August 05, 2021
By Robert W. Hunnicutt
I have been asked many, many times to recommend a shotgun for the new shooter. Often, the aspiring shotgunner had their eye on an over-under. My usual response was to direct them toward the Remington 1100. It was equally usable, I would say, for any sort of hunting or competitive discipline. Parts and accessories were widely available, any local gunsmith worth his salt could work on one, and resale value was assured.
More importantly, in a time when the alternate choices were guns like the Beretta 686, Browning Citori or Ruger Red Label, the good old 1100 was a lot cheaper. That part of the equation ain’t necessarily so these days. The 1100 had a suggested retail of $1,201. (They’re not currently manufactured.) This month’s subject, the Mossberg Gold Reserve Sporting, can be had for $983. There are still plenty of good reasons to select an 1100, but price is not necessarily one of them.
The Gold Reserve is part of a line of over-unders manufactured for Mossberg by Khan Arms in Turkey. Turkish guns have been a great gift to the U.S. consumer, especially in the shotgun market. We should remember that Turkey got a great gift of its own from former President Bill Clinton when he eliminated Chinese competition in this country almost 30 years ago.
I first saw Khan shotguns in the late 1980s, and they were typical Turkish products of the time. Mechanically, they were rough and aesthetically peculiar. There has been, to say the least, a lot of progress since then.
Mossberg’s over-under range is separated into Silver Reserve and Gold Reserve lines. The Silver Reserve shotguns are affordable hunting-oriented guns with simple extractors in place of the Gold Reserve’s ejectors, and with matte-blued finishes on parts like the top lever and triggerguard. You can go all the way functional with a synthetic stocked 12-gauge version at $636, or specify walnut stocks in 12-, 20- or 28-gauge models for just $692.
A lot of our older readers tend to gripe about gun prices these days, but consider that $692 in 2021 dollars is about $220 in 1980 currency. I suspect most of you would have been overjoyed to get something like the Silver Reserve for that much in the waning days of the Carter presidency.
The Gold Reserve models are intended for the owner who primarily shoots sporting competition, and may use the gun for occasional hunting. The metalwork other than the barrels has a natural finish, and that treatment is extended to the parts you can’t see, too.
The frame is attractively and extensively decorated with machine-engraved scrolls, with an inlaid 24-karat gold “M” on the underside in front of the triggerguard.
The Gold Reserve can be had in 12- and 20-gauge versions and in .410, all with 3-inch chambers. A Black Label model with a polished black frame exists with 30-inch barrels, while there’s a Super Sport model with an adjustable buttstock and 30-inch barrels for sporting clays or trapshooting at a remarkably reasonable $1,221. I selected the .410 version for this review.
The Gold Reserve’s action is typical of mid-priced Italian over-unders. The hammers are controlled by sears suspended from the upper tang. When the manual safety button is pressed forward, the pivoting trigger block engages whichever hammer is designated by the shotgun’s Beretta-style selector.
Pulling the trigger lifts up on the chosen sear, releasing the hammer to fire the selected barrel. The block is free to move rearward slightly and returns to engage the other sear. Note, this is a mechanical trigger, recoil is not needed to reset it. If the first shell fails to fire, you can still fire the second.
The hammers are cocked by bars passing down the bottom center of the frame. A cam in the forend iron presses them rearward as the barrels are lowered.
These parts also control ejection. On firing, each moves forward, pressing up on either of the ejector sears. This holds the ejector back against spring pressure as the barrels are opened.
As the barrels are opened fully, studs on the ejector sears engage recesses in the frame, lowering them out of engagement with the ejectors, which then are free to fly rearward, ejecting the empties.
This system is not as fancy as some older styles, but gets the job done reliably. It looks better on the Gold Reserve, thanks to very extensive engine-turning, i.e., jeweling, of the entire polished monobloc area.
Locking is by a Browning-style single underbolt engaging a bite in the bottom of the monobloc. The top lever release is at the bottom left of the standing breech, and is easy enough to activate with a finger when you’re putting the Gold Reserve back in its supplied hard case.
