Mossberg’s Rugged and Reliable Shotgun

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

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 that 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 into 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.


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 (29)

  1. First gun I shot was an Iver Johnson Champion 12 bore hammergun of my grand fathers. Would sneak it out of the house and go hunting on our farm.
    First gun I owned was a New Haven 600, bought very secondhand, and that action was slippery smooth. Had a C Lect Choke that moved the impact point all over the place, till I removed it altogether.
    Bought a new Crown Grade 500 back in 97 or 98, and still have it. Its been bounced around in tractors, diggers and 4×4’s ever since, and has NEVER missed a beat. Don’t see myself ever selling it. Nigel in Ireland.

  2. I use a Remington 1100 12ga. for hunting and competition, I’ve had it for over 30 years. My Mossberg shotgun is for home defense, a 500 Defender 12ga. with 20″ barrel and a 7-shot magazine. I keep it loaded with 8 rounds of Winchester #1 buckshot, with 5 more rounds on a sidesaddle and a flashlight attached to the mag tube.

    I prefer the safety on the tang, as I shoot long guns left handed. The tang safety also blocks the hammer instead of just the trigger, making the gun drop safe when the safety is on. I would be leery of keeping a round in the chamber of a Remington. Note that the Maverick 88 lacks this feature.

    I also like the shell lifter being out of the way for loading, and the dual extractors.

    I have found that if I put one of the Nobelsport Minibuck 2.25″ shell in first, I can get one more shell in the magazine, for a total of 8+1

  3. Personally I have a maverick 88 I got that I traded my old 500 for. I prefer the safety and believe it or not the slide and trigger action, its shorter and crisper. It currently with a “20 inch security barrel and serves as my duty weapon in the cruiser with a Phoenix Kicklite Butstock. Excellent choice!

  4. I switched out my Remington 870 for a Mossberg 590. There were several reasons that influenced my decision to switch.

    # 1 Being left handed, I found the safety switch to be in a better place for me on the Mossberg

    #2 The action release button was also easier to access on the Mossberg vs the Remington

    #3 The Mossberg has 2 shell extraction claws vs 1 on the Remington. I had stovepipe jam issues on the Remington, but no problems with the Mossberg. I believe the dual claws make a big difference.

    #4 The shell carrier on the Remington was always pinching my fingers when loading shells

    Other than that, I just seem to shot better with the Mossberg.

  5. I still have mine. Came with 2 barrels, trap & slug? barrel. Hangs on clips on back-side of my front door.Reload 4 that too; trap, duck loads, dbl. .00 & slugs. Only trouble I hade way back was bolt cross pin working its way out of Gun. Made a new one out of aircraft rockwell steel and never failed since.

  6. My bad. Yes, Western Field WAS the Montgomery Wards brand. When I was a wee lad, my parents frequented both Wards and Sears, but to me, they were indistinguishable.

  7. I think they were made under the J. C. Higgins/Sears name too. Or Rather Ted Williams model and sears. I have one of each.

  8. Western Field was sold through Montgomery Wards, and Mossberg labeled the model 500 as “model 550”. The ones I bought had 26″ plain bbls with dull satin bluing, a C-lect choke which didn’t make much difference what you had it set on, birch wood, with poor wood to metal fit, and a loose wobbly forearm. The guns would rattle when you’d shake them. Over the years, i never considered Mossberg again, until I saw the 590 A1 SPX #50771. Sears guns were J.C. Higgins, and then later Ted Williams, I believe they may have been Winchester and/or Hi Standard guns along the way.
    It’s hard to make a single shot shotgun which doesn’t function properly, pretty straight forward, although I have had some that would blow the forearm off when fired. Just requiring a little adjustment, and it’s been fun and enjoyable with some of the cheaper ones, to checker and re-finish them. Amoung the ones I’ve hung onto over the years, are a 16ga Iver Johnson Champion, and a Winchester Model 37 .410, with transposed hammer/tang lever.
    I just wondered after all these years, if anyone else out there had had my experience……apparently not. Thanks guys, if no one else steps forward, perhaps one day I’ll find myself owning one of those 590s.

