The 930 is Mossberg’s semi-automatic gas-operated shotgun platform. Available in a wide variety of configurations, it features a 3-inch chamber, drilled and tapped receiver for optics, spacers to adjust the butt stock, and interchangeable chokes. With retail pricing starting under $600 and a competition-focused Jerry Miculek version (93OJM) retailing at $710, the Mossberg 930 represents quite a value compared to other popular semi-auto shotguns like the Benelli M2, FN SLP, and Remington Versamax. Salient set out to bring a level of refinement and performance to the 930 that would stack up with anything else available on the market.
A brief intro about Mossberg 930
Salient plans to offer several packages for the Mossberg 930. First is a tactical configuration with an 18-inch vent rib or 18.5-inch ghost ring barrel, sling attachment points, and side saddle. Next is a three-gun-style setup with a 22-inch vent rib barrel and an eight-round magazine tube. And the third is designed for competitors shooting open division with speed loaders, red dot optic, and a longer barrel and magazine tube. All variants will receive Salient’s long list of shotgun modifications, including lightened and coated bolt, beveled loading port, welded lifter, trigger job, polished and tuned internals, new springs, Teflon-coated follower, extended magazine tube, magazine clamp with rail and OD attachment, and stippling throughout. Gunsmith Rob Melhorn – also responsible for the Man Mountain Engineering shotshell caddies popular amongst three-gunners – has a long-standing reputation for building customized shot- guns, and he brings his talents to bear on Salient’s production line.
The bolt machining is done by CNC, but the rest of the work is done by hand. All control and handling surfaces have been thoughtfully worked over, with stippling painstakingly applied to the stock, forend, and safety. Stippling is actually the most labor-intensive aspect of Salient’s work, and the company went so far as to hire graphic artists to do it in a functional but also attractive and consistent manner. Even the very tip of the trigger shoe has been rounded and polished to take down the sharp corner on the stock trigger.
The shotgun handles nicely – at 7 pounds, 12.5 ounces, it’s about 3/4 pounds heavier than a Benelli M2 but lighter than some others. It also shoulders and points intuitively, though the butt-stock was such that none of our shooters could get low enough on the gun. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the stock spacers available to make adjustments. Unlike the crossbolt safeties on most other shot-guns, Mossberg’s sliding safety is located at the top rear of the receiver, making it convenient and ambidextrous but not as well suited for a pistol grip stock, if that is your preference.
Mossberg’s 930 ammo testing
The wide variety of available ammunition is one of the greatest strengths of the shotgun, but it also poses a challenge to semi-auto variants. The Mossberg platform features a dual gas vent system that allows it to handle 2-3/4- and 3-inch shells with varying loads. Salient leaves the robust gas system alone and tunes and polishes everything around it. We tested a broad selection of ammo in the Salient, including an incredibly light, low-recoil and -noise, minimum dram, 26-gram eight-shot load that Winchester warns not to use in semi-auto shotguns at all. To our surprise, it ran perfectly and felt like we were shooting a 10/22. We tried all sorts of birdshot, full-power buckshot, tactical low-recoil buckshot, full-power slugs, and reduced-recoil slugs; they all ran with boring reliability, even as our shoulders began to ache.
The only issue we encountered was with a deer load – a 3-inch cylinder of kick-ass from Winchester propelling 15 pellets of 00 buck downrange, while delivering a Mike Tyson blow back to the shooter. It ran fine until we discharged the last round when the magazine tube was empty, whereupon the tail end of the release lever jammed itself underneath the lifter and locked up the action. It was easily cleared, but we found we could reproduce the jam with an empty gun so long as the bolt was not locked back by simply pushing up on the lifter far enough that the release lever would pop out and bind, with both the Salient and a stock Mossberg 930JM.
Note that such a jam could not occur while rounds are in the tube, since the next shell would be on the lifter and prevent it from flipping up high enough to get stuck. Another benefit of the gas system was that the Salient was a soft-shooting gun to our shoulders, not quite as soft as an FN SLP or Versamax – and the light-ened bolt contributed to noticeably quick cycling. We tried various courses of fire, and it was a delight to shoot. The Salient transitioned quickly and easily between targets, swung nicely for clays, and during some grin-inducing mag dumps on some pepper poppers, we achieved split times as low as 0.13 seconds between shots limited by our own abilities, not the gun.
The extended mag tube pictured on our pre-production gun holds eight rounds and is made by Briley; although Salient intends to fit Nordic Components parts to its production guns, along with a Teflon-coated follower. A lot of 12-gauge ammo is actually only a hair over 2-1/4 inches in length. But some loads, such as buckshot, stretch longer. This can have the result of making what you thought was an eight-round tube into a seven-round tube.