The 28-inch barrels are topped by a .268-inch straight-sided rib. There’s a .094-inch brass bead at the muzzle, but no mid-bead. The side ribs are ventilated, a style that has both supporters and detractors.
The Gold Reserve is supplied with five choke tubes: full (.393 inch), improved modified (.395 inch), modified (.400 inch), improved cylinder (.403 inch) and cylinder (.406 inch). These all have a knurled section that extends about 3⁄8 of an inch from the muzzle. They’re easy to change with the fingers unless you overtighten them, at which point your recourse is to use the supplied key. The tubes have color-coded rings at the muzzle end that designate the choke and also protect the key slots. They also protect the inside of your gun case from the slots. The manufacturer is all-in with this system; there are no tick marks at the muzzle to indicate the choke.
The tubes are 2 inches and bored in a conical-parallel configuration, with a cylindrical section about three-quarters of an inch long at the muzzle. This is intended to orient the wad before it exits the barrel for better patterning. This is an upscale feature for a moderately priced shotgun, though the internal polishing will have to improve before Beretta or Browning engineers will be suffering sleepless nights.
The sample guns’ stocks were a straight-grained, medium-brown, Grade A black walnut. Given the decorative scheme of the metal work and the Turkish origin of the gun, I would have expected something with a bit more figure, but it was fine.
Checkering was in a point pattern at 16 lines per inch. It didn’t feel particularly aggressive, but the grasp seemed firm enough, though that might be different in sweaty summer shooting. The thin recoil pad has a hard section at the top for snag-free gun mounting.
The schnabel forend is impressively slim, measuring less than an inch and a half at its widest point. I found the buttstock a bit thick, but one man’s pudgy is another’s comfortable.
I patterned the Gold Reserve .410 with results shown in the accompanying table, and function-fired it with Federal, Remington and NobelSport ammo. There were no failures of any kind.
I intended to use the improved cylinder and improved modified tubes, having never patterned a .410 with the latter constriction, but the instruction manual forbids firing the IM or full tubes with steel shot, which I was using in the form of Federal Steel Game & Target.
Deadline requirements meant that I had the privilege of pattern-testing the Gold Reserve at a brisk 6 degrees. This is hardly a gun you’d normally expect to shoot when more properly dressed for a goose hunt, but that just added some zest to the usual challenge of shooting a .410.
Several other cold-immune shooters joined me to try the Gold Reserve. All were enthusiastic about everything but the trigger. That component registered a pull weight of 61/2 pounds, and was a bit crunchy for the group’s taste. It seemed to have little effect on the results, which were quite good given the conditions. Not too long ago, that pull weight would have occasioned no comment, but we are now so used to even inexpensive guns having good triggers that there is little tolerance for a mediocre one.
Shooters are also getting used to fiber-optic beads just about everywhere, and one would have come in handy on a bright, snowy winter’s day.
Given the Gold Reserve’s economical price, a trip to a qualified gunsmith for a trigger job and installation of a fiber-optic sight would be easy to absorb.
With those exceptions, everyone who shot the Gold Reserve regarded it as an excellent value for the price. If you’d like to spend less than $1,000 on a gun you can use at the sporting course, for preserve pheasants and for early-season dove hunting, you won’t go wrong with Mossberg’s commodities.
Mossberg Gold Reserve Sporting
- Type: Over-under
- Gauge: .410, 3-inch (tested); 12, 3-inch; 20, 3-inch
- Weight: 6 lbs., 8 oz.
- Overall Length: 45 in.
- Barrel Length: 28 in.
- Length of Pull: 14 in.
- Drop at Heel: 2¼ in.
- Drop at Comb: 1½ in.
- Trigger Pull: 6 lbs., 8 oz. (tested), both barrels
- Accessories: Hard case; trigger lock; full (.393 in.), improved modified (.398 in.), modified (.400 in.), improved cylinder (.403 in.), cylinder (.406 in.) choke tubes; choke tube key
- Price: $983
- Importer: O.F. Mossberg & Sons, mossberg.com
- Manufacturer: Khan Arms, Istanbul, Turkey
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