A 12-gauge pump shotgun is the most effective home defense gun you can buy per dollar spent, and for me the value leader has always been the Mossberg 500 series. $250 gets you a new in box, Texas-made 5+1 capacity riot gun with a simple bead sight and blued finish. The no-frills Mossberg is easy to disassemble and reassemble for cleaning, and its parts are robust enough to last for thousands of rounds without breakage. For the price of, say, a Taurus 1911 pistol (itself a good value) you can buy two Mossberg 500s, one for yourself and one for that special person in your life, and still have $100 of ammo money left over. Most folks pick up some birdshot to practice with, 00 buckshot for home defense, and a few one-ounce rifled hollow point slugs just in case.
In addition to my base model Mossberg 500, I also have the slightly upgraded Model 590. The 590 holds three more rounds, so its barrel is just a bit longer, 20 inches rather than 18.5 inches long. It also has a blued steel heat shield, which makes it look extra mean, but it really is just a slightly stouter variant of the 500. To optimize the 590 for home defense, I first added a sidesaddle giving me six extra rounds. As powerful as shotguns are, they are capacity limited. It’s their natural disadvantage simply because 12-gauge ammunition is physically so large, and the problem is magnified in a home defense situation. If bad people with evil intent are already in my home by the time I wake up and sense something is wrong, I’m unlikely to have time to strap on a tactical vest stuffed with spare rounds. To minimize this issue I load the shotgun to full capacity and attach more ammo to the shotgun itself. This is why my 590 is stored with a round in the chamber. No, I won’t get to rack the pump loudly in an effort to scare away the bad guys, but oh well. If they are sharp enough to hear the safety click off, they are welcome to run away.
Another issue with using any long gun for home defense is the length itself. If I’m being burglarized, I don’t plan on “slicing the pie” around corners like a SWAT team expertly clearing each room. I’m more likely to stay put in my bedroom with the 590 pointed at my bedroom door, and woe to anyone who suddenly bursts through that door. As we all know, unexpected things happen in real gunfights, and I may find myself forced to move from one room to another. If that happens the long gun must be as short as possible. The factory stock shared by the 500 and 590 is around 13 inches long. To cut down on length of pull and the overall length of the shotgun, I picked up a Phoenix Technologies Tactical Stock and attached it to my 590. Installation took about two minutes once I had the factory stock removed; Phoenix Technologies provides the correct hex wrench to secure it to the back of the 590’s receiver with one big bolt, just like the factory stock. I used the included screws to attach the plastic four-cartridge shell holder to the right side, and I was done.
The Phoenix setup features a pistol grip that slides in behind the 590’s trigger guard, and behind that, an AR-15 type six-position collapsible stock. This simple yet flexible design is inexpensive to make and works well on a variety of platforms. Kalashnikovs, Ruger Mini-14s, even PTR-91 battle rifles are sprouting these stocks now, and while the results may not always look pretty; nobody can say they aren’t functional. I leave the Phoenix completely collapsed, at less than 10.5 inches long. This makes my 20-inch barreled Mossberg 590 effectively shorter than my 18.5-inch barreled model 500, and brings the pump of the gun much closer to my support hand. This small change makes the 590 feel much more comfortable to me than the 500. I could shorten the Phoenix another inch or so by removing its thick soft rubber recoil pad, but lurking underneath is the standard plastic AR-15 “meat tenderizer.” My shoulder hurts just from thinking about shooting full power 00 buckshot rounds with that pressed to my shoulder. The recoil pad stays! On the other hand, when fully extended the Phoenix stretches the length of pull to nearly 14 inches between the butt of the stock and the end of the receiver. You know, in case Chewbacca comes for a visit and wants to hit the shooting range.
With the gun fully loaded, the sidesaddle holding a spare six rounds, and four more attached to the right side of the Phoenix stock, I have 19 rounds available with 590 in my hands. The Phoenix stock holds its spare rounds very tightly, and they aren’t particularly easy to reach, so they would be the last rounds I would load into the gun. The sidesaddle is much easier to access. Keeping the spare shells in the stock facing downwards, I keep my strong hand on the pistol grip, tuck the end of the stock under my armpit, and use my support hand to pluck the shells up and out. It’s a bit awkward, but I haven’t practiced much yet either. Another manipulation to practice is the safety. Using the factory stock the thumb of the strong hand pushes the safety on and off. Adding a pistol grip to the stock complicates things a bit. Since my Mossberg is stored with a live round chambered, I store it with the safety on; I need to be able to manipulate that safety instinctively. I could take my support hand off the pump and use it to swipe the safety back and forth with my strong hand still at the ready. However, what feels more natural is to simply unwrap my strong side thumb from the pistol grip, use it to quickly move the safety as if I had the factory stock attached, and wrap the thumb around the pistol grip again. It takes a fraction of a second and with a bit of practice should become a natural manipulation.
There are some recoil-reducing stock designs that appear similar to the Phoenix stock, but I avoided them due to the increased cost, complexity (little springs inside that can break), and the fact that I don’t want my shotgun literally bouncing around on my shoulder with every shot. I pull the stock firmly into my shoulder and I shoot quickly. I use a consistent cheek weld every time and my support hand works the shotgun’s pump action forcefully after each shot. A springy bouncy cheek weld is not for me. The Phoenix stock is robust and well built, makes the whole shotgun more comfortable, and addresses two of my major concerns about using a shotgun for home defense by adding ammo and reducing the overall length of the gun. It is a worthy addition to an already good setup.