It’s always a good idea to know for sure how many rounds of the different types of ammo you use will fit in your shotgun. The Salient still swallowed eight rounds of Rio Royal full-power 1,345-fps 00 buck, which are more than 2-1/2 inches in length. Occasionally, those who affix an extended mag tube to their shotguns may experience followers or shells binding, particularly at the joint; Salient polishes and deburrs the inside of the mag tube with a purpose-built jig to ensure reliable feeding.
Our Salient featured a 22-inch vent rib barrel with a fiber-optic front bead. Vent rib barrels are well suited to instinctive shooting and moving targets – there’s a reason that you consistently see these types of barrels on well-worn competitive and hunting shotguns. They are less commonly seen on tactical shotguns, but give it a try – you might like it. Slug performance is also an important factor for those who intend to use their shotgun for duty or certain types of hunting and competition.
Ghost ring sight setups, popular on tactical configurations, can be adjusted to match point of aim (POA) with point of impact (POI). Vent rib barrels don’t typically have a rear sight reference, making it trickier to shoot slugs and more dependent on practice and consistency. Three-gun competitors tend to prefer vent rib barrels, and given the often difficult slug targets that they are expected to engage, many will test various different brands of slugs to find the best performer or even end up bending their shotgun barrels to adjust the POI. The Salient passed this test with flying colors, putting several brands of slugs exactly where we aimed. We were easily ringing 6-inch steel at 50 and 75 yards with it, straight out of the box. Chavez explained that the company test-fires every one of its shotguns during production and swaps out barrels, if necessary.
Note that the sight plane of the Mossberg’s vent rib is at the same level as the top of the receiver, so unless you are planning to affix an optic, you would need to remove the Picatinny rail pictured in the photos. You don’t always hear folks talking about shotgun triggers, but it does make a difference especially when shooting slugs. The Salient’s excellent trigger broke crisply with a light pull and a slight bit of over-travel. It measured a little more than 4 pounds on our Lyman gauge. The big surprise to us was that the 930JM model from Mossberg we had on hand felt great, too, at just a couple ounces heavier with no over-travel, due to an adjustable setscrew. Salient noted that it is considering adding an over-travel adjustment to its trigger, as well, and intends for the production trigger pull to come in at less than 4 pounds.
As another testament to the wonders of OCD – and yes, OCD is a wonderful trait to find in your gunsmith – Salient fabricated a shim for the trigger group to eliminate the slop you’ll find in a stock gun. With limited magazine capacity, keeping your shotgun fed is a critical aspect of running the gun effectively for defensive or competitive situations. The 930JM features a moderately beveled loading port and trimmed forend, which makes it a little easier to load, but the lifter is stock and unless you have meat puppets for hands or meticulous form, you will most likely mangle your thumb at some point when trying to load at speed or under stress.
Salient opens the loading gate more aggressively; welds, polishes, and hand the lifter; and tunes everything to make loading as smooth as possible. Depending on whether you load with your left or right hand, Salient will make further tweaks, as well. The gun was indeed easy and smooth to load, whether one at a time or using three-gun techniques like loading two or four at a time The spring tension on the lifter was also very light, making it easy to push out of the way.
What we don’t like about Mossberg’s 930
Two factors worked against us, though: The Mossberg’s opening is shorter than other platforms; the Versamax’s, for example, is a huge chasm in comparison. Also, the length and shape of the hand-guard can get in the way. Salient and the 930JM already feature shortened hand-guards, but Salient is investigating more aggressive options. Additionally, the latch that retains shells in the magazine is inset a bit (as compared to a Benelli, for instance) so you need to be sure that you push shells fully into the tube beyond the latch or else the shell you just loaded will pop back onto the lifter. The gun will still function, but you won’t be able to continue loading.
Another characteristic of the 930 platform reared its head here, too. One of the features Mossberg advertises is easy unloading; just push up on the lifter then depress the carrier release button, causing a shell to shoot out of the tube. This is very handy, but the problem is that if you press the button while the lifter is down in its normal position and more than one shell is loaded in the mag tube, they will pop back leaving one on the lifter and another halfway out. The double feed will lock up the gun until you clear it by opening the bolt and pushing the extra shell back into the tube. This won’t happen while you’re running the gun, but it could possibly happen when handling it.
So, what is the price of Salient’s vision of perfection? for the shotgun, as pictured, available either directly from Salient or, according to Chavez, soon via special order from your favorite Mossberg dealer. It’s a lot less than a custom Benelli from Salient or other gunsmiths and more than a stock Benelli M2, FN SLP or Versamax. If your wallet can handle it and you want a high-end custom shotgun that has been fastidiously worked over front to back, with every detail considered and finished like a factory product, you owe it to yourself to check out Salient.