Hardware: Mossberg International SA-28 Tactical Turkey

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posted on May 8, 2023
Hardware Mossberg International SA 28 Tactical Turkey Lead

Mobile turkey hunters don’t like to be bogged down by a heavy shotgun. That’s one of the reasons manufacturers that build turkey-specific repeaters and break-actions have moved away from walnut and steel shotguns to synthetics—composite stocks and fore-ends are lighter. But the problem with a lightweight 7-pound 12-gauge turkey shotgun is it typically doesn’t handle recoil well. That makes it difficult to be precise when a gobbler struts into range.

As you touch off a 2-ounce payload, the explosion can cause the muzzle to rise above your intended target because the gun is so light. It’s also difficult to remain steady as you squeeze the trigger, particularly if the pull weight is heavy. In response to this dilemma, gunmakers are producing more .410-bores and now 28-gauges, like the new Mossberg SA-28 Tactical Turkey. Sure, the guns are lightweight, but so are their shotshell charge weights, which makes recoil more manageable, and the guns are inherently more accurate and more enjoyable to shoot.

Mossberg International SA-28 Tactical Turkey shotgun facing right on white background.

When it came to testing and patterning, the loads I chose for the Mossberg SA-28 included a Federal Top Gun ¾-ounce No. 8 target load and a pair of tungsten super shot (TSS) offerings: Apex 1⅜-ounce, No. 9’s (1040 fps) and a 1-ounce, No. 9 (1100 fps) from Federal Premium’s Custom Shop. I patterned the SA-28 on 35x35-inch pieces of butcher paper from 40 yards with each of the three shotshells, starting with the light target loads to see where the gun was shooting before graduating to the more expensive TSS. 

Using the ghost ring and front fiber-optic sights, the Mossberg shot an even 50/50 pattern with all three ammo selections from a Lead Sled. Pellet strikes were even and dense inside the 10-inch circle, plenty capable of killing a tom. I shot each load five times, then mounted a Leupold DeltaPoint Pro to the Picatinny rail and repeated the process. I sighted in the reflex red-dot with the target loads, and then moved on to the TSS. The SA-28 produced the same 50/50 patterns.

Since turkey season was still months away, I stapled turkey targets to a large plywood board and sat on the ground, using my truck tire as a backrest to mimic leaning up against a tree as you would in a hunting scenario. Shooting from 40 yards, I started by using the DeltaPoint Pro, taking two shots each with the TSS. Then, I removed the optic and did the same with open sights, which were as accurate for me as the Delta. But I was also shooting in the early afternoon when plenty of sunlight was available. 

Mossberg International SA-28 Tactical Turkey shotgun ghost ring sight.

At dusk, I performed the same test because many shots on longbeards can take place in low light. In this instance, it was much easier to acquire the target with the reflex sight. I wasn’t any less accurate when I switched over to the stock sights, but it did take me longer to find the target inside the ghost ring. 

The SA-28 has a fixed 13-inch length of pull, so you cannot make any stock adjustments unless you slip on an aftermarket recoil pad. I didn’t find that a hindrance, because it’s fairly easy to aim a short-stocked sub-gauge shotgun. Of course, it’s a light 5.4-pound autoloader, so keeping it steady for long periods of time took more focus. I sat on the ground with the Delta Pro mounted, trying to keep the red dot settled on the head of the turkey target for as long as I could. I also dry-fired the Mossberg multiple times, using the same hold point to see if the red dot moved at all when I pulled the trigger. In both instances, I was able to keep the SA-28 on target, but I imagine it would not be as easy when a longbeard gobbles and my adrenaline goes up. 

Due to the heavy recoil turkey loads produce, testing turkey shotguns is one of my least favorite endeavors. But the gas-driven SA-28, which uses a piston that slides over the magazine tube to work the action bars and drive the bolt, mitigates recoil extremely well. Shooting the 1- and 1⅜-ounce Federal and Apex shotshells felt more like a round of skeet. That’s because the Federal load generated just 21.3 ft.-lbs. of recoil energy and Apex produced 33.1, very close to the 24.9 ft.-lbs. of energy a 1⅛-ounce load with a muzzle velocity of 1300 fps creates when shot from a 7½-pound shotgun.

A rubber-molded pistol-grip gives shooters better control of this 28-gauge. I like to rest the fore-end of a shotgun on my knee in the turkey woods for a steady mount. And if a longbeard comes into range, the pistol grip allows you to maneuver the gun with one hand, a nice feature if a tom surprises you and a quick shot is required. 

Mossberg International SA-28 Tactical Turkey fiber-optic front sight.

Mossberg is known for tang-mounted safeties on all its shotguns, except for the SA series, which uses a cross-bolt safety. Left-handers will have to reach across the trigger group to take the SA-28 off safe, or a gunsmith can perform an aftermarket fix to accommodate lefties (you won’t be able to do it yourself because the safety is not reversible). The safety is a bit loud when you slide it over, which could spook a wary tom, so give it a good workout and lubrication before the season starts.

There is an oversized bolt handle that makes it easy to load the SA-28, especially in the dark. You can slip a shell into the chamber and ease the bolt forward by grabbing hold of the handle as well, so the action won’t make a sound when it shuts. There is no bolt lock button. Just pull the bolt back and it will stay open. The trigger group is held in place by a single pin, and was simple to drop out and re-insert when I field-stripped the gun.

The entire SA-28—except for the pistol grip and trigger group— is finished in an old-school Mossy Oak Greenleaf camouflage. You have to add the Picatinny rail yourself, which requires unscrewing four small screws in the top of the receiver. Be advised the two included Allen wrenches do not unscrew those screws. You will need your own set to do so.

If it was legal to hunt with a 28-gauge in my home state of Illinois, I doubt I would ever kill another turkey with any other shotgun than this dainty Mossberg. It’s light, accurate, produces little recoil and costs $900. A 12- or 20-gauge can certainly produce a denser pattern at distance, but when you shoot turkeys at ethical yardages, the SA-28 will get the job done and then some. (Check state regulations to make sure the 28 is a legal gauge to hunt turkey within your state.)

Technical Specifications
Type: gas-operated, semi-automatic shotgun
Gauge/Chamber: 28 / 2¾"
Capacity: 4+1
Barrel: 22"; vent rib; interchangeable chokes
Trigger: 4.4 lbs. pull weight
Sights: adjustable fiber-optic ghost ring rear, front fiber-optic pipe; drilled and tapped; Picatinny rail included
Safety: cross-bolt
Stock: synthetic; Mossy Oak Greenleaf; LOP 12.75"; drop at heel .94"; drop at comb .85"
Metal Finish: Mossy Oak Greenleaf
Overall Length: 41.5"
Weight: 5.4 lbs.
Accessories: Picatinny rail, extended turkey choke
MSRP: $902; mossberg.com

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