A pump action shotgun is one of the most reliable and versatile weapons ever made. The Mossberg 500 series may well be the best pump shotgun that you can buy. Some may argue that boast, but in my experience, I stand by that statement.My last Mossberg model 500 is pictured below:
All members of the Mossberg 500 family are built on an aluminum receiver, and feature twin action bars for certain operation even when the gun is getting roughed up.
Wait, aluminum? Why not steel?!
There’s a good reason for this, not the least of which is it makes the gun lighter overall and less expensive while yielding plenty of strength in the bargain.
Though the receiver is aluminum, note that the bolt to barrel lock up is steel-on-steel meaning you aren’t sacrificing anything in the way of strength or safety where it matters most.
Consider too that shotguns, in the grand scheme of things, are low pressure firearms and the choice of aluminum for the receiver just makes sense.
Another advantage the 500 and successors have over competing shotguns is that it features hefty, chunky twin extractors ensuring reliable extraction no matter the conditions and no matter the ammunition used.
The 500’s longest running and most popular competitor, the Remington 870, utilizes only a single extractor that in stock form is a little lacking in fortitude should anything go wrong or conditions take a turn for the worse.
Another perk of the 500 compared to lesser shotguns is that the ejector is easily user replaceable, being held in by a screw that mates directly to a threaded hole on the interior of the receiver.
This makes replacing what is usually a tricky to access part a simple affair even for someone who is barely trained. Ejectors are not an entirely common source of failure for most pump shotguns but any broken part is a showstopper on a combat weapon.
This attitude of easy installation and maintenance continues elsewhere in the design philosophy receiver with the trigger group being easy to remove with a minimum of fuss and even the shell stops that hold loaded shells in the magazine.
Considering the popularity of the Model 500 and its subsequent variants this makes it an excellent choice for preppers since it is so easy to work on, even compared to other major brands.
Even the magazine tube is user a replaceable with a little care, though you must use caution to avoid tweaking the receiver. The magazine tube threads directly into the receiver, and requires no solder or other semi-permanent methods to secure it in place.
The 500 is simply a tough shotgun that is easy to maintain for the average shooter!
500 vs. 590: What’s the difference?
Before we go any further, it will be helpful to clear up some common misconceptions about Mossberg’s 500, and specifically some confusion around it and its highly similar cousin the 590. These guns are almost identical and share an identical manual of arms and nearly identical performance in every regard. What’s the difference between these two stablemates?
The bottom line up front is that the principal difference between the 500 and 590 is in the design of the magazine tube and specifically how the barrel mates to it.
The 500 utilizes a magazine tube that has a threaded hole designed to accept a screw-on the barrel lug that is held captive. This screw threads directly into the center of the magazine tube at the front. Note that the lug on the 500’s barrel does not encircle the magazine tube.
The 590 however utilizes the more popular and common ring or hoop-shaped barrel lug that fits around the magazine tube and is secured by a thread-on cap. The magazine tube of the 590 is open at the front and closed by an insert that prevents the magazine spring and follower from overrunning the end of the tube when this cap is removed.
What does this mean for model 500 owners? Simply it means that you cannot easily increase the magazine capacity by threading on a typical magazine extension.
You’ll have to replace the entire magazine tube itself and then equip the gun with the appropriate length barrel to mate the two together and secure it to the receiver.
This is a bit of a pain! Take heart, though, because a capacity of 4 or 5 rounds is entirely adequate for a shotgun in almost any circumstances.
It is also worth noting that one common misconception between the 500 and 590 is that the 590 features a steel trigger housing and other heavy-duty upgrades.
This is not uniformly true as only the 590A1- the upgraded, beefy version of the 590- features this metal trigger housing along with a heavier barrel and even a bayonet lug.
Military History of the Mossberg Model 500
The Mossberg 500 series shotgun is the only pump shotgun to pass the rigorous testing (Mil-Spec3443E test). This test requires the gun to handle three thousand rounds of full on 12 gauge buckshot through the gun, non-stop, without fail. I feel sorry for the guy that had to perform the test. I bet his shoulder will never be the same.
