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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Christmas is approaching and I’m certain there are guys out there who are in search of a soft shooting compact 20 gauge for their better half, or their kids. I ran into this situation myself this year. I have an 11 year old girl, a 7 year old boy, and a petite gf who all wanted a shotgun this year.

I needed to find a 20 gauge with a 13” LOP or shorter. It had to be as light as possible, and I wanted a gas operated autoloader that can cycle 7/8oz 1200fps loads to minimize felt recoil. I tried a Mossberg sa-20 years ago, but it would not cycle light loads. I did consider the A400, but it’s too pricey, and I’ve also witnessed 2 that would not cycle light loads.

That left me with 3 options. I purchased all three this year. I made a thread on another forum about them, but thought others on shotgun world may also be in search of a good compact 20 gauge for youth and women, so I created this thread. I’ll copy and paste my reviews of the guns on here. They are long, so bare with me lol.

The three guns I purchased are:
Winchester SX4 compact 20
Weatherby SA-08 compact 20
Beretta A300 Ultima 20
Wood Musical instrument accessory Hardwood Knife Air gun
Wood Musical instrument accessory Hardwood Knife Air gun
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
Measurements of the SA-08 vs the SX4:

SA-08:
Total length 42.5”
Lop 12.75”
Weight 5lbs 12oz
Trigger pull 6lbs 14oz

SX4:
Total length 43.75”
Lop 13”
Weight 6lbs 12oz
Trigger pull 4lbs 14oz

I don’t have any high brass or steel loads to break the guns in and I’m unable to find any in my area at this time. I have a few hundred rounds of target loads in stock, so 7/8oz loads are all that’s been shot through either gun. Neither have had enough rounds put through them to be considered broken in yet.

My impressions on both guns:
I’m not a trigger snob as it pertains to shotguns. Neither trigger weight, travel, nor how crisp a trigger breaks has ever affected my ability to hit what I’m shooting at. However, I’ll humor those who are interested in this information.

There is quite a bit of travel in both triggers before the trigger breaks. The trigger on both do break crisply once reaching the end of the travel. I have to admit, even though I don’t find trigger pull all that important on shotguns, the trigger pull weight on the SA-08 is likely too heavy for my 7 year old to pull. I will most likely have to get the trigger pull lightened. I’d appreciate any input from anyone who owns an SA-08 on what I can do to lighten it without taking it to a gunsmith.

Rounds can be pushed into both magazines smoothly. It is slightly easier to load rounds in the SX4 though.

The bolt on the SA-08 is easier to pull back, even though the charging handle on it isn’t oversized like the SX4. The bolt on the SX4 is pretty stiff.

It took 8 shots before the SA-08 would cycle. Once it did start cycling, the ejection isn’t what I’d call positive. Most rounds fell within 2 feet of me. It eventually started cycling fairly well. I put about 20 rounds through it and it cycled 10 out of the last 12.

The SX4 did better, but not by much. It cycled 12 out of 15 rounds, stove piping the other 3. The ejection was much better with spent shells landing 6 feet away. I have no doubt both will cycle more reliably after a few hundred rounds are out through them.

The rounds I was using were Winchester universal 7/8oz 1200fps 8 shot. Neither gun offered much felt recoil. I had no problem crushing clays with either of them, but I found it easier to get a good sight line with the high rib on the SX4. I believe the low rib on the SA-08 will be better for my son’s smaller frame, however.

I cannot allow my son to shoulder the SA-08 yet, as it’s a Christmas gift for him. I will ask my gf to put some rounds down range with both guns, get her thoughts on which one is more comfortable to her to shoot, and post her opinion. She has a small petite frame similar to my middle daughter.

My final thoughts:
There aren’t many options for 20 gauge youth model gas operated autoloaders for under $1000 to my knowledge.

The Mossberg SA-20/Tristar Viper G2 gets a lot of hype, but my experience with the SA-20 was not positive. The manual instructs not to shoot loads lighter than 15/16oz. The issue I have with that is those loads are not available on the shelf… 7/8oz loads are the standard target load for 20 gauge in the U.S. I have no use for an auto loader that will not cycle 7/8oz loads at all. I put 2 full boxes of 3” steel shot through the one I had, and it still would not cycle a single 7/8oz load.

I believe the SA-08 will be the best option for children ranging from 7 to 10 yoa. It’s a full lb lighter than the SX4 and the lop is .25” shorter. A smaller child should be able to pull the bolt back to the locked position as well. The trigger pull is a bit too heavy for a small child imo, but that can be remedied. At $560 it’s also difficult to beat the price.

The SX4 is a fine choice for children 10 to 13 yoa. The oversized controls, high vis sight, and ease of loading are pluses. The bolt is stiff, but my 11 year old daughter is able to lock it back. It’s priced on the high end at between $800 and $900.

