Mossberg and the 20-Gauge Cruiser

Gray haired man in red shirt shoots black Mossberg Cruiser at green and black target

When it comes to smash, the more, the better. I prefer a big-bore handgun, and for hunting thin-skinned game, the .30-06 rifle is my favorite. A 12-gauge shotgun has ridden in the trunk for many years. Then the mild-kicking .44 Special is a nice handgun, and I am a staunch advocate of the far-from-extinct .30-40 Krag rifle. Each is a mild-shooting cartridge and firearm combination with many merits.

My ego is not so overblown that I want to keep hard-kicking firearms so my other half and the youngsters in the family cannot use them. In shotguns, the 20 gauge deserves praise. The 20 is a better—as in more powerful—shell than the .410 and does not kick as much as the 12 gauge, yet has respectable ballistics. The 20 gauge kicks considerably less than the 12, meaning those interested in a defensive shotgun can deploy a reasonable substitute and handle it well. The 20 gauge kicks well over half as much as the 12; do not misunderstand. Yet it does not kick nearly as much (the various formulas are inexact because the weight of the shotgun varies as do the loads).

The bottom line is the gun and shells are lighter and so is the recoil.

Young dark haired woman shows the Mossberg Cruiser at hand...she is pointing it toward the reader
The female shooter often finds the 20-gauge just right.

I have seen illustrations of the 20-gauge, double barrel used by big-city police agencies, which makes a lot of sense. I understand many Midwestern agencies issued 20-gauge pump shotguns. As for the double-barrel shotguns, they did not ride in the cruisers; they were loaded just before officers kicked in the doors. For those who seldom fire a shotgun, the recoil is not startling, and the load is effective at a few feet. The problem with any shotgun for home defense is that it is long and does not handle quickly in that environment.

  • A long-barrel duck gun tracks well, although it does not maneuver well.
  • A short-barrel (18.5 inches to keep it legal), lightweight shotgun is ideal.
Black Mossberg Cruiser with emphasis on the centrally located safety.
The Mossberg’s centrally-located safety is ideal for rapid manipulation.

The Mossberg Cruiser is one such shotgun, with many advantages.

  • Quality of manufacture and a good design lead the pack.
  • It features an ambidextrous safety that is ideally located.
  • The action is smooth, and feed is positive.
  • The dual-action bars are smoother than a single-bar design.
  • The Cruiser version is a pistol-grip shotgun about 29 inches long, and in 20 gauge, it weighs about 5 pounds. That is light, and the shotgun handles like a marvel.

I always have preferred a full-stock shotgun; however, for close-quarters inside a dwelling and as a truck gun, the Cruiser makes a lot of sense. While I always aim, you handle a shotgun by feel. That means you maneuver it into position and fire based on handling.

As for the 20-gauge shell, you must consider energy. After looking at the factory figures, it appears that my 20-gauge Cruiser is producing 1,200 to 1,300 pounds of energy. The 12 gauge produces 1,500 pounds of energy. Now, I do not always count energy in comparing cartridges, preferring to consider actual damage, although it is a valid consideration when comparing payload and velocity.

The .45 auto exhibits about 400 to 450 pounds of energy. The 20-gauge definitely has enough power to do serious damage, with high wound potential. Number-three buckshot contains twenty .25-caliber buckshot pellets. While patterns differ in various shotguns, the Winchester loads we used in this shotgun gave good, tight groupings to 7 yards or so—and that is a long shot in a home.

When all is said and done, the Mossberg Cruiser and 20 gauge are recommended for home defense. The combination is fast handling, powerful and reliable. With plenty of practice and dedication, the pistol-grip shotgun just may be a lifesaver.

If you do choose the type, the Mossberg’s good traits make sense.

What do you think of the Cruiser and 20 gauge? Which shotgun do you own and why? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (13)

  1. I own the 12 Ga. version of the Mossberg JIC II. It has a pistol grip and an 18 1/2” barrel. The base shotgun is the Mossberg 500 Pump-Action. The portable Takedown version of the 500 Shotgun comes with required assembly tools, bead sight and a 5.11 Cordura carry case with shoulder strap.

    The shotgun requires assembly/disassembly if you are going to use the JIC Case for transportation. Assembly/disassembly is simple, and requires removing the pistol grip bolt and the pistol grip.

