When I picked out my first shotgun, my grandfather paid for it. Previously, he had enjoyed good luck with a couple of Mossberg .22 rifles. He also owned a Winchester Model 12. The Mossberg 500 I was eyeing was out of my budget, and I planned on working the summer to pay him back, so this was big to me.
As it turned out, the shotgun I chose, based on value for the buck, kept on giving service. It turned out so well, I have owned Mossberg shotguns ever since — for more than 40 years.
Mossberg 500 Features
Beginning at age 12, I took on all manner of flying and scrambling game. I got to be pretty quick in quail hunting, took high-flying doves, and had a decent hit rate on running rabbits. The shotgun was a 12-gauge. Field loads with small shot didn’t kick much. Or, at least I didn’t notice the recoil, as the shotgun came with a nice butt pad.
The Mossberg 500, introduced in 1961, was a relative newcomer when mine was purchased in the 1970s. The present version features dual operating rails. They are smooth and the action is reliable and rugged. The shotgun breaks down easily for cleaning and it is a model of simplicity.
I remember that one of the things that drew me to the Model 500 was the tang safety. That’s the safety located at the rear of the receiver. I liked this better than the push button safety of most competing shotguns of the day.
The bolt locks directly into the barrel. The receiver isn’t part of the equation. This is simple and durable. It is a simple matter to change the barrel for a specialty tube. Slug barrels and rifled models are available. The modern 500 may be fitted with rifle sights or 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 that needs to be 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 solving.
I have owned a number of Mossberg shotguns in several gauges. Among my favorite all-around shotguns is a personal defense-type with short barrel and synthetic stock. This piece is in 20-gauge. Among my personal favorites, at this time, is the little 24-inch barrel .410 version.
A few years ago, I had a smaller portion of respect for the .410 cartridge and regarded it primarily as a youth’s cartridge. After testing several hundred .410 shells — including buckshot and slugs — I came away with a different opinion. I can now understand the high opinion many old-timers had of the .410.
The pattern isn’t as wide as a 12-gauge, but with a skilled hand, the little gun has a decent pattern, recoil is very light, and the shotgun handles like a dream. An acquaintance told me that he preferred the .410 slug to anything else for keeping coyotes 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 and simple bead, but the shotgun fired to the point of aim at 25 yards. It was simple enough to produce a three-shot group of 2–2.5 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. Sure, the total payload is much smaller and so is energy — muzzle energy and recoil energy — on both ends. The .410 buckshot penetrates just as much as 12-gauge buckshot.
While the payload is half, with #3 or #4 000 buckshot pellets compared to 10 with the 12-gauge — and 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 that 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. Either way, you must know what you are doing, of course. However, the .410 is more easily mastered.
For most of us, the .410 is a light, handy, and friendly little shotgun for all-around field use. For heavy game and duck hunting, of course, the 12-gauge is the choice, but I like this variant of the Mossberg very much. As for the 20-gauge, the 20 carries about 75 percent of the payload of a 12-gauge with about three-quarters the recoil.
The 20-gauge is an interesting gauge and makes for a great outdoors shotgun. You give up a lot less with the 20-gauge than with the .410 compared to the 12-gauge. For small game it may be the best all-around choice.
When it comes to deer-sized game, the gloves come off and we need a hard hitter. We are no longer firing a spread of shot and catching a small moving animal in the spread. We need to center the load of shot. The 12-gauge is a superior choice. With new loads, such as the Winchester Razor, the 12-gauge is more formidable than ever.
The Maverick 88
The Maverick 88 line is the ‘Q ship’ of the Mossberg family. It is like the Model 500 but with differences intended to make production more economical and to allow the Maverick line to compete with imports. The Maverick uses a cross bolt safety that some prefer.
As for the heart of the Maverick, it is a Mossberg. Like the Colt 1991A1, 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’s gun, this is a great choice at a good price.
Field Use Long Term
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, but there are those who like the crossbolt safety. If you are among these shooters, then the Maverick 88 is a good choice. When all is said and done, the Mossberg is one shotgun that gives the shooter his or her money’s worth and a little more.
A shotgun without a buttstock is a neat trick for a truck gun or 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.
The Cruiser should be loaded with a low-recoil load such as the Winchester PDX for best results. The Cruiser is reliable and a great problem solver. Shotguns very similar to the Cruiser are kept on fishing boats to deal with the occasional large shark that comes in with the fish. After all, the 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. Whatever the need, the 12-gauge is a great problem solver.
Mossberg offers several tactical shotguns, including the Scorpion and models with modern Magpul furniture. These shotguns offer excellent ergonomics. Like a working man called to war, these shotguns make for real protection and are as reliable as a machine may be.