The variants that are fielded by the U.S. Army are the 500M MILS and the model 500 MILS. These variants have no plastic parts (the civilian version has a plastic trigger guard), and also has a heavier barrel than the standard model 500 Mossberg.
While these shotguns have performed flawlessly in combat for the military, the M500 is being phased out, to be replaced by the M26 Modular Accessory Shotgun System. The new guns are designed to mount under barrel like the M203 and M320 grenade launchers, or optionally, as a standalone weapon (hence modular system).
Introduced in 1960 by Mossberg & Sons, the 500 series shotgun is offered in 12 and 20 gauges, as well as .410 bore. The Mossberg model 500 is currently offered in many configurations.
You can buy one that is wearing beautiful wood furniture, set up with a 28 inch vented rib barrel with adjustable choke, for versatile hunting options. You can buy one wearing a camouflage pattern polymer stock, with a 28 inch full choke barrel for turkey hunting.
You can also buy the “combo” package. That is the gun with an extra barrel and 3 chokes. You usually get the 28” vented rib barrel with 3 chokes and an 18” rifled slug barrel. With this setup you can hunt squirrels, dove, duck, geese, turkey, etc.
Then you just swap the barrel to the rifled slug barrel, and go hunting for deer, or anything else you can kill with a 12 gauge slug.
The one pictured below has the rifled slug barrel in it with a 4 power scope. The 28” vented rib barrel is under it. You can see the vented ribs on the top of the longer barrel and see that the slug barrel has none.
Or my personal favorite, you can go the tactical route (or as I like to say, tacticool), and buy the 20” open choke barrel (or the more proper term, cylinder bore, which means the barrel tube inside diameter is the same diameter as the cylinder and there is no taper or closing of the barrel).
I like the open choke because you can fire slugs through it with no modifications or worries that the choke will interfere with them. Even though the barrel is not rifled, it is possible to get good, accuracy and range using modern rifled slugs.
That’s right; the slug has its own rifling that grips the smooth inner surface of the bore, spinning it and affording it much greater accuracy! Using these slugs (and some good sights!) it is possible to nail accurate shots on a man-sized target at ranges of 100 yards or so.
While nowhere near as convenient for the purpose as an actual rifle, and producing pretty punishing recoil, these slugs greatly increase the flexibility of the humble pump gun; a great asset for preppers!
Another popular tactical variation is the Model 500 “Persuader”. This version is a 20 inch cylinder bore barrel with a pistol grip-only configuration. This configuration is intended for home defense or any other point-blank use.
The pistol grip makes the gun far more maneuverable in a close-quarters situation, but you’ll be giving up lots of practical accuracy in the bargain. A specialized gun for specialized purposes, to be sure!
With this configuration you just shoot from the hip, literally, or raise the gun more or less to eye level before taking a quick sight picture and firing. This is a bit perilous for the uninitiated!
The one of mine that is pictured in this article started life as a persuader. I didn’t care for that style so I built it suited to my tastes. I accomplished this by changing the pistol grip and factory forend, and added a few more goodies.
The parts I used for the conversion were:
- Blackhawk M4 style adjustable butt stock with combat grip
- Blackhawk forend
- Limbsaver recoil pad
- Side saddle six round extra shell holder
- Blackhawk vented barrel shroud with ghost ring sights
- Single point quick detach sling
Mine also has the full length magazine tube so it holds 7+1 rounds for 8 shots total. With the 6 in the sidesaddle at the ready, that’s a total of 14 rounds of 12 gauge mayhem at the ready. Granted, that’s not as much firepower as my Saiga 12 was, but it still feels good in the hand. The picture above shows the 6 round side saddle fully loaded.
The M4 style adjustable stock and combat grip make shouldering and controlling it a breeze too. Totally controllable and easily aimed, the ghost ring sights give an excellent sight picture:
The picture above shows the vented barrel shroud, and ghost ring sights. These are handy when you are experiencing heavy use and the barrel gets hot.
