This over/under’s finish, fit, function and price are right on target.
Whether standing in position to bust some clays or tromping through a field behind a pack of dogs, over/under shotguns perfectly fit the mold in both looks and usability. No other type of shotgun looks better broken open over the shoulder, and its versatility to customize shot and spread quickly can’t be beaten.
Unfortunately, over/under shotguns typically have price tags that match their features and beauty—one of the many reasons shooters should consider one of Mossberg’s new over/under shotguns.
Despite the pandemic, or perhaps because of it, Mossberg introduced a feature-driven over/under for folks to get outside with a beautiful shotgun they can actually afford: the International Gold Reserve.
What’s best about this shotgun is that it’s not just some value-priced shotgun. It comes standard with many features found on much-higher-priced guns: fine checkering, blue-polished barrels and walnut stocks.
Of course, this gun has even more features that just continue the value out of the box.
In the Hand
The Gold Reserve comes in a nice, plastic case in two pieces; this is pretty much standard for over/under shotguns. Along with the shotgun, the case holds a choke box, choke wrench, a manual, two safety pamphlets and a slightly better-than-standard trigger lock, which goes right along with the upgraded qualities Mossberg put into the Gold Reserve.
Now, a machine probably placed the checkering on the wood, rather than the hand-checkering of fine doubles in the past, but the Mossberg machine did a fine job on both the forearm and buttstock. The checkering is consistent and provides an excellent grip. It’s both attractive and functional—which pretty much sums up the entire gun.
“Two shooters spent most of the day trying the Gold Reserve out on skeet, five-stand and sporting clay ranges, with more than 300 shells slapping the buttstock against shoulders—and turning orange disks into fragments and dust.”
Another feature is the wood, which is a grade-A walnut that’s typically better than what usually comes on a double of this price. The wood on this gun just feels good, without that “plastic” texture of many wood guns today. Also, the color is a rich brown that actually reveals the grain in the wood.
Mossberg polished the heavy bluing on the chrome-lined barrels. The result is that they look almost black, especially in certain lights. On top of the barrels sits the standard rib that ends in the usual bead for pointing at targets, with one model sporting a fiber-optic sight.
Of course, the most beautiful and interesting feature of this shotgun is its polished, engraved receivers, available in either black or silver. The engraving is jewel style, with zero imperfections found on the test gun. Mossberg also polished the action release, trigger guard, trigger and safety, providing a nice contrast from the wood and blue of the rest of the shotgun. The underside of the receiver even sports a 24-karat gold inlay of the Mossberg “M.”
Other features include ejectors, a barrel selector in the safety and five extended chokes, ranging from cylinder to full. All of this harkens back to the days when all guns were made exclusively of wood and blued steel, and each one was hand fitted into a piece of art.
The reason the Gold Reserve is so well fitted is because of CNC technology, which can create matching parts with almost zero tolerance. This technology let Mossberg create a shotgun with smooth lines and no edges that weren’t intended. Every part fits where it belongs—smoothly. The testers found, try as they might, that nothing shifted or was out of place.
Considering that no gun is going to be perfect for everyone, the testers did a deep dive into what they would add or change about the Gold Reserve. One suggested a fiber-optic sight option for more models than just the Super Sport; another would have liked to see a second bead for better eye alignment.
MSRP: As tested: $983; $1,221 for the Super Sport model
Features might make a gun look pretty and feel “nice,” but how it handles will always matter most. True; every shotgun is fairly versatile and can be used for a variety of purposes. However, the Gold Reserve is an over/under, meaning it’s mostly designed for flushing birds and busting clays.
Therefore, testing started at Etowah Valley Sporting Clays (Dawsonville, Georgia), on the sporting clays range.
Two shooters spent most of the day trying the Gold Reserve out on skeet, five-stand and sporting clay ranges, with more than 300 shells slapping the buttstock against shoulders—and turning orange disks into fragments and dust.
The Gold Reserve has an excellent swing that provides quick pointing at numerous target variations, from crossing doubles to overhead flushes and more. The extended chokes make swapping for different situations quick and easy, and the barrel selector/safety provides a sure, tactile response when moved. Both only move when desired by the shooter, with the barrel selector working only when the safety is in the “on” position.
The action release was fairly stiff on the test gun, as was the hinge, making the testers think the gun hadn’t been shot that much. However, even after breaking it open around 150 or more times, the Gold Reserve test gun broke open tightly and smoothly and provided a secure lockup time after time. In fact, the gun experienced zero malfunctions throughout the day.
One interesting feature of the Gold Reserve is its mechanical trigger. Most doubles have inertia triggers, meaning that recoil from the first shot engages the trigger for the second shot. However, the Gold Reserve has a mechanical trigger that can trip the firing pin on the second barrel—even if the first chamber is empty or a dud. While this isn’t a big deal when busting clays, it can make a big difference in the real world. Things sometimes “just happen,” and being able to simply pull the trigger for a second shot might keep a quail or rooster from getting away.
“These [dual, 3-inch] chambers can handle pretty much any type of 12-gauge loads, including slugs and buckshot; and just about anybody, even someone with very little experience, can pull the mechanical triggers.”