The A300 Ultima will likely be another option. I’m not sure if it will be offered with a 24” barrel, but it can be shortened to a 13” lop, comes with oversized controls, wide rib, high vis sight, a kickoff, and widened loading port for around $750. The weight should also be in the same ballpark as the SX4. I will eventually get one and compare it to my other 20 gauge autoloaders.

I hope this information helps anyone else looking for a youth gun for their kids.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Well today I picked up another 20 gauge to throw in the ring with the Sa-08 and SX4. I finally got an A300 Ultima.

I measured the weight and trigger pull with my Lyman digital trigger scale. Total weight 6lbs 10oz. 2oz lighter than the compact SX4 even though the barrel is 4” longer and the kickoff hasn’t been removed yet to shorten the LOP. The Weatherby is lighter than both at 5lbs 12oz.

The average trigger pull is 4lbs 14oz. There is a little creep, but it breaks crisply. The trigger pull on the SX4 averaged the same as the A300, and the Sa-08 is nearly 7lbs.

I cleaned the A300 and took it out to see if it would cycle straight out of the box. I shot the same federal 7/8oz 7.5 shot 1200fps loads I ran through the SX4 and Sa-08. I only put 6 rounds through it tonight. It cycled all 6 rounds and the bolt locked back on the third shot both times. It took about 75 rounds before the SX4 started cycling reliably, and about 50 rounds for the Sa-08. It’s a small sample size, but neither of the other two cycled all three rounds the first time they were fired.

Loading: The A300 loads like a Beretta. The shells glide into the magazine tube smoothly. The widened loading port did make it easier for me to load the magazine with my large hands. I didn’t have any trouble with the others, but a glove will catch the shell elevator on them if I were wearing them. They do have to be pushed in past the edge of the mag tube to clear the shell catch, but I believe my gf will be able to load it with ease. She was able to load the other two as well, but she found the Sa-08 easier than the SX4 to load.

I will have to remove the kickoff to make it fit my gf, but it was the softest shooting of the three. The SX4 was second, with the Sa-08 not far off. None of them offer much felt recoil with light loads. The true test will be when my gf shoots them with 3” loads. She knows nothing about brands, so there will be no bias. I will update once she has put rounds down range with all three.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
The trigger pull can be reduced on the Weatherby via a new return spring from m*carbo. It should be the same as for the Mossberg but you can inquire first. It is a DIY job for about $15.

Your cycling issues are IMO at least somewhat related to the Winchester Universal ammo. Those are infamous for causing issues with semi autos. The Federal equivalents from my experience are a bit better. I know it is tough being picky right now but the Federal stuff is also available at Walmart.

Try the Federal promo stuff or some other brand if possible before making up your mind on reliability.

Good info. Thank you.

I tried multiple types of low brass ammo with the Mossberg. I just wasn’t a fan of it. I’ve long since gotten rid of it. Thank you for the info on the Weatherby. Is the trigger group similar enough to a Mossberg Sa-20 that the spring will work?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I believe it is but I would check with M*carbo to see if they could make sure. Also, ask on the gunsmith forum and see if anyone here has direct experience with that model. Worst case scenario you order it and it does not fit so you have to send it back. Small expense to try.

Randy also recommends an outfit that can fix it professionally. See below. Good luck!

I appreciate the information. The Briley Bolt handle for a 20 gauge 390 does fit the Sa-08. The Briley bolt release for a 390 will also work with a few modifications. My best friend has done work as a gunsmith and installed bolt releases on my son’s and niece’s Sa-08s.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
I would have been the first to recommend a SA-20 based on my experience with mine.
I bought it for a turkey gun, but broke it in with one box of high velocity loads, and it has never failed to cycle any 20ga factory shell.
It is my loaner quail hunting gun, never anything but 7/8oz loads.

Hopefully the A-300 will prove reliable.
I have high expectations for the A300. The Outlander I gave my daughter now has nearly 7000 rounds through it without a single failure to cycle. I tried breaking in the SA-20 I purchased a few years ago with 3” steel loads. It cycled them fine. I put 2 boxes through it. It would not cycle 7/8oz 1200fps lead at all though. I got rid of it.
It did take around 75 rounds of light loads for the SX4 to reliably cycle, and about 50 for the SA-08, but both have been trouble free since. I didn’t have any heavy loads to break them in with. It will be this weekend before I’m able to put more rounds down range with the A300, but it’s off to a better start than every other new 20 gauge autoloader I’ve had.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Up front, I am a big fan of Beretta but, I think it is weird to have the safety ahead of the trigger. I had a Browning B-80 many years ago with the safety in front of the trigger. At that time I believe the B-80 was built by Beretta. For hunting, the safety was troublesome to operate as birds flushed. I loved the gun otherwise. For what it is worth...
The B80 is basically a Beretta A303. I have no trouble with the safety in front of the trigger. I train with handguns in my line of work and rest my trigger finger outside of the trigger guard until I “go hot”. It was second nature for me to disengage the safety before transitioning to the trigger.

