The term “affordable” is often used in the gun industry as a synonym for “cheap,” but the SA-28 is decidedly not in that category. What you’ll get for your money is nothing less than amazing to me considering competitive offerings that sell for double or triple the price of the SA-28. For starters, the gun looks far better than its price tag would suggest. The barrel, with a full-length vent rib and a single brass bead, is a nicely polished blue, as is the alloy receiver, which is mounted to a satin-finished walnut stock with laser-cut checkering on the grip and forend.

The quality of the wood used for the stock was another pleasant surprise. On guns in this price range, you might expect to see a plain-Jane, straight-grained walnut stock, but the wood on the gun I tested in the field and the one sent to me for further testing were a cut above what passes for a standard walnut stocks these days, and had nicely-figured grain patterns normally found only on guns costing far more. The stock has a slender rubber recoil pad, and that’s all that’s needed given the gun’s mild recoil. A small uppermost section of the recoil pad is actually hard plastic, put is there to help prevent snagging of clothing when mounting the gun to the shoulder.

The shotgun breaks down easily for cleaning and storage in a hard case provided with the gun. A box is provided for storage of the choke tubes, minus the one being used on the gun.

The SA-28 does not come with the usual three choke tubes you might expect, but is shipped with a full “Sport Set” of interchangeable choke tubes, including Full, Improved Modified, Modified, Improved Cylinder and Cylinder. The gun also comes with a nice hard case, gun socks and a plastic box to hold the choke tubes.

Like its SA-20 sibling, the SA-28 operates with a gas-piston that rides back and forth on twin rails to prevent binding, but the 28 is, happily, both lighter and slimmer than the 20-gauge gun. Functionally, the shotgun had no issues, and it ran like a champ for me and everyone else who shot it. Feeding, extraction and ejection of spent shells went off without a hitch over three days of shooting.

Capacity of the tubular magazine is four shells, but the shotgun arrived with a magazine plug in place to limit capacity to two shells in the magazine plus one in the chamber to comply with legal hunting requirements. You can remove the plug by simply unscrewing the magazine cap and pulling the plug out by an end that protrudes slightly from the magazine.

Disassembly for cleaning was a snap. You start by removing the magazine cap and sliding the forearm off. Then hold the bolt operating handle and press the bolt release button, allowing the bolt to slowly travel fully forward, and pull the barrel from the action. The bolt will slide out once you properly position and remove the bolt handle. I initially found it a little difficult to reassemble the barrel to the action. The trick was to start with action closed, slide the barrel partway in, and then pull the action fully to the rear while seating the barrel.

The author put the SA-28 through its paces at Scattergun Lodge in South Dakota, and found the 28 gauge semi-auto to be deadly on birds within reasonable range. The trim shotgun—and the shells designed for it—were a joy to carry on long marches through fields of milo. Weighing little more than six pounds, the gun pointed well, was quick on target and had very mild perceived recoil.

It’s hard to find anything to complain about with this shotgun. If I had to single out anything for improvement, it would be the pull weight of the trigger, which broke at around seven pounds. In the field, however, I honestly never noticed the heavy trigger pull and it didn’t bother me in the slightest. (If you’re pickier than I am about shotgun triggers, you can get a replacement trigger return spring from M*Carbo that’s easy to install and cuts the pull weight by about 40 percent).

Although I hunted with a variety of Mossberg shotguns over three days, including the big brother SA-20 model, I found myself drawn back to the trim little 28-gauge for the final day of hunting, and it didn’t let me down. It didn’t take me long to decide that the cherished over-and-under guns in my safe would have to make a little more room for an autoloading newcomer.

In addition to the all-purpose field model I hunted with, the SA-28 is also available in a couple of Youth Bantam versions that have reduced lengths of pull and shorter, 24-inch barrels. For more information, contact O. F. Mossberg & Sons, Inc.; Tel. (203) 230-5300,: Web: www.mossberg.com