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My Mossberg SA-28 Tactical Turkey didn’t make a great first impression.
“What are you shooting,” asked Gray Drummond, “a 12 or a 20?”
“A 28,” I answered.
His head shake and groan were not exaggerated for effect.
Drummond is the owner of Florida Outdoor Experience, a hunting and fishing outfit located an hour and a half north of Tampa Bay, tucked next to the tannic waters of the Suwannee River.
Drummond’s family has owned this land since the early 1800s, running cattle, making moonshine, and otherwise scratching out a living amid the towering live oaks, magnolia trees, and palmetto thickets.
In 2013, Drummond launched FOE, specializing in hunts for whitetails, feral hogs, and my quarry—Osceola turkeys.
Sub Gauge Trendiness
With the recent arrival of a slew of new shotgun wonder-loads, turkey hunters and waterfowlers have taken a keen interest in sub-gauge hunting guns. The lethality of these heavier-than-lead loads, particularly when offered in smaller shot sizes, has motivated some hunters to put their 12s and 20s aside. The Mossberg SA-28 Tactical Turkey was introduced this year to cater to that crowd.
As much as I like cutting edge firearms technology, particularly with respect to precision rifles and modern cartridges, when it comes to shotguns I’m traditional.
Of all the turkeys I’ve killed over the years, the number I’ve taken with something other than a 12-gauge is exactly zero. So I could relate to Drummond’s skepticism.
That said, there has been a lot of compelling data regarding the effectiveness of these loads, and I was curious to see if this Mossberg 28 would deliver the goods.
Mossberg SA-28 Tactical Turkey Specs
- Gauge: 28
- Chamber: 2 ¾ in.
- Capacity: 4+1
- Action: Semi-auto
- Weight: 5 lb. 11.8 oz. (measured with no base)
- Length: 41 7/8 in.
- Barrel: 22 in.
- Choke: Extended Turkey
- Trigger: 5 lb. 9 oz. (measured)
- Sights: Fiber optic front and ghost-ring rear
- Stock: Synthetic pistol grip
- Finish: Mossy Oak Greenleaf
- Price: $902
Patterning the Mossberg SA-28 Tactical Turkey
This shotgun is the new hotness, and there aren’t a lot of samples kicking around right now. I took delivery of mine just days before boarding a plane to leave frigid Montana for the more agreeable Florida weather.
Prior to taking off, however, I was able to get the Mossberg dialed in.
Mounting a Red-Dot Sight
The stock gun comes with an effective set of fiber optic sights. It has a fixed green front post and an orange aperture rear sight that clamps onto the rib. But the receiver is also drilled and tapped for a rail, which Mossberg includes with the shotgun.
I used the rail to mount a Meopta Meosight IV red dot. The Meosight IV is a low profile and lightweight sight (1.15 oz.) that comes with a base that allows it to be attached to a cross-slot Weaver or Picatinny system. With the base and battery installed, the Meopta weighs just 2.2 ounces so it doesn’t alter the shotgun’s balance or handling in any meaningful way.
The sight has a 3 MOA dot that manually adjusts for the light conditions and glass that provides a good clear picture. It has 120 MOA of elevation and windage adjustment, so there’s plenty of room to get the dot centered with the pattern.
It just so happened that the slots on the adjustment dials were a perfect fit for the rim of a 28-gauge, which was a nice bonus.
Quick and Dirty Patterning
To get a feel for how the shotgun functioned I ran half a box of Winchester AA 28-gauge game loads through the Mossberg. In those initial rounds I had one failure to eject. Other than that, the shotgun ran smoothly.
I then shot the gun with that same load—3/4 ounce of No. 7 1/2s—on a shoot-n-c target at 25 yards. My pattern was a bit low and to the right. I made a best guess at the amount of windage and elevation to move it and shot again. My elevation was fine, but I overshot it a bit on the windage. I moved the POI back to the right and my third shot was nicely centered up.
I then put up fresh targets and loaded the shotgun with three of my precious Federal TSS 1-ounce No. 8 shells that are available from Federal’s Custom shop. At nearly 10 bucks each, you don’t want to waste them.