  9. 57Stratman, I am not sure why Bill is referring to Western Field shotguns, but my guess is that the gun he is referring to was built by Mossberg, but sold by Sears under the Western Field name. I have a old Western Field bolt action, tube fed .22 that was made by Mossberg. It belonged to my dad, and is at least 64 years old. It weighs a ton, but it is still a tack driver. No quality issues there!

  10. Bill, I don’t understand why you’re discussing Westernfield shotguns, when the article is concerning the venerable Mossberg 500 pump shotgun?? However, I own an old single shot 12 gauge Westernfield shotgun that was my first shotgun, and my Dad got it for me in 1969, second hand. So I’ve had the gun for 45 years, and I was told that the gentleman that owned it before me was about 35 when he sold it to my Dad, and he had owned it since he was 12, about 23 years, which means the gun is about 68 years old and still very usable. I have had the forestock repaired years ago when it started getting loose, as well as the replacing the bead sight on the front of the rib, when it came loose at the front of the barrel and I had to replace the recoil pad after it got so dried out it was crumbling. But for an almost 70 year old gun, it’s in excellent shape, and I’ve killed a lot of small game with it over the years, and I even used it to bag my first buck at the age of 13. I hope to be able to teach my grandkids gun safety and how to shoot using this fine old gun, just as I did my two sons. We have had many different shotguns over the years, and we have quite a varied collection now, so my old single shot doesn’t come out of the gun cabinet much anymore, but it’s a well made old gun that will be around for a long time yet. And of the shotguns I’ve owned or had the opportunity to use over the years, I consider my Mossberg shotguns to be the best value for the money on the market today.

  11. Well, I AM rather encouraged at this point, and my lust for a 590 SPX 50771 still wanes on. Perhaps, the Western Fields didn’t undergo any quality control whatsoever, but I sincerly thought there’d be another person or two who could relate to the experience I remember having. At some point I do hope to be able to own one. I certainly wouldn’t wish my experience on anyone, perhaps I was snakebit.

  12. First Shotgun I bought about 40 yrs. ago. Looking at it right now standing upon a shelf near the front door next to my fathers Samuri sword from WW2. Just wiped it down couple weeks ago with WD40. Sporting short riot barrel now, trap barrel in closet somewhere. Shot Trap with it at Winchester West in So., CA., now out of business many yrs. ago. Has sling,leather shell holder on stock, added recoil pad eons ago. Few scratches on Receiver after 40 yrs.? Loaded with 12 ga. signal flair, 3 00 bucks 2.75, and 3 Slug Loads. (Federal Brand) now 20yrs. old. Have pistol grip, never installed, can’t see it. 25 boxes 2.75 Trap Rounds stacked in hall closet from Pacific Turret shot shell reloader. Shotgun 2, S&W all steel 3″ chamber non takedown. Shotgun 3, Remington semi-auto 12 ga. 3 barrels, Trap, Skeet, and Rifled slug barell with iron sights has mount for scope.

  13. 32 years ago when I began traveling a lot for my work, I got my wife a Mossberg 500 410 pump. We had the stock fitted to her the barrel cut to 18.5″ and a recoil pad fitted. My wife has had an Uzi, several terrific pistols including an HK P7 but the little Mossberg 410 is her favorite. I am long since retired but the 410 is still hanging ready and the go to gun for her. She just had me order some 410 slugs because they are her choice of ammo. Thus has been a perfect weapon for a young woman to protect herself and two small children’s and now for an older wiser woman and man to have as a low recoil, cheap,effective bad guy deterrent. I highly reccommend that anyone considering a shotgun that will work ever time, be effective and cheap to buy, feed, practice with and become proficient with look no further than a Mossberg 410 pump.
    We treasure ours.
    Semper Fi,

  14. I received a model 500B for my 16th birthday 42+ years ago and other than a broken rail, it has worked flawlessly and taken down everything that I’ve hunted with it. From trap to waterfowl or small game, it’s always worked like a dream. this sweet 16ga handles and makes me happy. It’s handled slugs accurately even without a rifled barrel though I’d sure like to find a spare barrel just because. It’s too bad that the 16 hasn’t kept the popularity that it had many years ago because it’ll do everything that my 12ga 870 would do to the point that I still have it and got rid of the 870.

