Since anyone that reads this Blog knows I have an affinity for the Mossberg SSI and it seems to be one of the main search topics that bring people to this site I thought I needed to do a more extensive post on it.
Cell phone pic of Jr. on the 30-06 when the Simmons 44mag still topped it
In the late 1990's Mossberg offered for sale a single shot interchangeable barrel rifle, with the model designation of; SSI-One. I'm sure it was meant to compete with the Thompson Center Encore and/or the Ruger Number 1/3. In design it resembles the Ruger and in operation it breaks open like the Encore. Since I was more concentrating on sidearms during the early 2000's than any other type of firearm, I don't believe I was even aware of the SSI-One until sometime in 2003 or 4. Since then I have acquired 3 actions and a total of five barrels.
The SSI stands for "Single Shot Interchangeable" and according to my source at Mossberg it was not the commercial success they hoped it would be and discontinued it in, I believe the spring of 2006.
Availability and Calibers
On-line firearm auction sites GunBroker and AuctionArms each generally seem to average 3-4 complete firearms listed at anyone time, some purported to still be "new in box". Both sites will occasionally have just the barrels new and used in various calibers.
While caliber selection was not as prolific as the TC Encore, Mossberg provided 24 inch barrels in some of the most popular calibers. Possibly other caliber selections would have been added if the firearm had been a success.
The following is a list of the entire line as I know it to be;
.223 in sporting (tapered) or heavy barrel
.22-250 in sporting (tapered) or heavy barrel
.243 in Sporting barrel only
.270 in sporting barrel only
.308 in sporting barrel only
.30-06 in sporting barrel only
Mossberg also manufactured two 12 gauge barrels for the SSI-One.
One is is a ported rifled barrel for slug hunting big game.
The other was designated a "Turkey" barrel. The turkey barrel is similar to the Mossberg 835 in that it is a 12 gauge chamber with a 10 gauge bore. The thought there and research has bore out that allowing the shot to expand into a larger barrel and then choke it made for tighter patterns at longer ranges. This is not a new concept and is reminiscent of the "jug chokes" common in some muzzle loaders clear back to 1800 give or take a decade. The SSI "Turkey" barrel uses the same Ulti-choke tubes as the 835.
Both 12 gauge offerings are chambered to accept 2 3/4, 3, and 3 1/2 inch shotshells.
Each barrel also comes with its own fore end. For the heavy and shotgun barrels the fore end is flat to the front end. On the sporting barrels the fore end is of the Schnabel type. (An example of this can be seen in one of the pictures that accompany this article.
Note Schnabel fore end knob of the rifle on the left.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
The SSI-One is not without a few very insignificant draw backs.
As previously mentioned the SSI is the same type of break action as used in the TC Encore, the difference being on the Mossberg the lever must be pulled down instead of squeezed up as the TC requires. It that regard it is not as handy to open for loading.
The "Mossy" SSI 12 gauge rifle broken open
It has been my experience that this has only been a minor irritation at the range. In the field rarely have I ever had the opportunity for a follow up shot so rapid reloading in a hunting firearm has not been a problem for me. The hunted species either fell where they were or even had I possessed a semi-auto they had bounded into thicker cover almost immediately thus negating any kind of follow up shot anyway.
Many SSI owners have complained about the trigger pull being overly heavy. It seems the main contribution to the trigger weight may be a result of the tang mounted safety. When the SSI is broken open it automatically engages the tang mounted safety and resets the trigger and firing pin. Apparently the combination of parts that create those actions have an effect on the trigger pull. (I have not had any of my SSI's apart to verify that, I am relying on what some others, who have delved into the innards, have had to say.)
On all three Mossberg SSI actions that I own I find that the trigger pull is a bit stiffer than it may could be. Having said that I do not find them unbearably so in fact the two that have the most range time have significantly better triggers. This suggests to me that there may be a "break in factor". The SSI was never meant to be a "Sniper" or target rifle.
For many The SSI is a heavy gun. Too heavy to carry when hunting for hours on foot in uneven terrain. On this I will agree. My SSI actions with a scoped sporting barrel installed tops out at just over 8 pounds. Replacing the sporting barrel with a scoped .22 bull barrel and the SSI will weigh in at just over 10 pounds.
Weight is not something I am concerned with as a rule. My hunting does not consist of stalking up, down and around the countryside elevations as I did in the spring of my youth. Now days I hunt mainly from a stand so weight is just not the issue for me it once was.
None of the SSI-Ones come with nor are they drilled and tapped for open sights. This I am sure can be remedied by a competent "Gun Mechanic" for a fair price. Instead every SSI, even those bored for 12 gauge, comes from the factory drilled and tapped for and with a Weaver telescope base. On the rifle calibers the base is of standard mounting. On the 12 gauge rifle barrel that I have the telescope base is "welded" or soldered directly to the barrel. I can only surmise this is to keep the base from being "shot loose" by the recoil effects of 3 and 3 1/2 inch 12 gauge rounds.
The Mossberg is not without it's advantages
The original MSRP for the SSI as I recall was nearly 500 dollars, with additional barrels checking for 279 to 300. I have never seen a complete firearm or barrel go for that much. I have 3 receivers and 5 barrels. Two are 30-06, and one each .223 heavy, .270 and 12 gauge rifled. If MSRP had been paid it would have easily totaled over 2000 dollars tax included. I shopped around and I have less than half that invested in the inventory listed above and 2 of the complete firearms and one of the barrels was "New in the Box unfired".
In all my shooting of the SSI and the writings I have read by others that own or have experience with the firearm accuracy has not been a complaint. As stated before it is not a target gun and it most certainly was not designed to be a military grade sniper rifle.
