Mossberg’s Rugged and Reliable Shotgun

By Bob Campbell published on in Guest Posts, Shotgun Ammunition, Shotguns

My first shotgun was a Mossberg pump-action Model 500. I am pretty certain it came from Kmart, but I remember the shotgun well. I took dove, quail and rabbit with that 12-gauge pump. I have not been without a Mossberg shotgun of some type since.

Although it seems the kick might have been impressive to a 12-year-old, I cannot recall feeling bruised. The shotgun was just the right size with its modest recoil pad. All I ever used were Winchester field loads, with a mix of #6 shot for rabbit and #7 ½ or #8s for birds.

The author's .410 bore Mossberg shotgun with brown wood-grained stock on a gray mottled background.

This is the author’s treasured .410 bore Mossberg shotgun.

Introduced in 1961, Mossberg‘s present version features dual operating rails which are smooth with a reliable and rugged action. The shotgun breaks down easily for cleaning and is a model of simplicity. I remember one of the things that drew me to the Model 500 was the tang safety—located at the rear of the receiver. I liked this better than the push-button safety of most competing shotguns. The bolt locks directly into the barrel. The receiver isn’t part of the equation. It is a simple matter to change the barrel for a specialty tube. Slug barrels and rifled models are available. You can fit the modern 500 with rifle sights or even a shotgun scope.

While it is good to own a specialized shotgun for turkey or deer hunting, the plain-vanilla Model 500 with a spare barrel or two will do anything needing done in the shotgun world. With a short riot gun barrel of 18 to 20 inches, the home defense type shotgun barrel makes for a fast handling and effective problem solver.

Two Winchester slugs with red casing and silver shot showing effective loading on a mottled peach/gray background.

The Winchester slug, in .410 bore, is a credible and effective loading.

However, one of my personal favorites at this time is the little 24-inch barrel .410 version. A few years ago, I had a portion of respect for the .410 cartridge and regarded it primarily as a youth’s cartridge. After testing several hundred .410 gauge shells—including buckshot and slugs—I came away with a different opinion. I can understand the high opinion many old timers had of the .410. The pattern isn’t as wide as a 12 but with a skilled hand, the little gun has a decent pattern, very light recoil, and handles like a dream.

An acquaintance told me he preferred the .410 slug to anything else for keeping coyote off the farm. I was a little surprised when I tested the .410 slug in tissue stimulant. The Winchester slug upsets and sometimes even fragments. It is deadly on coyote-sized animals and the range is less than a centerfire rifle. I was equally surprised by the accuracy potential of the little Mossberg shotgun. This shotgun features a sighting rib with a simple bead, and the shotgun fired to the point of aim at 25 yards. It was simple enough to produce a three-shot group of 2 to 2.5 inches with Winchester slugs. This is an interesting combination to say the least.

As for buckshot, the impression was that .410 buckshot isn’t as powerful as 12 gauge. In fact, the .410 buckshot penetrates just as much as 12 gauge buckshot. While the payload is half, with three or four 000-buckshot pellets compared to 10 with the 12 gauge—the .410 cannot handle the heavier 00—the pattern is excellent from the .410 barrel. The few 000 buckshot pellets penetrate just as much as the same shot from a 12 gauge, they are simply less of a payload. This makes the .410 a suitable home defense shotgun for those who cannot take the recoil of the 12 gauge.

Let’s face it, for the occasional shooter, the 12 gauge with buckshot is a beast to handle and fire. The .410 is docile. You have to know what you are doing, and the .410 easier to master. For most of us, the .410 is a light, handy and friendly little shotgun for all around field use. For big game and duck hunting, the 12 gauge is the choice, and I like this variant of the Mossberg very much.

The Maverick

The Maverick 88 line is the ‘Q ship’ of the Mossberg family. It is similar to the Model 500 but with differences intended to make production more economical and allow the Maverick line to compete with imports. The Maverick uses the cross bolt safety some prefer. As for the heart of the Maverick, it is a Mossberg. Like the Colt 1991A1 and the Springfield GI or Winchester Ranger line, this is a no frills firearm built to sell at an attractive price point. As a truck gun or a youth gun, this is a great choice at a good price.

A Mossberg shotgun with a light brown checked stock on a gray cement'look background.

This Mossberg features nicely checkered wood.

I have used the Mossberg 500 longer than any other shotgun. The pump-action is smooth and the bolt locks up reliably. The tubular magazine never gives any trouble and the shell elevator is a model of good design. The barrel may be quickly changed and the lockup cannot be faulted. I like the original tang safety best although there are those who prefer the cross bolt safety.

If you are among these shooters, the Maverick 88 is a good choice. When all is said and done, the Mossberg is one shotgun that gives you your money’s worth and a little more.

The Cruiser

A shotgun without a buttstock is a neat trick for a truck gun or a house gun. The Mossberg Cruiser would never work if it were a rifle—but the shotgun is made to handle by feel. The shotgun points well and you must learn to keep the shotgun under the arm and control it.

Load the Cruiser with a low-recoil loading such as the Winchester PDX for best results. The Cruiser is reliable and a great problem solver. Shotguns very similar to this one are kept on fishing boats to deal with the occasional large shark that comes in to the fish, and a shark snapping at the crew on the deck isn’t easily thrown back into the sea! The shotgun is decisive and doesn’t tear the deck up badly. The 12 gauge is often kept at ready at the zoo just in case. Why? The 12 gauge is a great problem solver!

Mossberg has something for everyone, from the inexpensive Maverick to the well-appointed field guns. Take a hard look and you will find a great value.

Have you used a Mossberg? If so, share which model you love and why in the comment section.

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Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooter’s Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.

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