grades teetered between B- and C+, but when the price was figured in, our shooters said they wouldn’t buy the Micro Midas when there were other options such as the Benelli and Mossberg.

Mossberg International SA-20 Field 75789 20 Gauge, $441

GUN TESTS GRADE: A- (Best Buy)

Excellent, consistent shooter. Not as nicely finished as the Benelli or Browning, but costs $550 less.

Mossberg International SA-20 All Purpose Field 75789

ACTION Semi-auto, gas operated
CHAMBER LENGTH 3 in.
OVERALL LENGTH 46.25 in.
BARREL 26 in. long glossy blued steel
RECEIVER Matte-anodized black aluminum alloy; grooved topstrap
BOLT-RETRACTION EFFORT 13.75 lbs.
VENTILATED RIB 0.3 in. wide; checkered
SIGHTS Checkered ventilated rib; brass bead front
CHOKE TUBES SK, IC, Mod, IM, F
MAGAZINE TYPE Tubular
MAGAZINE CAPACITY (plugged) 2
MAGAZINE CAPACITY (unplugged) 5
WEIGHT UNLOADED 6.5 lbs.
WEIGHT LOADED (3) 6.65 lbs.
WEIGHT LOADED (5) 6.98 lbs.
BUTTSTOCK Satin-finished Turkish walnut, wrist checkering
BUTTSTOCK LENGTH OF PULL 14.5 in.
BUTTSTOCK DROP AT COMB 1.5 in., adjustable
BUTTSTOCK DROP AT HEEL 1.75 in., adjustable
BUTTSTOCK PITCH 2 in., adjustable
BUTTSTOCK CAST None
BUTTPAD Rubber, 0.46 in. thic, hard heel insert
FOREND 1.6 in. thick, checkered walnut
TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT 6.5 lbs.
WARRANTY Fitted gun case
TELEPHONE (203) 230-5300
WEBSITE Mossberg.com

At 6.5 pounds empty, the SA-20 handled loads from 7⁄8 ounce to 11⁄4 ounce without adjustment. The SA-20 comes in a foam-padded plastic hard case with green buttstock and barrel socks. One of the major reasons hunters, irrespective of gender, choose a 20 gauge over a 12 gauge is the former’s smaller frame and weight. Also, though they may already own a 12, many field shooters wind up reaching for their 20s because the smaller gun is just easier to handle.

Mossberg International SA-20 All Purpose Field 75789

Talk about value added: the Mossberg came with a fitted plastic breakdown case and socks for the two major parts.

Our SA-20 measured 46.25 inches in length and weighed 6.5 pounds. It has a five-round magazine capacity of 23⁄4-inch shotshells. It 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 blue on top of satin-finish walnut stocks.

Included with this shotgun is a matching set of stock spacers. These spacers allow you to raise or lower the vertical position of the stock, arguably the most important measurement after LOP. Each spacer is marked with the amount of drop or rise they will provide. To install, make the gun empty and on Safe. Remove recoil pad (screws will remain in 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.

Mossberg International SA-20 All Purpose Field 75789

Another benefit included with the SA-20 is the set of five choke tubes and tube key, all packaged in a handy case.

Like on the Browning, the 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, we didn’t notice any more recoil with it than with the heavier guns. Also, it pointed very fast, our team said. 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 offered a better sighting plane than did the Browning and Remington, the female shooters said, and it was on par with the Benelli. On our sample, the bolt-release button was easy to work, and none of our female shooters had trouble with the button. However, the bolt-retraction effort was a stout 13.75 pounds, which knocked it down a peg.

Mossberg International SA-20 All Purpose Field 75789

The barrel is stamped ďMade in Turkey by Kayhan Armsan.Ē None of our female shooters were concerned about that.

The stock dimensions were comfortable for most of our shooters, including a Lefty, since there was no cast in the stock. The wrist felt trim in the hand. Also, the pistol grip had a forward flip that increased control of the gun.

Like the other 20 gauges, it wasn’t drilled and tapped for scope mounting like on the Remington V3, and the 20s lacked sling-swivel studs. For a hunting shotgun, the former item is a big plus, since getting drill-and-tap work done well aftermarket is a hassle. Also, not having studs is an oversight for a field gun, we feel. We prefer being able to affix a proper sling. At the minimum, it wouldn’t cost a lot for any of the 20-gauge makers to add a different cap on the front to supply one attachment point.

Mossberg International SA-20 All Purpose Field 75789

The SA-20 had nice-looking wood.

The SA-20 had positive ejection with the low-recoil 7⁄8-ounce load, which is something the Browning didn’t do. 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. As we noted, the forend checkering doesn’t wrap like on the Benelli and Browning guns. The grain of both the stock and forearm were plain, with a mid-tone brown grain. The stock and forearm are satin finished in a tough, clear lacquer. Checkering on the wood appeared to be laser cut, and it was 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.

Our Team Said: The Mossberg SA-20 is a Best Buy. Our female shooters liked the way it shot and that it didn’t cost a ton of money.

Remington V3 Field Sport Black Synthetic 83401 12 Gauge, $670

GUN TESTS GRADE: B+

This gun functioned perfectly and shot well. No complaints about its operation. But our female shooters preferred two others.