    The Mossberg 500 Pump-Action JIC II would be a good truck gun, and is compact enough to store in a designated area as a hone defense weapon. The 20 Ga. model may be more suitable for some shooters due to the reduced recoil.

    ATI, Hogue, Magpul, and Mossberg also offer optional butt stocks and forends to enable you to convert the JIC II to a standard Mossberg Pump-Action Shotgun.

  2. I shot pro for many years in all gauge with my Rem. model 32 . My all time highest scores were with my 20 . Pattern kills , not necessarily the gauge . Also my favorite hunting guns are 20’s for every thing .
    I would never have a stockless shotgun and I’ve shot a few including this one made by Mossberg . Reason being , it is easier to stay on target even if you don’t shoulder it ! It may look sexy but sexy doesn’t get with me unless we’re talking Rachel .

  3. Cannot agree more. I have the 20 gauge Mossberg Cruiser and it is the perfect home defense or truck gun.

  4. I’m currently on the hunt for a few “bantam-tacticals” myself. Many of my friends are female and most of my guy friends aren’t shooters. Mossberg ergos are the deciding factor for me. Tang safety and rearward slide release make for faster, safer training in a Katrina-type situation. Not having the lifter in the way makes for easier loading. The only issue is that buckshot isn’t locally available. I’ll have my AR and 590a1 (and others lol), but the 500 in 20 GA is a brilliant solution for home defense and prepping.

  5. The 20-gauge shotgun is, indeed, an admirable choice for survival. With that said, I am not an advocate of pistol grips on shotguns, even when firmly attached to a stock. I have had the experience of a pistol grip breaking in half on a Mossberg 12-gauge while firing slugs for qualification purposes. Luckily, no injury ensued and the only reason for that was a vertical forearm that kept the shotgun from recoiling backward too far, due to my locked-out grip on the forearm.

    A full stock is not an impediment. It can rest against your forearm for “hip shooting” and you can transition quickly to the shoulder if necessary. If you do prefer a pistol grip, I would suggest that an aftermarket vertical forearm be mounted. This allows full extension of the support arm, full support of the forearm, and quick chambering of a new round. With practice, one can learn to ride the recoil for surprisingly quick follow-up shots. Use the vertical forearm to control the shotgun rather than the pistol grip. A pistol grip alone might look sexy but, in my opinion, does not provide full control of the firearm.

  6. When I taught pre-GED at Chino prison in the minimum security area in the eighties one of the correction officers told me that their shot guns had a first round of rubber projectiles that won’t likely kill but hurt like hell. If that didn’t solve the problem it was followed by the real deal. He never specified the size shot and at the time I didn’t think to ask. I’ve often wondered about doing but I’ve never seen them available so mine is loaded with 00 to start with.

    When I had to be a brig chaser as a court orderly after a court martial when a man was convicted I was given a 12 gauge pump and a tube full of 00. I was reminded that if he got away I’d serve his sentence. I often wondered if that was true until I saw a prisoner on a train that had just pulled into the L A station try to squirm through a tiny window in the head and the chaser didn’t hesitate to blow him away. Any present or former MP’s care to comment?

  7. I have a 20g Moss and it is all they say it is short sweet with a pistol grip it works just like I like it to, if it is dark and your in a hallway at home your not going to miss and with a bit of bird shoot for the first shoot your not going to kill the basterd just wake him up for what comes next if he wants to play the 20 will do the job just fine, I use bird shoot my wheel gun for the first shoot or two then then if he want to keep coming good by dummy you lose.

  8. I have owned the Mossberg 20g earlier version of the pump pistol handle gun for well over 17 years. Mine has only one action bar. For several years I lived in the application hills on 18 acres of land with nearest neighbor three miner away. most was wooded.. This gun saved my wife and children many times. when ever out side took it with me. Also carried a berretta 9mm. many occasions killed poisonous snakes that were try to strike my family or myself.(Rattle snakes and copper heads) Even while mowing the four acres on my riding mower had it on my back. One time my kids were circled by a pack of wild dogs. They were growling and ready to attack. Ran out of hour and the gun did its job. Always used 3 inch shells. Now live in Chicago burbs and this gun is next to my bed ready. I am disabled and this gun does the trick. Use the judge as a backup.