The shroud prevents you from suffering a burn should you touch the barrel. It also protects those near you if you were to accidentally bump your buddy on the arm with the barrel he won’t get burned.
It was no light weight though, loaded down like that. It must have weighed about 10 or 12 pounds. That doesn’t sound like much when you think about weight, but trust me, for a gun that’s pretty heavy. I didn’t mind though, the weight helped keep it under control.
While the Mossberg model 500 is not exactly an expensive gun, it can still be difficult for some people to shell out $350-600 for a shotgun. For those who may fall into that category, I say fear not, there is hope. Mossberg also makes a lower priced, “economy” version of the model 500 called a Maverick Model 88 by Mossberg.
The Maverick Model 88 is usually priced around $230 new. A used one can often be found for about $150-200.
They are virtually identical to the Mossberg model 500 with the biggest difference in operation being the deletion of the ambidextrous “tang” safety of the 500 and 590 lines for a more traditional cross-bolt button. Most Model 500 accessories fit the Model 88 if you chose later to customize your home defense shotgun.
The Maverick Model 88 is also offered in a 28” vented rib hunting configuration as well as an 18.5” home defense model, aptly called the Maverick model 88 Security. It is a 20” barrel, full length magazine tube that boasts 7+1 rounds of 3” 12 gauge home defending beast.
I have owned both of these shotguns and actually, the Maverick 88 has a feature that the Model 500 doesn’t have. On the model 500 you have to manually squeeze the trigger for every shot that you fire. The Maverick 88 lets you fire more rapidly.
This is possible because all you have to do is keep the trigger squeezed and when you rack the slide back and eject the shell, when you rack it back to the forward position the next round is chambered and fired. This little feature speeds up rapid fire considerably.
Now, some people might say that this is a bad thing, a negative point on safety. But to them I say remember your fundamentals, KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER UNTIL YOU ARE READY TO FIRE. If you follow this safety fundamental you won’t have to worry about accidentally shooting yourself in the foot or blowing your friends head off.
Actually, there is a funny video on YouTube that shows a guy blow a hole in his ceiling because he forgot his fundamentals and had his finger on the trigger when he racked the slide on his shotgun. I’m not sure but I think his might have been an Ithica model 37.
DON’T BE THAT GUY! Always follow ALL safety procedures when handling firearms. Firearms can be dangerous if mishandled. He was lucky that all that was hurt was his ceiling and his pride. Had someone been above him and he had buckshot or a slug in the gun they could have been killed.
Slam firing should only be done in a very safe location. It takes a little bit of practice to do it and keep the barrel down and on target.
I could dump them out pretty darn fast with that Maverick Model 88. I wish the Mossberg model 500 would do it because I do think it is a little sturdier of a gun than the Maverick 88, but I would still own an 88.
As a matter of fact I’ve been thinking about going and getting g a new Maverick model 88 because I actually sold that Mossberg model 500 in the pictures.
I traded it for an NAA wasp .22 magnum combo and a pile of .22 magnum ammunition. I only traded it away because I like to swap and trade so I can get new toys to play with when I get tired of the ones I have. I have several guns that are permanent fixtures in my home, they will never go anywhere.
But other guns I have or have had I get them, I fix or fix them up, I play with them for awhile, then I trade them for something else and do it again. I do kind of miss the 500 though
It is a very good, reliable weapon. If you are searching for a good home defense shotgun or a good shotgun for SHTF, I highly recommend the Mossberg model 500.
Eric Eichenberger is an avid outdoorsman, skilled marksman, and former certified range officer and instructor with nearly 40 years experience handling and repairing firearms.
A skilled craftsman with a strong love for working with his hands, Eric spent 20 years as a carpenter and custom woodworker in high end homes. As a gold and silversmith he has created hundreds of pieces of jewelry over the years using the lost wax casting method.
The grandson of humble country folk, he was raised with the “do it yourself” mentality and so is accustomed to coming up with unique solutions to problems utilizing materials at hand.