I shot once at 25 yards and those No. 8s left a thick dense pattern in the middle of the target. The recoil was noticeably heavier with the TSS than the AAs and the impacts on the target were a lot more defined than the holes left by the No. 7 ½ lead. It was obvious that the TSS hit harder.
I then stepped back to 40 and 50 yards, shooting once at each distance. The 40-yard pattern was still clearly lethal, but at 50 yards the impacts became more scattered. Perhaps with time to experiment with other chokes—the Mossberg SA-28 Tactical Turkey ships with a single extended choke marked “turkey”—I could get the TSS to tighten up at 50, but as it stood, I was going to keep my shots within 40 yards, which to my old-school way of thinking was still a hell of a poke on a mature tom with a 28 gauge.
I finished the session by running the remainder of my box of 25 AAs through the gun. It cycled them all without any issue.
The one thing I did notice, however, was that the cap holding the fore-end in place would loosen a touch every few rounds. I made a point to check it frequently.
Mossberg SA-28 Tactical Turkey Features
Going back 25 or 30 years ago the shotguns we carried for turkeys looked a lot like the shotguns we used for ducks or upland birds, other than that they were sometimes fitted with specialized chokes. There were some exceptions to this, but the basic profile of a turkey gun was the same as any other general-purpose 12-gauge bird gun. In fact, they were often the same gun, especially for poor, young hunters like me who relied on an 870 to do everything.
But as with evolution, when a specialized niche exists in nature something is bound to fill it. And that’s what’s happened with our turkey guns, which have been refined to meet the needs of hunters yearning to dispel their cabin fever each spring. The Mossberg SA-28 Tactical Turkey incorporates many of the features hunters desire in their “ultimate” turkey gun in its construction.
The Tactical Turkey comes with a camo stock—done in the stylishly retro Mossy Oak Greenleaf—with a pistol grip. The pistol grip is made of rubber with finger grooves that gives a very secure grip. Because the shotgun is so light—with the Picatinny rail attached and the reflex sight mounted it weighed 5 pounds 15 ounces—it is easy to control and support the gun for long periods of time. The shotgun is also easy to wield one-handed in case you need your lead hand to run a call or otherwise mess with your gear.
The controls on the Mossberg SA-28 Tactical Turkey are laid out in a pattern that will be familiar to most shooters who have experience with a semi-automatic shotgun.
The cross-bolt safety at the back of the trigger guard toggles easily from one side to the next and is quiet. The shotgun has a generously sized charging handle that can be manipulated while wearing bulky gloves in cold weather. The bolt release button is located on the right side of the gun just below the charging handle. Though not oversized by today’s standards, it is prominent enough to be able to work in the dark with gloves.
The most important control, of course, is the trigger. By the standards of semi-auto shotguns, the 5-pound 9-ounce break weight on my sample is more than adequate. It has a bit of creep—quite common on such guns—but is by no means distracting. And it is consistent, which makes controlling the shot easier.
When the fore-end is removed from the shotgun it reveals a standard (and proven) gas piston system. Ports located about 9.5 inches up the barrel vent gas into a chamber which contains the piston. Pressure generated by that gas forces the piston rearward driving a pusher assembly with two action bars rearward to cycle the action.
The return spring that sits between the pusher assembly and the receiver gets compressed when this happens. After the bolt completes its rearward travel and the empty hull is ejected, the return spring drives the pusher assembly and bolt forward into battery, assuming there’s another shell to be loaded. If the gun is empty, the bolt and pusher assembly lock open.
This system is soft shooting and requires little in the way of special maintenance other than occasional cleaning.
Mossberg International Vs. Domestic Mossbergs
Officially, Mossberg labels the SA-28 Tactical Turkey as a “Mossberg International” gun. Shotguns in the Mossberg line bearing that name are produced in Turkey, while the others are made in the U.S.
The quality of Turkish made guns can be quite good—especially for the price—which is the reason Mossberg and many other gun companies produce them there. Of course, some Turkish guns are pretty unimpressive too. In my experience, this arrangement works best when the company contracting with a Turkish gun maker keeps close tabs on the quality. One friend of mine who worked for Weatherby back in the day used to fly to Turkey to inspect each gun in every shipment before they were sent to the U.S.