Remington V3 Field Sport Black Synthetic 83401 12 Gauge

ACTION Semi-auto, gas-operated
CHAMBER LENGTH 3 in.
OVERALL LENGTH 47 in.
BARREL 26 in. long, black oxide finish
RECEIVER Anodized-aluminum alloy, matte black oxide
BOLT-RETRACTION EFFORT 9.5 lbs.
VENTILATED RIB 0.3 in. wide; grooved
SIGHTS White bead front; silver bead mid-rib
CHOKE TUBES IC, Mod, F (Rem Chokes)
MAGAZINE TYPE Tubular
MAGAZINE CAPACITY (plugged) 2
MAGAZINE CAPACITY (unplugged) 3
WEIGHT UNLOADED 7.49 lbs.
WEIGHT LOADED (3) 7.79 lbs.
WEIGHT LOADED (4) 7.89 lbs.
BUTTSTOCK Matte-black synthetic
BUTTSTOCK LENGTH OF PULL 14.25 in.
BUTTSTOCK DROP AT COMB 1.5 in.
BUTTSTOCK DROP AT HEEL 2.44 in.
BUTTSTOCK PITCH 3.1 in.
BUTTSTOCK CAST None
BUTTPAD SuperCell, 1 in. thick
FOREND 2 in. thick, textured black synthetic
TRIGGER PULL WEIGHT 6.2 lbs.
WARRANTY 2-year limited
TELEPHONE (877) 387-6691
WEBSITE Remington.com

Remington V3 Field Sport Black Synthetic 83401 12 Gauge

At 7.5 pounds empty, the V3 handled 23⁄4- to 3-inch loads without adjustment. Our shooters had no issue with its function or operation. The Field Sport was 47 inches long and weighed nearly 2 pounds more than the empty Benelli at 5.8 ounces and was a pound heavier than the Mossberg. When our shooters hefted the guns side by side, they didn’t like the extra poundage at all.

The V3 has a three-round magazine capacity (23⁄4-inch shotshells), the least of the test. It comes with three of the company’s Rem Chokes and a wrench, but unlike the Mossberg, there was no included gun case. It has a two-year limited warranty.

Remington V3 Field Sport Black Synthetic 83401 12 Gauge

Remington’s VersaPort gas system debuted in 2010 in the Versa Max shotgun. An updated version of that gas system appears in the Remington V3 Field Sport, which is said to be a lighter, sleeker version of older autoloading systems. The VersaPort system is very different than previous designs, with the gasworks sitting directly ahead of the receiver. Small ports are located in the barrel breech. Chambered shotshells regulate how much gas is diverted to work the action. Three-inch loads, for instance, block half the ports, which diverts more gas to operate the gun. Shorter 23⁄4-inch shells uncover all the ports, so less gas pressure enters the operational system. The design leads to a very compact receiver, 8.25 inches in length, and it puts weight between the hands for better balance. That’s compared to 8, 8.6, and 8.9 inches for the receiver lengths for the Mossberg, Browning, and Benelli, respectively. The barrel sports a ventilated rib that contains a small silver mid bead and a larger white bead at the muzzle.

Remington V3 Field Sport Black Synthetic 83401 12 Gauge

Early in the test, our female shooters identified problem areas they had with the V3. It was much heavier than the Benelli and Mossberg guns, lacked stock adjustability, and the stock texture on the forend was slicker than the checkered wood stocks, they said.

A feature the 20 gauges all lacked was that the receiver topstrap is drilled and tapped for alternate sights. The receiver sidewalls have faint lines through the middle, and the left-side receiver carries a “V3 Field Sport” engraving. The middle of the right receiver panel has a quarter-inch wide QR code just ahead of the polymer trigger guard. All the metal and stock surfaces are matte black, and the color tones are very close to each other. The metal finish is black oxide.

While shooting this 12 gauge, we didn’t notice any more recoil with it than with the lighter guns, a function certainly of its weight, but perhaps also the operating system. Also, it pointed pretty well, our shooters said. The trigger-pull weight was 6.2 pounds, and the broad trigger shoe was comfortable, even after extended firing. Another negative, however, was that top of the receiver was plain, while the three 20s had grooved receiver tops.

Remington V3 Field Sport Black Synthetic 83401 12 Gauge

A slick stock texture was one of the reasons our lady shooters weren't in love with the Remington 12-gauge.

The bolt-release button was easy to work, and the bolt-retraction effort was not so bad at 9.5 pounds, which put it ahead of the Browning and the Mossberg in terms of ease of use. The stock dimensions were comfortable for most of our shooters, but there was no utility for adjustment, as on the Benelli and Mossberg shotguns.

Our Team Said: Perhaps the Remington V3 Field was doomed to fail from the outset because it was so different from the 20 gauges. “Fail” is probably not the right word, because despite its differences in weight and texture and cosmetics, our shooters graded the V3 better than the Browning by a wide margin. Perhaps we’ll hold on to it and try it with some other 12 gauges in the future.

Written and photographed by Gun Tests staff, using evaluations from Gun Tests team testers.

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