  9. I think that the old comment about buying a pump and racking it to scare off an intruder is LONG past and probably was folk lore even when it was derived. Taking a look at the demographics of “common” (and I say that tongue in cheek since there is no true commonality to them) thieves. They have VERY low fear. and very limited on site awareness. Many are drug addicted to they operate out of anxiety. I have had full squads of armed drug enforcement agents fully equipped with full auto weapons pointed at drugged up people and yet they showed NO fear and surely the sound of a racking shot gun would have no effect. The movies have trained us POORLY as to what to do and what to expect in an actual scenario. In reality if you need to pull out your weapon for defense it had better be loaded and ready to fire with VERY limited steps in between decision to use and actually firing the weapon. I agree with Bob once again a shotgun is a good home defense weapon since it doesn’t need as much aiming *one less step in the process) and I also agree about 20G. My wife as many of you know is 5’2″ and tops at 100 soaking wet since my cardiac arrest in ’06 I have bilateral rotator cuff tears and the 12G is simply out of the question. They tear me apart and knock her on her butt. 20G is a great mix of safety and ability to use. Sure we both could likely get one shot of a 12G off but then I would be way to hurting to fire a second of anything and she would have to first find the shotgun after losing control of it to fire round two. There is NO reason to think that like on TV yelling “halt or I will shoot” or worse counting on the sound of racking a rifle or shotgun will do anything but allow the asailent to get a little closer to you or worse get off the first shot. Remember in a gun fight he who gets the first hit off wins. I always want to be that person. When I was in uniform it was different I had legal reasons for trying to take the situation over with limited need for weaponry. As a citizen my main and only concern is to WIN. I fire FIRST I aim dead center mass (none of this winging them crap or the like) and I ALWAYS double tap with either a pistol or rifle (not an issue with the shotgun it does it for me). Dr Dave

  10. JSW: the 12 gauge is still the house gun with the short barrel because the 20’s are too long. I just hope I never have to fire that cannon again except in self defense.

  11. My sentiments go with Hank’s: every time I shoot the 12 (or ’06) these days, I need to get repairs done to the shoulder, and a 20 gauge has been a limb saver as well as a home-saver if defensive use is ever required of it. Not to forget, it’s probably the perfect grouse gun. Mossberg, Marlin, Remington, Ithaca… doesn’t matter the brand so long as one is comfortable with it and spends time learning to handle it effectively. As to the pistol grip, age has not been friendly to my wrists, either, and a deep pistol grip is a lot more comfortable than a straight stock.

  12. When we went looking for a home defense weapon we were told by our gunsmith and range coach, “Get a twelve gauge pump without a pistol grip. Just the sound of it racking a round into the chamber will scare the crap out of anyone with good sense..” The name Mossberg came up as often as any other. Sadly, while we were looking the only one who was aggressively marketing their wares was Stevens. I’d had one of their bird guns since the mid sixties and it had served me well so that’s what we settled on. It came with a short barrel for around the house and a long one for in the field.

    Now fast forward about fifty years and the twelve gauge I loved was sending me to the chiropractor with regularity. I remembered the old bird gun didn’t even have a recoil pad, just a plastic butt plate, but something had drastically changed, me. Even with a “Limb Saver,” it was no longer fun to shoot for me or the wife.

    As we got into trap shooting with our friends our same gunsmith and the range coach suggested we try a twenty gauge. She liked the Remington 1187 sport and I ended up with a Weatherby SA-08, both semi-automatics, in 20 gauge. Neither one exceeded our budget and both have offered us trouble free performance. We’re back to having fun again without needing follow up medical care. I really think for both small men and women and seniors: a twenty gauge is a sensible compromise .

    The twelve gauge is still our go to standby home defense weapon loaded with double ott buck

  13. My wife is vertically challegened(short)and I outfitted her with a Remington 870 Youth Model 20 ga.That is one sweet little shotgun.Im considering another one for my daughter and I have caught myself grabbing it to check on dog alerts and camera movements in the wee hrs.When I go check on such I leave my wife with her 357 and two Shepherds but I hear(constantly)”Isnt that MY shotgun”?It’s sweet enough to put up with that guff though.
    I intensely dislike a pistol grip on a shotgun.To each his own.
    I have 2 Mossberg 12ga’s and have no complaints on quality or workmanship.
    But if I do another 20 it will be another 870 Youth.

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