My sample is well made, which is encouraging regarding Mossberg’s arrangement with their Turkish partner.
Read Next: Best Turkey Shotguns
Hunting with the Mossberg SA-28 Tactical Turkey
Forget raucous images of spring break—the land that Drummond hunts is Old Florida. It is unspoiled and largely undeveloped. One blessing is that there are no beaches nearby, which helps prevent the influx of “progress.”
The morning of our turkey hunt was cold, especially by Florida standards. The thermometer on Drummond’s pickup registered 30 degrees as we drove down a dirt road in the dark.
“It’ll warm up by the afternoon,” Drummond said. “And hopefully they’ll be moving by then.”
Turns out he needn’t have worried. Though it was chilly, there was no dampening the ardor of the toms Drummond had roosted the night before.
We sat in a makeshift blind using palmetto fronds with a simple three-decoy layout—two feeding hens and a jake.
Several toms fired off somewhere in the tangle of trees in front of us, responding to hooting owls and some deep booms from distant farm machinery.
Drummond coaxed the birds with some yelps and a few cutts. After flydown, we heard a lone gobbler in the woods behind us and to our left.
Drummond is a run-and-gun turkey hunter, which is my favorite way to chase birds. He grabbed the dekes and we took off down a two-track to close the distance to that solo bird.
We got to a clearing and Drummond slammed the dekes into the sandy ground and we tucked into some brush. His first call was answered by a determined gobble, and he pulled the tom toward us on a string.
After a few minutes we spotted the bird snaking through the undergrowth. As he stepped into the open his head flared blue and red and he spread his fan, giving us a show. When he fixed his gaze on the dekes he moved to them, crossing less than 25 yards in front of us.
I gave him a quick double-tap to the head—one of the benefits of using a gun that barely recoils and cycles fast—and down he went. The No. 8 TSS shot couldn’t have delivered a more decisive result.
What the Mossberg SA-28 Tactical Turkey Does Well
I love how handy and nimble this gun is. We were in a cramped position when the tom came into view and with a longer and bulkier shotgun it might have been difficult to get the barrel clear of the palmettos without getting hung up in the fronds. But the Mossberg’s short overall length (41 7/8 in.) and compact length of pull (12 ¾ in.) make it easy to maneuver.
Its light weight is a blessing too. Though our hunt didn’t take long, I could easily see how enjoyable the Tactical Turkey would be to carry on long forays for Western birds. Its weight also makes it much easier to maintain a shooting position when you have to remain frozen for long periods of time. Anyone who’s ever had the shakes when keeping the muzzle of their 12-gauge from dipping knows what I’m talking about.
And as I alluded to, the Mossberg SA-28 Tactical Turkey gets high marks for its shootability.
What It Could Do Better
The fact that the end cap on the fore-end keeps getting loose after just a few shots is an annoyance. I’m not sure what the cause of that is, but I’d probably try swapping the cap with a new one to see if that fixes the issue.
One other thing to bear in mind is that 28-gauge TSS ammo isn’t overflowing on the shelves of your local big box Mart. You’ll need to turn to specialty outfits like the Federal Custom Shop, Apex, Boss and Rogue to find these shells.
Read Next: Best Turkey Loads
Final Thoughts on the Mossberg SA-28 Tactical Turkey
I’ve always enjoyed shooting sub-gauge guns on upland birds. Carrying a trim and well balanced 20 or 28 while in the company of bird dogs is one of life’s supreme pleasures.
With the arrival of denser-than-lead shot there’s no reason turkey hunters can’t partake in the sub-gauge experience as well—and the Mossberg SA-28 Tactical Turkey is an ideal tool for the task.
Despite all the hype concerning TSS (some of it justified), this shotgun is no long-range hammer—at least as it came out of the box. As long as a hunter can respect the limits of the 28—which as I said on mine is about 40 yards—this new Mossberg is a fun and capable option.