I don’t have any trouble with the safety on the SX4 or my VersaMax either though. Both of them are large enough to disengage with the inside of my trigger finger as I transition to the trigger. The only 20 gauge safety I had any trouble at all was the Sa-08. It’s too small to disengage with the inside of my finger, so I had to adjust my grip to push the safety off with the end of my finger, and readjust to shoot. It really wasn’t difficult to do though. No worse than pushing the safety off on the 870 I grew up hunting with.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I got an opportunity to put some rounds through my 20 gauges today. My daughter’s bf also brought his A400 Xplor to compare with the A300 Ultima before we removed the kickoff from the A300. He uses his A400 as his dove gun, and has about 1500 rounds of 1oz shells through it.

The ammo we were shooting today was: Federal field & target 7.5 shot 7/8oz 1200 fps
Federal ultra clay & field 7.5 shot 7/8oz 1210 fps
Winchester universal 7.5 shot 7/8oz 1200 fps

We attempted 9 shots of the field & target and Universals with the A400 with 6 FTEs, and it failed to lock the bolt back on the last shot every time. We put it down and went to the other guns. It’s a beautiful autoloader, but it’s useless for light target loads. I’ve shot two A400s and neither would cycle light target loads. The A400 is very reliable with 1oz loads or greater.

The A300 cycled all 9 rounds during the comparison. Both were extremely soft shooting, but the A300’s ability to cycle target loads gave it the advantage over the A400. IMO the A300 Ultima is a better 20 gauge.
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
We removed the kickoff from the A300 so my gf could shoot it. I wanted her to put rounds through all three to get her input on which she liked best.

She started with the A300. I gave her 3 rounds, and she loaded it. She had no trouble loading it, but she said it does catch her thumbnail (she has long manicured nails) . I could tell it mounts differently than my other two 20 gauges, because it took her a few shots before she started crushing clays. It cycled all but 1 round for her ( a Universal stove piped).

I gave her the SX4 next. She was able to load it, but mentioned it was the hardest on her thumbnail. I also noticed that the shell has to be manipulated to the right spot before it will slide into the mag tube. It’s not difficult to load, but more difficult than I originally thought. She hit very well with it. We did experience 3 cycling issues out of approximately 40 rounds on the day (all universals).

Finally I gave her the Sa-08. She said it was the easiest to load of the three by far. It didn’t catch her thumbnail at all. She crushed clays with it. It is the only 20 gauge we shot today that did not experience any failures. It cycled all three types of ammo.

Felt recoil:
This was a difficult one. None of them offer much felt recoil with light target loads. My gf is very small, and the Sa-08 has the shortest LOP and is the lightest of the three. She said none of them kicked, but the Sa-08 fit her best.

I have long arms, so all of the guns are way too short for me. With the kickoff on the A300, it was extremely soft. I’m not certain that it has as much to do with the kickoff as the LOP is right for me with it on. With the kickoff removed, I couldn’t tell any difference in recoil between the SX4 and the A300. I noticed a little more felt recoil with the Sa-08, but the LOP is even shorter than the other two.

I’ve now got a couple hundred rounds through the Sa-08 and the SX4, and around 60 through the A300. All three are great autoloaders for youths. When asked which one she’d grab if she was forced to choose, my gf still prefers the Sa-08. Simply because it is the easiest on her nails to load lol.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Agreed, the B-80 was an A303 with a squared off receiver. The safety on the B-80 was just a little round button no more than half of the size of what Beretta uses today. It cost me a couple of grouse or at least that was my excuse. ;)
The older beretta autoloaders had a small safety as well. The Silver mallard 20 gauge is an example.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
You have terrible luck with 20ga auto loaders.
I own a 20ga A400 and it will cycle all factory shells I put through it.
FWIW, I did have a problem with mine, when assembling the gun you need to always push the piston into the barrel hanger before mounting the barrel on the gun.
I put the piston on the rod, then mounted the barrel, when I did this I bent the ring on the piston, and the gun wouldn't cycle correctly, results were same as your picture.
The bend in the ring was very hard to see, borrow a piston and try on you A400, thats what I did and gun cycled fine, bought a new piston and no more problems.
Good luck with your quest.
I have an A300 Outlander that’s been extremely reliable. Including with light loads. I also have an A300 Xtrema, which has the same gas system as the A400. The A400 Xplor we shot yesterday isn’t mine. It belongs to my daughter’s bf. The ring isn’t bent on the piston. He and I are both very familiar with the sequence when reassembling a Beretta. It just won’t cycle light loads. The A400 lite I tried a couple of years ago was the same way. It would not cycle anything lighter than 1oz loads. The Sa-20 (appears to be a copy of the A400 gas system) a lot of members seem to like on here wasn't any better for me.

I have a 390 silver mallard in 20 gauge, and now the A300 Ultima. IMO the gas system is better than the A400 gas system in 20 gauge. I’m not an A400 hater. I think the 12 gauge models are some of the best waterfowl autoloaders made today.
 
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