Most shooters, myself included have not only been able to keep 3 to 5 shot groups under 1 1/2 inches at a hundred yards on any given day, we consistently shoot groups an inch or less. I have yet to fire my .270 barrel but my 30-06 sporting barrels and .223 heavy barrel from a solid bench rest all shoot under an inch at the century yard mark. Others have reported like experiences with their SSI's as well.
Any firearm can be more finicky that a house cat when it comes to what they will digest. Having only shot Remington Express Core-Lokts with the 125 grain Reduced Recoil, 150 and 165 grain bullet offerings in the 30-06 barrels I assume that I was fortunate to find an excellent round for my SSI's right from the start. I am especially great full as I prefer Remington Core-Lokts over any other factory loadings I have tried. They are available virtually any where, I have used them for years and simply put; They get the job done.
Remington advertises the Reduced Recoil round as having the same energy at 200 yards as the 30-30 does at 100 with the recoil of a .243. Considering that we have only shot about a box and a half (30 rounds) of the 125 Grain Reduced Recoil loads and they do not seem to shoot as tight as the 150 and 165 grain. They tend toward the 1 1/2 mark from the 1 in 10 inch twist 30 caliber barrel. Not bad for a mass produced off the rack hunting rifle.
From the 24 inch .223 heavy barrel, with a 1 in 9 inch twist, I have found that the 67 grain Hollow Point offering from Ultra (50 rd boxes from Cabela's) will put all rounds touching or in one ragged hole at 100 yards. Due to the rate of twist I have not had that success with any of the 55 grain FMJ factory offerings. The 55 grain leans hard toward 1 /1/2 to 2 inches at the same distance.
I initially used 2 3/4 inch Remington 1 ounce Copper Solid slugs to sight in the 12 gauge Rifle barrel. Although I thought they did extremely well for a "shotgun", I felt the firearm was capable of better accuracy than what I was seeing. Since the barrel is chambered for 3 1/2 inch shotshells I reasoned that the slug on leaving the shorter hull "wobbled" a bit before it entered the throat and rifling. This jump from the end of the hull into the rifling can and does effect accuracy.
After stepping up to the same slug in the 3 inch offering, to reduce or eliminate the "jump" I consistently experience 3 shot groups around the 1 1/2 inch or smaller mark at 100 yards.
Ne Years day 2007 my buddy Brad in Oklahoma shot one of my SSI's with the 12 gauge barrel and from a benched rest had 3 shots touching at 100 yards with the 3 inch Copper Solid 1 ounce slugs the very first time he shot that firearm.
I have had suggestions of other brands of slugs to try that may or may not be more accurate and one day I might even try a box (5 rounds) of Remington's 3 1/2 inch Copper Solid. I am not recoil sensitive, but I am not a glutton for punishment either, I just do not think there is any gainful advantage for justifying the extra cost of those mini mortar rounds. At the time of this writing a 5 round box of 3 inch Copper Solids goes for 12-14 dollars a box. The 3 1/2's are even more.
Not to be confused with accuracy, shootability is how comfortable a firearm handles and comes to shoulder. The SSI for me is a better fit than many more expensive factory or custom long guns I have been fortunate enough to own or shoot. The length of pull is perfect for me and when I shoulder the SSI's it comes to my cheek exactly where I want it to be.
As my brother James is right handed and left eye dominant, the Mossberg SSI is truly an ambidextrous rifle. Since the action works exactly the same from either side the tang mounted safety is simply frosting on the cake.
At this point all I can speak from is my experience and my experience alone. I have swapped barrels on my SSI-Ones and found that they will hold their zero no matter which action I put them on. I believe this is because the telescopic sights are rigidly mounted directly to the barrel. Where the barrel points so does the properly mounted and adjusted scope. Once the scope is zeroed for the barrel it is on it will shot to that point of aim, plus or minus a click or two, on all 3 receivers/actions unless something breaks or gets banged around pretty hard.
Note: I generally always sight my hunting rifles at 100 yards and a click or two at that distance is never more than a one inch adjustment sometimes a half inch depending on whether the scope is one click = 1/4 or 1/2 inch at 100 yards.
What I won't do however, is take to the field without double checking any barrel change on the range. I do not suggest anyone else do it either. The harvesting of a living thing is much too important not to insure a properly sighted firearm. As safe ethical hunters we owe it to the creatures we pursue to take them as quickly and humanely as possible.
In the field
Since I have began "collecting" the Mossberg SSI I have had the opportunity to use it in the field on numerous occasions. So far I have taken 3 deer with the 12 gauge rifle barrel and a wild hog with the 30-06 barrel and one with the.223 barrel.
Two of the deer were harvested in my home state of Nebraska. The third was a Fallow deer taken in Oklahoma. I know the 12 gauge, especially the 3 inch copper solid, is a bit much for the diminutive Fallow, but it was what I had at the time.
The wife and I were out looking for wild boar and she was fortunate enough to bag a nearly 300 pound boar. While we were waiting the customary half hour to go into the thick brush after it a herd of the spotted deer happened by our blind. I guess I could have taken it with her Model 94 30-30, but it didn't occur to me at the time and the delicious little beast fell to the copper solid slug.
Last year in Oklahoma I harvested a boar that weighed in at about 200 pounds. I used a 30-06 barrel to issue a 165 grain Core-Lokt invitation to the Gunscribe dinner table from about 60 yards away. The boar received the request in his left ear and was so overwhelmed with the honor he feinted away dead on the spot.
As noted in a previous post this year I took slightly smaller hog at triple last years distance using the .223 with the same result.
The Mossberg SSI is a sturdy well made accurate firearm designed to withstand the rigors of field use.