The versatile semi-automatic is the mainstay of many shotgun shooters. The 12-gauge remains the most popular, but with the high-tech 20 gauges and ammo available today, this delightful medium-bore is making serious inroads.
An excellent example of a modern 20 is the Model 920 from CZ-USA manufactured in Turkey by Huglu. The M-920 is a reliable gas-operated semi-auto with some spiffy features that set it apart.
The first thing to catch your eye will be the stock. An attractive and futuristic flute runs from the comb to the toe on each side. The pistol grip sports a large area of checkering on each side. The forend has a similarly angled finger groove at its top, with panels of checkering below. This checkering is unusual as its diamonds are slightly flat on top. It's well executed, looks good and the gun feels great in the hand. The long, tapered magazine cap has slightly angled grooves that provide a good grip when removing or replacing it.
In addition to the model designation, the receiver has a bright, white stripe etched on each side for a classy look. The trigger group is easily removed by drifting out one pin, and the bolt handle and other innards are likewise a breeze to service.
Like almost all gas-operated autos, the M-920 bleeds powder gases off through ports about mid-way in the barrel when fired. These gases act on a piston that starts the action bar back, pushing the bolt rearward, ejecting the fired shell, and compressing the recoil spring housed in the buttstock. Pulling the trigger also activates the carrier release, and a round is released from the magazine tube. As the recoil spring pushes the bolt forward, the carrier lifts the fresh round up in front of the advancing bolt, and it's chambered quickly.
Loading and unloading are made easier by the unique design of the carrier mechanism. Shells can be inserted into the magazine only with the bolt forward, and the chamber can be loaded two ways. With shells in the magazine and the bolt closed, press the "carrier release lever" at the base of the carrier. This releases a shell from the magazine and parks it on top of the carrier. Then fully retract the bolt, and let it zoom forward, chambering a round.
The second way is to push the aforementioned carrier release button, and lock the bolt back. Drop a round into the chamber, and press the bolt release button on the right side of the receiver. Then load the magazine, if desired.
This design also makes it easy to remove a round from the chamber and replace it with a different load without disturbing the ammo in the magazine. You have to hold the bolt back while doing this, as the bolt will not lock back when retracted unless that cartridge drop button is pressed.
Cleaning the M-920's barrel is easy, thanks to the glass-hard chrome-lined chamber and bores. Plus, having the recoil spring in the stock makes the magazine tube a snap to clean. The valve or piston, however, collects carbon fouling like crazy, so it's four-ought steel wool and Hoppe's No. 9 to the rescue for it. The plug supplied to reduce magazine capacity to two is easy to install or remove.
The M-920 is chambered for 2¾- and 3-inch shells, and shoots them all interchangeably with no adjustments. I tried to get it to jam, to no avail. It gobbled up every load I fed it, from 7/8-ounce target loads to 3-inch magnums loaded with 1¼ ounces of shot. It won't, however kick out super light ¾-ounce loads.
The M-920 is first and foremost a shooter's gun, so shoot it I did. With the improved cylinder tube in place, no clay target within 30 yards was safe. With the modified tube, I hit sporting clay targets as well as I do with any gun, including a 12.
By happy circumstance, the Missouri spring turkey season opened right after I received the M-920.
Fortunately on my 40 acres, I essentially hunt in the front yard, so I set up a makeshift blind about 100 yards from the house, and put out a hen decoy. I saw gobblers every morning I hunted, but none ventured within range. (No, I did not try to call turkeys. It is embarrassing to see a grown turkey lying on his back, kicking his feet in the air, laughing hysterically.)
On the third day, a gobbler flew down from his roost above the creek, and landed about 75 yards away. After displaying, he casually ambled off. Rats, I thought; opportunity lost.
Suddenly from behind came an obscenely loud and lusty gobble that was so close that it scared the dickens out of me! Slowly, I swiveled my head around enough to see two gobblers walking toward my hide. Fortunately, the M-920 was lying across my lap, pointing to the left. I raised my gun, but the back turkey must have seen me move, because he swapped ends and started walking away.
But the lead bird was behind a cedar tree, oblivious, and proceeded on. Soon his head was covered by the green glow front sight of the M-920. At 15 yards, the outcome was never in doubt. I had the improved modified tube in the M-920, and it was loaded with Federal Premium "Heavyweight Turkey" loads with 1½ ounces of #7 "Heavyweight" shot, a tungsten-based product that is 35% denser than lead. It was "bang, no flop." The gobbler weighed in excess of 25 pounds, and had a 9½-inch beard. He was fine eating, too.
All in all, the new CZ Model 920 performed like a champ on the target range and in the turkey blind. It came to the shoulder in a wink, swung smoothly, had mild recoil, and hit what I shot at. I have to admit that I really like this gun. I don't need another 20-gauge shotgun, but if I did, the M-920 would certainly be high on the list.
Model: CZ Model 920
Action type: Gas-operated semi-automatic, shoots 2¾- and 3-inch shells
Gauge: 20 (tested), also available in 12-gauge as the Model 912
Capacity: 4 + 1, magazine plug supplied
Trigger pull: 8 pounds, 3 ounces
Barrel length: 28 inches, raised 8mm ventilated rib, "Green Glow" fiber-optic front sight, 3-inch chambers, .615-inch bore, chrome-plated chambers and bores
Chokes: Flush-fitting, five supplied: cylinder, improved cylinder, modified, improved modified, and full
Overall length: 48½ inches
Weight: 7 pounds, 1 ounce (as tested)
Safety: Cross-bolt behind trigger
Stock: Select Turkish walnut, machine-checkered forend and buttstock, ½-inch solid rubber recoil pad with snag-free heel,
Stock dimensions: Length of pull, 14 inches; drop at comb, 1.5 inches, drop at heel, 2¼ inches, slight cast-off for right-hand shooter
Metal finish: Receiver, black anodized aluminum; barrel, matte black chrome
Stock Finish: Semi-gloss