  15. I have had several shotguns in my life, including a Remington 870 wingman ter (my first pump shotgun actually), an Ithaca deerslayer, a Savage pumpgun (I can’t remember the model), a camo Mossberg 500 combo, a Mossberg 500 Trophy Slugster, and a realtree camo Mossberg 835 turkey gun. As you can see, I’ve had a few different guns, and I’ve also had the opportunity to shoot some others, and I have to tell you, you can purchase more expensive shotguns, but just because they’re more expensive, that doesn’t mean they’re better. I am thinking of adding a Semi – automatic shotgun to my collection, and I’m pretty sure that it’s going to be a Mossberg model 935 camo combo with a vent rib barrel and a rifled slug barrel. Mossberg makes great guns that most folks can afford, but if you want to pay more for another brand, well that’s your choice.

  16. I am the proud owner of 2 of the finest shotguns ever made. One is the Mossburg 500 combo. I use it mostly for deer hunting, using the rifled barrel. It is deadly at 125 yards. I did however have to have a shock absorber installed in the stock, due to the extra kick of the 1 oz sabot slugs. I love it! The other one is my pride and joy! It is a 410, 3 shot bolt action made 1910. It was bought new by my grandfather and was handed down through the family. It is almost as nice as the day it was made. I have used it my entire life, (I am 60yr old!) and will continue handing it down through the family. I will continue to purchase Mossburgs whenever I need/want new fire arms. Steve Miller

  17. I purchased a Mossberg 500 a couple of years ago from Bi Mart, a local discount store. The price seemed to be a little too good to be true, $299 for the gun with two barrels. The butt stock and hand guard were plastic and seemed a little flimsy, but the receiver and barrels were first rate. I’ve put several hundred rounds down range, mostly target loads for clays but also plenty of slugs and buckshot. The gun has worked flawlessly and is incredibly accurate. I can’t imagine any kind of 12 gage shooting I can’t do with this gun. The other day While shopping at Bi Mart I noticed the same shotgun combo for $299, still the regular price. Occasionally I’ve seen off brand shotguns for a little less but I don’t believe there’s a better shotgun value out there than thenMossberg 500.

  18. Bob: You commented that the 410 could handle the 000 Buck but not the “heavier” 00 buck. I think you are confused. The 000 Buck is heavier, it is about .360 caliber, the 00 Buck is .330 and the 0 Buck is about .308 caliber. I reload 410 and use a lot of 000 buck as do the factory loads. The 00 Buck rattles around in the barrel and has poor accuracy, although there are 4 ball 00 factory loads. Just FYI from one old cop to another.

  19. Refreshing to read an article focused on shoot – ability versus the standard fare of bigger is better and more is necessary. Given the choice of ONE weapon in a life or death situation a 12 gauge pump would be a good choice. For the sportsman this article makes a fine case for the finesse of the .410.