One thing that surprised the testers is that the Gold Reserve comes with ejectors and not extractors. When the chambers were opened after the first two shots, the shells rocketed over the shoulder to hit the ground about 5 feet behind, and it was hard to remember to cup a hand over the action to catch the empty hulls throughout the day. And, while there are some benefits to ejectors, such as quicker reloading, it was unusual for what many would consider a “range gun.” In fact, one tester just couldn’t get used to it and would end up picking numerous hulls off the ground.
Most shells went through the cylinder and improved cylinder chokes. Nevertheless, the chokes were swapped out a bit just to see how they would handle different situations. Throughout all that, the Gold Reserve performed well and showed its versatility on the range.
Other testing included some shots at a patterning board and a couple of self-defense drills. The Gold Reserve shot as expected at the board, with no significant holes in the patterns—regardless of which choke was used. As expected, as the chokes went up, the pattern tightened, providing longer distances for shots. Choke constriction will always be a matter of a shooter’s preference (and the target). Some prefer open chokes, such as improved cylinder, especially for close-up flushing shots, but others like to “reach out and touch” targets at longer distances with improved modified or full.
The drills performed were focused on mounting the gun and reloading.
Kicking the can involves shooting a can at 7 yards and then hitting it a second time while it’s still moving. A reload drill was included by spreading two cans out a bit and having to immediately fire two more shots. Each drill was performed multiple times. The shotgun pointed great and took out targets with efficiency. The reloading drill was actually pretty smooth, especially with the ejectors kicking the hulls out of the way. The only problem was barrel length: At 30 inches, it felt like swinging a garden hoe in self-defense.
Many people believe shotguns make excellent survival guns. These folks are correct, particularly considering the availability and variety of ammunition. Even in this time of extreme shortages, most stores have a little bit of 12-gauge on the shelves. It might not be exactly what one wants, but it’s still ammo, and prices for it haven’t gone quite as crazy as for other calibers, such as 9mm and .223.
“Despite the pandemic, or perhaps because of it, Mossberg introduced a feature-driven over/under for folks to get outside with a beautiful shotgun they can actually afford: the International Gold Reserve.”
Of course, most folks picture blacked-out pumps or semi-autos with lights, lasers and other gear that might come in handy in a fight instead of … an engraved over/under. There are benefits, however, to having a simple and reliable gun in any situation.
The Gold Reserve opens via a simple level, providing access to dual, 3-inch chambers. These chambers can handle pretty much any type of 12-gauge loads, including slugs and buckshot; and just about anybody, even someone with very little experience, can pull the mechanical triggers.
In fact, the triggers might be the only problem with this gun being used for survival: Basic breakdown of the gun for cleaning is the same as for every other break-action shotgun. This also means that the internal mechanics are difficult to reach for repairs unless one is a trained gunsmith.
However, considering how many of this style of shotgun from years ago are still in use today, the mechanics obviously last for years with very little maintenance. This is a major plus. (And, while it’s an over/under instead of a side-by-side, it would still look pretty cool cut down like Mel Gibson’s gun in The Road Warrior.)
While a shotgun can be excellent for survival, it has a few small flaws—all in regard to ammunition.
Shotgun ammunition is heavy, bulky and difficult to carry in large quantities. In fact, it can also be difficult to carry in small quantities, which is why those planning to use a shotgun as their primary firearm in a survival situation should take a look at a good shell carrier; and, it might not be a bad idea to get multiples.
“Every part fits where it belongs—smoothly. The testers found, try as they might, that nothing shifted or was out of place.”
The Uncle Mike’s Neoprene Buttstock Shotgun Shell Holder has stretchy material that easily slips over any shotgun buttstock to offer access to five rounds. MSRP: about $13.
The Condor MOLLE MA12 Shotgun Shell Pouch easily carries 12 rounds of 12-gauge securely via internal elastic webbing. What’s even better is that you can easily attach this pouch to packs or vests with the MOLLE straps. MSRP: about $15
Shotgunners need to pick up the Safariland 080 Shell Holder. This little holder clutches two shotgun shells right on the shooter’s belt, making it perfect for keeping specialty loads, such as buckshot or slugs, right at hand. MSRP: about $12
Combined, these three shell holders let shooters pack an additional 19 rounds of ammunition to keep within easy access. Whether hunting for food or standing guard, these extra rounds might make a difference for you.
Not Really the Runner-Up
In sporting events, one typically prefers “gold,” but Mossberg also introduced an International Silver Reserve over/under that might make folks take notice of second place.
The Silver Reserve is quite similar to the Gold but comes with select black walnut stocks and forends. The receivers are engraved with the Mossberg logo. It has extractors, instead of the Gold’s ejectors, matte-blue barrels and a five-choke set.
One area in which the Silver pulls to the front is with gauge. The Silver Reserve comes in 28-gauge, along with the 12, 20 and .410 of the Gold. Mossberg also offers both synthetic stock and youth versions in the Silver, all of which are available for under $700.