  20. I have a Mossberg Model 10, which my friend gave $2 and change for, out of the back of a magazine years ago. It has a small wooden sliver for a step leaf, and had an old UMC cartrige in it when I got it. I’ve never fired it, although he told me it was very accurate, when he was alive. When I was young in the ’60s, I had a 185 which belonged to my deceased father. Other than those, my experience with Mossberg was less than enthusiastic. In the ’70s, I bought four Western Field 550s from Wards. The first two had laminations midway down the bore, so I learned to thoroughly check them at the pick up counter to avoid backtracking to the store, mad. The third had no cracks showing, so after getting home and loading it up, I was right back to the store. It fired most of the time, either ejecting unfired Federal Field or Game loads, but mostly just hung spent shells, pointing out of the reciever at right angles. You’d have to reach up and grab the shell, and forcefully jerk the shell free. Not being able to show the clerk this, and being the same or next day(can’t remember now) they gave me a fourth gun. That one lasted maybe three or four weeks before starting to do the same thing. I was a young man with a new baby, non-emplyed wife, and I worked hard all the time, with only weekends to devote to Quail/Rabbit hunting, or driving back to Wards, so this time I gave up, keeping the gun, it just wasn’t worth all the effort I reasoned. All the guns were so loose and such sloppy tolerances, the fore ends and action bars would wiggle aggresively, like they wern’t bolted to the gun, and the wood to metal fit wasn’t even close, on any of them.
    Now I’d held and shot friend’s 870s, and I had a Model 42 Winchester, so I could certainly tell and feel the difference. I think I eventually sold it for $75 or $100 in a yard sale. Seems like it was about $130 or so, new. I vowed never again. That was in the late ’70s.
    Now, two or three years ago, I saw the 590 A-1 Model 50771, with 20″bbl, military sights, sling, and bayonet, and have since wanted one pretty badly, but keep remembering what I went through, plus at the ever escalating and premium price for one, that is a quick turn-off for me. Now, I know that if very many people could relate to my experience with them over the years, the problem would have long been rectified, or the name Mossberg wouldn’t be as well known and popular as it is, but old feelings really can scar you, I suppose. Now, in all fairness, I haven’t tried or even held a 500 of any recent manufacture, let alone a 590. I AM curious enough though after all these years, that I do enjoy reading articles in the magazines about them, or posts in blogs, just to see what experiences others have had, how they use theirs, and what they think about them.
    After all these years, even if the action functioned flawlessly for longer than the warranty period, if the gun feels as loose and sloppy cycling the action, and the wood to metal fit is still as crude as the ones I experienced, Icouldn’t see myself with one, even with sights, sling, and bayonet, especially at the going price.
    Please, anyone else out there have similar feelings or experience with these, or was I just snake bit? Thanks.

  21. A few years back I carried a 590A1 Shorty at work, loved the look and feel of the 14″ barrel. Did not want an NFA gun for my own, so bought a Cruiser 500 Breacher with 18″ barrel. The Breacher has a 16″ barrel with permanently attached 2″ muzzle brake to make it legal length and it looks shorter than it is. I replaced the lone pistol grip with one that had a collapsible AR style stock (added a Safariland SuperStoc to that). Topped it with Mossberg Ghost Ring sights. Now it totally reminds me of my old work gun without the hassles. Probably spent as much as a 590A1 already set-up, but that was then, and you can get one now. }:o)

  22. I have two 500’s, a 12 Ga Cruiser that I have changed the pistol grip to a butt stock and an old .410. I shoot the 12 Ga and the wife shoots the .410. I once used cheap Russian ammo in the 12 Ga and it caused the gun to completely lockup. It had to be disassembled with a round in the chamber (very scary)by a gunsmith. Lesson learned.

  23. Carried a 590A1 in the Army and then bought one for my own personal use after i got out. It’s about 15 years old now and still shoots as nice as the day i bought it. Have other 500s in 12ga and 20ga as well. Plus a 835 that is used for turkey and varmint hunting. Never had a problem with any of them.

  24. Don’t know what happened to my post. I’ll try again.
    I bought my Mossberg 500 over 30 years ago, and it is still my most used gun. I have three barrels for it: smooth-bore deer barrel, ribbed field barrel, and rifled deer barrel w/ scope (recently acquired). My only complaint is that the slide rails are a bit loose, and tend to rattle when I’m carrying the gun in the woods, unless I am very careful. Other than that, it is the perfect shotgun.

  25. My Mossberg 500 is 30 years old or so, and still works like a champ. It came with the smooth-bore slug barrel and the standard, ribbed field barrel (modified choke, I believe). I recently added a rifled barrel with scope. It is the most versatile gun a person could wish for! I like the tang safety, too! My only complaint is that the slide rails are a bit loose and tend to rattle; it is difficult to sneak through the woods without making a racket (I’m not sure, but I think I read that the newer versions don’t have that problem). I love my Mossy!

  26. Hint for firearms & ammo manufacturers. What about a dedicated line of self defense shotguns using a rimless 18 gauge shell specifically designed for semi auto use? 18 gauge!?! This would prevent that casual incompetent from loading this in a 20 or 16 gauge weapon. Enough juice to get the job done and light enough recoil for smaller people to use. It will also allow a removable box magazine and 10+ rounds in the magazine (or 9 for the crazy states). Hello Remington, Ithaca, Mossberg, Winchester, Kel-Tec; are you listening? Just name it after me and send me a couple.

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